When the news broke that the Ford Mustang V8 would be available from the factory in right-hand drive, with a six-speed manual gearbox as standard and independent rear suspension for the first time, I sat up and took notice. Could an American muscle car at last feel properly at home on winding UK roads?
Ford has a history of producing great rear-wheel-drive performance cars, on both sides of the pond. Back in the 1960s, when the Mustang first appeared, Ford in Europe gained a reputation for affordable rear-wheel drive sporting cars with the Cortina, followed by the Escort Twin Cam and Capri.
They became motorsport legends whose success has been attributed to the fact they were simple, agile packages with the right proportions and a choice of potent engines. For enthusiasts, they hit the bullseye with a resounding thunk. By comparison, the majority of American cars of the day were big, soft and unwieldy.
So having grown up with an enduring addiction for the 850kg Ford Escort, the prospect of driving this new 1720kg Mustang around middle England wasn’t filling me with optimism. I certainly couldn’t imagine any attempt to hustle it down a narrow English B-road being classed as fun. Is it possible, though, that somewhere along the line the new Mustang’s Wild West genes have become mingled with smidgen of Dagenham DNA? Could this be the most tangible proof yet that Ford really is the global company it claims to be?
Surprisingly, the Mustang is neither soft nor unwieldy. It might be heavy but it is agile for its size with impressive body control, wriggling back loads of information through the seat of the pants. Get the hammer down and the 410bhp, 5.0-litre engine sounds delicious, pretty much like a proper V8 should, although if I had one I might end up searching the Internet for a rowdier aftermarket exhaust.
That said, the Mustang has loads of character and that’s where its European ancestors scored such high marks. I get fed up with cars that have big performance statistics yet manage to be sanitised and refined to the point of being dull. Even a trip to the dentist would be fun in this beast, yet it’s refined and comfortable enough to use as a daily driver and perfect for a long road trip.
It looks so cool too, one of those cars where pictures really don’t do it justice. The exterior cleverly captures the essence of a late 1960s Mustang GT but dodges a dated retro look. Inside, plated switchgear resembles that of early Motorola radios and it’s another clever touch, ramping-up the feeling of authenticity.
The Mustang doffs its cap at modern gadgetry with selectable settings for ESP and steering weight, a big screen and parking sensors but you can ignore all that if you want. Mostly it’s uncomplicated, tactile, hugely entertaining and at £34,995, inexpensive.
I’m still mess around in a 40-year-old Ford Escort at weekends because of its purity and the fact that it delivers such unadulterated fun. I got the same feeling driving the new Mustang the other day because it’s the sort of car you want to take for a blast just for the sheer hell of it. You don’t need a reason.