There’s no doubt you’ll be noticed when you drive a Mustang in the UK. The styling is a modern interpretation of the classic Mustang profile, and it’s inspired by several models from the car’s illustrious 50-year history in America. Today’s Mustang is available in a range of bright colours with names like ‘Triple Yellow’ and ‘Deep Impact Blue’ (although the cloth roof comes only in black), and the square-jawed muscle car looks, wide stance and standard 19-inch black alloys all scream for attention. The size of the Mustang also makes it quite hard to miss, but there’s precious little difference visually between the two versions. The V8 model can be distinguished from the four-cylinder car thanks to the ‘GT’ and ‘5.0’ badges on the boot and front wings, its Brembo brakes, and a set of power bars in the grille, but that’s pretty much it. Likewise, its wheels are a slightly different, multi-spoke design, but exactly the same size as the ones you’ll get on the EcoBoost model.
Ford is at pains to point out that the latest Mustang is a big step forward in quality over its predecessor – but the mismatched switchgear, cheesy faux-metal finishes and chunky plastic panels might come as a bit of a shock to buyers more used to cars like the Audi TT and BMW 4 Series. The car feels solid enough, but material quality is patchy, and despite being massive on the outside, it feels more snug once you’re sat inside. Visibility is surprisingly good, apart from a large over-the-shoulder blind spot, and although they are mounted quite high, the seats (especially the optional Recaros) are fairly supportive. There’s a decent spread of adjustment, too, so most drivers will be able to get comfortable. The 8.0-inch touch-screen is similar to the one you get in the Mondeo, and despite some small on-screen icons and a relatively low position in the middle of the dash, it’s fairly easy to use on the move.
The bulky exterior doesn’t add up to a roomy interior, and anyone in the back will feel seriously hemmed in
The Mustang is very much on the large side, and at nearly five metres long and almost two metres wide, it’s much bigger than the similarly priced Audi TT. However, although those in the front have a decent amount of room, the bulky exterior doesn’t add up to a roomy interior, and anyone in the back will feel seriously hemmed in. There aren’t that many cubbies around the cabin, either, but at least the boot is a good size for an open-top car, although it’s not especially easy to access, with a high lip and narrow opening. The size (and length) of the Mustang also makes parking tricky, but unfortunately the big Ford has no parking sensors as standard, and there are some big over-the-shoulder blind spots to contend with. You’re also constantly aware of its considerable width when trying to navigate the kind of tight, narrow country lanes you find here in Blighty. Finally, operating the roof can also be a little awkward, as (unlike in many similarly priced rivals) it’s not fully automatic; the process of lowering and raising the roof starts and finishes with you using a handle to release the roof from, or secure the roof to, the top of the windscreen.
Ride and handling
Despite its iconic status, the Mustang has always been a GT rather than an out-and-out sports car; it feels most at home on wide, sweeping roads. However, this is the first Mustang to get a multi-link rear suspension, and the result is a car that handles surprisingly well, although this open-top version is a little softer in its responses than the Fastback coupe version. Admittedly, the steering is a little vague, but the chassis generates a serious amount of grip, so you can lean into corners at fairly high speed and be confident that the car will stick. A limited-slip differential is standard whichever engine you choose, and that helps with traction on the exit of corners. Even so, it’s rather easy to unstick the back end of the V8-engined car if you’re a bit heavy on the throttle in a tight, damp corner – although it’s easy to correct, and the car only breaks away quite gently.
On a very challenging road, the size and weight of the Mustang do count against it; you’ll be working the brakes hard, and the ride is on the firm side. Even so, it’s acceptable on smooth main roads, with most larger bumps being fairly well absorbed, and only on poor country roads (which are hardly the Mustang’s natural habitat, anyway) do smaller imperfections set the rear tyres jittering uncomfortably across the road’s surface.
If you want the full-fat experience, then you’ll need to plump for the snarling 5.0-litre V8
The big news in this Mustang is that is has a turbocharged four-cylinder engine, mainly to cut CO2 emissions and help the car appeal to a whole new range of European buyers. It is the same engine that powers the Focus RS hot hatch, and despite its small size, it’s not short on performance, making the car feel genuinely fast. However, the power delivery is not very smooth, and although there is some exhaust trickery to try and kid you it’s a V8, it sounds quite rough and strained. The result is, if you want the full-fat experience, then you’ll need to plump for the snarling 5.0-litre V8. This makes the Mustang feel – and go – a lot more like an authentic muscle car; plus, it sounds fantastic – particularly in this convertible version, which makes it all the easier to hear – and it’s not that much more expensive to buy than the 2.3-litre model. It’s smoother around town, and less rough at the top of the rev range, too.
If you want V8 power, then the Mustang gives it to you cheaper than almost any other sports car. However, there is obviously a downside to owning a massive, thunderous V8, and it’s no surprise that the Mustang’s prodigious pace is matched only by its prodigious thirst for unleaded. The official figure for the 5.0-litre hovers just over 20mpg – but expect mid-teens at best if you drive it with any real vigour. The CO2 output is no better, with a figure of 306g/km putting the Mustang on par with supercars from Ferrari and McLaren in the highest road tax band. That’s why you might be tempted by the 2.3-litre model, but despite its modest 184g/km CO2 rating, the actual fuel economy is not much better than the V8 when you’re pressing on. On the plus side, the Mustang costs about as much to buy as a well sorted hot hatch in its four-cylinder guise, and undercuts the similarly powered – but less well equipped – Audi TTS by several thousand pounds. Parts and servicing should be pretty affordable, too, but consumables like tyres and brakes are likely to be a regular – and quite hefty – cost. The Mustang’s insurance group is also fairly high compared to its rivals’.
Although it’s never been sold in Europe, the Mustang has a pretty respectable reliability record over in the US, which we would hope will continue with this car. All Mustangs, including the right-hand drive models destined for the UK, are built at the brand’s plant in Flat Rock, Michigan, and mechanical reliability should be strong, while the SYNC 2 infotainment system has already been tried and tested in the Mondeo.
Ford has not scrimped on the safety kit in the Mustang, with up to six airbags, including an airbag mounted in the glovebox lid to protect the knees of the passenger. The Mustang is yet to be independently crash-tested, but is unlikely to receive a full five-star rating from Euro NCAP because it does without active systems like automatic emergency braking. That said, the Mustang’s main rival, the Audi TT, doesn’t score the full five stars, either. Other kit includes a big pair of high-performance Brembo brakes (for the V8 model at least), Isofix points for child seats and an anti-theft alarm.
Despite its temptingly low price, the Mustang comes with a huge amount of equipment as standard. Full leather seats, climate control, 19-inch alloy wheels, and a touch-screen system with DAB radio and voice-activated Bluetooth are all yours without needing to dip further into your wallet. However, there are some notable omissions, with rear parking sensors, heated and cooled front seats, a premium audio system and sat-nav all adding extra cost. Still, when compared with its rivals from BMW and Audi, the Mustang represents very good value, and to get even close to the same level of kit in these rivals, you would have to fork out thousands. Better still, most of the Mustang’s optional extras are superfluous, rather than essential.
The Mustang is a car for people who can indulge themselves a little; people who want a seriously powerful sports car with brash looks, fantastic performance and decent handling. That V8 engine alone gives it an appeal that none of its rivals have, meaning enthusiasts who listen to their heart rather than their head will be queuing around the block to pick theirs up.