I don’t usually start reviews with long, meandering introductions but please allow me to indulge myself this once. The Ford Mustang has made numerous appearances on TV and in films, video games and books over its 50 year history so predictably I’m going to start with my own popular culture reference because that’s how the Mustang first came on my radar. So here we go.
As a child I read a lot of books and that’s where I came across Miss Americana herself, Nancy Drew. Nancy was cool because not only was she a super sleuth but she also drove a Mustang. So naturally I grew up thinking it was normal for young women to drive Mustangs. Those Charlie’s Angels had them too but I always thought they were a bit more subservient, with too much time spent sitting on bonnets in bikinis for any real work to be done. Nancy was a bit feistier. It wasn’t her boyfriend’s Mustang, it was always her Mustang.
But of course this was the 1990s and no one in Ireland drove a Mustang except for a few die-hards with an imported left hand drive model, and even with those few, you’d only ever see them static at a show. The Mustang was the real American, rear wheel drive sports coupé that was never ‘Europeanised’, a little piece of American culture preserved, carrying its own loaded fantasy of hot, dusty highways, the freedom of the open road and handsome men in plaid shirts. Legend has it that it didn’t always drive that well but in our minds it was perfect.
Now the Mustang is in Europe for the first time in right hand drive, though the Americans have refused to move the handbrake over to a more comfortable position for the driver. It’s easier to take a drink from the cupholders than for the driver to operate the handbrake. But more on that later.
On Monday morning I prepare for my day in Dublin and the small matter of a car swap. I think briefly that maybe I should dress more for the occasion – fringed jacket, Stetson and cowboy boots – but in the pursuit of professionalism, I quickly dismiss that thought. I pick up a car and head west to Palmerstown House where Ford Ireland is launching the new Mustang to the Irish motoring media.
Ford is touting this as the European spec Mustang but it’s still made in the USA, which adds to the authenticity. However, what it does mean is that you get it for the first time in right hand drive, and with a chassis designed to meet the driving expectations of European drivers. It won’t be just fast on the straight bits, it will be good in the corners too.
In addition to the full fat 5.0-litre V8, there’s Mustang-lite available in the form of a 2.3-litre EcoBoost turbo petrol with lower CO2 emissions and €750 for annual motor tax if you can’t stomach the €2350 for the V8.
First up is the yellow Fastback (coupé) and it’s the V8. The engine produces 410bhp with 524Nm of torque and will hit 100kmh in 4.8 seconds. The Mustang looks racy from every angle – long, muscular bonnet, big, upright grille, classic fastback sloping roofline and short rear deck.
Sitting into the Mustang for the first time, I was hoping it wouldn’t feel just like a Mondeo but the only part that’s familiar is the touchscreen for the Sync 2 infotainment system. The centre console has some lovely big chrome switches and there’s a small plaque on the dash to remind you that the Mustang has been galloping since 1964.
The seat is way out of adjustment for me so I press the switch to bring the seat forward and after what feels like ages my feet can finally reach the pedals. The handbrake is sort of awkward to use if you have a passenger because Ford didn’t move it over to the other side of the centre tunnel when they adjusted the Mustang for right hand drive so it doesn’t quite feel natural to use at first.
From the driver’s seat, you can see the long, high hood stretched out ahead. So it’s a bit intimidating when you’ve just stepped out of a Fiat 500, but the Mustang eases forward gently and is easy to control. It’s a manual y’all!
The V8 idles with a rich rumble but you can conduct it like an orchestra with your right foot. The test drive is too short to fully access the nuances of the car’s ride, steering and handling but I can categorically say you will definitely have enough power and noise. Oh yes lots of that.
It’s really very addictive to keep it in a low gear and just accelerate and accelerate. It’s a very tonal and complex and multidimensional sort of noise. On the motorway, it’s more of the same – take some speed off, drop a gear and then accelerate for the sheer fun of hearing the engine wake up again.
Next up is a red Mustang convertible with a 2.3-litre EcoBoost turbocharged four cylinder petrol engine. This engine configuration puts the Mustang in the reach of more buyers. It’s still powerful – 313bhp, 434Nm of torque and 0-100kmh in 5.8 seconds – and is more economical with lower CO2 emissions when compared to the V8. It doesn’t sound as good or authentic as the V8.
But you see I’m not driving it fast enough. I may need an airfield to fully test this one. The more and more you push the EcoBoost you get more of the drama and occasion of the V8. The V8 makes you feel like a bad boy/bad girl coasting along quite leisurely.
So how much for this slice of Americana? The Fastback (coupé) starts at €49,000 for the 2.3 litre EcoBoost with a standard manual transmission. The V8 comes in at €65,000 for the same configuration. The convertible starts at €55,000 for the 2.3-litre EcoBoost, while the V8 version is €73,000. Ford Ireland has pre-orders for 40 Mustangs and is already predicting complete sales for 2016 at 100 units.
The Mustang is a really interesting car, its image and status precedes it and it’s hard to approach it cerebrally just because who doesn’t want to feel like a younger, cooler, better-looking version of themselves? It’s no Mondeo in a fancy skirt – it’s a full fat, rear wheel drive sports coupé. You can make mine a V8.