The Ford Mustang is a car that's intrinsically tied with the United States of America; one whose image is just as associated with the Americanisms of liberty, prosperity and space to roam free as the bald eagle or the right to bear military-grade firearms. While democracy and capitalism are certainly things we share with the USA, the UK is a very different country making cross-pollination a sometimes jarring affair – McDonalds in tudor buildings for example – so how does the Mustang sit in our decidedly smaller and more sophisticated landscape?
To start, Ford started by making the latest Mustang marketable in international markets, introducing a new generation in 2015 with the steering wheel on the right hand side for the first time in its extensive history. Ford's even taken some notes out of the European cloth, offering a sophisticated turbocharged four-cylinder engine option and a technically sophisticated ten-speed automatic transmission.
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It’s a car with unanimous appeal to those around you too, with a thundering soundtrack and a real sense of fun whether you’re on the daily commute or driving briskly, not to mention aesthetics that could only be penned on the western side of the Atlantic ocean.
If you live across the pond, then you're liable to be tempted even further with the the Shelby GT350 and recently revealed GT500. Their 5.2-litre flat-plane crank V8 (the latter supercharged) and more focused chassis helps transform the Mustang into a far more serious road and track car. It requires commitment when driving fast, but is an incredibly engaging and truly unique driving experience.
Ford Mustang in detail
- > Performance and 0-60 time - The Mustang GT is the UK's best performer, dispatching 0-62mph in just 4.3sec despite a lardy 1818kg kerb weight
- > Engine and gearbox - The 5.0 V8 is thirsty, but brilliant at embracing the muscle car vibe, whereas the 2.3-litre EcoBoost turbocharged variant doesn't provide the performance, fuel economy or soul needed to upstage its bigger brother.
- > Ride and handling - Despite finally adopting an independent rear suspension set-up, the Mustang still resolutely adheres to its American heritage by lacking resolved body control and feedback from the front wheels to thrill on European roads.
- > MPG and running costs - Low running costs were never going to be the Mustang's strong point, but they are at least trying with the EcoBoost model. Comparative fuel and tax bills might make that BMW 430i look a little more enticing though.
- > Interior and tech - Unlike Mustangs of old, the interior is not the plasticky affair you might expect, although it still doesn't get close to German and Japanese rivals. Ford's excellent SYNC 3 infotainment system does make a welcome appearance though.
- > Design - Ford didn't hold back on the design of the Mustang, appealing to its retro heritage, while still appearing contemporary. In a sea of BMW 4-series and Audi A5s the Mustang will definitely get you noticed.
Prices, specs and rivals
Sitting at the foot of the Mustang range is the £39.420 2.3-litre four-cylinder EcoBoost; next up the ladder is the 5-litre V8 GT, priced at £43,685. Above this is the Bullitt, which amongst unique styling touches also features a few of the GT's optional upgrades for £49,085.
A manual gearbox is standard, although an automatic transmission is available for an additional £2000 on the V8, but oddly for 2020, both the Ecoboost or Bullitt are manual only. Convertible versions of the Ecoboost and GT are also available for a further £3500.
Cylinder count, swept capacity and performance aside, the differences between the 2.3 and 5.0 aren’t major. As standard the EcoBoost car comes well equipped, benefiting from a limited-slip differential, LED headlights and Android Auto/Apple CarPlay compatibility. To rein in the V8’s extra grunt it gets more powerful Brembo brakes, and there are line-lock/launch control functions, too.
While the Ford Mustang might not have any direct rivals that combine a V8 at less than £45,000, for the now rare experience of a naturally aspirated V8 four-seater coupe one needs to turn to Lexus, whose RC-F is a riot of brilliant V8 noises and quirky Japanese design. At over £60k it is a fair jump in price, but then the differentiations in build quality are more than enough to justify the Lexus's extra cost – cue the inevitable burger in polystyrene comparison to a beautifully crafted bento box.
When it comes to more comparably priced rivals, the Mustang sits in a glut of £50k-ish sports cars and saloons that might not match the horsepower, but offer tempting options. Sports cars like the Alpine A110 and Toyota Supra are squat and aggressive with plenty of pedigree behind them, go more mainstream and the Audi TT RS might lack show, but has plenty of go alongside its Group B-through-a-cushion soundtrack. There's also AMG's new CLA45 S which continues to constantly surprise by actually driving like it has actual dampers rather than rubber poles attached to its suspension unlike before, and that's before we finally arrive at the Jaguar F-Type, Mercedes-AMG C43 Coupe and the new beaver-nosed BMW M440i that creep up and over the £50k mark. The Ford might still have its bang-for-buck figures, but the competition is varied, talented and sophisticated at the Mustang's upper reaches.