Ford Mustang review - V8 GT, EcoBoost, Bullitt and Shelby GT350 driven
Flawed, fun and fast - Mustang's not a great sports car, but it's a great muscle car
Ford has quite a history of building performance cars for the people in the UK, with hot versions of Fiestas, Escorts and more proving to be a blue collar favourite for those who could and couldn’t afford them. Of course the same sentiment is also felt in the much larger United States, with the much larger Ford Mustang – and now it’s in the UK.
The recipe hasn’t really changed much in its travels from the New World either, combining a massive two-door coupe or convertible bodyshell, V8 engines (EcoBoost four-cylinder variants are also available) and all the subtlety of a clown in a funeral home, in a way only an American muscle car can.
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It’s a genuinely satisfying car, with a thundering soundtrack and a real sense of fun whether you’re on the daily commute or driving briskly. That Ford has chosen to finally offer it in right-hand drive is something in itself to celebrate.
If you live across the pond, then you should seriously consider 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 much more serious road and track car. It requires commitment when driving fast, but is an incredibly engaging and truly unique driving experience. But for now, is the Mustang worth a punt against more traditional performance car alternatives?
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 £37,645 2.3-litre four-cylinder EcoBoost; next up the ladder is the 5-litre V8 GT, priced at £42,745. This duo comprise the entire Mustang model line-up in Europe, where the GT350 models aren’t offered, although there are limited editions from time-to-time.
A manual gearbox is standard, although an automatic transmission is available for a hefty £3350 on both variants. Either can also be had in convertible form for a £3500 premium.
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.
The Bullitt is only available as a V8 paired to the manual transmission, and starts at £48,145, but features plenty of extra kit such as Recaro seats and bespoke styling elements, as well as slightly more power from the engine, uprated suspension and underbody bracing.
Rivalry comes in the shape of the evergreen Nissan 370Z and spritely BMW M240i. The Japanese coupe offers the budget option, priced some £7000 less than the smaller-engined Mustang, but its charms are starting to wear thin in its advancing years.
BMW’s junior coupe, the £37,390 M240i, may compete in a different size bracket, but it splits the two Mustangs in performance terms. It’s more polished than the Ford and better built too. That said, it’s not a full-fat M-car, so doesn’t carry the exclusivity factor like the American pony car.
But the Mustang's recent update has corresponded with a reasonably chunky price rise - meaning a near-£50k Mustang is now a reality, which is suddenly a large amount of money to pay for a Ford - regardless of what's under the bonnet.