► New Ford Mustang GT tested
► Packs a 415bhp 5.0-litre V8
► On sale in the UK for £34k
So this is it. After decades spent admiring the Mustang from afar, coveting its brawny, affordable performance and off-the-scale cool, Ford’s heritage-drenched muscle car has finally made it to little old England as an official model, complete with appropriately tuned suspension, the peace of mind that comes with any other dealer-bought Ford and the steering wheel where it should be.
Its arrival also coincides with a seismic engineering overhaul of a concept that’s been doing its thing, with very little change, for half a century. So now there’s a cabin you don’t have to make excuses for and independent multilink rear suspension in place of the solid axle the ’Stang had previously used since birth.
A five-litre V8 in the UK, really?
It'd be rude not to, wouldn’t it? UK buyers have a choice of two engines: the V8 or a 2.3-litre four-cylinder EcoBoost (310bhp, 320lb ft and 35.3mpg). The latter’s undoubtedly the more practical option, capable of going almost twice as far on each gallon than the eight, and the performance sacrifice isn’t as grave as you might think: a second on the 0-62mph sprint (5.8sec against the V8’s 4.8) and 10mph at the top end (145mph versus 155mph).
No, where the V8 really wins out is with its timeless, filthy eight-cylinder soundtrack. Most of the time it’s a soft but menacing wub-wub. Nail it and that promise explodes into deliciously linear acceleration and a life-affirming, very mechanical roar that, by 6500rpm, must be audible from the surface of the moon.
Fast? Kinda. The Ford never feels savagely quick thanks to that kerbweight but it’s still rapid enough to hose whole lines of slow-moving traffic, leave junctions with a wholly appropriate hullabaloo and make you feel like a sweat-soaked NASCAR hero going fender-to-the-concrete at the double-ton every time you nip to Waitrose.
The manual gearbox is a sweet six-speeder that brings almost as much to the party as the motor it’s bolted to. The clutch is appropriately meaty, the shift itself equally tactile and the whole process of bringing in the next gear set delectable and surprisingly swift. There are faster, sweeter manual ’boxes out there, and the gate springing definitely feels better in US-market left-hookers – getting fourth when you’re shooting for sixth is too easy in RHD cars – but this is still a great transmission.
And when you get free of town and drop the hammer?
A BMW M4 (the Ford’s on-paper rival until you factor in price, at which point it becomes the M235i) possesses a good deal more grip, poise, damping sophistication and front-end response than the Ford can summon, but the Mustang is an engaging back-road machine nonetheless. The brakes are brilliant, the reassuring meat and accuracy of the short-travel pedal giving you the confidence to attack.
The steering, too, is nicely judged, with enough feel and accuracy to help hide the Ford’s size and its at times floaty suspension. And so you start braking less and move instead to pouring that week-long bonnet into bends at speed, picking up subtle but reassuring messages from the wheel (at its best in Comfort mode, though you want Sport’s throttle response and fortunately you can pair the two) and noting that while the damping over rougher ridges isn’t the stuff of legends, there’s impressive body control.
Come the corner exit it’s simply about how brave you’re feeling with the gas pedal; bring it in early and hard if you’re feeling Light Brigade-brave, or soft and steady if you prefer an easy life. In the UK, especially in the winter months, the GT’s limits are pretty low, the chassis begging to shear away as you build lateral load, let alone try to feed in some throttle. Team this with a pretty liberal stability control system and there’s undoubtedly the potential here to get into trouble, but that’s as it should be, surely? This is a 415bhp rear-drive thug of a car that makes your work for your speed.
What about the rest of the time? Can the GT ’Stang just be an everyday car?
Absolutely, providing you’re happy with a real-world thirst in the low 20s (not an issue in its homeland, where a full tank will relieve you of about £15, but less funny with UK fuel prices).
At a cruise, the Mustang's a fine place to be - with great seats (sofa-deep and snug but shaped to hold you like a baseball in a glove) and a handsome if clearly built-to-a-price cockpit, pretty refined levels of road and wind noise and Ford’s Sync touchscreen infotainment system.
Tick the Shaker Pro option box (£795) and you’ll also get sat-nav and a sound system to die for (or, at full volume, with the organ-pulping sub in the boot quivering) to kill you. What’s not to like? So the rear seats are 911-snug, but anyone you stash back there will be having far too much fun to care.
Ford UK has taken some 3000 orders for the Mustang so far, with a 50:50 split between the two engines and 20% of buyers opting for the convertible. Should you join them? If you’re at all tempted then undoubtedly yes – the GT is a hugely charismatic, deeply pleasing performance car with an uncomplicated likeability that eclipses almost everything at its price point.
Oh yes, price. The V8 GT starts at just £33,995; the four £29,995. Even a loaded GT will come in at under £35k. An M235i might be more sorted and ultimately faster on most roads but the BMW won’t elevate every journey, however mundane, into something to be cherished for the undiluted joy of spending time with a car brutal of form and wondrous of engine.