The Ford Mustang is one of the most famous cars of all-time; it’s arguably up there with the Volkswagen Beetle, Citroen 2CV and Porsche 911. However, Ford’s best known sports car has never been officially sold in the UK, and even grey imports that made it here have all been left-hand drive.
But the brand is making amends with the all-new 2016 model, and Auto Express has got its hands on one of the first UK-spec cars. However, there’s a lot more to the latest Mustang than simply engineering it as a right-hooker, as it’s the first of its kind to get fully independent suspension front and rear, while Ford’s engineers have worked hard to ensure that the car delivers the kind of handling and performance that European customers and roads demand.
From the outside, the newcomer certainly looks like it means business. There are retro touches to the design of the nose and tail, plus a bulging bonnet and muscular wheelarches. And while the Mustang is a big car, it’s well proportioned and makes its presence felt on the road.
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Inside, the dash has a mixture of retro design touches and modern displays. The rotary audio controls and bank of toggle switches to change driving modes are positively old school, while Ford’s latest eight-inch SYNC2 infotainment touchscreen and large central trip display are easy to use.
Overall, build quality is good, but there are some hard plastics and cheap-feeling buttons dotted around, plus the silver plastic and chrome trim on the centre console are a bit on the tacky side.
The long body means the Mustang is pretty practical for a coupe. There’s plenty of room up front, while the back seats are usable, too. In fact, the equally large (and more expensive) Nissan GT-R has far less room for back seat passengers.
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Practicality is one thing, but what really matters is how the new Mustang drives. Fire up the 5.0-litre V8, and you get a traditional burble from the exhausts. Blip the throttle, and the whole car shakes, while selecting Track mode from the Driving Modes screen adds a bit more volume. It’s not as loud as a Jaguar F-Type, but it’s still a pleasing sound.
The six-speed manual gearbox has a short and crisp shift, which is helped by a user-friendly clutch. In reality, the six gears are there to help boost efficiency, because when you press on, fourth gear is all you really need to make fast progress.
Indeed, if you want to get anywhere near the claimed 20.9mpg economy figure, then you’ll find that the big, torquey V8 is happy to turn at 750rpm in sixth at 30mph if you’re cruising around town.
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It’s in corners where the Mustang really needs to impress, though, and it does exactly that. The steering is light yet responsive and there are three levels of assistance – with Sport mode adding decent weight to the wheel. The traction control system has four settings; Track mode reduces the amount of electronic intervention to allow you to play with the throttle on the exit of bends, or there is the option to turn it off completely.
The 5.0 GT model comes with a limited-slip diff as standard, and the combination of fast steering and quick throttle response means the Mustang will tail slide all day if you’re so inclined. But there’s more to the Ford than just power oversteer, as the chassis also delivers decent handling. The suspension isn’t overly stiff, but body roll is well controlled and the car has an agility that defies its large dimensions.
This GT version also benefits from Brembo brakes, and while the pedal is quite sharp under foot, there’s plenty of strong and consistent bite from the six-piston calipers. The Mustang also features an Electronic Line Lock function, which is a party trick Ford has taken from drag racing.
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The system fully applies the front brakes, which then allows you to spin up the rear tyres with the throttle. It’s designed to get the rears warm for standing starts at the track (Ford states that the system is for track use only), but it’s a bit of a novelty in truth. Use it frequently, and you’ll soon be on first-name terms with your local tyre fitter, as you eat your way through endless sets.
So, the Mustang is impressive in corners, yet it’s equally accomplished when you want to take it easy. The ride is comfortable at motorway speeds and only really becomes unsettled over big bumps, while tyre and road noise are well suppressed considering the big rubber tucked away at each corner.
There’s a minor issue with forward visibility due to the large hump of the bonnet ahead of you. But overall the Mustang is easy to manoeuvre, plus you get a reversing camera as standard.
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We’ve established that the Ford is an accomplished drive, it looks good and benefits from useful electronic tech, but perhaps the most astonishing thing about the car is its price. In the US, the Mustang has a reputation for delivering affordable performance, and that’s something it maintains in the UK.
A price tag of £33,995 is excellent value when you consider the performance on offer, while standard kit includes sat-nav, climate control, keyless entry and go, auto xenon lights and all of the mechanical bits already mentioned – which is more than enough to overlook some of the cheaper cabin materials on show.
If you want a car with similar performance, then the BMW M235i is equally fast and is arguably better built, yet it doesn’t have the character or charm that the Mustang simply oozes from every pore.