Mustang launches in UK

It’s been around in various guises since 1964, but despite its cult following it is only now that the Ford Mustang is finally available in the UK in right hand drive.

So what will Ford’s newest UK offering be like? Can it really stand up against European competition? We haven’t had the opportunity to drive a UK-spec Mustang, but took to the roads of California in a sixth generation Ford Mustang convertible to find out.

Ford Mustang convertible

We’ve driven Mustangs before, including traveling the full 2,400 miles of Route 66. But, I have to admit, previous Mustang trips have been been more because the Mustang seemed like ‘the right car’ for an American road trip, rather than because they were good to drive.

When we picked up the keys to our car at Los Angeles Airport, it looked every inch the Mustang. Indeed the sixth generation is so carefully designed to exude the Mustang image, that it took a second look to check this was, indeed, the latest version. But, if the appearance is classic Mustang, beneath the skin there have been some radical changes – most notably independent rear suspension.

It is said that the ‘bean counters’ at Ford were very reluctant to allow this radical change. Fortunately, the word from the top was that – if the Mustang was going to take on the world – it had to have the equipment it needed to do it.

The order books for right-hand-drive UK deliveries are already full well into the second half of the 2016. You get some clue as to the type of buyers these are, when you hear that almost three-quarters of these orders are for the five-litre V8-powered Mustang – a pretty clear indication that the purchasers are enthusiasts who want the true American ‘muscle-car’ experience.

Our Mustang was the more modest 2.3-litre Ecoboost model.

Reckoning on Californian blue skies for our trip, we had selected a convertible. There is a little scuttle shake, perhaps inevitably for such a long car deprived of the added stiffness from a metal roof – but it is not excessive.

Ford Mustang

With the roof down we headed out of Los Angeles in the ‘car pool’ lane of the 405 freeway, the balmy fresh air helped to clear away the cobwebs from our long flight.

Suddenly, up ahead, loomed something that looked like a rain cloud. The Mustang convertible won’t let you power the roof up unless you are stationary, so there follow a panic when we thought we would be drenched. Fortunately we managed to dive off at a flyover and stop at a red light long enough to raise the roof, before rejoining the freeway.

Just as well. In minutes we were singing “It Never Rains in Southern California… Man it Pours” as we hit this wall of water. Being in year four of one of the worst droughts in Californian history, they need the rain. Sadly, one short sharp downpour is not going to be enough.

Even after our 11-hour flight, the seats of the Mustang felt comfortable and supportive. There are two small seats in the back, best suited to children. Ford’s blurb says the “trunk is large enough for two golf bags” and although it was a little bit of a squeeze, our two big rolling bags fitted in.

The finish in the Mustang doesn’t quite match the best European standards. There’s some hard plastics in evidence and, my pet hate, some plastic that is meant to look like metal and, of course, some that is textured to look like carbon fibre.

The price of our car in the USA is $34,895, or around £23,000 once you have added taxes and delivery. In the UK a 2.3-litre Mustang Cabriolet will cost you £33,995 on-the-road, while the V8 convertible starts at £37,995. But, it is not a direct comparison. UK cars have a higher specification.

All UK cars come with a GT Performance Pack which includes Brembo brakes, 19-inch wheels and re-tuned suspension. The steering will also be tweaked to make the Mustang more agile and responsive for European tastes.

You can understand why UK buyers are mainly getting excited about the V8. But the 2.3-litre does offer pretty good performance, with 312 bhp from its turbocharged four cylinders. Acceleration to 62 mph takes just six seconds and the top speed is quoted at 145 mph.

Even in US specification the 2016 Mustang feels more of a driver’s car than any of its predecessors. It used to be that American cars offered very little feedback to the driver. The steering was usually sterile, lifeless and overly light.

This new Mustang offers much more involvement. There are three steering settings – comfort, normal and sport, with the latter really adding more weight and better responses. Needless to say, after checking the other settings, we drove the rest of our 2,203-mile road trip with ’Sport’ selected.

Our car came equipped with the six-speed SelectShift automatic transmission. The gear changes were notably smooth. It was sometimes a slow to react to the throttle, selecting the sport setting helped and the surefire way of dropping down a gear was to use the gearshift paddles. Using sport or the manual paddles delivered satisfactory urgency.

The ride quality is much better than previous Mustangs and although there was less of the unwanted feedback from uneven tarmac, the car felt more connected with more of the feedback that keen drivers crave. This is the first Mustang which feels genuinely enjoyable to drive on twisty roads.

Anyone who has driven the latest Volkswagen Golf R knows how much a good sound track can add to the driving experience, even if it is not entirely natural. Ford have taken this a stage further and their acoustic engineers have used the car’s sound system to cancel out some unwanted mechanical sounds and augment the more sporting elements of the soundtrack.

Ford Mustang

Of course, when you are wafting through a balmy sunset in Death Valley, or enjoying an all round view of El Capitan in Yosemite, any car is going to feel wonderful. But, this time the Mustang really does feel more of a driver’s car.

Ford in the UK say they have been “astounded” by the interest in the Ford Mustang finally coming to the UK market. It’s not hard to see why. This is such an iconic American car that many previous owners have put up with the undoubted hassle of personally importing left-hand-drive examples, just to drive a Mustang.

Now, it becomes a whole lot more attractive since it can be bought from the dealer, with the steering wheel on the “correct” side of the car. It may not set new standards in sports car dynamics, but that does not matter. In this latest form it is at least playing in the same game as its competitors.

Ford Mustang Convertible 2.3 Ecoboost
Carbon dioxide emissions: 184 g/km
Combined fuel economy 34.4 mpg
Top speed: 145 mph
0-62: 6.0 secs
Power 312 bhp
Engine size 2261cc petrol/diesel
Boot capacity 332 litres
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