What is it?
It’s the face-lifted version of the sixth-generation Ford Mustang, driven here for the first time on British roads following its international launch to the press in Nice, in March.
You’ll have clocked the lowered profile of a bonnet that now sports a brace of meshed vents, the more piercing headlights, and perhaps the new ‘aero curtains’ in the front bumper. Their job is to guide the airflow neatly across the front wheels, and you’ll now find them on everything from the Lotus Exige 410 Sport to the all-new Audi A6.
The front splitter’s bigger, too, because the one thing the Mustang always lacked was a square jaw, and there are quad-exhaust tips for the big V8 model.
It’s a bit angrier, then, which is what people have wanted since the pre-facelift car arrived on the scene in 2015. For further evidence those who buy these famous machines have no aversion to the lime-light, consider that a third of early orders are in the Fury Orange paint job seen on our test car. And while we’re talking statistics, four in every five cars is expected to be a Fastback, which is no surprise given the convertible loses the classic silhouette.
There’s also expected to be a fifty-fifty split between manual and automatic transmissions, and so the biggest change to this car is the addition of Ford’s new 10-speed ’box. Replacing the wholly unsatisfactory six-speeder, it’s still a torque converter but uses an integrated turbine clutch to save weight and improve the packaging.
The new ratios occupy a similar spread to the old ones, though, meaning smaller steps and quicker, smoother shifts, and those shifts are instigated by new direct-acting solenoids. That means this transmission can skip from, say, sixth to second in a single motion.
What is it like?
You know where you stand with a Mustang – it’s going to feel old-school to a degree, for which you’re going to like it in the main.
This facelift is a bit different, though. The instrument cluster is now entirely digital, for a start, with a 12in display whose colours can be customised. The readouts also change depending on which mode you’re in, starting out looking just a bit staid in Normal but ramping up to a vast horizontal tacho in Track and even a ‘Christmas Tree’ lights in Drag Strip. Yes, that’s Ford’s name for launch control.
Elsewhere the cabin remains as it was – vast, with chunky switchgear, and seats more accurately described as ‘chairs’. And remember, the sixth-generation car also remains the first of its kind to be offered in right-hand drive, which is nice.
Buy a Mustang and you still get a choice of two engines – either a turbocharged 2.3-litre EcoBoost that’s now been tickled to develop a little more torque at the expense of outright power or the 5.0-litre V8 whom for many owners will be a no-brainer. With a manual gearbox, of course.
Going for the four-cyl EcoBoost will save you about £5500 up front. Throttle response is fine and 350lb ft means you could never call it ‘slow’ with a straight face. However, if you consider a bellyful of effortless shove a core constituent of the Mustang experience – and, frankly, we do – then it’s hard not to find it a bit gutless through the mid-range. That it becomes so breathless at higher crank speeds merely seals its fate as second fiddle to the V8.
Those eight cylinders remain likeably lazy in their waffling, ever-so-slightly flatulent power delivery, which is up from 410bhp to 444bhp – an exact match for a BMW Competition Pack. With the 10-speed ’box, the 0-62mph time drops to 4.3sec, which the car feels good for as it roars off the line, powerboat-style.
That time is achievable only with that new automatic ’box, which for cruising is an inoffensive device, upshifting gently at roughly 2000rpm and side-stepping second gear altogether thanks to those fancy solenoids. In the car’s most relaxed mode, barely have you pulled away and you’re already into sixth or even seventh, and for the some that’ll be just dandy.
However, getting the most out of the engine requires either knocking the gearselect into ‘S’ or pulling one of the plastic paddleshifters mounted on the steering wheel. The former raises the default upshift point to around 3000rpm but will allow the crankshaft to spin to beyond 7000rpm if you’re in enough of a hurry.
Upshifts don’t exactly match a Porsche PDK for precision but neither are they required to in a Mustang. They’re adequately quick and seamless, though downshifts can sometimes jerk. The transmission’s incessant hunting for just the right gear can irk, mind.
In fact, it’s a layer of fussiness the Mustang could do without, because this chassis doesn’t half like the road to be smooth. A generous wheelbase and good natural balance allow the car to settle into a decently composed gait. It’s one that can give you a false sense of security, even, because it’ll permit to you carry considerable speed through most corners while using generous levels of body roll to keep the contact patches squished into the road.
Were British roads predictably surfaced that’d be the end of it, but they’re not, and so the Mustang comes unstuck where most European sports car simply wouldn’t. The biggest offender is vertical control, which whether concerning either the passive or £1600 adaptive MagneRide suspension handles a solitary input – a ripple in the tarmac, say – decently well but quickly falls behind the roads when those inputs arrive rapid-fire.
Progress can come a little cantankerous, and so you quickly learn to identify the Mustang’s natural rhythm on a given road and stick to it. Do so and it’s an undeniably pleasant, composed steer.
Elsewhere, there’s also now a ‘My Mode’ that allows to collate various settings. This is the sort of thing that should be mandatory on any performance car with numerous switchable parameters, so good on Ford for introducing it.
Should I buy one?
Well, why not. If you’re already considering a ’Stang, and like the cosmetic changes, this facelift is all good news. The active exhaust in particular now gives the car a blaring, saw-toothed aural signature to match the muscle of the engine and the beefcake coachwork. It feels as though the sixth-gen Mustang has grown into its skin.
If you’re really quite seriously considering a Mustang, you’re also unlikely to mind that dynamically it’s some way off, say, a BMW 440i M Sport. The Ford’s footprint might no longer dwarf those of its rivals, but it still feels a portly device and it’s a sensation that never leaves you. It can, however, prove surprisingly sharp on the right road and so consigning it solely to ‘cruiser’ status would be injustice.
There’s also the price. It’s a shade over £46,000, which next to a £60,000 BMW M4 looks good value for a car of such character and no small amount of performance.
Ford Mustang GT 5.0 V8 specification
Where Cambridgeshire, UK Price £41,095; On sale now; Engine V8, 5038cc, petrol; Power444bhp at 7000rpm; Torque 390lb ft at 4600rpm; Gearbox 6-spd manual; Kerb weight1743kg; Top speed 155mph; 0-62mph 4.6sec; Fuel economy 22.8mpg; CO2 277g/km;Rivals Chevrolet Camaro 6.2, BMW M2