The eye-catching Ford Mustang still makes people go weak at the knees, writes Declan Colley.
JUST what is it about the Ford Mustang? This is not just a car, it is a sociological phenomenon which, more than any other car I’ve ever come across — Ferrari, Porsche, you name it — causes people to go weak at the knees with obvious signs of cardiac arrhythmia and a mild dose of psychosis thrown in.
Not since the madness of Beatlemania back in the mid-60s, when it seems half the population of the Western world lost collective reasoning, has anything been seen like the effect one car can have on a multitude of people.
The world loves the Mustang and if we cannot fully explain the reasons why this car commands people’s affections in the way it does, we can truly appreciate that it was, is, and will continue to be part of the iconography of the world we live in.
It is not just a car. It is a state of mind; it is a feel good thing; a rebel that transcends into a superhero, complete with red underpants and a large S on its hairy chest.
But why is this? Why does the Mustang excite so much public reaction and what does it have in its DNA? Indeed, why is it the boyband of the ages, the car that causes more excitement than the Beatles, Bay City Rollers, Take That, and One Direction all rolled in together?
I don’t know the answer to those questions and I’m fairly certain Ford doesn’t either.
Much as the FoMoCo is delighted with the sales performance of the Mustang, I am pretty certain that none of the people involved in designing and making it can put their finger on why exactly their car touches people in so many ways that so many other cars don’t.
It may be that only 25 or so Mustangs have been sold in Ireland to date this year, but across Europe, where Porsche, Mercedes, BMW, and Audi are all reporting a decline in sales of sports coupes, the Mustang is flying. In Britain alone this year, over 5,000 of them have found homes.
But then this thing has heritage like few other cars. It may be American, but it does have a legacy and pop-culture chic, thanks to Steve McQueen’s Lieutenant Frank Bullitt.
We have already driven two versions of the Mustang: The 2.3-litre turbo convertible version and the monstrous five-litre V8 in fastback form. Both cars were stunning to drive and attracted interest from the public at large the likes of which I’ve never encountered before.
My recent test of the fastback version fitted with the 2.3-litre turbo four pot was no different and neither was the public reaction to it.
Indeed, having heard an apocryphal story about a Mustang owner who handed the car back after owning it for a mere couple of weeks because he could not hack the amount of attention it was getting, I could well believe why something like this could happen.
Mustang truly is an all-things-to-all-people car and it attracts attention quicker than a Donald Trump tweet. But for all the fawning worship and swooning devotion, it is still a fantastic car to drive and one which will provide driving enjoyment to even the most demanding pilot.
Sure you will get purists that will tell you that anything other than a V6 or a V8 under the hood of a Mustang is a mortal sin and should be shunned like a rabid dog, but I can tell anyone who is interested that this “bastard” four pot is a humdinger.
This is the same engine — slightly detuned — that powers the sensational Ford Focus RS and, as such, it is a phenomenal thing in its own right. The naked figures demonstrate as much.
There is some 317 bhp on offer, along with 432 Nm of torque at just 3,000 rpm and that in turn translates into a top speed of 233km/h and a 0-100km/h time of 5.8 seconds. Neither the economy figures or the emission levels are in any way stellar, but if you buy a car such as this and worry about such things, then there’s something inherently wrong with you.
For the record though, CO2 emissions come in at 179g/km (for a €750 annual tax bill) and the car is claimed to return 8.2 l/100km (34.4 mpg).
The thing is, thanks to a six-speed manual gearbox and probably the most sophisticated suspension layout any Mustang has ever seen — remember it is not so long ago that leaf springs were the order of the day here — this thing drives like any self-respecting supercar should.
And for the wide-boys among you, the various settings available — Normal, Sport, Winter, and Race modes — will allow you fulfil your every tyre-shredding dream, while also allowing you tootle around town like you’re driving a Fiesta.
In Race mode the traction control system gets turned off and that’s where the serious fun is to be had.
Even so, the Mustang handles day-to-day driving chores with considered aplomb and while the suspension system might not be as sophisticated as some German coupe rivals, it is that slightly roughneck demeanour that’s part of the attraction here.
The cockpit is a really nice place to be and stuff like the chromed rocker switches add to the sense of Americana without the necessity to add cowboy boots and chaps to get the desired effect.
The front seats are terribly comfortable, but the rear seats are only really suitable for kids. Boot space is very decent though.
Also worth noting is that the car has fantastic connectivity and all the bells and whistles, are demanded by the modern consumer, although the excellent navigation system on the tester was an optional extra.
Adding it all up, the Mustang is the mega popstar of the automotive world and will command respect and adulation wherever it brings you. Sometimes that attention might be a bit of a pain in the ass, but that’s part of the deal with a car that’s as unique a buying and owning experience as it is possible to get for something that costs less than 60 grand.
That is what it is about the Mustang: Unique greatness on four wheels.
The cost: From €55,500-€58,400 as tested in four pot fastback format.
The engine: Some might bemoan the lack of a V6 — but they’re silly.
The specification: Comprehensive, all told.
The overall verdict: A legend — a real legend.
© Irish Examiner Ltd. All rights reserved