It might be that the legendary Ford Mustang traditionally had Neanderthal technological leanings and largely appealed to the American blue-collar Rock Ape end of the ownership spectrum, but those facts cannot mask the essential truth of a car which stirs the soul of any true petrolhead — yours truly included. It is simply one of the most celebrated cars ever made.
That the Mustang is, effectively, an automotive cause célèbre, means that pretty much everyone with even a just a smidgen of oil coursing through their veins has had a Mustang moment during their lives - be it as remote as having watched the chase scenes in Bullitt, or as hands-on as having actually driven one of the many variants down the years.
Personally, my own ‘Mustang Moment’ came when I was about nine or 10 when a priest friend of the family returned from the States in the early 70s to become a curate in the Rathmines parish in Dublin, which was all very normal.
The only thing was that he arrived home from the US armed with a 4.9 litre V8 Mustang, which it is fair to say was hardly the common-or-garden mode of transport for your humble Catholic cleric back then.
How he ever had the dosh to afford such a thing is still something of a mystery in the Colley household, but he did and I got to have a spin in it, which was a far more important consideration.
The rumble and rort from that V8 still resonates with me to this day; to hear it approaching was akin to witnessing an impending thunderstorm and to be driven in it was like being in the middle of said storm. It was incredible.
Now, when I heard that Ford was going — for the first time ever — to make a right-hand drive Mustang, I must say that the traditionalist in me immediately suspected they’d make a bags of it; I mean their track record in making a sow’s ear from a silk purse is pretty outstanding, after all.
And, when it was further revealed that a V8 engine choice would be supplemented by a 2.3 litre four cylinder unit, the enthusiasm for the entire project slowly bled from me.
I am therefore unbelievably happy to report that despite my forebodings about the sixth generation Mustang, I can tell you that Ford has truly produced a machine which lives up to the legend of the original, even in a seemingly muted format. In fact there is nothing muted about this thing whatsoever.
The ‘Race Red’ convertible version of the car arrived at my house somewhat unexpectedly last week and, although I was not there at the time, I beat a hasty path back home to clap my eyes on a machine which not only is an outstanding modern interpretation of the original, but is also a sincere paean to the muscle car genre itself.
And, when I got to get it out on the road, the reverent reaction of so many people to its’ presence was almost shocking. I cannot tell you the number of people who stopped me and wanted to talk all things Mustang, all the while drooling over the shockingly muscular and virile coachwork.
It was a case of seriously unbridled enthusiasm for the new machine.
You can see why too. While the Ford design team have done a fantastic job of giving the car a traditional Mustang demeanour-power bulged bonnet, squared-off rear end and the aggressive stance - while also working in modern and necessary aerodynamic aids such as the front splitter and the diffuser at the rear end.
Now the convertible option would not be one I’d favour myself, preferring a solid roof at all times, but this rag-top loses none of the occasion which characterises this new Mustang — because it is a visual treat, no doubt.
Having said that, I found it to be a very satisfying thing to drive and much more so than I expected. It was undoubtedly noisier than the regular coupe version, but the joy of driving it surpassed any criticism in this regard.
Ok, so it was a bit jiggly on rough surfaces — even when in ‘normal’ suspension setting, but the manner in which the newly developed independent suspension and the limited slip diff. does its’ job is hugely impressive. Grip levels are astonishingly good, allowing you get the power on the road when and where you want it.
Sure you’ll be able to generate armfuls of opposite lock if you’re so inclined — and joyously so it must be said — but if you are simply concerned with getting from A to B very quickly, the car will do just that too.
As for the ‘wimpy’ 2.3 litre four pot turbocharged engine, forget about any preconceptions you might have on that front. This engine is a modified version of the unit which will be shortly seen in the Focus RS but still pumps out a worthy 317 bhp at 5,000 rpm, has a 5.8 second 0-100 kph time and a top speed of 233 kph, all of which I can assure enthusiasts, will keep you fully engaged when you’re behind the suitably chunky leather-clad steering wheel.
Fears that the aural experience might be muted at best were immediately banished by the muffled initial rumble produced here — and the roar that hits you at the upper end of the rev. range will not disappoint even the most hardcore adherents. Worth mentioning too is the fantastic six-speed ‘box which is as slick as molasses and a delight to use.
With a raft of electronic trickery available too, the Mustang has a lot more tricks up its sleeves than many traditionalists might like, but this is the 21st century after all and with all the stuff Ford has built into the car, it will certainly not disappoint event the geekiest demands.
The new Mustang is not 100% perfect — what car is? — but it truly is a tour de force from the Blue Oval. I’ve not driven the V8 version yet, but from what I’ve seen from the basic model, this is something you’re going to see a lot more of on Irish roads. And with baseline models coming in at less than 50k, that is a very reasonable conclusion to arrive at. Oddly, it’s also something that might just tempt people to step away from the damnably wonderful German stuff in their driveway.
People can get all very rose-tinted when it comes to the Mustang and rightly so too. But it must be remembered Ford made some dud Mustangs along the line too, prompting Lee Iacocca — one of the men behind the original — to comment when the car’s sales levels plummeted that “the Mustang market never left Ford, we left it.”
Well, they’re back now and this Mustang is a car very worthy of carrying the legendary ‘pony’ emblem and it does so with considerable pride and no little ability.
A beast to behold.
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