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Driving: riding Ford’s iron horse; the Mustang

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Ride the iron horse


It’s not a subtle beast, but if you like your motors direct and to the point, then the Ford Mustang may be worthy of a place in your stable


O f all the cars I have driven and written about for Halcyon, the Ford Mustang is the one I have found the most challenging. At around £48,000 this car was half the cost of the next most expensive vehicle that has been parked on my driveway by any given manufacturer and, indeed, with one particularly opulent recent offering, a potential buyer with the deepest of pockets would have had to shell out 12 times as much as for Ford’s latest pony.

So does this monetary designation mean that the latest incarnation of a Ford icon is a twelfth as good? Not a bit of it, although that was the intellectual dead-end into which I drove myself over the course of a gorgeously sunny long July weekend.

When I eventually realised that the Mustang is not necessarily a direct competitor for the Ferraris and Lamborghinis of this world, light dawned and I began to enjoy this behemoth for what it truly is: a bruiser of a cruiser with few or no pretensions.

Since 1964, when the Ford Mustang was first released, 10 million units have been sold, not including on the second-hand market. Going from an instant classic (700,000 sold in the first nine months) through various, shall we say, less aesthetic iterations, Ford has now released this, the sixth generation, with only two body styles – the convertible and the Fastback and it was behind the wheel of the latter where I had the blinders lifted from mine eyes.

There are plenty of nits for the picking here. The interior has a somewhat plasticky, back-of-the-warehouse feel where finishes are either rough and scratchy or distractingly shiny and there are more squeaks than from my elderly office chair. However, the instrument binnacle is a celebration of what’s digitally possible, with changeable clusters for Normal, Sport, Track and Snow/Wet modes even if the buttons that control everything did resemble a 1980s-era arcade console.

If you’ve eaten a high protein breakfast then you may be gutsy enough to go to Drag Strip mode, but be prepared to invest in shares of a tyre manufacturer as smoking the rear wheels will convert rubber to money faster than the 4.8 seconds it reportedly takes to go to 62mph. I didn’t test these numbers, but it certainly feels well within the realms of possibility and, all told, that’s a reasonable return for a car weighing in at 1,745kg.

There is a 2.3-litre Ecoboost turbocharged option but my chariot for the weekend was the 5.0-litre V8 with a manual gearbox and the MagneRide Adaptive Suspension system. At last Ford has adopted an independent suspension set-up rather than the live rear axle that so hindered the previous model but the car still wallows through the tighter corners. Just an ounce more throttle, conversely, makes you feel the rear is going to step out but, once you’ve accommodated that into your subconscious, this makes it playful in a jolly, ursine manner.


The engine block is way out in front of you, but it has the best noise I think I’ve ever heard from a naturally aspirated motor


The engine block is disturbingly far out in front of you under the long hood but, my word, it has the best noise I think I’ve ever heard from a naturally aspirated motor.

The tympanic soundtrack of copulating kettledrums as it clatters and roars is a glorious homage to yesteryear – in the not-too-distant future everything will be either super- or turbocharged and engines such as this, powered by hydrocarbons, will be mere museum pieces or consigned to being lovingly tinkered with by men called Alan or Colin, wearing overalls in oily sheds.

This is not a vehicle for everyday driving through towns, jockeying from red light to red light. My formative driving experiences were in old British Army Land Rovers and the six-speed gearbox fitted here had me surprisingly nostalgic about double-declutching. Gear changes require an injection of testosterone and muscle, but are crisp, meaty and definitive which fits with the overall ethos of the Mustang. Long ratios give you the chance to hear the noise crescendo before the need to change up arrives yet mean motorway cruising occurs at below 2,000 revs. As far as is possible, in a car painted ‘Orange Fury’, it was a genteel experience.

The bonnet is so long that on an extended drive through the Cotswolds heading east at night I could have sworn that dawn was breaking ahead of me while the sun was still setting in the rear view mirror. Your forward spacial awareness is somewhat challenged, but there is a rear-view camera now fitted as standard, which does make parking easier.

I was fully expecting 5.0 litres of American muscle to be thirsty, but I was pleasantly surprised. No longer does the old trope of overtaking everything on the road except gas stations apply to this Fastback. While it doesn’t exactly sip delicately at the pump you don’t need fuel dumps on your route to be sure of getting home.

Should you buy one you will certainly be using the Mustang for longer journeys. The interior build quality was commented upon earlier but, as a place to sit for mile after mile with that blue-collar hero, Bruce Springsteen, rocking away on the Shaker Pro 12-speaker audio system, it was deeply comfortable. Supposedly it’s a four-seater but anyone in the back would have to sit cross-legged – I wish manufacturers would stop with the pretence of the second bank of seats and provide some more storage space instead.

All in all, on the surface, the Mustang has little to recommend itself to the wider market. However, it is fun, quirky and brass-band-loud with the presence of a revivalist preacher. It’s not the most dynamic car in the world, but where else do you get 450 brake horsepower for this money. Ford apparently outsold Porsche in Europe last year in the sports car segment so they must be doing something right.

Depreciation won’t be huge and it will be enormously good fun while it’s part of your collection. There will always be the appeal of the Mustang badge and, 54 years after the original rolled out of the factory in Detroit, that hasn’t dimmed. This is a car you buy with your heart not your head; it’s not the most efficient, it’s not the classiest, it’s not the most precise. But you will chuckle delightedly as it entertains you down the highway for mile after mile after mile after mile after....

Words: TG

This article was originally published in Halcyon magazine in 2018


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