What difference does ten years and two turbochargers make to the quintessential mid-engined Ferrari?
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What is it? This is the 2015 Ford Mustang. We’ve always loved and admired the model from afar, but now it’s coming to the UK - and many other foreign lands - for the first time as part of the official model line up. And it’s not going to be some special, limited edition left-hand drive effort - it’s a proper right-hand drive model optimised for our driving styles and conditions. What engines will it have? In the US it’s available with a V6, a 5.0-litre V8 and - new for 2015 - a 2.3-litre EcoBoost four. The V6 is the base engine and won’t be making the trip overseas, leaving the four and the eight as the two choices. The V8 is a carry over from 2014 and has 418 horsepower plus 524 Nm of the good stuff. The EcoBoost - a twin-scroll turbocharged in-line four banger - has 314 horsepowers and 434 of your finest torques. So obviously you want the V8 then?
Your heart might say V8 - and if you’ve been waiting several decades to get a proper one in the UK, nothing else will probably do - but your head should not let you dismiss that EcoBoost fella lightly. It might have over 100bhp less than the V8 but, depending on the final spec, the car can weigh over 100kg less, too. Pretty much all of that from the front end. So there is a huge win in the steering department for the smaller-engined car. What about the handling - they’ve sorted that, right? Right. The big news is that the Mustang gets an independent rear suspension for the first time (if you don’t count the SVT Cobra). But that is just the beginning of the handling story for this car. It’s not going too far to say that this chassis is one of the best Ford has ever produced, anywhere in the world. In the spec we’ll get in the UK - which in the US would require optioning a performance pack - this Mustang is fabulously neutral, controlled, amazingly well damped and exactly what you want underneath you. It’s a tiny bit harsh on some bigger bumps, but road noise is low, the steering is direct - especially in Sport mode, one of three switchable choices available - and it’s a lot of fun to drive. That’s fun for a muscle car, not fun compared with Europe or Japan’s finest? No, that’s fun without any qualification. This chassis will go up against the best from anywhere and give them a good run for the money. You can steer both models, both of which have a limited slip diff as standard, on the throttle almost as much as with the wheel - the V8 particularly - so you can indulge your inner Bullitt fantasies as much as you want. But then when you want to tidy things up and go fast, it will now do that, too. The EcoBoost-equipped car is, by quite a margin, the best handing of the two. Give me more of an idea here. Would the EcoBoost Stang give a GT86 a run for its money? It wouldn’t just give it a run, it would smash its face in. The new Stang has a stack more grip, more power, more torque and is an altogether bigger, faster car. What are the gearbox options - all manual? No, there’s a six-speed manual , but there’s also a six-speed auto, too. Clutch action is light and smooth and the shift action is fine. The auto is a bit of a surprise - much more responsive and racy than you might expect, particularly when in Sport mode. It has the usual adaptive change patterns, but you can also stir it through the steering wheel mounted paddles. The manual is still the true driver’s option, but the self-shifter runs it close. What does it sound like? The V8 sounds exactly like a Mustang should, roaring and grumbling its way up and down the rev range, so it hasn’t been strangled to make it work around the world. The EcoBoost is not as evocative but has its own sound signature - a buzzy, swooshy note that doesn’t exactly thrill but doesn’t sound unpleasant either. Tell me about the interiors - up to scratch? Yep, all good inside. Ford has adopted an aeronautical theme to the interiors so they are all brushed aluminium, Bell & Ross watch-inspired speedo/tacho, and bright alloy toggle switches. It feels cool, contemporary and suitable. There are a number of upgrades available - Recaro seats, leather, etc - but even in the mid-spec cars they feel premium. Connectivity is fully up to scratch, too. The revised Sync system swallows your phone’s address book in seconds, the navigation takes verbal commands more easily and there’s a stadium rock concert-level sound system available for those AC/DC moments. Seat space in the back is OK for smaller adults and kids. The load area, with fold down seats, is big enough to carry enough stuff for four people. It’s not massively spacious, but suitable. C’mon, it can’t all be great. Surely there’s something that won’t work here? Well, it is still a big car and the view over the bonnet is restricted over both wings (even though we won’t be getting the bonnet scoops in the UK), so squeezing it into parking gaps is going to be an issue. Likewise threading it down a narrow back lane is going to require a lot of concentration. But the good news is that the car now has the power and precision to let you do that. So should I buy one? Of course you should. At the sort of prices being bandied about - under £30k for the EcoBoost and well under £35k for the V8 - there’s an awful lot of very, very good competition. But Ford has done its homework and built a Mustang that not only keeps the muscle car flame burning brightly, it also adds the quality, precision and practicality that it needs to make this not just an emotional purchase, but also a rational one, too. We might have had to wait 50 years for it to get here, but the wait has been worthwhile.
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