23 September 2016

Review: Ford Mustang

There were half a dozen bags to be disposed of, so I rocked up to the weigh-bridge at the local civic amenity with the boot full, writes Brian Byrne. "Green waste," I said.

The guy in the office stared for several long moments. "OK," he said eventually. "I'll let you in if you take me for a spin." Though I knew that he didn't really expect me to say yes.

As I drove on with a grin, I figured it was the first time a bright yellow Ford Mustang had come into the facility. Especially rumbling through with the sound of a 419hp V8 wafting behind. He was waiting for me when I weighed out, though, wanting to talk about the car and see it close-up and personal.

The Mustang GT is that kind of car. Iconic, people-grabbing. Not a car to try and be discreet in. And even if you had the one in grey, the sound would turn any petrolhead towards it. Non petrolheads too. It all makes for lots of spontaneous conversations with strangers.

OK, of the 100 or so Mustangs that will be sold in Ireland this year, only a few will be the 5.0 V8s. The 2.3 EcoBoost four will power the others. And with some 310hp under the hood, that one has quite enough power for any need. Indeed, for me the 2.3 is a much better balanced motor for using a Mustang in everyday mode. If you would use a Mustang in everyday mode.

But there's something about a V8 and this particular American automotive icon. You have to drive the 5.0 at least once (I've done it three times since the first European launch of the car). Then you can get back to normality. In the meantime, enjoy.

I've said before that this generation Mustang, representing over 50 years since the original was launched in 1964, is the closest to the original in design and ethos. Which was pitched at giving the 'family man' something more sporty than the regular ordinary sedan. Or the wagon which his wife drove. The designers have been true to that original 'pony car' in shape, in detail cues, and in the cabin ambience which fairly successfully mixes the '60s and the current decade.

The almost straight up steering wheel, with the silver mustang on the boss. The seemingly massive bonnet that, untypically for cars of today, rears up in front. The two very comfortable main seats and a brace of smaller ones behind, best used for coats and bags but useable for people in a pinch. The modern infotainment screen is found in all today's Fords.

And, in case you don't know the heritage, there's a plate on the dash, 'Mustang, since 1964'.

As sporty coupes go, this is a big car on the outside. The unique presence it has is as much bulk as style. A bit longer than the original, it's interesting to remember that in its day and place, it was a compact car among its American compatriots. The equivalent in Europe then was the much smaller original Ford Consul Capri (I saw one today, motoring around Sandyford), a derivative of the Consul 315 with the backslashed rear window, which actually preceded the American car. There's a valid argument to be made that the Consul Capri prompted the American Ford people to think Mustang.

The yellow 5.0 that attracted so much attention while I had it is technologically of today. But if we're truthful, we'll acknowledge that it doesn't quite match anything from Audi, BMW, or Mercedes-Benz that it might call competition. It does have power and grunty torque, in both engine versions, and it manages each quite capably. But there's none of the seamless sophistication which those previously mentioned brands can produce. Mustang, Generation 6, is tough and, relatively, rough.

Which really is the point. The Ford Mustang of this decade is not for now. It's for memorialising a period in automotive history that will never be repeated. It's a reminder of a time in American motoring when a car could be much more a definition of its owner than it is today. In this instance, sporty at an accessible price.

So at today's price, starting at €55,500 for the 2.3 and in the review car's sticker tag of €74,000 or so, plus road tax fir the V8 of €2,350, Mustang no longer fits in that last space.

It's still great fun, though.