28 March 2018

First View: Ford Mustang 2019

I recently had the undeniably fun experience of driving the 2019 Ford Mustang through the very drivable mountain areas of Provence, writes Brian Byrne.

The reason for the latest ride was the mid-life upgrade of the current generation of the car. And if you think that's rather quickly after the model was introduced to Europe just three years ago, that's because it had then already been on sale in the US for a couple of years.

There's a new grille and facia, sexier lights, and a lowered hood front. There's a new rear spoiler option too. All together give a measure of extra visual sophistication. But nothing has been done to take from the style of the version which is generally agreed to be the closest in concept and execution to the original of 1964.

Inside, there's an upgrade in the quality of the trim material with more soft-touch surfaces. The main differences are in the instrumentation and central display, the former completely digital and providing different different styles depending on mode. The centre display uses the bright blue theme we've seen in other recently revised or renewed Fords, and that's all to the good. They've left the distinctively Mustang steering wheel as is. But looking out over the lowered hood offers better visibility.

Both engines have been modified, the 2.3 EcoBoost four de-powered, the 5.0 V8 uprated. I've always preferred the four-cylinder, I simply think it's a better balance for the car. Reducing the power from 310hp to 290hp hasn't diminished the performance in any perceptible way. In fact I felt it has become a tad more refined. The V8 has been further fettled and now pumps a deep growling 450hp.

The standard 6-speed manual now has a revs-matching feature on downshifts, while a new 10-speed automatic is seamless in use, and adapts exceptionally fast to any change in engine loading.

The cars at the launch had the optional MagneRide adaptable suspension, which uses electromagnets within the struts of the shock absorbers to react in milliseconds to changes in the car's attitude. In the hilly and often chaussée déformée surfaces of the launch routes it seemed to work very well.

There are now six drive modes available at the flick of a switch — including Track and Drag Strip, neither of which are realistic for any kind of road use. The Normal, Comfort, and Sport modes are what they say on the tin, in each case modifying steering, suspension, throttle response and sound. Each of these can be separately selected to a customised personal My Mode.

The engine sound options remind us that engine note has little to do with the tuning of a car these days, but is engineered to various preferences. In the 2019 Mustang there's even a Quiet setting so the neighbours won't get upset if the owner is leaving early or coming home late.

Leaving all the gimmicks to one side, the reason to wish for a Mustang is a mix of ethos, nostalgia, and ability. It is a sports car, and must be able to provide a sporty experience. It does so in either power guise. It's a big car, though, and feels it. Like the wild horse for which it is named, it requires a firm touch by the rider to get the best from its spirited soul.

Coming to Ireland in December.