Back on the Horse

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It’s an instantly recognisable car, beloved by millions of people the world over since it first launched in 1965. But why does the Mustang have such a firm grip on so many car lover’s hearts? Perhaps because it’s an iconic American symbol, generating a dream of an open road, tarmac stretching in front of you. Or because it’s the car from Bullitt, Gone in Sixty Seconds and even Fast and Furious: Tokyo Drift (although the latter doesn’t rank quite as high in the list of all time greats). Most of all, it represents affordable fun – fast, flash but yet still attainable for the ordinary petrolhead.

And the brand new model is nearly here. The epitome of old school American cool, the first ever right hand drive Ford Mustang is due to hit Irish shores in November. 2,000 of these Mustangs have already been sold in the UK, with the waiting list stretching until at least April 2016. Interestingly enough, most of the advance sales in the UK have been for the somewhat monstrous 415bhp 5.0L V8 engined-version (0-100km/h in a mere 4.8 seconds), its roughly 19mpg figures notwithstanding. It’s hard to see the same happening in Ireland, however; more than likely it’ll be the softer 2.3L EcoBoost version that will be purring around Irish roads.

The Muscle Beneath

Though several previous incarnations have been something of a disappointment, whether on the outside or inside, this looks to be the real deal for this side of the world, where petrol prices and motor tax are just as big a consideration as the car itself. Under the bonnet of the more economical version you’ll discover a specially tuned 2.3L EcoBoost engine block. The name might not inspire confidence, but the figures should – 310bhp and 434Nm of torque for starters. 0-100lm/h will take 5.8 seconds, with a top speed of 233kph.

The Mustang isn’t exactly known for its comfort or handling attributes, but the arrival on European shores seems to have changed all that. In the US the Performance Pack is an option, but over here it’s a standard feature, with upgraded brakes and suspension, as well as a stiffened frame. There’s also a Mustang first – independent rear suspension. It’s also quite light on its feet (tyres?) due to the absence of a heavy V8 block hanging over the front wheels, but there’s still plenty of grip.

Unsurprisingly it remains better on straight stretches than in the corners – but that’s almost to be expected for a pure-blooded American motor. It’s not the most comfortable car on the road (though more so at low speeds), but it’s a lot of fun – the true spirit of the Mustang. Line Lock, for example, is a standard feature (as is a reversing camera), and allows you to spin the rear wheels for 15 seconds before you take off, which we presume will only ever be used on private roads and tracks.

And then there’s the sound – the 5.0L V8 might be a tempting splurge but its little brother is no disappointment, with a noticeably throaty growl when you put the foot down. Even though it’s a noise accentuated in the cabin by the car’s sound system, it’s an aural experience you won’t get sick of in a hurry.

Flashback

In the looks department, there’s no doubting that Ford’s new Mustang is a real winner with an aggressive stance, sculpted lines and rippling muscles. It looks sharper than ever before, and that’s thanks to a nod back to the early Mustang days – it’s not a simple copy and paste job, but a welcome hearkening back to a different era for this pony, particularly with those retro rear lights. Even the electronically folding wing mirrors are designed with aerodynamics in mind and project an image of the Mustang stallion when getting in and out, though we’re not quite sure why. Perhaps it’ll come in handy if you suddenly forget which car you have. One thing is clear – if you’re someone who shies away from attention, this isn’t the car for you.

Inside, Ford’s designers knew their target market – wannabe action stars with as yet unfaded dreams of becoming air force pilots, or James Bond. Hence the aircraft-style toggle switches on the central console while the speedo is labelled as ‘Ground Speed’ although the chrome effect on the switches is a little tacky. It’s relatively spacious too, more than you might think. Four adults will fit in fairly comfortably in the front but less so in the back, and there’s 408L of boot space.

The SYNC 2 infotainment system stands out as a modern touch in a retro-inspired cabin, and features voice and touchscreen control over phone, audio, climate control and the optional nav system. Hill Start Assist keeps the pressure on the brakes for an 2.5 seconds as you move your foot to the accelerator, while an optional Shaker Pro audio system consisting of 12 speakers and an eight-inch subwoofer (hidden in the boot) will let you blast your Celine Dion (don’t judge) to the world. And, if you lend it to a friend, you can set seatbelt reminders, audio volume and maximum speed, because you don’t want to get it back in several pieces.

As the RHD Mustangs prepare to arrive on this side of the world, it’s time to stop and consider the options. The petrol-guzzling V8 will set you back €62,000 – a more attractive option in the US where a week’s worth of petrol wont’t necessitate a bank loan, but it’s a different story over here. The 2.3L is priced at a more reasonable, although still thought-provoking, €46,000 (€6,000 more for the convertible). Alongside the engine options, the new ‘Stang is available in Fastback and Convertible styles – the latter for more relaxed drives, built to purr along smooth tarmac taking in scenic views (Glendalough on a sunny day springs to mind). Although the EcoBoost might seem like sacrilege to purists, for the rest of us it represents an opportunity to drive a flashy pony car that’s a little less severe on your wallet than its more powerful counterpart.

At the end of the day it’s not a car that you need – it’s bought with the heart rather than the head. So you might be a little daft to buy one. But you’d also be daft not to.

Mustang 2.3L Ecoboost: at a glance

0-100km/h: 5.8 seconds

BHP: 310

Efficiency: Official 8L/100km Unofficial ~11.3 (35.3/25mpg,)

Tax: €750 per annum (179g/km)

The Mustang – what you mightn’t know

Ford’s iconic Mustang has more acting credits than some of Hollywood’s finest – the ponycar has appeared in over 500 films and hundreds of TV programmes.

Today’s Mustangs might be a little on the expensive side (at least on these shores), however the first ever Mustang cost $2,368. Two years after its debut, one million people were driving Mustangs.

It might be an iconic name the world over, but for several years between 1964 to 1979, the Mustang was renamed as the T5 in Germany – the name had already been trademarked by a truck manufacturer. It was also nearly named the Ford Cougar, but thankfully sense prevailed before the final stages.

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