Saturday 22 October 2016

Mustang: why it really is a horse for a course

But big coupé not without its faults

Published 10/04/2016 | 02:30

The Ford Mustang, which has now been made for the European market
The Ford Mustang, which has now been made for the European market

First of all, a confession of sorts. This is based on a mere four-hour test drive during which, admittedly, I more or less emptied the petrol tank.

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But don't think my assessment will be the poorer or curtailed by my time at the wheel (I usually take a week).

No indeed, my dash to the midlands and back was purely for the fun of it and to get some 'me time' with 'Big Yellow Bird' as someone called it.

You see, I've driven the new Ford Mustang in Europe, the US, England and Ireland. But I usually had someone on board. Not this time.

This time I had it all to myself. Me time.

And I had a gas four hours, made all the more delightful by the comments of people who couldn't get over the look - and colour - of it.

I won't bore you with too many details but this is the first Mustang made for Europe. They've tweaked and twiddled to make it more pleasing to our driving tastes.

What I drove in California earlier this year was that bit different. So this is a first for here. I also think it is safe to say no Mustang has been driven down the Woodfield Bog road quite like I drove this.

It has its faults for sure, and I think it's important you remember them.

While it is a wonderful straight-line speed merchant it is not, by any means, a car to make you want to point-and-squirt on corners.

And I will never understand why they cheapened the dash with a row of button/instruments that look like they are wrapped in chewing-gum foil.

Neither do I see too many people buying this thirsty 5-litre V8 petrol version.

The one to go for is the 2.3-litre EcoBoost. Okay, it lacks the jet-thrust of the 5-litre, but you can still get lots of fun from it - and it costs less to buy and run.

Either way you get to hunker in nice and low in a big cabin (chewing gum buttons excepted) and peer out across that long, bonnet that, in itself, does something for your anticipation.

Then rev it up - they make it sound throaty and petrolly and 'drive me' - and off you go.

At that stage you can begin to understand why Americans have loved the idea of this big affordable coupé for decades and why this is something quite different to anything else on the Irish market.

The joy is in the drive and the force of it, how quickly it shifts to top-legal speeds and how much power lies at the disposal of your right foot. But it was much, much better on the motorway than on poorer surfaces where road noise came through.

The Mustang is about choice more than anything else: your choice to drive something so different from what is already on the roads here.

Whether or not you wish to turn up to work in a big yellow one is entirely your choice but you'll get plenty of attention and some envious looks, I think.

I suppose basically it is for the enthusiast because these cars have a bit of magic all their own, bestowed in large measure by the iconic nature of the beast and the opportunity, for the first time, to own one that has been tailor-made for our sort of roads and driving.

But don't expect it to have the refined handling and ride of large coupés from Germany or further afield.

If that's what you expect, it is not for you. It is the Mustang's comparative rawness, the blemishes, that make it all the more enjoyable. I found that on my drive down country.

You treat it like a real trier of a racehorse that maybe is a little short of Guineas class, will always give everything but needs a pull of the reins or tap of the whip now and again.

But I don't know of anything that will give you as good a run for your money - especially if you do the sensible thing and stick with the 2.3-litre EcoBoost (from €49,000).

There are better cars out there, for sure, but not for that sort of money and certainly not with this sort of American icon pedigree.

You won't need four hours to understand that.

Facts & figures

Ford Mustang Fastback, 2dr sports car, 5.0 litre petrol V8 manual, 416PS, 299g/km, €2,350 road tax.

Standard spec includes leather upholstery, auto lights/wipers, rear-view camera, dual-zone climate control, several driving modes, 19ins alloys, xenon headlights and Ford SYNC 2 with 8ins touchscreen.

Options: Custom Pack (climate front seats; satnav, premium audio, etc).

Prices start from €49,000 for 2.3-litre EcoBoost. 5-litre Fastback tested, from €65,000. Options push total price to €67,800. Remember delivery and related charges extra.

My side of the road

Sorry about this, but you might tell me if I'm wrong here. I have tried not to raise the topic for weeks and weeks now, but I have to or I'll burst.

I think people are WORSE now at using the phone at the wheel than they have ever been. Everywhere I look I see it - cars, vans and lorries. It's gone quite mad. Let me know what you think.

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