IT has been the American muscle car to be seen in for over 50 years, and now it is on the way here in right-hand drive for the first time. The iconic Mustang has been used in 500 movies and hundreds of TV shows to symbolise American cool - most famously by Steve McQueen in the best nine- minute screen car chase ever in Bullitt, twice by James Bond in Goldfinger and Diamonds are Forever' in both Gone in 60 Seconds films; as well as films with Tom Cruise and Harrison Ford behind the wheel. It is the most famous name in Ford models since the Model T.
The newest version is now going on sale in Europe and will compete with models such as the BMW 4 Series and Audi A5 and arrives here in November. Ford expect that their flagship model will draw attention to the blue oval brand and give a boost to models such as the new Mondeo when it hits the road next year. Predictions are that over 100 Mustangs a year will leave the forecourts next year but that this will grow as the economy improves and the wild pony car, which has notched up nine million sales, shows its paces.
Across the Atlantic, a powerful 5-litre V8 power plant has long been a favourite with devotees, but Ford has wisely offered a choice to more fuel- conscious European buyers in the form of an all new 2.3 litre EcoBoost engine that delivers turbocharged performance with more realistic fuel efficiency and C02 emissions. This direct injection turbocharged engine will be the big seller here, with 312bhp and 434NM of torque on tap and C02 emissions running at 179g/km (€750 road tax) compared with the 5-litre output of 413bhp and 543NM of torque with C02 emissions running at 299g/km (€2,350 road tax).
The price difference in the Fastback version (there is also a convertible on offer) is €46,000 compared with €62,000 and Ford figures show a big saving at the fuel pump - 8L/100km (35mpg) compared with 13.6L/100km (21mpg). These are official test figures and will not be achieved in real-time driving of these two high performance engines. Standard is a 6-speed manual transmission with an auto box adding an extra €3,000. The convertible versions are priced at €52,000 and €70,000 with manual transmission.
Behind the wheel, it is easy to understand why the Mustang has been at the centre of muscle car enthusiasm over the years. The throaty growl is computer enhanced, the forward design is bullish with a gaping grille, but the body, although wide, has sleek lines and a well-designed rear light clusters. The award-winning EcoBoost engine revs smoothly and can sprint to 100km/h in under six seconds, not far behind the monster engine's 4.7 seconds. Plenty of raw power with a top speed of 145mph, according to Ford, and handling cannot be faulted - well mannered on corners and right up there with the German rivals. It will be interesting to see in years to come how residual values pan out - one suspects that there will be better long life value in European models with more emotional buyers tipping towards the Mustang for the sheer joy of the attention it attracts. Inside there is a mixture of retro and modern styling, with a boot big enough for the golf clubs, but the rear seats in the convertible are on the tight side for adults.
The Mustang has a good reliability record in America, but unlike BMW and Audi, will have to earn its stripes here. Creature comforts include a top of the range audio system with a good level of infotainment.
Behind the wheel, a choice of steering and suspension settings make for sure-footed performance; the 5 litre V8 is king of the road but the 2.3 litre does not disappoint.
Over 2,000 orders have been taken in Europe, with 70pc of the orders placed here asking for the 2.3 litre version.
The Mustang comes with a 2-year unlimited mileage warranty but this may be extended to the Ford 5-year warranty on all cars. Ciaran McMahon, chairman and MD of Ford Ireland, revealed that five super garages, called Ford Stores - two in Dublin, one in Cork and Galway and one in the northern part of the country - will handle sales.