Life Motoring

Friday 6 December 2019

Just ride, Sally, ride... 'Driving the Ford Mustang'

Wilson Pickett and Steve McQueen fill your mind when driving the Ford Mustang, writes Campbell Spray

Real character: The Ford Mustang V8 which has finally arrived this side of the Atlantic in right-hand drive. Photo: John Sheehan Photography
Real character: The Ford Mustang V8 which has finally arrived this side of the Atlantic in right-hand drive. Photo: John Sheehan Photography

Campbell Spray

For a week I smiled and it seemed the whole world was smiling with me.

And if they weren't, they were giving me the thumbs-up, asking to take pictures, look inside, touch and almost worship.

I have never been so popular. That's the great thing about the Ford Mustang, it's an almost affordable way to lift the mood. It isn't supercar priced like the Audi R8 at €270,000 which my colleague Philip Hedderman reviewed here a few weeks back.

The Mustang starts at €46,000 - much the same as some very ordinary premium coupes - although you have to go up to €62,000 to get the full V8 5-litre experience with the throaty roar that has turned on millions. Unfortunately you will also get dreadful petrol consumption and be hit by nearly €2,500 in road tax yearly.

But for the smiles and the feeling you are living a dream, it's worth it.

My partner absolutely convulsed with laughter last Sunday when we pulled up outside our regular coffee stop. "You should see their faces, everyone is looking at us," she squealed. The barista ran out to get a look, others just touched the flanks of the bright yellow car you see above.

Of course for people of my generation the Mustang is associated with the great car chase in Bullitt which starred Steve McQueen. But for many more it is the Wilson Pickett 1966 cover of Mack Rice's song Mustang Sally which was beautifully reprised in that great 1991 film of a very run-down Eighties Dublin, The Commitments.

Who can forget the line-up of backing singers - Angeline Ball, Bronagh Gallagher and Maria Doyle Kennedy - singing the refrain "Ride Sally, Ride"? Of course the film also featured the great Johnny "The Lips" Murphy who died last week.

But back to the road and the massive yellow dose of testosterone I was driving.

It's now the sixth generation Mustang since the launch in April, 1974, after which it was responsible for breeding a whole rake of "pony cars" - sports car-like coupes with long hoods and short decks like the Pontiac Firebird and Plymouth Barracuda. The beautiful classic Ford Capri and the Toyota Celica seemed also inspired by the Mustang.

Even after 42 years the car isn't perfect. Some of the switchgear and fascia are a dreadful blend of styles; it is very awkward getting in the back and the boot is surprisingly small for such a large wide car. Yet it is remarkably well-equipped with a lot of comfort, entertainment and rather nice lighting touches. One of these means that even when you are not driving you don't have to surrender the Mustang feel. Go out to the garage at night, press the remote and on the floor next to the driver's door a mustang colt in full flight is portrayed. Happy dreams.

The 2.3 litre Ecoboost model at €16,000 less than the V8 is a sensible choice, you can have all the bling, an artificial sound to resemble the big beast but good MPG (35 as against 20) as well and road tax of €750 without sacrificing little in acceleration. And I'm sure you'll know someone who can change the badging, but even if not, you'll get all the thumbs-up and smiles. There's nothing ordinary about the Mustang - but because it is a Ford it can be delivered at ordinary prices. It doesn't drive as well as the company's Mondeo but as a package and at prices on par with low-level premium cars it's worth it and compares well in power and pleasure with cars double the cost. The chassis, gear-box, drive train and looks are beautifully Steve McQueen. That sound, those looks . . . oh, ride Sally, ride.

Last week after I'd had given back the Mustang I picked up a very fine Mercedes-Benz. Normally I'd be excited but it felt a bit flat. The Mustang is one car with real character and the best antidote to depression I've had in many a year. Try one and once again sing out: Ride, Sally, ride.

Sunday Independent

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