If you’re one who enjoys a delicate driving experience, this is not the car for you. In keeping with the Mustang's brawny image, its steering is slower and requires more muscle to turn the wheel than is the case in the likes of the BMW M240i or Audi TT S. You can vary its weight using various drive modes, but the steering always feels heavier than in its European rivals.
Although it doesn’t turn in quite as sharply as the M240i or TT S (mainly on account of its sheer weight), the Mustang has lots of front-end bite. There’s plenty of feel through the steering wheel, too, helping you to stay aware of what the front tyres are doing. While it’s possible to provoke the front end to run wide if you enter a corner too quickly, it’s more likely that the rear end will slide out if you’re too greedy with power on your way out of a corner, especially if it’s wet. A keen driver will find this more fun than frightening, though.
Every Mustang has selectable driving modes: Normal, Sport+, Track and Snow/Wet, as well as Drag Strip. The latter’s name gives the game away as to exactly what the modes are all about: setting the responses of the car’s steering, accelerator, traction control (and gearbox on automatic cars) to suit various types of driving. The system also allows you to set your own combination of settings, including how much noise you want from the optional Active Valve Exhaust.
Another option is MagneRide adjustable suspension, which varies its firmness according to your choice of driving mode. In the sportier, firmer modes, the Mustang controls its body movements well as you brake, turn and accelerate – no mean feat considering that even the lightest model weighs nearly 1700kg. When Comfort mode is engaged and the suspension is in its softest setting, the Mustang even rides reasonably well, although potholes and other large road irregularities can thump through into the interior. The standard non-adjustable suspension isn’t quite as impressive, but it still strikes a reasonable balance between ride comfort and body control.
The 2.3-litre Ecoboost engine, which is turbocharged to develop 270bhp, is very flexible. It pulls hard from around 1500rpm and the power doesn’t tail off until you hit 5500rpm, making it surprisingly quick to shift all that metal. Ultimately, the 5.0-litre V8 feels even mightier, but you have to be prepared to work it far harder before it feels its full 444bhp. How much harder? Let’s just say it does its best work beyond 3500rpm and hits its peak output at a heady 7000rpm.
Despite being so highly strung, though, we still prefer the V8. It makes a thunderous noise and rewards a keen driver with the kind of rabid performance that feels appropriate for a car with this kind of presence on the road. Not only is the engine a joy to work hard, but the standard six-speed manual gearbox – available in the 2.3-litre model as well – is also slick and has a meaty, mechanical feeling that’s totally in keeping with the Mustang’s character.
In contrast, the optional 10-speed automatic 'box can be a bit frustrating; it will often flick through multiple gears in one go and also has a habit of switching between ratios indecisively, before lurching into gear when it makes its mind up. Steering wheel-mounted paddles allow you to take full control when you want to, but honestly, while the automatic manages to slightly improve the fuel economy of both engines, you’ll have far more fun taking this beast by the scruff of the neck on winding roads if you opt for the manual gearbox.
There’s a bit more wind and road noise than in most rivals, but engine noise fades into the background at higher speeds, mostly thanks to a long top gear. This also keeps the revs right down (on the V8, at least) when you’re on a motorway cruise.