Fifty years. That’s a long time. However, that’s how long it's taken Ford to finally decide to sell the Mustang in Britain. Not only that but this all-new model is the first to be offered in right-hand drive.
As well as the traditional V8 engine – available in coupe and convertible forms – there will also be a cheaper and considerably more efficient 2.3-litre four-cylinder turbo. However, it’s the V8 coupe – or Fastback, as Ford calls it – that we're testing here. Deliveries are expected to start in January 2016.
The Mustang isn't a small car – it's about the same size as a VW Passat – yet offers similar straight-line performance to a BMW M235i or an Audi TTS, rivals that cost £1500 and £5800 more to buy respectively. The Ford certainly seems great value for money, then, but it needs to be more than a cheap way to go quickly to earn our recommendation.
What’s the 2016 Ford Mustang V8 GT Fastback like to drive?
At the heart of this Mustang is a 5.0-litre V8 petrol engine – and it sounds glorious. The four-cylinder engine in the Audi TTS and the six-cylinder in the BMW M235i make decent noises, too, but the Ford's V8 is louder and even more tuneful.
Being a V8 it has plenty of torque, which means that if you’re feeling lazy it will happily cope with pulling sixth gear up a hill from little more than 1000rpm. This makes the Mustang incredibly flexible and easy to drive briskly.
That’s not to say changing gear is a chore. The six-speed manual gearbox that we tried isn't as light as a TTS’s, but it’s far from heavy and the weighting and mechanical feel as you engage each gear suit the muscular nature of the car. A six-speed paddle shift automatic is also available.
The engine really starts to deliver above 3000rpm, but past 4000rpm to the redline is when it's at its most explosive. Use all those revs and the V8 GT will accelerate from 0-62mph in 4.8sec, which edges it ahead of both the TTS and the M235i.
That said, the Audi has four-wheel drive so offers much better traction in the wet, while both German rivals use smaller and more efficient turbocharged engines, so are more efficient and have lower CO2 emissions. This means that, although it’s cheaper to buy, the Mustang V8 will cost you much more in fuel and road tax.
Ford has been producing some of the best driver’s cars for years now, and the Mustang has benefitted from this engineering know-how. Despite its size and weight (it does feel big on the road), the Mustang corners well. There isn't too much body roll and the handling balance makes it feel composed and stable, and although it isn't as agile or grippy as key German rivals, you can hustle it along winding country roads surprisingly quickly.
The steering is also direct and accurate, which gives you confidence through corners. You can select from three different steering modes to vary the weighting, but anything beyond the 'normal' setting just adds unnecessary resistance and no extra feedback.
Surprisingly, perhaps, the Mustang shouldn't be too much of a pain to live with. The ride is certainly firm but is impressively damped, so the car doesn't crash over potholes. Should you decide on a steady motorway cruise, there's a little more wind and road noise than in the best rivals, but the long sixth gear means that the engine noise fades into the background.
What’s the 2016 Ford Mustang GT V8 Fastback like inside?
Decidedly retro – which gives the Mustang's interior a different ambience to that of the minimalistic TTS and modern-looking M235i. This is charming, perhaps, but it doesn’t hide the use of cheaper-grade plastics and switches than you'll find in the more upmarket German rivals.
Both the Audi and the BMW also have better infotainment systems. The standard Ford Sync2 system in the Mustang uses an 8.0in touchscreen and it’s perfectly acceptable, but it can’t match the benchmark BMW iDrive for speed or ease of use.
Ford hasn't scrimped on standard equipment, though, which includes keyless start, a selectable drive mode switch, xenon headlights, 19in alloy wheels, sat-nav, a rear-parking camera, a limited-slip differential and launch control. You will also be able to personalise your Mustang with bonnet-to-boot stripes or a black roof.
The driving position in the Mustang is arguably as good as it gets. The Ford has a huge range of adjustment to its steering wheel and seat, which means, along with lots of head room, even the tallest of drivers should have no problem getting comfortable.
The sports front seats also offer lots of lateral support and come with leather as well as six-way electric adjustment as standard. However, visibility - particularly over the shoulder – could be better.
Despite the Mustang's sizeable proportions its rear seats are very cramped – small children will fit but adults won't unless they contort their bodies unnaturally, although the same is true for the Audi TT. In this respect, the BMW 2 Series offers the most space of the three.
Officially, the Mustang has the biggest boot of the trio – there’s 408 litres of space with the rear seats in place and you can fold them down when you need to carry longer items. However, the narrow opening and high load lip prevent you carrying the sort of bulky items you'd stand a good chance of loading in a TT's hatchback boot.
Should I buy one?
It’s hard not to love the Mustang. It's great fun to drive, surprisingly well-priced and comes with plenty of standard equipment. So, if an Audi TT or a BMW 2 Series seem a little too straight-laced and ubiquitous, this V8 muscle car is definitely worth a look.
Yes, you're going to be spending a small fortune in fuel (the Mustang's official average of 20.9mpg is well under half what a 2.0-litre TT promises), and those 299g/km CO2 emissions translate to a yearly road tax bill of £505. However, given how keenly priced the Ford is to start with and how well it's predicted to hold on to its value, that shouldn't prove a deal-breaker – especially if your annual mileage is low.
The problem is that, while the Mustang's interior stops short of feeling too cheap, it can’t match the quality of its two German cars, and although the Ford is a much larger car than either, it's really no more practical. An Audi TTS also has more grip and, because it's so much lighter than the Mustang, is far more agile, too.
The new Mustang might not be the best coupe in the world, then, but it's thoroughly entertaining and refreshingly different.
What Car? says...
Ford Mustang V8 GT