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Ford Mustang Convertible review: First drive

4.5

The Good

  • Glorious V8 note
  • Style
  • Fun to drive

The Bad

  • Big fuel bills

After fifty years, Ford gave the UK a right-hand drive Mustang Fastback and Convertible. We put the 5.0 V8 and 2.3 EcoBoost engines to the test to see if the wait was worth it.

Picture a Mustang and you probably imagine a 60s classic driven by the likes of Steven McQueen in Bullitt and Nicholas Cage in the remake of Gone in 60 Seconds. It's an iconic badge and a four-wheeled interpretation of the American Dream.

Now with a UK-friendly version of the new Mustang on sale, Brits can feast on the same desirable recipe of muscle car looks, V8 grumbles and value for money. But has time been kind and is it really that feasible to own a V8 in a time when the memories of £1.50-a-litre of petrol are still fresh? 

We headed to Aynhoe Park in Oxfordshire to drive all variations of the right-hand drive car, including the 5.0 V8 Convertible and 2.3 EcoBoost in manual and automatic, to find our answer.

Design

Go for a drive in the new Mustang and you quickly realise this is a car that thinks subtlety is for the weak. Besides being incredibly wide, it has an aggressive front end and the legendary Mustang badge in the middle of a meaty grille. 

The back is just as beefy, with the rear lights and twin-exit exhaust going for maximum 'sod the environment' attitude. Yet for all of its shoutiness, there's something classy about it (particularly in profile).

Manage to open one of the two gigantic doors and you can clamber into an equally meaty interior, which provides just about every mod-con you could ever want. There are quite a few buttons around the cabin, but ergonomic positioning makes it easy to fathom. 

Compared with the new Focus RS, the Mustang is much nicer to behold and features less awful plastic to ruin the view, but it's still bland in places. Fortunately a metal Mustang badge on the driver's side of the dashboard adds a touch of McQueen cool.

The new Mustang was never going to be a radical departure from the previous car, but there's enough here to keep it fresh. It's sleeker, wider, more imposing and 28 per cent more rigid than its predecessor. Mission accomplished, then.

Practicality

Coupes are rarely the most practical of cars and the Ford Mustang is no different in this respect. But it is possible to live with if you want more than just a weekend cruiser.

The front seats feel huggy and soft like a plush armchair, so they are great for long journeys, yet there's enough support for when the V8 throws you into corners with too much enthusiasm. The steering wheel, meanwhile, is big and delightfully easy to steer at low speeds. 

As for the rear bench seats, you get the sort of legroom only a child would tolerate. A really short one, that is. Rear passengers will complain a lot unless you really push the front seats forward on longer journeys.

Emphasing the lack of practicality is the fiddly front-seat folding mechanism and the transmission tunnel, which inhibits hip space. But overall leg and headroom is plentiful for those lucky enough to be sitting in the front. 

Things improve when it comes to the boot, which provides 408 litres of space in the Fastback and 332 litres in the Convertible. Perhaps not enough for two sets of golf clubs, but for going away, it's pretty good.

You also get two cup holders that can accommodate the fattest of milkshakes, in addition to a pretty big glove box and door pockets so you can easily stow away your pretend gun and chewing tobacco.

Performance & handling

The Ford Mustang comes in two engine flavours, the most interesting of which is undoubtedly the 5.0-litre V8 that's big on horsepower, noise and torque. Then there's the 2.3-litre turbocharged four-cylinder, which is a more fuel efficient alternative. 

Going for a non-V8 Mustang is as socially acceptable as wearing your trousers on your head, but it's actually a fun engine. Okay, so the noise augmentation to make it more V8-esque is very noticeable, but it takes just a second slower to reach 62mph from standing – at 5.8 seconds. 

The turbo does need a bit more time to pull, but when it does it's satisfying. For UK roads, the 2.3-litre provides ample grunt, even for such a big car, without drinking so much fuel you need your own oil field.

By being lighter than the V8, it's more nimble, too, as well as slightly better in the weight distribution department. The manual EcoBoost convertible weighs 1,715kg, 71kg lighter than the manual V8 convertible and 74kg lighter when both are automatic.

Enough about the EcoBoost, you cry. What's the V8 like? In short, glorious. All five litres, 431hp and 434Nm of torque allow it to pull very hard in just about every one of the six gears. Not that you need to, because even slow acceleration blesses your ears with a glorious, thundering rumble.

Seriously, the 5.0 V8's engine note at full tilt has the power to make grown men cry, buildings crumble and small children cower in fear. It's obnoxiously loud and oh so satisfying. Moreso in the convertible as there's no metal roof to protect your ears.

If you do actually want to make serious progress, the 5.0 V8 has the grunt to take the car from 0-62mph in 4.8 seconds and on to a top speed of 155mph. Enough, then, to give some of its German competition a run for their money.

Of the two available transmission choices, the manual is the more involving. Luckily the automatic is reasonably quick to react when you stomp the accelerator into the footwell. It's even livelier with the Sport+ mode engaged, but it's still somewhat lazy – as if it knows it has all that torque to play with so it backs off high revs relatively quickly.

Most Mustang owners will find it hard to resist trying line-lock, a tyre-shredding mode that lets you burn out the rear wheels for 15 seconds without moving forward an inch. It's a very cool, if slightly obnoxious feature.

For such a big car, the Mustang is surprisingly nimble. There's little body roll or fuss if you push your luck, unless you overdo it with the throttle and the rear breaks free.

Not only that, it's actually rather comfortable. Not Audi, BMW or Mercedes comfortable, but revisions to the ride, McPherson struts up front and the introduction of an independent multi-link suspension setup at the rear reduce the moments where it shakes you to bits.

Road noise in the convertible is also bearable up to 70mph, with much of the silence broken by the V8 and wide tyres generating a roar. Those who regularly sit on motorways would, however, be better off with the Fastback's hard-top.

If there's one thing that really stands out, it's how big and sturdy the 'stang feels. Usually being aware of the weight is a bad thing, but the big V8 pulling and that big-old steering wheel give it an unsophisticated, manly feel. It harkens back to a time when horsepower alone was enough.

Economy & efficiency

Even with a long sixth-gear for the manual and an even longer seventh for the automatic, the V8 Mustang is anything but efficient. Ford claims up to 20.9mpg combined but even with stop/start we doubt you will make it beyond the early teens with spirited driving.

Here, the EcoBoost's lower weight, smaller displacement and big turbo makes sense because it can offer up to 34.4mpg and just 184g/km of CO2 in convertible manual form – far better than the V8 automatic's 289g/km and the manual's 306g/km.

There is, of course, the argument that looking to buy a Mustang to save the planet is a bit like poking yourself in the eye to improve your vision. It makes no sense whatsoever. But if fuel bills are a concern and you love the Mustang's looks, at least Ford has you covered.

Equipment & value

Prices start from £30,000 for the 2.3 EcoBoost and £35,000 for the 5.0 V8. Show us a new car with more horsepower at the same price and we will eat our stetson.

It even comes with a fairly generous list of standard extras including LED tail lamps, rain-sensing wipers, nine-speaker sound system with amplifier, leather seats, Sync 2 infotainment system, leather handbrake, ambient lighting and aluminium instrument panel accents. Navigation is, sadly, extra.

A similarly powerful BMW or Mercedes is considerably more expensive. A BMW M4 Convertible, complete with the same 431hp, is £60,000 before extras.

The Vauxhall VXR8 GTS, meanwhile, is faster (not to mention supercharged) but you pay nearly £60,000 for the privilege and it lacks the Mustang's prestige. It does, however, have proper rear seats and is probably one of the few cars that is as aggressive in the styling department.

Safety

With all that performance on tap and the lack of a roof, things could go very wrong. But the Mustang does at least offer eight airbags while a lengthy bonnet provides a sizable crumple zone. It helps, too, that its sheer weight means most cars will end up worse off.

Conclusion

What is there to really say when Ford is offering a big-old V8 and 431hp for around £35,000? Nothing really gets close in terms of presence, engine noise and horsepower for the money. And with increasing pressure on companies to be eco-friendly, this may be one of the last chances to enjoy an iconic engine.

Okay, so the BMW M235i Convertible is a blast to drive, but the engine noise is nowhere near that of the V8 'stang and arguably inferior to the 2.3 EcoBoost's. Of course, the Bimmer should go round a track faster and is more practical. But do we care? No.

The Ford Mustang is a car you buy because you love V8s, because you want to be reminded there's more to life than queuing. It's two fingers up to budgeting and being sensible. In this regard, the new Mustang ticks all the mid-life crisis boxes. Throw caution to the wind and buy it in orange.

Key Specs

  • 5.0-litre V8
  • 431hp
  • 434Nm
  • 0-62mph in 4.8 seconds
  • 289g/km (automatic)
  • 20.9mpg combined
  • From £35,000

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