While Vin Diesel’s most renowned title has always been an odd mix – with some love for Dodges and Japanese sports cars interspersed with the latter’s irregular cast of cars – in case you want to feel some American muscle car adrenaline rush in Europe there’s only one definitive address – Ford’s Mustang.
For the first time, officially available on the Old Continent, the sixth generation of the pony/muscle car (we’re not going to give in either way, because you can call it either name depending on the chosen version) that has been around since 1964 – just about everyone knows that – has remained faithful to the original recipe: engine in front of the cabin and rear-wheel drive traction. And that’s the recipe of dreams… Seriously – it is. First of all, I have to confess my love for the trio of American muscle cars – the Mustang, the Camaro and Challenger. So, in a sense, this review might seem biased. But then again, aside from these three, I have driven so far numerous sports cars, some with much ample power ratios than the EcoBoost’s 317 ponies. And rest assured, everyone has to love the auto industry to deliver a professional view, which is why I’m using the gained experience to assure you this review won’t be biased… too much. Now on to the red Elephant, sorry, Mustang in the room. This is of course not the first encounter with the model, so feel free to check out here our first opinions on the Mustang, when we also experienced the mighty V8 engine. Moving on, as an introductory chapter, what else can be said about the car that kickstarted an entire way of life – which has so many branches today, more than five decades later, than anyone can count?!
We could tell you the Mustang was actually not the first sporty compact car in the segment that wears its derived “pony” moniker – the Plymouth Barracuda predates the Mustang by a mere two weeks… Or we could tell you the 1965 Mustang was Ford’s most successful introduction to that date since the Model A. We could also discuss its cultural impact – it not only appeared in the 1960s series of Batman, as well as countless other motion pictures or TV series, it has inspired songs, poetry and certainly was the love place for countless generations of young or not so much humans. Yes, that happens, even with the two meager rear seats – more on that later. And it’s certainly not perfect, even after six generations. But its flaws sometimes become assets. For example, it has taken Ford no less than five decades to make the Mustang a global model. And that – alongside with the first-ever addition of a right-hand drive version – has motivated most of its sales in markets that it wasn’t previously available. It has a four-cylinder engine under the hood – but that’s what makes it usable in most European countries, where the big V8 is reserved to collectors because of the incredible taxation. And we could go on…
Design, Interior and Gadgets
But let’s talk more to the point. The Euro-spec Mustang is based on the pre-facelifted American version, and comes as a fastback – the coupe – or convertible, both only available in select dealerships, called Ford Store. First of all, this is no ordinary Ford – it only wears the iconic Mustang emblem. But you don’t need to see it. The styling, although decidedly modern, has all the retro attributes you need to recognize it from any angle – whether or not you’re passionate about the automotive industry. Some say the Challenger – the fourth generation one, old as it may be (presented back in 2008) is the better looker of the three, some say the sixth generation Camaro (complete with ZL1 supercar) is the more technologically advanced, but then again anyone will recognize the Mustang in a heartbeat. This is thanks to the quintessential attributes – unmistakable front end, very long and high hood, taillight cluster and signature lateral shape. No point in breaking up the Mustang’s styling – after disastrous third and fourth generations, the 2004 rework has essentially rebirthed the entire segment, paving the way for the Challenger and Camaro of the modern age. The styling has been rather evolutionary ever since, but it’s really not a bad idea in this case alone. The fifth generation set the benchmark in terms of retro-modern design for everyone, and neither Ford nor the competition has had any slip up ever since. And even though the 2018 model year Mustang has been berated for bringing in few new styling cues, I still feel they’re evolving – constantly, but evolving – in the right direction.
By the way, these exact, specific, design features – which actually include dimensions that are not of the compact class anymore (4784 millimeters long, 1916 mm wide) – also lend specific cues. For example, the Mustang is 1381 mm high but looking at the elevated hood makes you feel like you’re actually captain of a surface boat – the bonnet becoming the bow. This has a reasonable explanation – you need to fit a large 5-liter V8 in there and keep the character line of the Mustang. Then you have the engine placed behind the front axle, so you’re getting the cabin placed further behind, close to the rear wheels. This will lend a positive neutral feeling to handling, because of better weight placement – and the driver’s feeling that is just like in the Visa commercial – priceless. Speaking of, the driver is the most important element in the Mustang – he is the master and commander. And thankfully, the Mustang’s characteristics again eschew one element I don’t like in most modern Fords – the cab forward architecture. Thank you 1964! Instead, the driver gets an interior unlike any other Ford… mostly. First the good parts – the elevated areas adorning the instrument cluster and the passenger side – the last one complete with tribute plaque for the original. Then there’s the retro steering wheel, full of buttons yet still reminding you this is not Ford’s halo car, this is Ford’s heritage car. The instrument cluster features a nice blend of retro and modern as well – you have the “ground speed” speedometer and tachometer in separate round casings and in between them the digital display. This one not only gives you the usual stuff – it also dives in the performance area – from accelerometer to all sorts of engine specific information (including boost, since we’re dealing with a turbo). The center stack features the infotainment hub – governed by the company’s SYNC3 system, and again evokes the aeronautical sector with the brushed aluminum switches. All in all, the Mustang still feels like an American car – but with some tech and premium touches that will surely please the picky European customers. It even has a neat start/stop engine button… unlike other dull implementations.
Now on to the bad things. First of all, this feels like an American car, still, and that comes associated with lesser materials and assembly care. It’s not that obvious, but some people may be expecting for more. Second, while we do understand the use of the Sync 3 infotainment system with no personalization, Ford’s lighting switch and turn signal arm – which are common with numerous other models – feels like a cheap thing to do. Not because they chose to save some money, which they did – but because it deprives us of the specific Mustang feeling brought on by other elements. The black plastic bits we understand – this is a sports car costing less than 40k euro in its base specification – while competing in terms of size and performance with models such as the BMW 6 Series, Mercedes E Class Coupe, Infiniti Q60 or the Lexus RC F. If anyone steps in one of the competitors won’t have a comment on the premium qualities, but that’s also associated with a premium bank account. But on the other hand, those common bits and pieces are certainly something that could have been discarded. In terms of practicality, the Mustang is a gentleman’s driver machine – yep, we even have a great placement for the parking brake lever and not a switch or a button. The front seats seem every bit Mustang – they’re big and bulky and comfortable. And they don’t offer the best lateral support, which is something that actually feels right… You even have a 400+-liter trunk. But seriously, don’t buy a Mustang as your first car if you have a family – which is something nobody should say, it should be common sense. This is because the rear seats are there to keep a ladies’ purse and your tweed jacket and driving gloves when not in use. For longer trips you have the trunk, we told you it’s spacious enough if you can work around the small entry area. If you take this into account, you can actually use the mustang pretty much all year round as your daily car. The car’s long and high hood makes it impractical to use in the city – problem solved, the driver’s seat is a little higher than you would think, helping you to get a better look up front. If you option it with the automatic, and we strongly suggest that, you’re set for a car that will be a great partner every day – whether you hit the office, gym or the track during weekends. And that’s another secret hearkening back from 1964 – the Mustang was so successful because it was also… usable.
Engine, Transmission and Handling
But during the course of the XXI century things have changed. No more killing off the planet (we’re supporters of that, by the way) with engines that make Europeans laugh to this day. Yes, this is the age of the Hellcat and the EcoBoost – the first one comes to show that Americans know how to deliver performance cars, the second goes to show they know how to make it efficient, pleasant to drive and still sporty when needed. The Mustang’s 2.3-litre EcoBoost engine has Ford’s International Engine of the Year award experience written all over it: direct injection, variable cam timing and turbocharging, bespoke intake manifold and turbocharger housing, and more. While the sound – enhanced or not – will never compare to the V8 growl, if you buy the Mustang to use it, get the EcoBoost. This is because as it arrives in Europe, the Mustang finally has the needed manners – and again at about half the price European makes commend for (let’s say) the competitors. You get an auto transmission with steering wheel-mounted shift paddles, the all-new front and rear suspension systems and even standard 19 inch wheels with performance brake packages for Europe. You can also play with the electronic aids to make the Mustang either your friendly neighborhood car or a burnout rage machine that can bite you without notice if you mistreat it under certain conditions. The Selectable Drive Modes will tweak steering effort, engine response, and transmission and electronic stability control settings. Even putting the auto gear shift in Sport mode will deliver different reactions, including higher revs when changing gears and a more relaxed ESC. If the road is wet you have the snow/wet setting, and it’s highly recommendable to use that – the Mustang will spin around if you go for the intermediate Sport (Sport+ and Track are also available) and fool around. But again, in Normal mode the car is usable and will be gentle on the untrained driver – some wheel slip is allowed on the wet, with great response when throttling during normal circumstances.
Believe it or not, the Mustang is a delight to drive – on and off the track. Thanks to the modifications – specifically the new suspension and the electronic aids – you can have it as an obedient, even efficient coupe or a track enthusiast car. But be warned, this is a car that can be handled with ease in regular traffic conditions – the guardians are there for a reason. But take them off and you’d better be on a closed track to experiment if you don’t have the experience to handle a performance RWD machine. In case you do – or acquire it along the route – power slides and fast times are entirely possible with this hulking machine. You may see the Mustang as an opponent to the BMW 4 Series, but its size is actually making it a competitor to the 6 Series and aforementioned midsize coupes – though its price point remains, even in Europe, way lower. This is what makes the Mustang interesting here – considering its price point and dimensions, it actually has no direct rival. But we always like to find the cars we test some competition. So, the Mustang can fight against the BMW 640i (4894 / 1894 / 1369 mm), the Mercedes-Benz E 400 Coupe (4826 / 1860 / 1430 mm), the Lexus RC (4705 / 1845 / 1390 mm) or the Infiniti Q60 (4690 / 1850 / 1395 mm) with its 2.3-liter EcoBoost four cylinder granting it 317 hp and 432 Nm, sent to the rear wheels using a classic six-speed automatic gearbox. Performance is thus befitting – 234 km/h maximum speed and 5.8 seconds to 100 km/h (62 mph). The 640i (320 hp, 450 Nm, RWD) will best these – 250 km/h and 5.3 seconds. The E 400 (333 hp, 480 Nm) is actually AWD and will match the BMW – 250 km/h and 5.3 seconds. The Lexus RC has two versions, that are actually either slower or befitting of the Mustang GT’s V8, so we chose the hybrid 300h – with four cylinder and electric motor for a total of 223 hp – it will significantly fall behind the mustang with 190 km/h maximum speed and 8.6 second sprint. Meanwhile, the Infiniti Q60 has a similar 2.0-liter four cylinder, with turbo, though again fails to impress in terms of actual power – 211 hp and 350 Nm, for a top speed of 235 km/h and 7.3 seconds to the first 100 km/h. As for the fuel efficiency… if you have to ask… Ford’s stated fuel efficiency for the Euro-spec is 9.8 liters per 100 km on average. And interestingly, we weren’t far off the official statement, as we had a mix parkours that included all – from city to high speed highway driving. Indeed, it may not sound like the V8, but certainly the EcoBoost does the job in terms of efficiency – just don’t expect a Ka diesel’s figures.
Pro: Design, you gotta’ love it or you’re actually not into retro-modern sports car. This is a performance machine, but also a daily driver – no one would really expect that. Price… no competition here.
Against: Interior space – for a car that’s so huge on the outside, it’s actually crammed on the inside, specifically if you try to use the rear seats. Material and component quality – some slipups are to be expected, we’re driving an American, but using components from a Focus is not really iconic.
Starting Price – Ford Mustang Coupe 2.3 EcoBoost – 37,800 EUR
Tested Version – Ford Mustang Coupe 2.3 EcoBoost Aut. – 39,800 EUR
Engine: 2.3L four cylinder, gasoline, turbo, VGT, direct injection, intercooler, S/S (2264 cc)
Power: 317 HP (233 kW) / 5500 rpm
Torque: 432 Nm / 3000 rpm
Transmission: 6 speed automatic, RWD
Dimensions: length – 4,784 mm, width – 1,916 mm, height – 1,381 mm, wheelbase – 2,720 mm
Fuel Tank Capacity: 59L
Weight: 1653 kg
Trunk Capacity: 408 liters
0 – 100 km/h: 5.8 s
Top Speed: 234 km/h
Fuel consumption: urban – 14,3L/100 km, highway – 7,2L/100 km, average – 9,8L/100 km
Rating: 4.7 / 5
Photography Bogdan Pispiris