Snow was forecast for the day of my drive to Scotland in the new Ford Mustang GT Convertible.
“Great,” I muttered to myself, getting out of my hotel bed that morning. “More than 400bhp from a five-litre V8 being transmitted through an automatic gearbox to rear wheels fitted with low-profile275/40 R19 tyres: just the job for the piste.”
My mood was not lightened after my day in London by the drive out of the city through the western and northern suburbs.
It was a Friday evening rush-hour in teeming rain. The narrow streets from Shepherd’s Bush out along Harrow Road to the North Circular were as inadequate to deal with the volume of traffic as London’s nineteenth century sewers are to cope with the city’s colossal volume of human waste. The pipes were jammed solid. It took an and a half to drive five miles. At one point the Mustang was stationary for 20 minutes while the rain thudded on its fabric roof. For much of that time, I was trying to avoid the eyes of about 20 people who were getting soaked the rain at a bus stop beside me. One of them was an old black man, about the same age as me, in a shabby parka with the hood up, rain dripping from its fur fringe across his face. His gaze at me and the car was steady with contempt.
This was more like it. This is what a muscle car demands. Now the Mustang felt fully at home and in keeping with its surroundings. We could have been on a highway through Alberta, heading for the high country.Who could blame him? What could be a more brazen display of pointless consumption than a car nearly five metres long which is effectively a two-seater (its rear seats are for children and soft toys only) and whose gigantic block of an engine emits a thunderous roar when the throttle pedal is touched which blatted off the decaying fronts of the houses in those narrow streets and must have sounded like the gods farting in the face of the poor? A Rolls-Royce or a Ferrari might have made me feel more like a plutocratic tosspot who ought to be lynched by the mob on a lamp-post; but not by much.
Then there was the sodding M1/M6. Massed traffic, nightmare accidents with blazes that might have been funeral pyres and miles and miles of cones caused delays every 10 or 15 miles so incessantly that by midnight I had travelled barely halfway to Scotland. The Mustang was no better or worse in these conditions than any other car, save for the fact that the lettering on its cabin controls is too small to for me to see without putting on my reading glasses and the speed with which the needle drops on the fuel indicator is almost as alarming when the car is standing still as when it is tootling along at barely 2000rpm at 70 mph. Worn out by these frustrations, I rolled miserably into bed in a motel room that smelt as rancid as a hostel for the homeless in Kazakhstan.
At six next morning, I was woken by brilliant sunshine pouring through the cracks in the curtains and parted them to see a glittering, cloudless, azure sky. By 06.30, in scarf and gloves with overcoat buttoned to the neck and with the Mustang’s roof powered open and folded into its compartment behind the rear seats, I was back on the road. The air-conditioning was set to Hi for maximum heat and the three-stage seat heaters were pumping like a power station. Ahead stretched an empty road, a dry surface and some of the most glorious hill landscape in Europe. Snow had dusted the peaks while the lakes and burns were shining brightly in the sun.
This was more like it. This is what a muscle car demands. Now the Mustang felt fully at home and in keeping with its surroundings. We could have been on a highway through Alberta, heading for the high country.
This new Mustang – the first ever to be officially on sale through Ford in the UK – is just a completely different story, as far removed from its weedy, imposter ancestors as the Jaguar F-Type is from the old XJS. This one is the real deal.I have loved American muscle cars since I lived in California in the 1980s and had the good luck to sample a succession of Corvettes, Z28 Camaros and Pontiac Firebirds whose meaty V8s and unpreparedness to be steered through a corner with any finesse made them perfectly suited to those conditions. Never until this week, however, did I ever get my hands on a Ford Mustang that deserved to be called a muscle car. Being little more than mimsy roadster bodies on saloon car foundations, they had about as much muscle in their composition as a used face tissue.
This new Mustang – the first ever to be officially on sale through Ford in the UK – is just a completely different story, as far removed from its weedy, imposter ancestors as the Jaguar F-Type is from the old XJS. This one is the real deal.
Its five litre V8 is a classic. A muscle car should burble at rest, rumble when cruising down the main drag on the look-out for girls and bellow like a bull when let loose on the highway. This Mustang fills that bill to the last letter.
A toggle button on the centre display shifts the chassis settings and throttle response from Sport to Sport + and Track and it does make a sensational difference to the sensitivity of the throttle and brake pedals and the massive stopping power of the 352 x 32mm discs; but an hour on my favourite circuit of hill roads in Scotland proved that taking this softly set up and bulky car on the track would be an experience that might quickly lose its charms – like after the first corner.
A fastback with the £30995 2.3 litre EcoBoost engine – the same one that powers the new Focus RS – is also on offer. It will return about 35 mpg, with CO2 emissions of 184 g/Km and road tax of £225. Those figures are unquestionably sensible benefits compared with the 23.7mpg I achieved in the £39,995 V8 GT Convertible, the 289g/km of CO2 it emits and the £505 it costs in road tax. But buying a muscle car for sensible reasons is like buying a diamond necklace and keeping it in a safe as an investment: it misses the whole point of the thing.
On the other hand, you might need to sell some diamonds to affords to run this car in Britain. Driving it from London to Scotland cost £90 in premium petrol. I just checked the price in California and found that you can buy a gallon for $2.39 at SC Fuels on the corner of E Carson St & Santa Fe Ave in Carson City. The drive from there up Route 1 to San Francisco might cost $50.
And not much snow along the way, I suspect.
2016 Ford Mustang 5.0 V8 GT Convertible
On the road £39,995 as tested with options £41,580
PROS AND CONS: V8 power and soundtrack √ Muscle car image √ Fun √ High Emissions X Lack of fuel economy X
FAST FACTS: Max speed: 155 mph, 0-62 mph: TBC, Combined mpg: 22.1, CO2 289 g/km, Insurance Group 46E
Engine layout: 5.0-litre V8 quad cam 32 valve, Maximum power 421PS, Maximum torque 530Nm
No items found, please search again.