Ford Mustang Fastback V8 GT

V8, manual, rear-drive and now refused, too. What's not to like?

Spend any time at the wheel of this substantially revised Mustang and you may soon find yourself banging said wheel with frustration at the fact that more cars are not like this. This is not particle physics: I expect there’s not a person reading this who’d not like the idea of a reasonably priced, very attractive coupé big enough to seat four at a push, powered by a rumbling V8 directing its considerable power to the rear wheels alone via a six-speed manual gearbox. And yet, there is not another car on sale from Europe or Asia that is configured this way.

And the Mustang’s argument just got a whole lot stronger. The output of the 5-litre V8 has been boosted from 410bhp to 444bhp and if you must have an automatic gearbox, it will now contain 10 rather than six speeds. The suspension has been better tied down to counter the previous car’s still slightly nomadic back end, it has an even more purposeful look on the outside and a new digital dash within.

There is very little not to like here as these mid-life revisions serve to usefully enliven an already charming and characterful car. The engine still needs winding up before it’ll do its best work, which will surprise those used to the instant gratification provided by the modern breed of turbo cars that provide maximum torque at little more than idling speed, but the reward is that it makes you use a gearbox that’s far better than the one I recall from the last Mustang I drove (although there’s no suggestion it’s been changed). And, of course, you get to hear the sound of Motor City in all its warbling glory.

It’s still not exactly a precision instrument, taking a somewhat approximate trajectory into the apex, and those used to the more accurate responses of the better European rivals such as the BMW M2 might understandably take issue with that. To me this rather relaxed approach fits the car’s character, although it is true that it feels heavy (because it is) and needs quite a lot of management when driven fast. In short, it’s a car with handling that’s highly enjoyable even if, technically, it’s not all that good.

But technical excellence has never been the Mustang way. Affordable, practical, effective entertainment is what it’s always done best and this one is no different. The ride is good enough, noise levels are adequately controlled and the interior sufficiently functional for the Mustang to be a credible every day car. No, it’s not remotely good in any of these respects, but the point is that it’s good enough not to be a deal-breaker. The only one of those is the cost of running. If little better than 20mpg doesn’t give you pause for thought, the price of taxing the car either as an individual or company driver probably will. For many the car will rule itself out on these grounds alone.

But for those still interested, it’s terrific to see the pony car in such rude health, standing proud from the pack of ever more sanitised European rivals. I’d not say it was objectively more accomplished than any of them, but line them up at the start of a decent road, and I’d run past the lot to get at the Mustang.