JUN 15th 2015

Video: Chris Harris on the Mustang GT ‑ Lame, or Sound?

Before driving the new Mustang GT 5.0, it is well worth poking your nose underneath the rear bodywork and having a look at the rear suspension. For it is here that you will find some very strange componentry. For generations, bar the Cobra from 99-04, the Mustang has clung to the classic US format of big power, big weight and a solid rear axle – and here at last we have independent rear suspension. I’ve wanted to see two separate lower suspension arms either side of a ‘Stang’s differential casing  for years, and now that I have I’m…..well, I’m mostly thrilled.

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But something in me does feel guilty. Should the Mustang have been dragged into the present day, or left to stumble on as a present-day relic, the Land Rover Defender of sports cars?

It takes less than five minutes on the road to realise that Ford should have done this years ago. The Mustang has always been a car I’ve made excuses for – a car which had to be viewed in the context of its origins, its intended use and its price-point to be justified. I think that is no longer the case. It’s a cracking car and, better still, it’s coming here soon.

From the top – the 5 litre V8 now produces 435hp and 400lb ft and the manual transmission has a new shift mechanism which means it no longer feels like it is located to the body by way of elastic bands. The car I drove was a 50th anniversary edition.

It’s actually quite shocking to drive a Mustang that doesn’t tie itself in knots over bumpy surfaces, which doesn’t tramp under full power in first gear and whose entire dynamic vocabulary doesn’t need to be justified by a panoply of subjective adjectives. And this leaves the Mustang in a very powerful position because it has lost none of its emotional charm – the exterior is a masterclass in retro-trinketry – and now it can underscore this with real ability.

The electric steering is about as good a system as I’ve tried on this type of car and has three weight settings. The suspension is firm enough to remain controlled and supple enough for everyday comfort. And the handling balance is a joy. There’s a sensible understeer safety window, through which you can use the standard locking differential to become more neutral, or switch off the slightly crude chassis electronics and make the thing slide around.

That’s what makes this car so compelling – in both styling and dynamics it’s a brilliantly observed blend of old and new schools. Ford has taken the Mustang to the brink of the modern age, but retained the raw charm that defines it. So the V8 is nothing like as potent as the German equivalents and it can be a little coarse, but boy does it suit the car. The gearshift, however, would be top-drawer in any new car.

The cabin is simple, the trim is well below European standards, but then as tested this car was $37,000 dollars and that is a complete bargain. The infotainment module and hi-fi are excellent, there’s just the right amount of jewelry scattered about, the seats are spot-on and the multi-function steering wheel is hilariously over-festooned with buttons.

At a cruise the rear axle is a huge improvement, that old thrum is gone and the long 6th gear means it’ll return mid-20s mpg.

So what are the downsides? Well it does feel built down to a price, some of the finish is unfortunate. The bonnet jiggles around, which rather irritates the driver’s line of sight and I suppose the whole package lacks some sophistication compared to the Euro pack. But be in no doubt, this is a very desirable car. If the numbers stack-up, and you can afford the fuel bills, I can’t think of many cars that will make you smile like this one.

Best come see it for yourself at the Festival of Speed.

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