Ford Mustang coupe - Engines, drive & performance
For the authentic muscle-car experience, the Ford Mustang V8 is the one to go for
Muscle cars – and the Ford Mustang especially – have a reputation for somewhat wayward handling, with soft, unsophisticated suspension (especially at the rear) leading to excessive body lean in corners and a rather bouncy ride. This latest version, however, has been extensively re-engineered for European tastes – and it shows.
It has a more sophisticated independent rear suspension set-up for the first time, while all UK models get the Performance Pack, which stiffens the springs and adds bigger, more powerful brakes. These changes are certainly transformative. The suspension does a good job of keeping body lean in check and the brakes are plenty powerful enough, although you may find them fading fairly quickly if you use the car on track.
Those stiffer springs do have an effect on ride quality, however – at low speeds, the Mustang GT is just plain uncomfortable. At speed everything settles down, but it’s still pretty firm. It generates impressive grip and the steering is both accurate and full of feel.
The suspension has continued to evolve, with the latest version featuring uprated parts to further improve composure on really challenging roads. For the best blend of handling and comfort, owners can also choose optional MagneRide adaptive suspension, that helps smooth out bumps quickly and keeps the Mustang feeling very planted.
Ford’s latest 10-speed automatic gearbox might sound like overkill, but it’s engineered to shift gears faster and more smoothly than the old six-speed automatic. This, and its greater spread of ratios, provides a performance boost and should also make the car more fuel-efficient and relaxed on the motorway. Rather than go through each gear, it can also ‘skip’ speeds, changing from third up to sixth or from 10th down to fourth, for example. It’s impressively smooth, but feels lazier than the best rivals.
Above the standard V8 GT Fastback is the Mach 1 edition, which is available with a six-speed manual or the 10-speed automatic. It reuses a fabled badge from the Mustang history book. It brings styling tweaks and a host of chassis upgrades, including an aero package that adds extra downforce to keep the car glued to the road. There’s also a sports exhaust, a 10bhp power hike (up to 454bhp) and the MagneRide suspension, albeit with a number of little changes to improve the precision of the handling. An immediate engine response and lots of lovely V8 noise define the experience.
Because of all the tweaks, the Mach 1 is more impressive on a racetrack than you might have expected. Even if you’re not keen on trackdays, the Mach 1’s updates will make it better on a twisty B-road - although we’d say a rival like the BMW M2 is still a little out in front in this regard.
Ford Mustang petrol engines
In years gone by, you could buy an entry-level 2.3-litre turbocharged four-cylinder EcoBoost engine with 286bhp, a 0-62mph time of around six seconds and a 145mph top speed.
It’s a good engine, although the way it delivers its power can be a bit spiky – it all comes in one big lump near the top of the rev range, rather than being spread across it evenly. The turbocharged engine was shared with the Ford Focus RS but delivers less power than it did in the Focus. A sound generator helps give the car more of a soundtrack, although there's no denying the noise, which is pumped through the stereo speakers, is a little artificial. Still, the engine is smooth and responds keenly to the throttle. It feels quick too, and in many situations it will keep pace with the pricier and thirstier V8.
In our opinion, however, the 5.0-litre V8 is the engine to go for. It's faster than the EcoBoost – 0-62mph is dispatched in around four seconds – but almost more importantly, it sounds much more dramatic and visceral. There’s a menacing burble at low revs that transforms into a guttural, angry roar as you accelerate. The Active Valve Performance Exhaust makes it sound even better. First featured in the Ford Mustang Bullitt special edition, manual versions of the V8 also get rev-matching technology that automatically and precisely blips the throttle as you downshift to match the new gear.
Yes, the V8 engine won’t be cheap to run, but it’s characterful and the 444bhp it produces is spread far more evenly across the rev range. It’s worth every penny of the premium you pay over buying the old EcoBoost engine. It also fits the nature of the car better. Muscle cars and big V8s just go together, and this is pretty much the only V8 you’re going to get for less than £50,000.