It’s a damp, autumnal morning at the Pebble Beach golf resort on the coast of California, a couple of hours north of San Francisco. During the summer, it’d be nudging 30 degrees, and keen golfers would pay $495 a game while their partners enjoyed the luxury spa. This morning, though, it’s just me and a bright yellow V8 Ford Mustang.
I edge out of the car park with the lightest of throttle inputs, slowly and smoothly lifting the clutch. I’m attempting to make a discreet exit – it’s early, and the sleeping guests here probably wouldn’t enjoy the V8’s burble as much as I do. The Mustang has other ideas, though – spinning up the rear tyres as it squirms like a true muscle car being driven by a hamfisted idiot.
The Mustang has been made in the USA for more than 50 years, but it’s never officially been available in the UK. You could pay someone to import one, if you really wanted to – and quite a few have made their way onto our soil. But it’s always been a car more suited to the wide, straight roads of America.
Ideas of cruising up California’s infamous Route 1 with the roof down, passing the kind of people who’d look at home in The OC, are soon quashed. For a start, I’m in a coupe (or ‘Fastback’ in Ford lingo). And secondly, the roads are wet. Apparently, even in California, April mornings aren’t always balmy.
So why would you buy one of these in the UK? Priced from £34,995 for the V8 (there’s a 3.5 litre Ecoboost available for £30,995 – but why would you, frankly?), the Mustang will take on premium cars like the BMW 3 Series. Only, it’s a whole lot more exciting than a BMW 3 Series.
‘Exciting’ doesn’t make for an upmarket cabin, though. The interior is typically American – hard plastics and firm seats. But it’s better than it used to be – had Ford tried to bring across a previous generation Mustang, UK buyers would have left its showrooms quicker than you can say ‘I’ll take the BMW please’.
Out on the roads, once I’ve negotiated the state policeman who guards the exclusive Californian resort and is keen to check I’ve not stolen the Mustang, I find out just why 3,500 Brits have placed their orders. The handling is another area that’s better than it used to be – although it’s still but not as good as a BMW 3 Series – but the whole experience taken together is what I’d call ‘dramatic’.
The suspension is a tad on the floaty side, but the steering is nice and direct. And the strong brakes encourage you to make the most of the throaty V8. Sure, you’re reluctant to push the car too far in case it bites, but the engine offers an aural delight. Cruising around town, with the noise bouncing off the walls of suburban houses, you feel just a little bit of a yob. In a good way.
Despite its faults, the Ford Mustang is an iconic car at a very competitive price. It offers bundles of fun in an old-school muscle car way. If you’re after a nimble handler or a premium driving experience, look at the many European compact execs clogging up our roads instead.
If you want something different, something that sounds fantastic while making a statement, pop down to your nearest Ford dealer and join the many others waiting for the first righthand drive Mustang ever. It’s not a logical choice, but it’s a cool one.
0-62mph: 4.8 secs
Top speed: 155mph
CO2 g/km: 299g/km
MPG combined: 20.9mpg
★★★★☆ | Design
★★★★☆ | Performance
★★★☆☆ | Practicality
★★★★☆ | Value