Driving the RHD 5.0 litre V8 Mustang

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We got our hands on a right hand-drive Mustang that, luckily, happened to have both a 5.0 V8 and a manual ‘box. The question is, is it any good?

Words: Chris Pollit Pics: Bruce Holder

The Mustang was a game-changer, there’s no denying that. When it his the roads in late 1964, it was a revelation. Compact in size (by American standards) and available in a range of styles such as fastback, coupe and convertible, it was the car that offered speed, freedom and luxury to a generation.

It became an instant classic, a pop culture icon and it also spawned a mass of cars from rival manufacturers such as the Camaro, the Firebird and the Challenger. It captured imaginations and cemented the Ford name even further into the minds of gearheads everywhere.

Despite a few questionable models in the ‘70s and ‘80s, it remains a firm favourite today with car enthusiasts the world over, and now, finally, we get our chance to join the party thanks to Ford now offering the UK an official right hand-drive version, complete with a big, silly engine. Excellent.

As you can probably tell, we’ve got our hands on one and had a play, rumbling through the streets of Bristol and snapping necks in the process – this thing really does grab a shed load of attention. Before we get into that though, it’s important to look at why this car is so exciting. So, in a bullet-point style, let’s consider the reasons…

We’ve had to watch from afar for ages

When the Mustang came out, it wasn’t just the USA that went mad for it, it was most of the world, too. Ford never explored pushing the global market, instead opting to just sell it in America. Don’t get us wrong, we can’t blame them, as sales were plentiful, but still, it would have been nice to have the offer.

Ford giveth, then Ford taketh away

While there was no plan to sell the Mustang in the UK, Ford did at least give us an equivalent, and it was good, too. Yes, we’re talking about the Capri. It was rear wheel-drive, it had the same ‘pony car’ elements like the short body and long bonnet and while it never came with a V8, it did at least come with a V6. It was, much like its American cousin, an instant hit, loved by many without question. We had it from 1969 until 1986, when Ford took it away and left us with… well, nothing. Thanks a lot, Ford.

So-say ‘replacements’ have been rubbish

Now this may be media hype more than anything, but when Ford announced the Probe back in the 1990s, we all got giddy, hailing it as the ‘new Capri’. We were keen for something to captivate us, something that would bring back the giddy thrill of a European muscle car. What we got was a Mazda MX-6 with a Ford badge. Now, before you write us a letter penned in blood, we’re not saying the Probe was bad, we’re just saying that because the Capri was never properly replaced, we all hated it.

Then we got the Cougar.

No. Sorry, just, no. Funky design was not enough to bail out this fairly terrible car.

The media has taunted us with the Mustang for decades

Film, TV, adverts, music videos, we had to suffer it all with the knowledge that we couldn’t play with the cars we were seeing on TV. Yes, we could buy an import, but the steering wheel was on the wrong side, the local garage wouldn’t have a bloody clue what to do with it, it would just be a nightmare to own. Yet still, we drooled over what we kept seeing via a wealth of media outlets.

So, yeah, as you can see, we don’t only need the new Mustang, we deserve it. We’ve had to put up with a lot. That’s why we’re happy to report that we’ve driven one of the first UK cars – complete with correctly positioned steering wheel – and we can confirm that oh yes, it’s good. Very good indeed, actually.

The first thing that gets you is the size of it. We thought it might have been toned down a bit for the smaller European and British roads, it turns out we were wrong. This thing is wide, though in length it’s no longer than a Mondeo, so it’ll still fit in your favourite space at ASDA.

It’s width, however, leads us onto the first problem. The ridges on the bonnet, which look mean when viewed, actually only serve to block your view of one corner of the car when you’re driving it, so you’re never really sure how closer you are to the curb/hedge/pedestrians etc. That’s annoying, but it’s an annoyance that soon goes away when you dump your foot into the carpet.

The 5.0 V8 is by no means lazy, provided you work the six-speed manual ‘box in the right way. The changes are crisp and direct, and the pick up from the engine is astonishing. It’s also – and we’re still not sure how to feel about this – somewhat drama free, too. The noise of the engine is quiet and restrained, there’s no roar or rumble, it just goes. It’s a V8 Mustang, Ford, we’d like a bit more noise, please.

On the road, it’s incredibly comfortable, though the nifty toggle switches on the dash can soon change that. With the simple flick of a switch you can play with the steering and the suspension, along with – for the brave – the traction control. This shows that Ford have aimed this car squarely at the driver, as on most modern cars, including the Focus ST, such features are buried in seemingly endless menus. Here though, you can change the dynamic of the car in an instant.

It’s not just buttons for the sake of buttons though – the steering really does sharpen up when you need it to, as does the suspension. But, when you’re stuck on the M5 at 50mph in traffic, you can turn it into a big, soft mobile sofa that just gets you where you’re going.

Now, it’s no secret that we’ve already had a play in one of these, however, we haven’t, until now, played with a right hooker. So, does it make all the difference? In a nutshell, yes, yes it does. You just feel ‘right’ when you’re in it. It feels proper and like it belongs, plus there’s a level of comfort that comes from being on the correct side of the car. While the visibility is great, being on the left in something so low and wide really did annoy, but that’s a thing of the past now.

Basically, the Mustang is here and it feels like it should be, from the cabin that has a distinctly Germanic and quality feel to it, to the way it drives, the new Mustang feels like it was made for us, rather than offered as an afterthought. It’s going to be an icon, there’s no doubt about that. The only question is, will you be one of the lucky owners? If you have £33k or so lying around, we would seriously recommend it.

A huge thanks to David and the team at Trust Ford in Ashton Gate, Bristol, for letting us borrow the car for this shoot. If you’re in the area, this 5.0 V8 manual is a demonstrator that you too can drive. Bring your bank card though, because you’ll only want to leave after putting a deposit on one!