(Pocket-lint) - When you're brought up on a diet of The Dukes of Hazzard and Starsky & Hutch, you can't help but feel that, perhaps, the Ford Capri left us a little short on muscle in the UK. Sure, the Capri was, and still is, an iconic car, but you could only gaze at those American imports and wonder why we were missing out.
So when Ford announced that it was bringing the Mustang to the UK with the steering wheel on the right (correct) side of the car, there was cause for celebration. Celebration that couldn't even be tempered by the talk of a diluted 2.3-litre EcoBoost version.
With the whole world talking about efficiency, about alternative fuels and economy, Ford has also delivered a 5.0-litre V8 Mustang option to the UK. Which we graciously took delivery of to live out our personal American muscle car dreams. Yep, the Mustang GT is a glorious thing.
Ford Mustang GT review: Design
The new Ford Mustang sits on the right side of Mustang design. There have been screaming testosterone-filled 'Stangs and somewhere in the 80s and 90s things got a little, well, alternative. But the sixth-generation Mustang, the first to be built as a right-hand drive model, gets it right.
We think the coupé version has the edge over the convertible with that lovely fastback, but both present a mass of hulking bodywork, aggressive and angular. It's not all just pulled out of thin air, there's the ridges up the bonnet that match those of Ford's other models, and the gaping mouth that appears on the latest Focus sits deep in the front of the Mustang.
It's broad, with that distinctive long bonnet that'll see heads turn as you burble up the road with that distinctive V8 purr. Because turn heads this car does, reinforced with that second glance when people realise you're sitting on the normal side. Gentlemen nudge their lady companions and point, teenagers Snapchat it, most other drivers' faces are a reflection of confused envy and excitement.
That's the potency that the Mustang has, possessing an iconic charm that will always make it interesting. It's Nicolas Cage's Eleanor, Frank Bullitt's chase car, the American grunt that stands opposed to Japan's high-revving imports or Germany's ultra-precise luxury performance machines.
Launching into the UK, the Mustang isn't just going overseas, it's taking on a range of European models par excellence. The 'Stangs looks do enough to set it apart, but it has a lot to offer as it makes its British conquest.
Ford Mustang GT review: Performance over price
Where the Mustang is different is carrying with it that idea of performance over price. Equipped in this GT guise with a 5-litre V8 petrol engine, it offers 416bhp. Perhaps surprisingly, the 2.3-litre EcoBoost alternative offers 317bhp, so still has some bite and a good deal more efficiency when it comes to fuel consumption.
The thing that's perhaps surprising is that the Mustang hangs onto one of the founding principles of US muscle cars: affordability. Well, it's relatively affordable. The 2.3-l EcoBoost starts at £30,995. The V8 GT takes a step up to £34,995. Go for the Convertible and it steps up yet another notch, starting at £38,495. In whichever form, that's still a lot of car for your money.
Perhaps uniquely, the Mustang doesn't sit in the luxury performance category, which many cars of this power do in the UK. The Audi S5 is £42,000, the Jaguar F-Type is £52,000, the BMW M5 is up around £70,000. The Mustang is neither a sports coupé like the Jag, nor does it have that executive sports saloon feeling of a performance Audi.
That makes it rather unique, because it's still a muscle car, with a snorting V8. Most of its rivals produce more power from smaller engines, and for those who want that, the EcoBoost option might appeal. For many, however, the fun of the V8 power and rear-wheel drive, will be the draw of the Mustang.
There's a definite emissions catch to consider though: this V8 Convertible in manual is the least efficient of all the Mustang configurations, with Ford reporting emissions of 306g/km CO2. That puts it firmly in the top-end emissions tax bracket (over 255g/km CO2), which will cost you £515 a year at present. The EcoBoost option, with 184g/km CO2 just slips into category I, meaning £230 a year at present. Green it most certainly isn't.
Ford Mustang GT review: Interior adequacies
It is easy to point at the Mustang and see where affordability measures have been taken. Let's start with the roof. Having driven the Audi RS5 Cabriolet in 2013 (with 4.2-litre V8, 450bhp, so similar in positioning) and seen how seamlessly the roof opens and closes, filling all the gaps, and being fairly well soundproofed too, the Mustang is a little more primitive.
The soundproofing isn't great and there's a lot of road noise that comes straight through it, so you'll experience every passing vehicle - not that there'll be many. But when you put it down, you're left with holes in the deck, unless you add the extra panels stowed in the trunk boot. But (and this is a huge but), the Audi RS5 Cabriolet was £72,000, which is roughly double the price.
With that in mind, there's a lot forgiveness for those cost-cutting measures. The use of plastics within the interior doesn't matter so much, because the touch points are all leather, from the lovely feel of the gear stick through to the lining of the doors. Yes, the dash is a metal-look plastic and the chrome surround detailing is plastic too, but at this price, it doesn't matter.
The aircraft-style toggle switches for the driving mode and "steering feel" adjustment are also plastic. And we do wish they motioned up and down, but they add a retro charm to the interior. Some of the switch gear, like the indicator stalk, are standard Ford, the same as you'll find in a Focus.
One place that the Mustang gets it really right is in the seats. The Mustang is strictly a 2+2 configuration, which results in backseats that are generous enough in bottom space, but not leg space. The advantage they have over some sports cars is that they're deeply bucketed, with a lovely padded bulge between them, which gives the rear passengers something to roll into when you corner too fast.
The front seats, however, are supportive and comfortable. They come dressed in leather as standard (black, cream or brown) and offer plenty of adjustment. These aren't raw and hard racing seats, but as a GT should offer they're the sort of seats that will keep you comfortable for hours - basically until you have to refuel.
If you have a spare £495 you can opt for climate controlled seats, both heated and cooled, and when cruising in your shorts on a summer's day with the top down, a cooled seat can be great thing to go along with the wind in your hair.
Ford Mustang GT review: Technology treats
Although the Mustang is very much about a raw driving experience, there's no shortage of technology on board. You get the 8-inch Ford Sync system embedded in the dash, and that offers a link to your iPhone or Android handset, with voice control, DAB radio and Bluetooth as standard.
It's the same system you'll find in other Ford cars and it's pretty good, although we've never been sold on the length of discussion you need to have with the voice control system to actually get a result from it. For those willing to wait, the incoming Ford Sync 3 system is much faster to respond to touch, with native support for Apple CarPlay and Android Auto.
If you're a music fan then the uprated Shaker sound system is worth the £795 asking price. It brings with it sat nav and puts a subwoofer in the boot too.
Controlling these systems is a little simpler in the Mustang than some of Ford's other cars. The retention of analogue dials (one marked Ground Speed, just for japes) means that only the central section of the driver display is digital, offering a range of display options. These are pretty easy to navigate using the steering wheel controls, and it's here you'll find some of the track-specific dials.
There's also ambient mood lighting, another trait rolling over from some of Ford's other cars, and that gives a surprising interior lift to a fairly masculine car.
Ford Mustang GT review: It's the driving that matters
But the technology is only the dressing: it's the driving that matters in a car like the Mustang. And we're happy to report that we'd leave the tech to one side and take the parts that really matter instead: the engine, gearbox and brakes.
A touch of the stop/start button brings that huge V8 to life with a roar. The throaty burble accompanies everything you do in the Mustang, but it's at its best as you climb past 3,500rpm. At lower revs it's more mellow, waiting for you to open it up and entertain the crowds as you speed along.
The manual gearbox is wonderful. The positioning of the gear stick is in just the right place for a comfortable shift, with the short-throw stick precisely clicking into each gear, giving plenty of tactile feedback as you change, so it feels solid and mechanical. That's paired with a clutch that has some weight to it, befitting the character of the car. It's substantial; positive - and that's what this car needs.
The result is a great manual driving experience. We've not tried the automatic, but we can't imagine you'd want it when the manual gearbox feels so connected. Besides, manual is always going to be more fun, as you have much more control over how you want to it to drive, be that sensibly in straight lines, or sideways across your garden. There's a mechanical handbrake too, although sitting in its position on the far left of the transmission tunnel makes it a bit of a stretch, one of the few hangovers from its conversion from left-hand drive.
The Mustang it's a blast to drive, stealing its way to 62mph in around 4.8-seconds. With that throaty blast shifting you along, every drive in the 'Stang becomes a moonshine run across state borders, or a tire-squealing chase scene. All that's missing is the hills of San Francisco.
We mentioned the manual box is a 6-speed and that top gear is worth consideration. It feels like a motorway safety gear, because once you're in it and driving at the legal speed limit, it doesn't give you much more, unlike 5th gear, which is a lot more lively at motorway speeds.
Some might suspect that this big American car would wallow like a bloated cruiser, but it really doesn't. Yes, it's big and it handles big, but we found the steering to be weighty and connected, giving plenty of control across Britain's varied roads. Potholes aren't a problem and the Mustang doesn't feel so precious that it won't let you do something like reverse up a kerb.
That's likely to be something you will have to do because the turning circle basically doesn't exist: on average roads you're facing a five-point turn rather than three, unless you just drive it across the pavement.
Ford Mustang GT review: Driving pleasure, but is it practical?
So in many ways, the Ford Mustang is a pleasure to drive. It sounds great, it feels great, it goes like the clappers too, plus there's solid Brembo brakes to bring you to a halt again.
As we've touched upon the downside, of course, is its economy. Where those more expensive rivals excel is in squeezing equal or more power out of smaller engines, offering things like cylinder on demand to keep things cleaner. This V8 Convertible's 306g/km CO2 isn't to be overlooked - no current road-worthy vehicle tops 400g/km CO2.
When the Mustang was delivered to us, we clocked that the average consumption was sitting at about 16mpg. That's the low end. With a day of motorway driving we sat at 22mpg, a more typical figure for sensible(ish) driving. What you're not paying for luxe spec, you're trading for that rawness. That's the price of living with a Mustang. You'll be filling it up aplenty, partly because you'll want to drive it everywhere all the time.
The convertible also suffers a little with boot space. With the folded roof eating a section of the space available you're left with a boot that's fairly deep, but not huge. It won't compare to a standard saloon for capacity, but certainly you have more space than you do in many sports cars, like a Porsche Boxster.
The Ford Mustang, for many Brits, is the American hire car. You land at LAX, pick up your Mustang and drive route 101. We expected the American dream to become a British bedlam, but cruising the M25 in the Mustang becomes a wonderful experience. It lifts that drive, making it a better experience.
That says a lot about the Mustang. Sure, the size means that getting into and out of a multi-storey car park isn't for the feint-hearted. The fuel consumption and emissions tax means that running the Mustang is going to be more expensive than most other hot saloons, but there's still buckets of appeal.
The Mustang might be big, brutal and burn through a lot of gasoline petrol, but there's a charm and enjoyment that comes with it; the Ford Mustang is unapologetic in its simplicity, but honest in its delivery, and there's something decidedly British about that.