TIME TO put on a Steve McQueen turtleneck and get ready to press the throttle to the floor mat. McQueen, star of 1968 film Bullitt, died tragically young in 1980 but if it is possible for the spirit of the ’60s to live on in metal and glass then the Ford Mustang is it.
The pony car was relaunched in 2015 but a newer version of the new Mustang has arrived, and it has a more powerful 5-litre V8 engine, uprated by 30bhp to 444bhp. Its 0-62mph time of 4.5 seconds is on par with a modern Porsche Carrera, one of McQueen’s favourite cars.
The gearbox is also improved from a 6-speed torque converter in the standard ‘stang to a 10-speed, double clutch ‘select shift’. It’s a long way from the 4-speed manual in the GT fastback featured in the movie.
There are six standard driving modes — two more than before: Snow/ Wet, Normal, Sport, Track, Drag-strip (think: launch control) and Manual — as well as “My mode”, which saves your favourite performance settings.
So how does it drive? It’s a better car than the previous model with a turn of speed that defies its size and a superb engine that beats anything its European rivals can deliver, both in terms of horsepower for the money and noise. The 10-speed autochanger works hard when you’re putting the car through a series of curves up a mountain road but it delivers seamless, thrilling performance, especially in sport mode.
Prices start at £35,995 for the Fastback 2.3-litre Ecoboost engine with manual gearbox. For £46,595 you get the top of the range 5-litre auto convertible, the one to have if you can stretch to it.
“The only reason not to buy this car is that a special Ford Mustang Bullitt edition is on its way later in the year”
There may not be that many days when you can put the top down but this isn’t a car for the everyday commute. It’s for high days and holy days when you can wheel it out of the garage and drive to the coast or a country pub.
Other improvements over the old model include a host of new driver safety aids, including auto emergency braking, lane departure warning and pedestrian detection. The lack of these on the previous Mustang contributed to it being given only two NCAP stars for safety. Ford says it’s hoping that will be lifted to three for the new model. If that doesn’t seem many, it’s because of the continued lack of pretensioning seatbelts in the rear and the low roofline that restricts headroom for rear seat passengers.
The car has a slightly sharper look thanks to new bonnet scoops and all-round LED lights. You can also adjust the butterfly valves in the exhaust so you don’t wake the neighbours when you take it for a Sunday morning spin.
A must-have for European roads is the “Magneride” self-adjusting damper system that noticeably improves ride and handling. But don’t be tempted by the optional rear spoiler; McQueen would have turned in his grave.
The only reason not to buy this car is that a special Ford Mustang Bullitt edition is on its way later in the year, promising 470bhp and a Highland Green livery to match the 50-year-old Mustang that starred in the film. That should be a hoot.