Ford's new Mustang is every bit as big, silly, sexy and desirable as you might expect. It's also expensive to buy and run, but you'll never look cooler.
In the metal 3/5
If you can find a sexier, more evocative car than this, it'll be a Ferrari and even then, I reckon the Ford shades it. Maybe it's because I grew up with a blue-collar background, but I reckon this is one of the best-looking cars on the road today. A muscular muscle car from its take-no-prisoners front end to the classic-retro-sixties look of the rear (that blacked-out panel between the brake lights must be worth at least 50hp, no?); the new Mustang is just a bit jaw dropping. It manages to be retro without being self-consciously retro, although we're duty bound to report yet more Ford pilfering from Aston Martin around the grille.
Inside, it's a bit less successful - in fact, a lot less successful. In fact, it's Major-League-Baseball-player-taking-on-Australia-at-cricket less successful. The classic '64 style fascia is there, as are nice main instruments (labelling the speedo in aviation-style Ground Speed is a pleasantly tacky touch) and in the centre, looking a little incongruous, is Ford's quick and easy SYNC 2 touchscreen system.
After that, things tend to go a little south. For every nice bit (deep-dished three-spoke steering wheel), there is a bad bit (dreadful leather on the doors, which I hope was fake). For each 'Mustang - Since 1964' plaque, there are the nasty chromed toggle switches under the SYNC screen. For the comfortable, supportive front seats, there are the hopelessly useless rear ones and these in a car that measures 4.7 metres long. To call the inside of the Mustang a mixed bag would be to do a gross disservice to bags. And mixing.
Driving it 4/5
Once again, we're on the mixed bag trail here. Let's deal with the engine first. Those worried or concerned that a 'puny' 2.3-litre four-banger would be inadequate for a Mustang can stop worrying. Figures such as 317hp and 0-100km/h in 5.8 seconds aren't exactly M or AMG territory, but the 'Stang feels pleasurably muscular to drive and never once did it feel lacking in power or oomph. There's lots of turbocharged torque from down low, the six-speed manual gearbox (yes, a stick shift in a 'Merican car!) feels lovely - hefty weight, mechanical feel and only occasionally does it show its displeasure at an over-rushed shift.
The steering feels similarly good. You can use one of those awful toggle switches to alter it between Sport, Normal and Comfort, but as with almost any car, that's a novelty that fades quickly and you end up just leaving it in Normal. That done, it's well-weighted, has a decent amount of road feel and can get that big, square nose (every inch of which you can see from the driver's seat) into corners with surprising speed. Another advantage of the 2.3-litre engine: it places less mass over the front wheels than the V8 does.
At first, you'll think the Mustang feels basically well sorted in the suspension department. It rides comfortably (at least it does on the mostly smooth German roads on which it was launched) and doesn't at first wallow or lurch when you show it some corners. This is the first ever Mustang to use independent rear suspension as standard and it initially shows in the car's good deportment.
And then you get enthusiastic. And then you start to push it a little harder. And then the seams start to come a little bit apart. Up to a point (and that point is 'mildly brisk') the Mustang is fine - turning in faithfully and tracking where you want it to. You can even drift it pretty easily on dry tarmac without scaring yourself. But press on; find some really challenging corners and you'll soon find that, deep under the Euro-friendly topping, there are the bones of an American patriot who thinks corners are a Communist plot. The Mustang starts to get sloppy, floppy and imprecise when you start asking the hard questions.
There are some extenuating circumstances though. This is the Convertible we testing first; the Coupé is stiffer and more precise. Again, this is the Convertible - if you've bought this one, why are you trying to drive it like an F1 car? It's for cruising, not bruising.
Drive the drop-top 'Stang as its makers intended and it's lovely - an atmospheric drive, full of retro undertones and ideal for breaking out your Johnny Cash collection. A sunny day, an open road and a Mustang with no roof. What could be better?
What you get for your money 4/5
Is €46,000 a lot to spend on a Ford-badged muscle car with no useful rear seat space and a sloppy chassis? Yes it is, but think of it this way - you'd have to spend €60k to get a BMW 428i Convertible with 70hp less. And that €750 motor tax bill might look steep, but it's less than I used to have to pay for my old Renault Laguna and look, you're getting a Mustang for your money!
Audi A5 Cabriolet: gorgeous to look at, practical and terrific build quality. Mustang makes it look boring.
BMW 4 Series Convertible: beautifully crafted and finished, and wonderful to drive. Mustang makes it look boring.
Chevrolet Camaro: you'll have to personally import it and there's no right-hand drive, but this one makes even the Mustang look a mite dull.
Sensible consumer-oriented advice kind of goes out the window here. The Mustang is not a sensible or rational purchase, but by putting the steering wheel on the right side and giving it a reasonably economical EcoBoost engine, Ford has brought some reason to an unreasonable decision. Nobody sane is going to pick one over an A5 or a 4 Series, but that's not the point - this is a Mustang, a car so emotive that few others can compete with it on an emotional level. Yes, you'd be daft to buy one, but you'd also be mad to pass up the opportunity if you're in the enviable position to.
Safety Rating Update
When we first reviewed this car, it had not yet been tested by the Euro NCAP for safety, but in light of its poor two-star rating, published in early 2017, we feel it's important to update the review and we have docked the Mustang a star in our own rating. It's still a fun and fabulous car, but we'd be far less likely to recommend it now than we were - especially to those that might carry kids in it. For what it's worth, this comment on the Euro NCAP website is worth bearing in mind:
"This assessment of the Ford Mustang is based on the vehicle that has been on sale since 2015. Ford has informed Euro NCAP that orders placed after May  will receive an updated vehicle, which will be launched later in 2017, and will be equipped with Pre Collision Assist (with Pedestrian Detection, Forward Collision Warning and Autonomous Emergency Braking) and Lane Keeping Aid."