What are you driving?
It's the updated 2018 Ford Mustang, driven here in V8 Convertible form. As with the rest of the Mustang range, it gets new styling (new LED lights front and back, a new aero kit and some snorting great bonnet vents) and some new tech, too. The biggest change is that the old six-speed automatic gearbox has been binned in favour of this new ten-speed one, which (rather surprisingly) doesn't do much for fuel economy (which improves by around just 1mpg compared to the old auto), but does plenty for performance - the bigger ratio spread and fast-acting shift mechanism means that this V8 scampers to 100km/h around half a second quicker than the old one from rest.
That's not all down to the gearbox, mind. There's more power too, thanks to slimmer, smoother cylinder liners and a new fuel injection system. In fact, peak power is now up to 450hp, which allows the Mustang to mix it with the likes of the BMW M3 and Mercedes-AMG C 43, but at a considerably lower price.
There's new tech too - a 12-inch digital screen in place of conventional instruments, more standard safety kit including active cruise control and autonomous emergency braking and an updated SYNC3 infotainment system. There are also new paint and wheel options (including a searing bright orange paint finish) and new functions for the engine management system including a tyre-melting 'Drag Strip' launch control. Activate that and you can sit smoking the tyres (well, they need warming them up, don't they) before catapulting forward on a wall of noise. Not that we did. No. Not at all. Honest...
There's also a trick new suspension setup. Available as an option, you can have the new Magneride dampers that use a magnetically responsive fluid in the suspension dampers to stiffen and soften as needed, reading the road surface and reacting as quickly as 1,000 times per second. Ferrari-style tech on a (relatively) affordable Mustang? Yes please...
Name its best bits
The mighty V8 engine is immediately intoxicating. It gets a new exhaust system that can be switched between quiet and loud modes (and which works on a timer so that you can set it up to always be on quiet duty for early morning departures to avoid antagonising the neighbours), but we prefer it on maximum noise mode. It barks into life like the loudest Labrador you ever did meet, and responds to every dip of your right foot with a frankly glorious cacophony. It's not the model for shrinking violets, this one.
Mind you, for all the noise, you have to work it pretty hard to wring the performance out of it. Peak torque doesn't arrive until beyond 4,000rpm so you've got to get the V8 on the boil if you want some serious forward thrust. The new gearbox works wonders here, constantly changing gears, but doing so with mostly impressive smoothness (we detected the occasional touch of transmission shunt) and, when pressing on, an almost eerie ability to find the right gear at the right time.
Inside, you're perched comfortably on those big, broad seats and the new digital display is pretty impressive, not to mention comprehensive in terms of what it can tell you. It normally uses two round dials for its main displays, but switch it into Sport mode and you get a more interesting bar-style tacho. You can also change the colours of the display at will, even creating your own hues to suit your mood. Oh, and it's pretty refined at a cruise, thanks to a well-insulated convertible top and the fact that the mighty V8 shuts up nicely when you don't fancy being yelled at.
Anything that bugs you?
Yeah, a bit. Top of the list is the cabin, which really does look and feel way to cheap for a car costing this much. Ford Ireland hasn't released prices yet, but this one will easily be in excess of €70,000 (thanks in part to the extra cost of the new safety gizmos), so the cheapo plastics and switches just aren't up to the job.
The convertible also suffers badly from floppy body syndrome. In spite of the sophisticated new suspension system, it's worryingly easy to make the rag-top Mustang roll and lurch when presented with a tricky series of corners. It's still a lot of fun, but you end up making a lot of 'it's an American car' allowances for its wallow and heave. The fixed-head Fastback is much better in this regard, but with the extra weight of the V8 in the nose it's noticeably slower to respond to the steering than the lighter EcoBoost version.
Oh and it's wildly thirsty and will cost you €2,350 a year to tax.
And why have you given it this rating?
In our hearts, the Mustang is a pure five-star car. There's nothing that beats its trifecta of nerdy appeals, to car nuts, movie buffs and motorsport heads, and the V8's sheer noise and dramatic straight-line performance should mean it gets the full rating. But we have to do this with our heads as well as our hearts, and you just can't ignore the flexibility of the convertible body, nor the slightly wayward handling this brings on, nor the sheer expense of buying and running the V8 model. It is, technically, a bargain compared to German or Japanese rivals with similar power outputs, but it's going to cost you a bomb in the longer run. Add another half-star on if it's the V8 Fastback coupe version, but for Irish roads and conditions, really, the EcoBoost is actually the better Mustang.
I want to know more
Audi RS 5: big power from its turbocharged V6, looks great and has quattro four-wheel drive for slippery Irish roads. Not as much fun as the Mustang, though, and pricier by far.
BMW M4: similar power, similar motorsport heritage and similarly easy to drift and slide. Much more sophisticated, but significantly more expensive.
Jaguar F-Type V8R: even more power than the Mustang, and a big-chested V8 gurgle to boot. Gorgeous styling, too, but it's much more expensive and less useable day-to-day.