Ford Mustang: pointless loser, global icon

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PetrolBlog is invited to Barcelona to see the new Ford Mustang that's destined for Europe in 2015. Will the right-hand drive Mustang live up to its promise?

The Ford Mustang would score very highly on Pointless - that game show where you earn points by identifying the most obscure answers to questions. The point - if you'll excuse the pun - is that if you asked the general public to name a model of car they've heard of, the Mustang would probably appear quite often, therefore making it a rubbish Pointless answer.

It's not as though it's as popular over here as it is on the other side of the pond. Heck, it's never been officially sold in the UK. It's just that it seems so ingrained in popular culture. Few American cars are as instantly recognisable as the Ford Mustang. The galloping pony is almost as famous as the prancing horse.

So the news that - finally - you will be able to buy a right-hand drive Ford Mustang in the UK is a big deal. If nothing else it makes a welcome change from the deluge of compact SUVs, premium SUVs and premium compact SUVs. We're all going cross-eyed through crossovers.

2015 European Ford Mustang

Truth be told, the Ford Mustang has never really looked at home in quaint little old England. It hardly blends in with the surroundings of a typical English village. And a gas-guzzling all-American pony car doesn't tend to mix well with our extortionate fuel prices and tax structure.

But these are changing times. Whilst true Mustang fans will sleep easy in the knowledge that by 2015, they'll be able to order a right-hand drive 5.0-litre V8-powered Ford Mustang from a high street Ford dealer, the news that it will be joined by a 2.3-litre EcoBoost Mustang is no less compelling.

Hang on, a four-pot Mustang EcoBoost? Isn't that like Bruce Springsteen burning his entire back catalogue and re-emerging with an album filled entirely with Coldplay covers? Besides, the four-pot Mustang doesn't have a particularly good reputation. The last four-cylinder Mustang was found during the third generation years between 1978 and 1993, not the marque's greatest moment.

2015 Ford Mustang on the road

Next year will mark the 50th anniversary of the Ford Mustang, making the launch of the all-new car (it launches a year earlier in the US) a rather fitting tribute. The original Mustang out-performed even Ford's wildest estimations. Introduced in 1964, by the end of 1966 it had already sold nearly 1.3 million units.

It enjoyed a quick passage into popular culture. Films such as Bullitt from 1968, in which Steve McQueen was seen chasing a Dodge Charger around the streets of San Francisco, put the 'stang on the silver screen. And earlier, the Hertz Corporation had teamed up with Carroll Shelby to put the 'Rent-A-Racer' Mustang on its rental fleet, meaning that any American with a licence could live the dream.

Britain had the Mini, America had the Mustang. Although it's thanks to the Mustang that Britain eventually got the Ford Capri. But that's another story.

Ford Mustang logo in Barcelona

It's unlikely that the new Ford Mustang will achieve anything like the impact it had in the 1960s. But it is the most 'liked' car on Facebook - one million 'likes' and counting - so the buzz surrounding this week's European launch in Barcelona was to be expected.

There's an awful lot of pressure on Ford to get this right. For such a thoroughbred of automotive history, there's been a few dobbins along the way. In today's world there's no hiding place, get the a Mustang wrong and everyone will take a shot at you. Albeit virtually.

Do we care whether or not the Mustang delivers on its undoubted promise? Of course we do. In light of the horror of the Ford EcoSport and the sheer anonymity of the Ford Ka Concept - also unveiled in Barcelona - the Mustang is a symbol of Ford at its very best. And whilst the Fiesta ST is undoubtedly the current star of Ford's stable, there's no reason why 2015 won't be the year of the horse.

New Ford Mustang in Barcelona

At a European launch consisting mainly of Ford dealers and numerous Mustang owners' clubs, you'd expect the reception for the new Mustang to be positive. But the grand unveiling was greeted with a level of warmth and appreciation that's rarely seen at an event such as this. Of course, the deep growl of a 5.0-litre V8 being started up back stage does help to heighten the sense of occasion.

First impressions are good. Very good. The sixth generation Ford Mustang appears more European in its flavour, no doubt a deliberate attempt to appeal to a wider, global audience. Dyed-in-the-wool Mustang fans will find a reassuring level of 'Mustang-ness' in its styling, whilst European buyers - and in particular, UK punters - are unlikely to feel a bit of a chickadee parking it in the Waitrose car park. Ford has made some pretty bold claims about taking on the Germans - and winning - so this could be a critical point.

2015 Ford Mustang rear light

Retro has been banished to the history books. The new Ford Mustang is bold, confident, corporate and - dare we say it - sexy. The 'shark-bite' front-end is still uniquely Mustang and yet it seems to fit nicely within the overall Ford family look, whilst the tri-bar rear lights are quite wonderful.

Overall - and we're prepared to be shot down in flames and banished from the interweb for this claim - the 2015 Mustang has elements of a re-imagined Ford Capri about it.

Rear of Ford Mustang at Go Further

No really, it does. Check out the shape of the rear side windows and the angle of the rear screen. Then there's the 'bulge' in the hood (bonnet doesn't sound right when writing or speaking about the Mustang). And the rear-end? Well that's every inch the modern Ford Capri. Well the Capri always was the 'European Mustang', so perhaps this claim isn't as wild as you'd think.

Of course, a great deal depends on how it drives, so much has made been of the Mustang's independent rear suspension, with the geometry, springs, dampers and bushings specifically modified - according to Ford - to European roads. As standard, the European Mustang will feature 19-inch alloys, with - as demonstrated on the Mustang convertible in Barcelona - an optional 20-inch rim also offered.

We suspect that the 19-inch will be the choice of the enthusiast, with the 2o-inch best reserved for the convertible, which we reckon will appeal to a different audience. And it has to be said - under the lights of the hall in Barcelona - the fastback is by far and away the prettier of the two models. Some of this might be down to the choice of colour for the respective ponies, with a grey metallic perhaps not showing the Mustang off in its best light.

2015 Ford Mustang Convertible

And note the supersize 5.0 badge on the convertible's front wing - the range-topping V8 wears it like a boss. We suspect the EcoBoost badge will be a tad more discreet.

It's easy to scoff about the Mustang's newfound green conscience. 'Mustang EcoBoost' sounds as wrong as 'Ann Widdecombe dancing'. But as the former MP demonstrated, just occasionally, challenging convention just seems to work.

And it's not as though 304bhp from the 2.3-litre turbocharged engine will render the Mustang a bit of a slouch. For sure, the 420bhp of the V8 will a) sound better, b) perform better and c) play the better emotional card, but who knows, perhaps the 'eco-stang' will surprise us.

As yet, Ford hasn't revealed the exact details of the Mustang EcoBoost's environmental credentials, preferring instead to claim 'fuel efficiency and CO2 emissions demanded by Europe's car consumers'. More details will be announced soon, but for now, Ford is promising its first use of a twin-scroll turbocharger, a high-flow cylinder head with integrated exhaust manifold and a choice of either a six-speed manual or six-speed SelectShift automatic.

We weren't permitted to have a poke around inside the new Mustang, but don't expect much in the way of surprises. Two dash pods housing the main dials, a centre-console based infotainment screen, three centrally-positioned air vents and a pair of supersize cup holders. It's good to see a proper handbrake and the obligatory 'Since 1964' dashboard plague. You can expect the interior quality to be a notch or two down on the premium Europeans, but not many Europeans offer a view over the bonnet - sorry, hood - quite like the Mustang.

2015 Ford Mustang interior

And then there's the issue of price, which of course, Ford is staying tight-lipped about. Rumours suggest that the entry-level Mustang could be priced from as little as £29,995, although in reality, it's more likely to start from around £35,000. Tempted?

Well number one off the production line has already been sold, to none other than Bill Ford, the great grandson of Henry Ford and current executive chairman of the Ford Motor Company.

In Europe - no matter how much European flavour Ford sprinkles on the Mustang - the car will need to fight hard to win sales from its established rivals. The warm glow of heritage and small matter of nine million sales since 1964 will only carry the Mustang so far. And because of the nature of a pony car, the Mustang will be up against any number of rivals.

The likes of the Toyota GT86, the BMW M135i, the Porsche Cayman, even the Jaguar F-Type, will all feature on the list of cars jockeying for your attention. It's a tough arena in which to play.

The all-new Ford Mustang in Europe

But we tell you this - PetrolBlog wants the Ford Mustang to deliver on its promise. The next 18 months will be very interesting indeed. Is it good to drive? How much does it cost? How will it be marketed? Questions that need to answered.

So far, Ford can tick one, maybe two boxes. It looks good - at least in the eyes of PetrolBlog. And as the hype surrounding its launch last week suggests, the appetite for a new Ford Mustang is certainly there.

No pressure then, Ford. You wouldn't dream of messing up the 50th anniversary of a global icon, would you? Sounds like a pretty pointless question.