Ford's flagship finally gets a passport; Alistair Charlton takes a look at the 2015 Ford Mustang, the first to be sold in the UK and Europe in the car's 50-year history.
To us Europeans, Ford bringing its Mustang to our shores for the first time doesn't sound like such a big deal. These days manufacturers export cars everywhere they can, and while the name might change - the VW Golf is called, inexplicably, the Rabbit in America - the car remains fundamentally the same.
But with the Mustang things are different. Just as you vacuum with a Hoover and stick things to your wall with Blu-tac, you flee from bad guys in a Mustang. Bill Ford, great-grandson of company founder Henry, said the Mustang is a star of the silver screen, and he's right.
We all know Steve McQueen drove a Mustang in Bulliet, but such is the big Ford's relationship with the American musclecar, I'd put money on people calling most of its rivals Mustangs too, just as non-car people give the Jeep name to all manner of off-roaders.
So when Ford decides to ship its Mustang - its treasured, sacred, instantly-recognisable Mustang - to the UK and Europe (even making it right-hand-drive) it's a big deal, chiefly because Mustangs of old have a reputation for delivering Superbowl-excitement in a straight line, but falling apart in the twisty stuff; and the interior's plastic has been likened by some UK journalists to that of a chocolate box.
To bring the loveable-but-simple Mustang to Europe and the rest of the world - where it faces stiff competition from the Toyota GT86 and most of Germany - Ford has had to up its game in both the styling and handling departments.
The result is a product Bill Ford says was developed from the outset to be a world car with international appeal. To achieve this, the car's styling has been toned down from the older model's muscular-yet-boxy lines.
Front and rear light clusters are slimmer and appear more European as a result. The roof line and rear three-quarters take cues from a variety of rival coupes, including the Jaguar XK and Nissan GTR; the car's signature crease along its doors and flared rear wheel arches remain, but the whole look is one of a car that has swapped dumbbells for the treadmill.
Although journalists at its launch event only got to see the interior from afar, we see Ford has blended switchgear from the rest of its fleet with the Mustang's retro oversize dials and deeply-set steering wheel. The jury remains out on whether those cheap plastics have been replaced.
More than skin deep
The most fundamental changes for the car's sixth generation are found under the skin. There's new front and rear suspension, and Ford has also improved the car's brakes and fettled with the stability control system to offer a range of on-the-go adjustments depending on driver skill (or their desire to show off at traffic lights and roundabouts).
Improved suspension will help sharpen the car's historically lazy handling, but Ford will have to seek a compromise, given the difference between America's snooker table-smooth freeways and Britain's potholed city streets.
Most European buyers are expected to favour the car's all-new 2.3-litre Ecoboost engine. Lacking the classic muscle car V8 soundtrack, the four-cylinder turbocharged unit will produce just over 300bhp, but with dramatically improved emissions and fuel economy - an important factor, considering the price of petrol in Europe compared to the US.
A 5.0-litre V8 will also be available, and is expected to cost around £5,000 more than the - again unconfirmed - circa £30,000 base price. Available as a hardtop or convertible, the car goes on sale in the US next year, before arriving in the UK and Europe in 2015.
It was something of a no-brainer to bring the Mustang to Europe, and while US fans might feel their icon has become a sell-out, there can hardly be a stronger way to convey the company's One Ford message than by giving a passport to its most treasured family member.