By Jonathan Crouch
There's nothing quite like a Ford Mustang - and plenty was different about the improved version of the 'S550' sixth generation model which arrived in 2018. What wasn't changed was the original MK6 model's mantra of plenty of power at an affordable price. That was served up both in Fastback coupe guise or in Convertible form. In either case, you get a car that'll make you feel alive and there's nothing quite like it. Respect the rumble.
2dr Fastback coupe / 2dr Convertible - 2.3 EcoBoost / 5.0 V8
Think Ford Mustang and you instantly imagine Steve McQueen, desert highways and the American Dream - one which by 2018, Ford was pleased to find quite a few global buyers wanted to share. The sixth generation 'S550' version was launched to world markets in 2015 and over the next few years, it became the world's best selling sports coupe, with nearly 126,000 examples sold in 146 countries in 2017 alone. So in 2018, Ford improved it, making the car sleeker, quicker, safer and more fun. But would you - could you - really justify one?
American buyers have always been able to. From the moment the original Mustang was launched back in 1964, it was an instant hit and went on to be the fastest selling car in history, with more than one million examples finding homes in the first year and a half it was on sale. From then on, the 'Stang became an American institution - the muscle car all others were judged by, especially in the fifth generation guise launched in 2005. It was this version, styled to reflect the Sixties original, that reignited worldwide interest in this model, customers from around the globe soon queuing up to import it from the USA.
Ford bosses took note. For years, they'd imagined the Mustang only as an American product, believing that other markets needed a less aggressive design of sports coupe - which is why this side of the Atlantic, we got models like the Capri in the Seventies and the Probe in the Nineties. By the 21st century's second decade though, those kinds of coupes had become a thing of the past. Customers across the world by then had made it clear that they loved the Mustang just as much as Yankee drivers - which is why this sixth generation version was designed with international markets (and right hand drive) in mind from the very outset.
That's why buyers over here got a 2.3-litre EcoBoost four cylinder engine option as an alternative to the big old 'Coyote' V8 you'd expect this car to have. As part of this mid-term 2018 model year revamp, the EcoBoost powerplant got more torque, while the V8 featured more power and rev-matching tech. Both units could be ordered with a fiery Active Valve Performance Exhaust, MagneRide adaptive damping and a 10-speed auto gearbox. Plus this Ford at last got a proper suite of camera-driven safety features, along with smarter looks and upgraded connectivity in its better quality cabin. All of this sustained the MK6 Mustang until Ford replaced it with a new MK7 model in late 2022.
What You Get
You don't have to be a committed petrol head to know what this car is. In fact, with this MK6 S550 model, Ford was so confident in the global recognition this model enjoyed that the word 'Mustang' didn't appear anywhere on the bodywork of either the Fastback Coupe or the alternative Convertible. It helps of course that this iconic shape has been seen in so many films and TV shows, most memorably of course the 'Bullitt' movie and that car chase with Steve McQueen. This kind of instant recognition is priceless, explaining why Ford was so careful to keep the shape and style of the original 1960s model, while bringing it right up to date in this improved sixth generation guise. The heritage here might be more than 50 years old, but this modern Mustang looks as fresh as this morning's coffee. Get up close and personal and, if you happen to be familiar with the original version of this 'S550' sixth generation model, you'll probably quickly clock the changes made to this improved design with its lower bonnet line and restyled LED headlights.
Inside, it's certainly an improvement in the original version of this MK6 design. In this revised model, classier soft-touch materials feature for the door linings and the door handles are fashioned from aluminium. If you're a potential Mustang buyer, you'll probably be someone who quite likes this cabin's rather old-school feel. The pre-facelift model's deeply cowled dials used to add to that, but in this updated design, they were replaced by the customisable all-digital 12-inch LCD instrument cluster you view through the classic, dished three-spoke sports wheel.
Taking a seat in the back isn't especially easy because the catch for pulling the seat back forward is awkward to reach and when you use it, the seat doesn't automatically slide forward as it would in a European rival, so you've got to fiddle about with seat base buttons. Getting in is awkward thanks to the low roof line and once you are in place, despite the fact that this car is about the same length as a Ford Mondeo, you'll find that there's virtually no leg room at all, unless the person is front of you is less than averagely tall.
Finally, let's deal with boot space. You might expect to have to compromise in this regard with such an out-and-out sportscar. Think again. True, there's quite a high loading lip and the opening is fairly narrow, but you can't argue with the amount of space on offer (408-litres in the Fastback), given the inevitable limitations of a car of this kind. Even the Convertible model can swallow 332-litres of cargo, roof up or down.
What You Pay
Please contact us for an exact up-to-date valuation.
What to Look For
We found lots of satisfied Mustang customers but they were realistic folk. Many admitted that build quality and trim fit and finish aren't the best. You may find that the car vibrates while driving. That could be down to damaged wheels, lack of balance between wheels and tyres, uneven tyre wear or damage to the suspension and/or steering. If the vibrations continue when the car is stationary, then it's likely to be a transmission problem. If you feel the vibration in the steering and brake pedal simultaneously, then it's probably a brake rotor issue. We've also come across problems with engine oil leaks and oil filter issues.
Check carefully around the cabin before you buy and look out for scratches and parking gauges on the big 19-inch alloy wheels. If the tyres have been worn out due to the driving style, then it's worth also checking the suspension and steering components for wear. Check that the brakes are all working. Slowly move forward and pull up the handbrake gently to see how far the handbrake lever travels and you should feel the rear of the car dip down. If only one side dips down, then the opposite side brakes could be seized. This would fail an MOT and can be costly in parts. You should also be able to feel any imbalance in the brakes, or 'warping' as it's commonly known. This is a result of heavy or prolonged braking, generating heat, then keeping the footbrake applied while stationary. This is commonly initiated going from motorway speeds, down to a stop. Or by going for a blast around the country lanes. With warping comes over heated brakes, which will feel very un-responsive and could squeal at low speeds when braking. If the handbrake handle is travelling quite high, it could mean the rear pads are getting low, so it's worth checking.
If the engine bay has been steam cleaned ask why. It's not normal practice to do this when selling a car, unless something is trying to be hidden. Check underneath the engine for any drips or leaks. If you are at the private seller's address, ask where they usually park the car and look for signs of leaks on the ground. Check all fluid levels before starting the car and it's best to view the car when the engine is cold. This way you get to hear the engine as it would sound when you start it up every morning. If the engine is warm as you arrive to view, it could be hiding a cold start issue or a rattle/noise. Either feel the bonnet for warmth or check the temperature gauge on the instrument cluster.
Check in the engine bay for any signs of crash damage. Check that all the front end pieces are secure and not loose; the grilles, bumper, front panel, headlights etc. Check the retaining screws/bolts for signs of tampering, meaning that they have been removed at some point. Check that the air conditioning works. Check that the seats move, recline, raise and the general condition for wear and tear. Also that the seat belts pull right out and retract by themselves.
Along with checking that everything inside the car works, check the radio and satellite navigation functions. Check the DAB function on the radio, as this has been a problem in the past for not working on some units. Have a look underneath the car all around to make sure nothing is hanging down or any debris is present. Give the exhaust a wobble to make sure it is secure and the mountings are present. If the exhaust has excessive movement, this could indicate the mountings are worn, possibly relating to worn engine mountings or exuberant driving styles meaning everything is moving too much. The same can be said if you wobble the exhaust and you can hear it knocking or banging against the under body of the car. Check for marks where you would put a trolley jack on the under body, then question the seller as to why the car has been in the air, possibly for modification or repair work.
It is also worth getting an HPI report to see if there are records of the vehicle being damaged or written off. For a small fee it is well worth it, as the seller could be hiding something about the car and it's just not worth taking the risk of not checking. If the car has been written off or accident repaired, the front page of the V5-log book will show this at the bottom of the page. This means that the vehicle is recorded as such and will forever be on file for the car. This decreases the value of the car and you are best off going to find a non-damaged car, as there are plenty out there. And overall? Well if there are issues, then weigh up the hassle of rectifying them. If that's prohibitive, walk away.
(approx based on a 2019 Mustang 5.0 V8 - Ex Vat) An oil filter is around £7. For a set of Delphi front brake pads, you're probably looking at around £105. For a set of rear Delphi pads, budget in the £50 bracket. Pricier brand front brake pads cost around £382 a set. For a set of front brake discs, you're probably looking at around £270-£300. For a set of rear discs, budget in the £180 bracket. A replacement pollen filter is around £15. Performance Sport cat-back exhaust, you're looking at around £1,430-£1,550.
On the Road
So. What's it like? Well settle in and whether you go for the Fastback coupe or the alternative Convertible body style, a Mustang is of course very different to the kind of European hot hatch or sportscar you could buy for the same kind of money. Fortunately though, when you fire up the engine, well that sounds very different too. Well it will if you've got the 5.0-litre V8, which for this facelifted MK6 model remained normally aspirated but got a 30PS power boost to 450PS. Ford also tweaked the alternative 2.3-litre four cylinder EcoBoost powerplant, reducing its output slightly to 290PS but increasing pulling power to 440Nm in compensation. Either way, original buyers got the option of an improved 10-speed auto gearbox, for those who didn't like the 6-speed manual transmission enthusiasts were still demanding in this car. The auto is tempting though, configured to work with a selectable 'Drag Strip' driving mode which irons out the torque and power drop-off you'd normally get between gear shifts so it's just one seamless burst of acceleration. Other driving modes tweak throttle response, steering feel and gearshift timings if you've the auto 'box. These settings can also alter suspension feel if you get a car whose original owner specified the optional 'MagneRide' adaptive damping system we'd recommend.
There's a Launch Control mode you'll need if you're to match the V8 manual Fastback model's quoted 5.8 second rest to 62mph sprint time. And what Ford calls 'Line Lock', there to help you do smoky tyre burn-outs. It's probably best not to try that on the high street. What else? Well the manual gearbox gained a rev-matching technology that emotively 'blips' the throttle on down-shifts. And there's a thunderous Active Exhaust system - as standard on the V8. Autonomous braking and Lane Departure Warning tech came fitted as standard on this facelifted model. And there was a marginal but not especially significant improvement in efficiency, the V8 manual Fastback version capable of 22.7mpg on the combined cycle and 277g/km of CO2 (WLTP figures).
'I know you're no good for me' sung Martha Reeves and the Vandellas from the back of a Mustang Convertible on the Dearborn production line back in 1965. And a Mustang may not be. But if you yearn for the days when affordable sportscars were all about power, thunder and tyre-smoking machismo, you're going to want one of these just the same. If so and if you happen to be looking at the post-2015-era sixth generation model, then it's worth stretching to this post-2018-era facelifted version.
This revised version of the sixth generation model was billed as a more accessible 'Europeanised' Mustang. That claim presumably referenced this facelifted model's enhanced safety, better infotainment and the improved ride possible with the optional MagneRide adaptive damping system. But just as many of the changes made further embellished this car's loud, proud Yankee personality; the explosive switchable exhaust, the rev-matching tech - even the multi-colour instrument display screen with its video game graphics. Ultimately it seems, even in this form, a Mustang just couldn't help being a Mustang. And that's exactly as it should be. A BMW or Audi coupe is a very nice thing to have but it'll never be the model you always promised yourself - in the way a Mustang can be. This is, after all, more than just a sportscar. It's the heart and soul of Ford.