Ford Mustang GT (S550) | PH Used Buying Guide

The appeal of Ford's first right-hand drive Mustang was plain enough in 2015; it's even more tempting now

By Tony Middlehurst / Sunday, June 27, 2021 / Loading comments

Key considerations

  • Available for £30,000
  • 5.0 V8 petrol, rear-wheel drive
  • Characterful, fast, ‘analogue’, history on wheels
  • 2018 facelifts are faster and better built
  • Cheap to service, if not to fuel
  • A great lifestyle choice

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OVERVIEW

Although it’s only been on official sale here in the UK for the last five years or so, Ford’s Mustang is undoubtedly one of the most important cars ever made. It’s been in continuous production since 1964, when it played a massive part in bringing performance and style within reach of the ordinary Joe (or Joleen). The first ones cost just under $2,400 in the States. You could argue that it was mainly responsible for the blossoming of the muscle car scene from the late 1960s.

Why did they call it a Mustang though? Isn’t that a horse? Well, yes, but it was also a fighter plane from the Second World War. You’ll find stories supporting both theories for the naming of Ford’s sporty two-door coupe and convertible.

Either way, the Mustang has been phenomenally successful. The ‘ten million built’ mark was passed three years ago. Today we will be poking our nose into the sixth-generation S550 version that first rumbled onto the roads in 2015, not just in the US with a desultory trickle of left-hand drive imports for British fans as usual, but as a proper right-hand drive car for the first time.

As had been the case since 1964, you could choose your gen-six Mustang as either a coupe (Fastback) or a fabric-roofed convertible. We used the word ‘rumbled’ a minute ago, but as part of Ford’s global car programme this generation could be bought with a decidedly un-rumbly EcoBoost 2.3 turbo four instead of the traditional V8. Sounds wrong in so many ways, given the heritage and everything, but there wasn’t much wrong with the 2.3’s power output. Many thought the 310hp claim was a typographical error, but it wasn’t. Besides generating nearly three-quarters of the 5.0 V8’s maximum poke, the 2.3 took around 80kg out of the car’s overall weight, much of it off the front wheels, which brought some extra delicacy to the handling.

In all honesty, if you could forget about the lack of cylinders the 2.3 was a worthy effort. Politically, you could see why Ford threw it into the mix as both the flag-bearer of a new approach and as an early warning of the old one’s demise, but they must have known they were kidding themselves. As long the big motor route was still open, real Mustangers were always going to march down it. Especially those for whom the V8 Mustang was the culmination of a childhood dream, and for whom anything other than a V8 was sacrilege.

It was hoped that half of all S550 Mustang buyers would go for the 2.3, but in the UK at least Ford had to admit that only 15 per cent actually went for it. Temptingly low headline pricing for the V8 created a too-small price differential of just £4,500 between it and the 2.3. Whatever the actual sales number was, it wasn’t enough to prevent the 2.3 being pulled from the European market at the end of 2020. Interestingly, for the time being at least, it continues in the US, where it is now producing up to 330hp (alongside a 3.7 V6 with 300hp) but for the purposes of this guide we’re going to concentrate on the ‘Coyote’ 5.0 V8, which is the only Mustang currently on sale as a new car in the UK.

Anyway, like we said the new Mustang was released in 2015. In spring 2016, Sync 3 software was brought in to improve the Mustang’s voice recognition skills and three new paint colours became available at this time too, two blues and a white. For 2017, the Shelby GT350 and even more focused R versions appeared. These had a new, high-rev 5.2 engine with a flat-plane crank and 526hp at 7,500rpm, which was about a thousand revs above the useable limit of the old cross-plane 5.0 allied to much quicker response to the throttle. Unashamedly stripped back for track work, the R chopped around 60kg from the GT’s weight and featured proper suspension and aero, making it a genuinely accomplished track weapon. Its 0-60 time was under four seconds, and it ran on to 177mph. Sadly neither of the GT350 variants went on sale in the UK but you could pick up a left-hand drive R in the US for about $65,000.

In May 2018 the Mustang facelift was released, featuring better suspension, a slightly enlarged (to 5,038cc) V8, and better safety equipment – which it needed, as the Mustang had only collected two stars in the 2017 Euro NCAP crash tests. Even with the new safety gear in place the safety score was still only three stars.

At this time Ford lowered its power claim for the 2.3 to something below 300hp. More importantly for enthusiasts, the V8 model’s power was up to 450hp courtesy of the new engine which also had the flat plane crank and an injection mix of high-pressure direct and low-pressure port. Performance Packs were offered with these phase two cars, ‘performance’ in this case relating to the car’s chassis rather than to its engine. Peak power was unchanged by the packs. PP1 cars got Michelin Pilot Sport 4S tyres on 19in wheels, along with Brembo brakes and the option of MagneRide suspension. PP2 was more tracky. It came with MagneRide as standard and had 1.5in wider 305/30 Pilot Sport Cup 2 tyres and revised traction control settings. You could only get it with the 6-speed manual box.

In October 2018 the Mustang Bullitt went on sale, with 480hp at 7,000rpm, 420lb ft at 4,600rpm and an appropriately green paint job. It surprised no-one when all 350 cars allocated to the UK were immediately snapped up. What was surprising was the high depreciation these Bullitts suffered in the States. Homage overload, or too many cars built? Maybe a bit of both.

When the gen-six S550 Mustang came out in 2015, money-wise it was in the same mid-to-high thirties bracket as a BMW 420d. Today, the cheapest new Mustang GT retails at £44,255, but it remains an attractive prospect. And the good part is that you can save nearly £15,000 on that new price by buying pre-owned. Early cars that have done 50,000 miles or more are quite easily found for £30k. But would you want a high-miler? Didn’t you hear somewhere that all wasn’t well in the house of Mustang? Read on and find out.


SPECIFICATION | FORD MUSTANG 5.0 V8 (2015-on)

Engine: 4,951cc V8 32v petrol (*5,038cc)
Transmission: 6-speed man or 6-speed auto (*10spd), rear-wheel drive
Power (hp): [email protected],500rpm (*[email protected],000rpm)
Torque (lb ft): [email protected],600rpm
0-62mph (secs): 4.8 (man) (*4.3)
Top speed (mph): 155
Weight (kg): 1,681
MPG (official combined): 20.9
CO2 (g/km): 299
Wheels (in): 8 x 18
Tyres: 235/50
On sale: 2015 – now
Price new: £38,000
Price now: from £30,000
* 2018-on facelift cars

Note for reference: car weight and power data are hard to pin down with absolute certainty. For consistency, we use the same source for all our guides. We hope the data we use is right more often than it’s wrong. Our advice is to treat it as relative rather than definitive.


ENGINE & GEARBOX

The Coyote engine made good noises, especially facelift cars which had an active exhaust. X- or H-pipes that displaced the resonator ramped up the fun, or you could go the whole hog with a full long tube manifold exhaust. Or you could just leave it alone and appreciate the surprising refinement.

The gen-six’s V8’s port injection was maybe old school but that was good news for anyone fearing the effects of carbon buildup plaguing many more modern direct injection-only engines. Variable camshaft timing was another modern trick that was late in coming to the Mustang. The cams themselves are driven by chains rather than belts and these should last for the life of the car.

Earlier on we mentioned the 2.3 being more than acceptably quick. It was only a second slower over the 0-62mph than the 4.8sec V8, and of course it was a lot more economical, using around fifty per cent less fuel than the V8 which struggled to top 20mpg – not a lot with a 13-gallon tank. The wonder of turbocharging meant that the 2.3 was actually more flexible from lower revs than the V8, and there was augmented sound to make you feel better about not having bought the V8 (in the enclosed environment of the coupe, at least), but most buyers simply preferred to ignore the four’s political acceptability in favour of the V8’s less socially conscious but more authentic din.

Mustang tuning was of course available and could make a separate story on its own. Ford offered its own ‘power packs’. There was one for the 2.3 which would add 25hp and 70lb ft, and three for the V8 offering 13hp+16lbft, 21hp+24lb ft, or 37hp+5lb ft with a heightened redline of 7,500rpm. Bolt-on induction kits from the likes of Steeda delivered instant and easy power-ups with no accompanying tune-ups needed on pre-facelift cars.

If you wanted something dirtier, in the down and dirty sense, the Sutton CS700 by London-based independent supercar dealer Clive Sutton used a twin-screw Whipple supercharger and supersized intake and exhaust components to lift outputs to a claimed 700hp and 674lb ft. At less than £14,000 on top of the price of the base car the CS700 sounded almost reasonable, but the 35mm front/25mm rear lowered KW suspension and 20-inch alloys added another £5,500 to that, and you could also chuck in the thick end of £10k on various carbon fibre bits. An even more powerful CS800 was on offer, and regular PHers will have now read about the 859hp CS850 just launched to fill in for the non-arrival in the UK of the 771hp GT500 Yours for just £115,000, or a bit more depending on spec. Alternatively you could Whipple up your own Mustang with a stage 2 kit that cost just under £9,000 (not including fitment)

On the transmission side, a six-speed manual gearbox was standard, with one of two torque converter automatic options, depending on the year of the car: a £1,500 six-speeder on pre-2018 cars, or a £2,000 ten-speed on facelifts. Some wondered why any car needed ten gears, let alone a big V8, and the box reflected that confusion somewhat by hopping about between cogs somewhat in normal use. That could get on your wick, but at least the 10-speeder did have the ability to skip past a handful of gears if you prodded the throttle hard enough, which you would do on the track where it actually worked rather well when the car was in Track mode.

The manual box was predictably meaty-feeling, and not in a bad way. The arrival of downshift rev-matching tech on all post-2018 Mustangs did nothing to diminish the manual’s appeal, but the clutch pre- or post-facelift was never the lightest and the ratios were maybe a little high for UK use, second taking you most of the way to 80mph. The even buyer split between manual and auto tells you that both setups had their supporters.

A limited-slip differential was standard, while Line Lock was a novelty carryover from the muscle car days. Selecting it in the Track mode sub-menu would apply the front brakes and let you do a smokey burnout for up to 15 seconds without actually going anywhere. Perfect for impressing your mates and for putting cash into the pocket of your local tyre supplier.

One well-known British car consumer mag recently did a reliability survey on sports cars up to five years old. In this survey the Mustang came in ninth, which would have been great if that had been out of a hundred, but it was out of ten. Even on the facelift cars there have been documented problems with both the engine and the transmissions. On the 10R80 10-speed torque converter auto (a Ford/GM joint venture), late, unresponsive, or even non-existent shifting have been reported. Faulty valve bodies have been identified as the main culprit, and sorting that is a big-hours repair job requiring trans disassembly. Hoping the problem might go away just makes it worse. On the MT82 manual, shifter forks were given to breaking under the strain and there was a supply problem with the replacements that peed off a lot of owners.

On the facelift engine, rattling at low to medium revs (1,500-3,000rpm) when the motor was cold was attributed to slap in the forged aluminium pistons before they got warmed up enough to expand and stop rocking in the bores. Besides noise, this piston slap could score the cylinders. A bore scope examination will give you the bad news. The Coyote engine is not immune to oil leaks either.

There have been two recalls for battery cables which could get dangerously close to the exhaust manifold and one for non-activating driver’s airbags. Some oil coolers have leaked, some V8s have lost coolant, some have had excessive play in the conrod bearings.

Servicing costs are reasonable. A basic oil change service can be as little as £150 and shouldn’t exceed £200. Majors should come in at under £300. V8s costing under £40k new and registered after 1 April 2017 will be cheaper to tax in the UK – just £150 a year instead of nearly £600 for earlier cars.

CHASSIS

The gen-six Mustang did a useful bit of catching up to the European rivals by having multi-link rear suspension in place of the old model’s live axle. Even with that advance, the ride over poor roads could still be lumpy. Lowering springs and aftermarket roll bars are often fitted to tie the Mustang down more, but that would take it even further away from limo ride quality.

We mentioned the Performance Packs in the Overview. Basically PP1 would be great for those who wanted to do normal driving with the occasional track day, whereas PP2 was for those who wanted to do track days and the occasional bit of normal driving. PP2 was indeed worth having for that application. In Track mode it would corner in a noticeably flatter manner and brake more securely, but most considered PP2 to be too highly strung for the public road.

The adaptive MagneRide damping system was an interesting £1,600 option on 2018 facelift cars. Opinions on it appear to be split. Some liked the extra comfort it provides, others who had tried it said they would stick with the normal setup but maybe fit a set of Koni adjustable dampers, other makes being available of course. Airlift for example will do you a set of performance dampers that are fully adjustable via a remote pad.

Mustang steering will make men feel more manly. It’s quite weighty and you’d never mix up a Mustang with an Elise when it comes to speed of turn-in, but there’s good grip and obviously enough power to break the back end out.

BODYWORK

For trivia fans, the gen-six Mustang was designed by a Brit, Moray Callum, younger brother of Jaguar design guru Ian Callum. It’s regarded as a small car in its home market, but its footprint is large enough in the UK to command the driver’s attention on anything smaller than an A-road. The gen-six was 70mm wider in its rear track than the gen-five. The 2018 facelift lowered the bonnet line and nicely ‘de-cliffed’ the front end without losing that essential Mustang look.

Mustang paint finishes weren’t always great, and nor were some of the panel gaps. The ones between the soft-top’s hood and the body might look almost alarming, but it didn’t seem to matter much on the road where the convertible showed itself to be a great schmoozer, especially with the roof down. Poorly fitted and/or loose exterior trim pieces can be an issue on any Mustang, however. The doors are long so check the trailing edges for damage and you might as well check the hinges while you’re at it as creaks in that area are not uncommon.

INTERIOR

Anyone coming to a gen-six Mustang after a premium German car would probably be given pause for thought by the feel of the Ford’s cabin materials and the way they fitted (or didn’t fit) together. The 2018 facelift brought positive improvements in trim quality but not so many as to torpedo the values of pre-facelift vehicles. You’ll notice more rattling and squeaking in pre-facelift cars partly because the quality of their plastics was poorer.

Standard equipment was decent though, including an impressive new 12-inch cluster of configurable and mode-related digital instrumentation, plus LED headlights, 19-inch alloys, adaptive cruise, dual-zone climate control, an eight-inch touchscreen with Sync 2 software (replaced in 2016 by the superior but still not brilliant Sync 3 system), keyless entry and start and a rear parking camera. If you wanted sat-nav that was an extra £795, but at least it came with an uprated sound system with a boot-mounted subwoofer. There was a Bang & Olufsen audio upgrade and that would be a good idea on the 2.3 because the standard setup wasn’t mega. Climate-controlled seats (which were part of the Custom pack) didn’t seem to do a lot.

The S550’s stepped dash and chromed centre switch panel were nice throwback design touches, although the ‘ground speed’ legend on the speedo and ‘Mustang Since 1964’ dash plaque might be viewed as a little juvenile. What about space? Well, it depended what part of the car you were looking at. There was loads of it in the front and even big folk were able to conjure up a workable driving position, though some might have wished the pillars were a bit more slender for better visibility.

There was good storage to be had in the glovebox and two big central cupholders, which tended to become elbow holders because they were on the wrong side of the transmission tunnel for RHD owners. So was the handbrake. The Mustang has always been a coupe (weird Mach E brand extension excepted), so not much effort was made to accommodate grown adults in the back, where headroom in particular was in very short supply. You did get two lots of Isofix child seat attachment points in there, however, and the rear seat backs folded down to boost boot room, a good thing because the seats-up spaces of 408 litres in the hardtop or 332 litres in the convertible weren’t record-breaking and the high boot lip and narrow aperture would get you cursing if your other half insisted on bringing a hundredweight of grooming/beauty products with them.

Mustang air-con compressors have acquired a very poor reputation among owners. The seat memory system didn’t always work. Same goes for the rear-view camera (a fault which can be nothing more than a loose connector), and some owners have reported problems with failing speedos and sat-navs. You might also experience randomly locking doors, slightly dropping windows, dashlight dimming coming on unbidden, and difficulty in establishing a stable Bluetooth connection.

PH VERDICT

The decision by Ford to sell right-hand drive Mustangs marked the end of a long period of frustration for UK fans of this genuinely iconic vehicle. The company has been rewarded for taking that gamble because more people buy Mustangs in the UK now than they do Porsche 911s.

This current Mustang has gone through a gradual price correction since it arrived in 2015. Then, it was in the mid-thirties. Today, a new Mustang GT starts at nearer to £45,000, but based solely on the 450hp output and the immense character of the engine it still seems like good value, especially when you look at used prices which are only now dipping below the £30k mark six years on. You might have to put up with some examples of poor quality control, and they’re not perfect mechanically, but there’s a strong online community for these cars so you’ll never be lost for a solution, or a suggestion of one at least.

Despite the EcoBoosts not being popular enough to secure their survival in the Mustang range in Europe, there’s a surprisingly wide choice of 2.3s on PH Classifieds. These are obviously propping up the bottom end of the price range. The most affordable V8 on PH Classifieds at the time of writing was this year-one 42,000-miler in red at £29,490 but for £500 or so on top of that you could choose between four more GTs, this 2016 car in Magnetic Grey being the lowest mileage and most understated option. £31,950 puts you into convertible country with this 17,000-mile pre-facelift car in Oxford White with saddle leather but you can more or less choose your colour in the £32-£33k bracket as there are plenty of soft-tops around at that money.

Facelifts are obviously more expensive than pre-2018 cars because they’re more powerful as well as being more recent, but you’ll still be able to find one for under £35,000, as this white 17,000-mile GT demonstrates. If evil floats your boat, how about this bestial 2019 Whipple blower car with 707hp, Roush X-pipe and a sackful of other stuff? 8,000 miles done, and none of them boring we’ll wager, for £59,995.


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