The Mustang is the most popular and most iconic of all American muscle cars or Pony cars, a class of vehicle that the Ford car pioneered in 1964. The Mustang’s popularity in India precedes its launch. The iconic, instantly recognisable galloping stallion logo, and the car’s Bollywood and Hollywood connect has had an influence on generations of Indians, making it a very desirable car. Though the Mustang has never been officially launched by Ford in its two-decade long presence in the Indian market (post-liberalisation), there are quite a few older Mustangs in the hands of passionate owners who privately imported them. Ford India officially launched the new 2016 Mustang earlier this week, and with this level of popularity, it is not surprising to hear the company claim that the first lot is already sold out.

Historic design The Mustang was the original Pony car, and back in the sixties, that was meant to refer to an affordable two-door car with a stylish and sporty long hood, and a short deck. Of course, the Mustang’s design and positioning has since seen considerable change. Similarly, it is still not clear if the Mustang’s moniker was originally inspired by fighter planes or racing horses, though the current model has many pointers to having been inspired by aviation (including the line on the speedometer which reads ‘Ground Speed’).

Though the Mustang – introduced 52 years ago – holds the American record for the longest continuous series production, the 2016 model is just the sixth generation. And it has received an overwhelming response due to its appealing new design, its choice of high-tech performance engines and simply because it finally gets a right-hand drive version, opening up a number of new markets including India.

The new Mustang stays true to the original design in many ways. The long front hood with its massive power bump alluding to the burly 5-litre V8 engine under it, the shark-nose style (Ford calls it shark-bite) curved front end of the huge bonnet slab and the fastback design for the rear give it the unique, endearing character of the original Mustangs. The 2016 model’s recreation of the roofline and unique profile of the Mustang includes the fins that replace the rear quarter glass adding even more to the fast back character, and the tri-bar rear tail-lamps which is another instantly recognisable Mustang feature of many generations. Most of these features have been reinterpreted for a modern day version of this classic. The current design also reinterprets many of the body side lines to make it look longer, more sinuous and yet strong just like the pronounced haunches.

Inside the Pony The cabin of the new Mustang is a big leap in premium feel and quality compared to its predecessors. The theme of the dashboard is a mix of horizontal and vertical elements which manages to isolate and present the driver-oriented centre stack with even greater emphasis. There are double stitched leather panels, machined aluminium dials and knobs, and finely crafted plastic panels sprinkled around the cabin. The bucket seats at the front are perfectly bolstered and offer multiple adjustments for getting the right seating posture. The rear bench seat is accessed by flipping over the front seat and doesn’t look particularly comfy due to the cramped dimensions.

The multi-function steering wheel feels nice and chunky to hold and the wheel itself feels well weighted both during slow and high speed. The Mustang logo stares back at you from many places on the car, including the steering wheel and the LED projection on the street from the door mirrors. In fact, this is only car from Ford that does not sport the Blue Oval logo and it shall remain that way even for the India-spec models.

Ford says that the new Mustang features a new rear suspension setup that allows more shoulder and hip room for rear passengers. The boot also gets a bit more room and is capable of accommodating two golf bags. But, we all know that the Mustang was never meant to be a practical car.

Performance We headed to the Buddh International Circuit in Greater Noida near Delhi to drive the new Mustang. The race track, especially a F1 grade track is not necessarily the natural environment for the Mustang; a long, straight American highway is what you’d think up as being more appropriate. But, with Ford India deciding to bring the top-end 5-litre V8 engine for the India-spec version, the Mustang presented itself as a worthy pony for the day.

Press the start button and crank the engine and you are treated to a gurgling exhaust note, though Ford calls it a growl, we did feel that the note could have been appropriately louder for an American muscle car. Ford is bringing in only one engine and only one trim variant of the new Mustang for now. The powertrain includes the 4951cc V8 petrol engine mated to a 6-speed automatic transmission. The engine generates a peak power of 401PS and peak torque of 515Nm.

On the track, the Mustang’s engine spools up quick and power is delivered in a deluge. The red line is set close to 7,00rpm and since we had chosen the track mode and were shifting gears using the steering mounted paddles, there was a lot of operating range to play with in the powertrain. The track mode also switches off ESP (stability program) by default and it was quite difficult to resist the temptation of letting the Mustang slide a bit. But, even 401 horses are still a bit on the lower side to be able to push the Mustang all the way to its top speed of 250kmph on BIC’s long straight. Also, it was not surprising to find that the Mustang faced over-heating issues after being pushed hard on the track. Even road going super cars face similar problems on the track.

There are four other drive modes that the Mustang is offered with including normal, sport+ and snow/wet. The suspension has been extensively reworked compared to the previous generations’ and ride quality is expected to be less harsh compared to some of the other luxury sports or performance cars. There is the whole complement of safety features in the Mustang and there are a few other innovative connected features including Track Apps which helps drivers customise info regarding their time behind the wheel.

Bottomline The Mustang has been launched at an aggressive price of ₹65 lakh and the first batch is already sold out. At that price, the choices available are fairly few, though all three German luxury brands have interesting, competing models. But, for sheer American oomph the Mustang can’t be beat.