I drove the new 2017 Ford Mustang and couldn’t even start the engine

I’ve made a massive mistake.

I don’t know what I’m going to do.

I’m lost in the middle of the countryside with a dead car that costs far more than my annual salary and I have no way of getting in contact with anyone.

OK - let’s rewind a bit.  I’ve never driven a car as a journalist (well, I have... but the two were unrelated. I can drive and I am a journalist... that’s not important though). But I came to the middle of an English forest to drive the new Ford Mustang 5.0 V8 GT, a 5-litre beast of a car that had me not sleeping the night before, such was my excitement.

Usually the most-excellent John McCann writes these TechRadar Drives columns, looking at the hulking great behemoths of cars from a technology angle, the lucky beggar getting to try out hugely expensive new cars and pass judgement on them.

This is the tale a of a madcap driving simpleton being given access to an awesome car and failing massively with it

But I’ve barely driven a car that’s worth a fifth of this Mustang I’m sat in (the convertible V8 I had starts at £41,595), and certainly nothing this new... so if you’re reading this looking for a good, in-depth review of the car, you’re going to be disappointed. 

This is the tale a of a madcap driving simpleton being given access to an awesome car and failing massively with it.

From ego to zero

Goddamn my ego, the reason that, when I sat in the Mustang for the first time and the chap from Ford asked me if I know how everything works, I nodded viciously and saying ‘Yep, yep, yep...’ so dismissively, the desire to look like I knew what I was doing overriding any kind of sensibility.

Yeah, I know nothing about cars, but I’m good at driving and even I know Mustangs are cool, offering a visceral link to muscle cars of the past. And there’s me, a man who suddenly realizes he’s never driven an automatic, nor one with keyless entry and ignition. So I fiddle with connecting my iPhone to the sound system so nobody from Ford can wonder why I’ve not actually started the car.

I’m acutely aware this car is too much tech for me - and that’s making me feel terrible as tech journalist. But that doesn’t stop me loving the touchscreen, the booming sound system, pressing the ‘Start / Stop’ button and hearing a gutteral roar that literally makes me giggle.

Within seconds I’m on the road… and holy mother of all that is good and pure, I’m driving a 5-liter turbo through a leafy part of England.

I put my foot down (because I have to find out what that feels like as a PROFESSIONAL REVIEWER) and seconds later my giggle has turned to a guffaw. The power that kicks from behind me is so great that I’m actually pressed backwards into the seat and I don’t even want to tell you what the speedometer was reading out to me.

This very basic game of driving goes on for a long time, and I’ve barely touched any technology on it. John McCann has given me some things to look out for, in terms of the driving and parking assistance, but I can’t see where those functions are and I’m too busy making sure I don’t accidentally press the accelerator down too hard and crash into a hedge, ruining this expensive beast.

...wait, what’s that smell?

I pull over to the side of the road in a panic, thinking I’ve ruined this expensive beast. Have I been driving an automatic wrong? Was the handbrake on? 

After a couple of minutes of hardcore sniffing that would put a hopped-up police dog to shame, I realise what’s happened. The smell is a mixture of a warmed up, powerful engine, sitting in front of leather seats in a new car. Things I am not used to in my normal life.

I relax finally, and decide it’s time to take some pictures of this blue monster so I can share them with you. Every angle of this car confirms to me that it’s a) big and b) more expensive than I can afford… but you know what? Not actually as much as it should be.

I get back into the car ready to head back, sadness that the drive is nearly over (and my pretence that I’m cool enough to own a machine like this) welling up inside me. 

The mistake

That sadness turns to worry within seconds. I can’t get the thing started. And now we’re back to the present. I’m in a massive panic that dwarves smell-gate from a few moments previously.

I’ve made a massive mistake.

I don’t know what to do.

I go through the start procedure again and again. I hit the start button and then press the brake pedal when the dashboard tells me to. Nothing happens.

I realise there are many holes in my knowledge. Is there a special way to use keyless cars? Is the automatic gearbox set incorrectly? Is the handbrake on? WHY DID I NOT LET THEM TELL ME HOW TO USE THIS CAR?

10 minutes in and I’m really starting to worry. I don’t have any signal on my phone (thank you, countryside) and I don’t have any numbers of the Ford PRs saved anyway.

Even if I did, what would I say? ‘Hey… I’ve either broken your expensive car or I’m an idiot who can’t drive it’. Neither appeals, so I get out and walk around the Mustang, still enjoying the size but hoping that there’s a crank at the front that I’m supposed to turn or something.

Nope. Nothing on the outside that lets me know how to get it started. I feel so childish. I consider myself a great driver with a good idea of how to make things work, and yet I’m sitting here, on the verge of tears, wondering what I’m going to do because I’ve been outsmarted by a car.

A car so full of tech, so advanced, that I can’t even turn on the engine. I’m fully blaming myself for this encounter, berating myself for getting so far behind the times with car evolution that I’m unable to even drive the things any more, let alone work out where the lane tracking or parking assistance is.

I sit back in the car dejectedly and try again to get it started, one last futile attempt before I’m going to have to flag down another motorist and ask for their help.

MERCIFUL ZEUS, IT STARTS!

So… it turns out when you press the brake you need to also press the start button. Also, you should always listen to a man who offers to walk you through how an expensive car actually works before you get in.

I drive back carefully, the experience still chiding me the entire way home. (OK, not quite carefully… I do test how quickly I can get to 60mph from a standing start. It is muthaflippin’ quickly.)

As I roll the car into the drive of the hotel, I feel a mixture of grief and relief. I’m so happy that I managed to drive this car back, but sadness that I’m going back to a poo-brown Nissan Note 1.4 - and also that I came so close to having a bright blue paperweight because I’m so behind the times.

Would I buy the Ford Mustang? Hell yes. It’s actually pretty affordable for what it is. But I’ll check to see if they’ll also send someone to tell me how to work it… I now know I’m officially a car idiot, and that’s not something I can cure myself of.

  • John McCann (and for one week only, Gareth Beavis) is getting behind the wheel to give you an alternative look at the wealth of cars - and the tech inside them - available today. From superfast sports cars to tech-packed hatchbacks, he'll take you through a range of makes, models, power and price tags in his regular TR Drives column.