2015 Ford Mustang Expert Review:Autoblog
"It's just a V6 Mustang." That phrase, so often spoken with derision and disdain, has haunted owners of Ford's more affordable and economical pony car since roughly April of 1964. Even after Dearborn finally paid some attention to its entry-level muscle car by eliminating telltale V6 features – the company fit dual exhausts in place of the single-exit pipe in 2011, negating the budget offering's biggest visual giveaway – the car was still hard pressed to shake its reputation as a hairdresser's car and rental fleet queen.
For the Mustang's 50th year in service, Ford went back to the drawing board, we think with the distinct goal of eliminating the stigma of the non-V8 Mustang. While the V6 is still being offered (your local Avis and Enterprise lots wouldn't be the same without them), it's best to think of the new, four-cylinder, turbocharged Mustang EcoBoost as the entry-level model.
But will the addition of forced induction – from an engine that will see action in the upcoming, enthusiast-centric Focus RS, no less – be enough to appease those pony car fans that believe that only Mustangs with eight cylinders are worthy of the galloping stallion badge? After a week at the helm, we certainly think it is.
The new Mustang's looks have been covered ad nauseam. Chances are good that you either love the fastback styling, or you think the original pony car now looks a lot like a Fusion Coupe. We'll ignore the bigger styling remarks for the 2015 Mustang, and instead, focus on what's done right with the EcoBoost model.
Like the V6 before it, certain boxes are correctly ticked. Dual exhausts? Check. 18-inch alloys? Check. (Our EcoBoost Premium model even shares its wheels with the base GT). HID headlamps? Check. Up front, there's a surprisingly meaty chin spoiler while the muscular lines of the 'Stang's long hood tie in nicely with the fastback shape, which terminates in a neat rear spoiler. There's even a body-colored diffuser at the back, between the chromed exhaust tips. The bottom line is, unless you're a true Mustang aficionado, you'll be hard pressed to tell the difference between the turbocharged car and its 435-horsepower brother.
Simply sitting in the redesigned cabin isn't enough to give the EcoBoost away, either. The leather-trimmed seats (standard on the Premium trim) are cozy and supportive, with plenty of bolstering to help keep both driver and passenger in place while the 'Stang exhibits its newly enhanced cornering abilities. For the first time in recent memory, dropping $1,595 for the optional Recaro seats is no longer a no-brainer, as we found these seats quite pleasing as the miles and Gs piled on. Regardless of trim, a leather-wrapped steering wheel is standard, with its small diameter and thicker rim making it a willing accomplice during our testing.
Of course, where the EcoBoost really stands out from the GT is in all the real estate under that long hood. The compact 2.3-liter mill doesn't take up that much space, despite delivering a robust 310 horsepower and 320 pound-feet of torque, available in full at 3,000 rpm. For those keeping track at home, that's more power than the old 4.6-liter Mustang GT. Hell, at just over 3,500 pounds, this four-cylinder Mustang is lighter and more powerful than a six-cylinder BMW 435i.
If you've driven a lot of last-generation Mustangs, prepare to be surprised by the EcoBoost car. The Mustang's linear power delivery is bookended by some turbo lag at lower revs and boost that drops somewhat as redline approaches. Keep these two issues in mind, though, and the relatively quick-spinning 2.3 is an able partner, with strong, accessible power at the heart of the rev range, between 2,500 and 6,000 rpm. Estimates that the run to 60 miles per hour takes just a shade over five seconds seem correct to us after some hard pulls from a standstill. Sport mode sharpened the throttle appreciably and made for more aggressive behavior from the six-speed automatic, although there was little to complain about in either category in Normal mode.
It is worth noting that the coupe's 6AT is no longer some dullard. Rather than fitting in the Mustang recipe like a pickle in a crème brulee, the addition of the auto trans is more like relish on a hot dog – not everyone's favorite thing, but something that will be quite palatable to many drivers.
The 6AT is smooth and reasonably fast to upshift and downshift in normal mode, and it does so without any histrionics or drama. It's a different beast in Sport mode, though, where you can really dig in to the Mustang's first ever set of steering-wheel-mounted paddles. The engine blips on downshifts and delivers a restrained burp on wide-open-throttle upshifts, while tiny paddles come packaged with a clicky action that makes working them out a smile-inducing experience. We can even praise the actual automatic shifter – it looks and feels great, particularly in the way the metal release on top of the right-sized knob functions. It feels like a very premium item. Oddly, though, you can't use the shifter to operate the manual mode.
If only we could ignore the way it sounded. Even with technology like Active Noise Control, the simple fact is that the 2.3-liter is more Adam Sandler's Opera Man than Pavarotti. It might be loud and bellicose, but there's an artificiality and hollow character to the soundtrack that we'd just rather not put up with. It also has a tendency to drone at speed, although that's a widely recognized problem with high-output four-cylinders and is far from exclusive to the Mustang. Here's hoping Ford adds to the selectable driving modes with a dedicated setting for the ANC and exhaust.
Of course, the EcoBoost's soundtrack could simply be ignored by buying the V8, right? Well, sure. But you'd be missing out on what is sure to be one of the hidden benefits of the turbocharged Mustang – its poise and handling.
Much ado has been made about the long-awaited inclusion of an independent rear suspension for the 2015 Mustang. Before we get on with the obligatory tongue-wagging over the impact modern suspension technology is having on the way the pony car drives, we need to take a minute to praise the impact this aluminum four-cylinder has on the Mustang's handling character.
The EcoBoost automatic is roughly 200 pounds lighter than the 5.0-liter with the same transmission, with the vast majority of the weight savings found under the hood. Based on plenty of experience with the big engine in the last-generation car, there's reason enough to believe the pointy, sharp handling character we experienced will be exclusive to the turbocharged 2015.
That's not to say any version of the new Mustang will be lacking in the bends, though. Everything you've read about the transformative effect the all-new rear suspension and stiff chassis have had on Ford's latest muscle car is 100-percent truth. The first proper turn we took in our EcoBoost tester was just the sort of thing that'd have given a 2014 Stang fits – it was a severely pockmarked exit ramp north of the Chrysler Technical Center in Auburn Hills that swings widely right, then left before merging seamlessly with the main road by way of a tight right-hand sweeper. It never so much as fazed the Mustang EcoBoost.
The lane-spanning road imperfections and potholes were basically ignored in the 2015, while a 2014 over the same stretch would have been side-stepping and shuddering itself to pieces. Instead, it was like the EcoBoost simply smiled and asked us to add on more speed. The light nose led to an even sharper turn-in than we were originally expecting, although the minimal body motions, particularly in regards to roll, had us questioning whether we were driving an American muscle car or something more... European. It's absolutely astonishing, particularly if your last Mustang experience involved a solid-rear axle.
It was the feedback that really impressed, though. Our tester was a charmer through the bends, but it'd have all been for naught had it been aloof and uncommunicative. Instead, we were easily able to interpret what each corner of the car was doing as we surged through the turns, with plenty of chatter through the ample seats and leather-wrapped steering wheel. Indeed, the last Mustang your author drove that was this talkative had "Boss 302" emblazoned on its fenders.
All the praise being heaped on the new suspension has had the unintended side effect of overshadowing another area of massive improvement for 2015: the steering. Like the last-generation Mustang, the new car's front axle is influenced by an electric power-assisted steering system, although as our own Jonathon Ramsey noted in our original review on the Mustang GT, similarities between the two systems are few and very far between.
The new steering is the biggest beneficiary of the lighter EcoBoost in the nose, as its already solid manners are amplified by the lack of fat over the front axle. The on-center dead zone that typified last year's car has been replaced by sharp and immediate turn-in, while weight builds linearly from lock to lock. Like the suspension, you'll need to glance at the pony badge on the nose and remind yourself you're driving a Mustang.
Generally, we'd mention the brakes at this point, although the standard binders on our tester hardly came up for either criticism or praise. The pedal was easy to modulate from tip-in into full on, and didn't deliver too much feel overall, while the 12.5-inch rotors at each corner had no issues bringing our tester to a halt. Frankly, this is one of those areas that people will either, A, not concern themselves with or, B, automatically select the Brembo stoppers (put us in the latter category, despite the basic goodness of the standard brakes).
Ford quotes the EcoBoost automatic hardtop at 21 miles per gallon in the city and 32 mpg on the highway. While your author's heavy foot shouldn't be taken as gospel, we imagine most owners will be matching the high teens we experienced during our week with the car. Those seeking a 32-mpg Mustang, meanwhile, better be spending all their time on the interstates.
While you can get a Mustang EcoBoost for $25,300, you'd be a fool to do so. Instead, you want the $29,300 Premium trim, which adds as standard Sync with MyFord Touch, Selectable Drive Modes, heated, vented and powered leather seats, dual-zone climate control, ambient lighting, a nine-speaker stereo with SiriusXM and HD radio and heated side mirrors. You'll also need to opt for the Premium if you want to add things like the twelve-speaker Shaker stereo, blind-spot monitoring or the 50 Years Appearance Package. Regardless of which EcoBoost trim you ultimately choose, plan on dropping $1,195 for the six-speed automatic gearbox, if that's your thing.
Our particular car rang up at $35,665, including an $825 destination charge. That includes the aforementioned Premium trim and automatic transmission, as well as $1,795 for the Rapid Spec 201A pack (Shaker audio, blind-spot monitoring and a memory function for the power seats), $1,195 for adaptive cruise control, $295 for rear parking sensors, $795 for navigation capability on MyFord Touch and $395 for the Enhanced Security Package (wheel locks and an anti-theft system). While the vehicle shown in these photos features the EcoBoost Performance Pack, the car we tested for this review did not have the $1,995 option group, which adds larger 19-inch wheels, a stiffer rear sway bar, firmer front springs, larger brakes, enhanced cooling systems and unique setups for the stability and traction control and steering.
For the first time in a long time, we can recommend, wholeheartedly, that you should buy a Mustang without the V8. It's very, very good. But more than that, it feels like something unique and exciting, rather than merely playing second fiddle to the 5.0-liter GT. People are still going to give you flak for buying the turbo rather than the V8. Just ignore them, though, because at the end of the day, you'll be driving a 3,500-pound, turbocharged, rear-drive coupe with 310 horsepower. The Mustang badge on the nose is just a bonus.
New Car Test Drive
With more refinements for 2013, it keeps getting better.
The 2013 Ford Mustang features a facelift and comes out bigger, bolder, cleaner. It's a change, not just a tweak. The 2013 Mustang resembles a Steve McQueen Bullitt Mustang, its mouth shaped more like '70 Mustang than a '65.
The Mustang was redesigned for 2005 and got rave reviews for its looks, totally capturing the old Mustang but still looking contemporary. The styling tweaks since then have made it even better, and that holds true for the 2013 Mustang.
A black eggcrate grille opens wide over the bumper, with a clean and full chin, fascia, and air intakes, and just a tidy flat-black horizontal spoiler at the lip. The triangular rear window masterfully evokes the roofline of original '65 Mustang, replacing its fake louvers with glass.
We're less enthusiastic about the interior of the 2013 Mustang. Reviews all end up saying that the materials are okay considering the price of the car, remember it's only a Mustang, and we can't argue. The steering wheel lacks imagination, and that's disappointing.
However the cloth seats are great; cloth can easily be a deal-breaker, and in the Mustang it's not. In fact, the cloth seats fit better than the leather, maybe because they grip better. The optional Recaro seats in either cloth or leather are excellent. There's good head and leg room up front, and visibility through the windshield is good, especially for a low-slung coupe. There's considerably more room and better visibility in the Mustang than in the Chevrolet Camaro.
Naturally, the two-passenger rear seat is no place for adults. Rear-seat headroom is limited by the rake of the coupe roof, and leg room is minimal, even with the front seats moved forward. That comes with the territory of such a car and its shape and is a small price to be paid for such proportions.
The retro instrument panel in the V6 and GT models clings too hard to the theme, we think. Having retro instrumentation on a car with modern performance like the Mustang is like having a telephone with a cord. The optional Shaker audio system is acoustically superb. Ford's SYNC system works well to choose music, but we had trouble operating it with voice commands.
The Mustang convertible has a power fabric top and glass rear window. Trunk space in the convertible is reduced to 9.6 cubic feet, from 13.4 cubic feet in the coupe. The coupe has standard 50/50 fold-down rear seats that vastly expand the cargo space, by opening the trunk all the way to the front seatbacks.
The V6 makes 305 horsepower, more than V8 muscle cars, and it does not sound like your father's V6. It's a fairly high-revving engine, reaching its horsepower peak at 6500 rpm and its torque peak at 4250 rpm, so it's good to play with. The manual transmission is the way to go if you like to play, because it's so good. And the manual comes with Hill Start Assist, so no worries about coasting backward when starting off on a steep hill. The automatic, meanwhile, does have a manual-shift feature it's awkward to use.
The Mustang V6 is EPA-rated at 19/31 miles per gallon City/Highway. However, we didn't get anywhere near that, running it hard on twisty two-lanes.
Mustang GT has a smooth, rumbling and growling 5.0-liter V8 engine. And with 420 horsepower and 390 pound-feet of torque, it snaps your neck on the way to a quarter-mile time of about 13 seconds flat. That's quicker than the Chevrolet Camaro SS, even with its huge 6.2-liter engine and 426 horsepower. But the Mustang is 230 pounds lighter, and that makes a big difference in acceleration, also handling.
The Boss 302 makes 444 horsepower with the same engine. But if you order the Track Package and Recaro Package on the GT, you can get most of the Boss for much less of the money. However the Boss has non-retro instrumentation, that's way cleaner. And it's a Boss 302.
Brakes are good. Ford engineers have revised the braking system of the Flex, Taurus, and Mustang, and the feel is powerful without being overly sensitive. And with the Boss 302 and Shelby GT 500, when you increase the size of the front rotors to 14 inches and add four-piston and six-piston calipers by the Italian company Brembo, you've got the best stopping power money can buy.
The chassis and electronic power steering is adjustable to Comfort, Standard or Sport. The names of the modes are apt. Comfort mode kept the ride comfortable when driving over rough pavement, Sport mode improved responsiveness on winding roads. We found the electronic stability control effective without being intrusive.
The 650-horsepower Shelby GT 500 joins the 2013 Mustang lineup. You read that right, 650 horsepower.
The Mustang could be a four-wheel football team, with its lineup of 11 cars: Mustang V6 ($22,200), V6 Premium ($26,200); V6 Convertible ($27,200), V6 Premium Convertible ($31,200); Mustang GT ($30,300), GT Premium ($34,995); Mustang GT Convertible ($35,500), GT Premium Convertible ($39,300); Boss 302 ($42,200); Shelby GT 500 ($54,200), Shelby GT 500 Convertible ($59,200). (All prices are Manufacturer's Suggested Retail Prices, which do not include destination charge and may change at any time without notice.)
Mustang V6 models use Ford's 3.7-liter engine making 305 horsepower, and a 6-speed manual transmission standard, with 6-speed SelectShift automatic optional. Also standard are a 2.73 rear axle ratio, 17-inch aluminum wheels, electronic power steering, stainless steel dual exhaust, HID headlamps, LED taillamps, capless fuel filler, manual air conditioning, tilt steering wheel with controls, cloth seats, and 50/50 rear folding seats (not convertible).
The V6 Performance Package includes a strut-tower brace, larger front sway bar and SVT rear sway bar, stiffer front springs, upgraded brake calipers with performance pad, 19-inch painted aluminum wheels, 255/40R19 summer-only tires, higher stability control calibration, black side mirrors, 3.31 rear axle, and unique engine cover (manual transmission only). There's also an Equipment Package ($295) and Tech Package ($1295). For the Premium models, there's a Comfort Package and Electronics Package.
Mustang GT models use a 5.0-liter V8 making 420 horsepower and 390 foot-pounds of torque, with the same transmission selection, 3.73 rear axle, and 18-inch aluminum wheels. Equipment and options closely match the V6 packages. The Premiums have reclining front bucket seats, a Shaker audio system, and ambient lighting.
Boss 302 uses a pumped-up version of that V8, with 444 hp and 380 foot-pounds, and 19-inch aluminum wheels. Also Brembo front brakes with four-piston calipers on 14-inch rotors, adjustable shocks, 3.51 rear axle ratio, four-gauge cluster, suede wrapped steering wheel, dark aluminum instrument panel, unique Boss cloth seats, side and rear exit exhaust system, rear spoiler, classic Boss 302 striping, grille, front splitter and engine cover. Recaro cloth is optional, as is a Laguna Seca track package ($6995).
Shelby GT 500 coupe and Convertible mean business with a 650-horsepower and 600-foot-pounds 5.8-liter supercharged intercooled V8, mated to a Tremec 6-speed manual transmission, with 6-piston Brembo calipers on 14-inch front rotors. Bilstein electronic adjustable dampers, 3.31 rear axle ratio, Torsen differential, black-vented aluminum hood, GT 500 striping, and Shelby Cobra front fascia, splitter, and spoiler. Also creature comforts such as leather seats, ambient lighting, LCD message center, suede steering wheel, satellite radio. With the SVT Performance Package ($3495), a Shelby GT 500 is capable of, gulp, 200 miles per hour. Extra oil coolers, aerodynamics, and 20-inch wheels.
Safety equipment on all Mustangs includes front and front side airbags, stability control, anti-lock brakes, tire pressure monitor, and Ford's MyKey system, which allows car owners (parents) to limit the speed and sound system volume, when they hand the keys over to others (teenagers).
The looks of the Mustang keep evolving nicely. It was the best looking of the reborn retro machines when it was redesigned in 2005, and it's only gotten better looking since then.
For 2013, Mustang gets another facelift, with a stronger and cleaner grille and front fascia, incorporating the air intakes and doing away with all the flat-black plastic from before. New HID projector-beam headlamps have two LED streaks at their sides, a look that will take getting used to.
The sequential LED taillamps are another matter, instantly pretty on the nice rear end that's true to '65 Mustang. At the rear, there's new body-colored fascia on the 2013 Mustang, again replacing flat black pieces (good riddance). Another improvement for 2013 is the loss of the flat-black rockers; they're now body-colored and grownup. And there are many new wheel designs for 2013.
Overall, the 2013 Mustang looks tougher and more Mustangy than ever. The combination of open-mouthed grille and bulging hood gives the 2013 Mustang muscular distinction. The GT boasts real black vents, in the bulging hood over its beefy 5.0-liter V8. The chrome Mustang galloping horse logo against the black eggcrate grille, on the base V6 model, also looks hot, and traditional. The foglamps go inside the grille like bookends on the silver horse, also just like 1965.
The sideview mirrors do something cool: when the unlock button on the remote is pressed, an image of a galloping horse in white LED light appears on the ground like a spotlight on a stage.
The small triangular rear window is a stroke of design brilliance, and makes the roofline sleek. It's wonderfully and totally true to the 1965 Mustang fastback, which used vertical fake louvers in that triangular roofline sweep.
The twin wide stripes on the 2013 Shelby GT that's coming in summer of 2012 are classic. Some of the other graphics packages are dubious. But you could for example get a V6 and add Shelby wide stripes. Casual glances won't know it's not a V8 under the hood. And not when you accelerate away, either.
There are two new colors for 2013: Deep Impact Blue and Gotta Have It Green, which is kind of mellow in a loud green kind of way. Our favorite color is still Grabber Blue, which on another continent would be French Racing Blue. And then there's black, and Mustangs always look GREAT in solid black, it's one of the many reasons it's easy to buy one. Ford makes it easy to stand out in style with a Mustang.
There are many styles of wheels mated to the 11 different models. Some are lovely, some we're not crazy about. We will say that the 18-inch painted aluminum wheels that were on the Mustang GT Premium we drove were gorgeous.
The 2013 Mustang interior doesn't keep up with the exterior, which is disappointing. The standard steering wheel, even on the Boss 302 and Shelby GT 500, looks like it was borrowed from some nondescript sedan; we wish Ford had instead borrowed the lovely steering wheel from the new Taurus SHO.
The trim and soft plastic on the dash are appealing, especially in faux aluminum, though there are some hard plastic bits, namely in the doors, and flimsy plastic hinges on things. The overall shape of the dash is undramatic, but the dash layout and switch panels are uncomplicated and effective. Most controls are big buttons, although climate and radio are big knobs. Premium and up models have standard ambient lighting in five selectable colors.
We think retro instrumentation has worn off. We don't really care to be reminded of the 1970s every time we look at the speedometer or tachometer, and that's what you get with the V6 and GT. On the Boss and Shelby, the numbers on the gauges aren't retro, and they're way more pleasing. We like how Ford pulls off the exterior retro style, but instruments are another matter. You don't just look at them, you use them. Retro-looks good, retro function bad.
On the base Mustang V6, you get a small fuel and temp gauge, inserted into the speedo. There's also what Ford calls a four-gauge cluster, which is digital information in a box between the retro speedo and tach. But it's distracting to have to click arrows on the steering wheel to read the numbers called a gauge.
On some models the 4.2-inch LCD screen between the tach and speedo provides more vehicle information, accessed by using that five-way button on the steering wheel. It displays not only basic information, but test-pilot things like air/fuel mixture and cylinder head temperature. It features Track Apps, which displays g-forces, shows acceleration times in quarter-mile and 0-60 increments, and reveals braking times. It also does automatic and countdown starts. It's a toy, not a need, nor is it much use for most drivers.
The cloth bucket seats that come standard are terrific. They hug the body with material that's rugged. The leather seats on the Premium models don't seem to be shapely enough or have enough bolstering for the Mustang expectation. However, the optional Recaro seats available for on all models in cloth or suede are so great that we'd say they're a good investment, if not necessity.
For a rumbling V8, the Mustang GT is quiet inside, and the V6 is even quieter. So the Shaker Pro audio system can blow your head off. Like Ford says, a complete acoustic experience that simulates being at a live performance. There are two Shaker sound systems; in the Mustang GT Premium it's eight speakers and six channels, while the Shaker Pro with nine speakers was found to be so loud during testing that extra sound-absorption material was added to the Mustang.
Ford's problematic MyFordTouch is missing but not missed in the Mustang. However there is SYNC with voice command, which works well to choose music. Voice-activated navigation is available on upper models.
Drivers of all sizes should be able to find a comfortable seating position. The steering wheel tilts, although it doesn't telescope, and we wish it would. There's good head and leg room up front, and visibility through the windshield is good, especially for a low-slung coupe. There's considerably more room and better visibility than in the Camaro.
Naturally, the two-passenger rear seat is no place for adults. Rear headroom is limited by the rake of the coupe roof, and leg room is minimal, even with the front seats moved forward. That's nothing new. It comes with the territory of such a car and its shape. Small price to be paid for such proportions.
The side mirrors have convex blind-spot panels in their top outer corner, a rearward visibility solution that we like at least as much as electronic blind spot lights and beepers with all their false alarms. The coupe's rear pillars don't block over-the-shoulder visibility, but it's hard to see out the back in the convertible with the top up. The optional back-up camera and reverse sensing system help. The Mustang has a lower beltline than the Camaro, allowing better visibility to the sides. The advantage became especially apparent when we compared a Mustang and a Camaro on an autocross course. We could easily see the cones from inside the Mustang, but not from inside the Camaro.
The Mustang convertible comes uses a power fabric top and glass rear window. The top is released with two slick latches within the driver's reach. The top and frame drop behind the rear seats. The vinyl tonneau cover must be installed manually, and costs an additional $160. The convertible top's storage space also reduces trunk volume nearly one-third. The Mustang coupe's trunk has 13.4 cubic feet of cargo space, which is comparable to that in a compact-to-mid-size sedan. The opening isn't particularly big and the lift-over is high, but the coupe's 50/50 fold-down rear seats expand cargo volume substantially.
We were able to get decent seat time in four Mustang models: a 3.7-liter V6 Premium with manual and automatic transmission and a 5.0-liter V8 GT Premium with manual and automatic.
The Mustang V6 is EPA-rated at 19/31 miles per gallon City/Highway, but we didn't get anywhere near that, running it hard on twisty two-lanes. With 305 horsepower, it's more powerful than the V8 of just a few years ago. It's called TI-VCT, for Twin Independent Variable Camshaft Timing, a system that precisely times the valve openings to increase power, throttle response and fuel mileage, while reducing emissions.
The V6 is fairly high-revving, reaching its horsepower peak at 6500 rpm, while its 280 foot-pounds of torque peak at 4250 rpm, so it's good to play with. The V6 will get you down the road as fast as a driver needs to go, 0 to 60 in the low 5-second range.
Almost as good, there's a new exhaust system that makes it sound like more like a V8. The V8 rumble isn't quite there, but the wimpy whine of a V6 isn't there either. If the V6 is as fast as a driver needs to go, it's not necessarily as fast he or she wants to go.
The Mustang GT with its 5.0-liter engine making 420 horsepower and 390 foot-pounds of torque will do 0 to 60 in the mid 4-second range. But we don't want to quantify the kick-ass acceleration of the Mustang models with numbers. We've got fast (V6), faster (V8 GT), faster-plus (Boss 302), and scary fast (Shelby GT 500).
The Mustang GT, with its smooth, rumbling and growling engine, feels more like an old-school Mustang. And with 420 horsepower and 390 foot-pounds of torque, it snaps your neck right quickly, on the way to a quarter-mile time of about 13 seconds flat. That makes it a couple tenths quicker than the Chevrolet Camaro SS, even with Chevy's big 6.2-liter engine and 426 horsepower. But the Mustang is 230 pounds lighter, and that makes a big difference in acceleration.
Now try 444 horsepower in the Boss 302. But you don't need to. In fact, you can get the Track Package and Recaro Package on the GT, and end up with most of the Boss for a much lower price. Do the math, and it's 95 percent of the horsepower. What you don't get, is the grown-up non-retro instrumentation with the Boss.
We give both the 6-speed manual and 6-speed automatic transmissions the highest marks, but we especially love the manual. It's tight, has a short throw, delivers secure shifts every time, is easy to heel-and-toe, and it's totally tolerant of aggressive downshifts. You'll love shifting this Mustang so we say go for the manual and stay true. The manual comes with Hill Start Assist, which makes choosing it easier. No worries about rolling back when starting off on a steep incline.
And we love and appreciate the pure programming for the 6-speed SelectShift manual automatic. We highly praise Mustang engineers for recognizing that sporty drivers do not like to have their wishes ignored by their manual automatic transmission, nor do they like being told what to do by their manual automatic transmission. The SelectShift is literal; it shifts into the gear you select. It won't downshift in a curve on you, or upshift before you want it to.
However, we hate the ergonomics of the SelectShift. Shifts are made with a button on the lever that's much too hard to reach. Up or down, you shift gears with your right thumb, using one small button on the left side of the shift lever. Your thumb has to find the right spot on the button each time, often quickly, when your hand really needs to be on the steering wheel. But even if your thumb lands on the right spot, your elbow has to be raised and your wrist cocked, to better orient your thumb joint. If only the SelectShift simply worked lever-forward and lever-back, like others, it would be acceptable, although paddles would be even better. This one is a deal breaker. The Camaro has paddle shifters, and the Dodge Challenger shifts by moving the lever from side-to-side, as it has since 1996, when Dodge invented manual-automatic shifting in the Stratus sedan.
Brakes are good. Ford engineers have revised the braking system of the Flex, Taurus, and Mustang, and the feel is powerful without being overly sensitive, for all of them. And with the Boss and Shelby, when you increase the size of the front rotors to 14 inches and add four-piston and six-piston calipers by the Italian company Brembo, you've got the best.
As for ride quality, the chassis on both the V6 and GT is adjustable to Comfort, Standard or Sport, and that pretty much takes care of it. The electronic power steering gets adjusted in the bargain. We ran it in Comfort over patchy two-lanes and in the city, and it was comfortable; we ran it in Sport when we picked up the pace on two-lanes, and were pleased with its steady responsiveness, even on wet corners. There was one IndyCar driver there with the journalists, and in his review he trashed the handling as either pushing at the front wheels or loose at the rear wheels, sometimes both in the same corner; we don't doubt him one bit, but we wonder how hard you have to drive the car to feel that. He added, by the way, that for a car of the Mustang's price, the power and handling were exceptional. And that's what we'll say.
Another thing we liked was the programming of the stability control. It was effective, without being intrusive at any time. We threw the tail out on purpose, a number of times, and hammered the throttle expecting the tires to spin on the wet road, but the gas was not taken away from the driver, just invisibly modulated. Great job, Ford.
With 11 models ranging from 305 hp and about $23k to 650 hp and $60k, if you like Mustangs at all, there's one for you. The entry level Mustang V6 Coupe with a manual 6-speed transmission is a big winner for the price, and with a few options it can be made better than any muscle car of old. The Mustang GT with its 5.0-liter V8 is the rumbling Mustang we all know and love. The Boss 302 and Shelby GT 500 are 21st century muscle cars, both offering tremendous performance for the price.
Sam Moses filed this NewCarTestDrive.com report after his test drives of the Mustang models along the Oregon coast.
Ford Mustang V6 ($22,200), V6 Premium ($26,200), V6 Convertible ($27,200), V6 Premium Convertible ($31,200), GT ($30,300), GT Premium ($34,995), GT Convertible ($35,500), GT Premium Convertible ($39,300), Boss 302 ($42,200), Shelby GT500 ($54,200), Shelby GT500 Convertible ($59,200).
Flat Rock, Michigan.
Options As Tested
Pony Package ($995) includes special trim, auto headlights, fog lights, rear decklid spoiler, special floor mats, 18-inch polished aluminum wheels; Reverse Sensing System/Security Package ($695); Comfort Package ($650) includes six-way power passenger seat, heated front seats, heated mirrors with Pony projection lights.
Ford Mustang V6 Coupe Premium ($26,200).
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