The Boss 302 is still my favorite current Mustang, but now that I've spent a weekend with the revised, 2013 Mustang GT, I'm pretty sure I could live happily with it instead. My colleague Jake Holmes detailed all the changes that Ford made to the entire Mustang lineup for 2013 when he drove the cars back in March. Among the changes he mentioned were two new additional colors, Gotta Have It Green and Deep Impact Blue, which is what our test car wore. "Gotta Have It" is not a descriptive term that I would ascribe to the bright green paint, but I loved the blue-on-black combination. I also think the 2013 Mustang's subtle styling changes, especially to the front end, add a touch of, dare I say it, sophistication to this pony car. The newly standard HID headlamps are a welcome addition; I'm obsessed with headlight quality, and these are quite good on both low and high beam.
Our test car was also equipped with optional Recaro front bucket seats, complete with holes in the seatbacks for racing harnesses. The Recaros seem well worth the $1595 upgrade, as they are very comfortable and supportive without being confining, and they look sensational. For another $1695, our tester also had the Brembo brake package and a handsome set of nineteen-inch wheels shod with Pirelli PZero tires. Combine all this with a 420-hp V-8, a slick-shifting six-speed manual, and the famous 5.0 badge, and you're ready for some hot Mustang street racing.
There are two schools of thought in regards to the Mustang's live rear axle. Some people find it to be a charming anachronism, a key component of the Mustang's character and DNA. Others consider it to be an unacceptable dynamic compromise in a $40,000 sports car. I can see both sides of the argument. This morning, as I drove to work in a light rain, I was bemused by the GT's severe shuddering and skittering at the rear when I tried to accelerate into a hard left-hand turn at the end of an exit ramp, but this might get old pretty quickly. That said, in general, the 5.0 rides pretty well.
On dry pavement, the 5.0 is a hoot and a half. I'm not sure how anyone can own one of these cars without losing their license. I was accelerating hard through the gears everywhere I went, bursting to illegal speeds before I could even upshift into third. The engine sounds great, all deep and throaty, and if you happen to be listening to Avicii on the satellite radio BPM station, you're just gonna get egged on to drive even faster. You might want to toggle through the various screens in the new electronic display screen in the instrument cluster, to keep yourself occupied and less likely to drive like a maniac.
The revised Mustang has great street cred; it got appreciative once-overs from all manner of other motorists, and when I pulled into the drive-through drop-off station for Ann Arbor's very busy Salvation Army Thrift Store, the young guy who walked out of the warehouse to relieve me of my boxes of old clothing took one quick look and had two words of greeting: "Nice car."
I agree. Now if only I could achieve better than 13 mpg running around town in this blue bomber.
Joe DeMatio, Deputy Editor
I'm about to offer some complaints about the Mustang, but allow me to preemptively couch them in the fact that I personally recommend the GT to anyone and everyone looking to spend between $30,000 and $40,000 on a sports car. My own father has a 2012 Mustang GT in his garage. Sometimes he calls me just so that I can hear him rev the engine. It's a nice father-son moment.
Anyway, on to my whining. When will Ford address the glaring weaknesses of the Mustang's cabin? The steering wheel does not telescope, the gearbox is so close to the cupholder that you need to be double jointed if you happen to buy a medium coffee. The shifter itself is quite nice, with short, notchy throws, but even it is not perfect - the tight gate means you have to focus intently when going from sixth to fourth or from fifth to third gear. The location of one of the 12-volt outlets -- between the center air-conditioning vents -- seems convenient until you plug something in there and find that the cord inevitably gets in the way of the shifter, as well. On the brighter side, the Recaro seats on our model are a huge improvement and a very worthy option. I'm also able to do much more with Ford's Sync than I used to, probably because of my growing familiarity and fluency with voice-recognition systems (next up: Mandarin).
These complaints -- all of them -- fade to nothingness when the roar of that 5.0-liter V-8 fills the cabin and the Mustang chirps the tires in first, second, and (if you're really misbehaving) third gear. Then you remember that you're having a lot of fun for less than $40,000, and that Steve McQueen drove a Mustang in Bullitt. Would Steve McQueen have cared about cupholder placement?
David Zenlea, Assistant Editor
This car is great. I've known that since I first drove the fully redesigned 2005 Mustang, and Ford has continued to build upon that car's greatness since then.
V-8 Mustangs have a ravenous appetite for racetracks, so I was delighted that my first seat time in the freshened 2013 model came at GingerMan Raceway. The GT isn't quite as amazing on the track as the Boss 302 version, but it's close. A slight bump in the backstretch made 115 mph a bit unnerving, but otherwise I couldn't get enough of the 'Stang's rumbling soundtrack, tightly slick gearbox, and awesome power band. The grabby clutch and the brakes, which tended to fade after a few very hard laps, dimmed my enthusiasm only slightly, and I was happy to get the Mustang's keys for the long drive home.
During that drive, I discovered that the steering, which disappointed some of my track-driving colleagues for being too overboosted, is adjustable and that it was unfortunately set on Comfort mode during our track day. Resetting it to Sport mode added some welcome weight to the steering effort to the point that I was tempted to drive back to the racetrack for some more, um, testing.
I didn't have time to do that, but I did have the chance to notice that the information screen mounted between the tachometer and the speedometer is crooked. Watch out for this when you pick up your new 2013 Mustang, which I definitely recommend that you do. An all-new Mustang is due in about a year, but the current car is still definitely deserving of your hard-earned cash.
Rusty Blackwell, Copy Editor