The base car's 4.0-liter/210-horse SOHC V-6 is a major improvement over the older model's six-cylinder engine, touting 23 more horsepower. Even with those gains, though, the Mustang really comes to life in GT form, with an all-aluminum, 4.6-liter/300-horse V-8-tremendous output for a car at this price and more than double the power of the 289-cubic-inch V-8 found in the classic 1964 model. Both modern engines can be mated either to a five-speed manual transmission or a five-speed automatic. While we wish there was an available six-speed manual, credit is due to the automatic transmission for matching the manual's performance.
Behind the Wheel
As you might expect, the GT is extremely quick, capable of running 0-60 mph in the low-five-second range, and it has all the right musclecar sounds, from both the engine and the throaty rear exhaust. On the road, however, this crowd-pleasing rumble radiates into the interior and can become tiresome. In contrast to past models, the base car's six-cylinder now provides reasonably brisk acceleration, even when matched up with the automatic transmission. Sourced from the truck side of the Ford family, where this powerplant motivates the Explorer and Ranger, the relatively coarse base engine doesn't replicate the free-revving smoothness of most Japanese V-6s.
The Mustang's manual gearbox is an all-new unit, with short, precise throws. The clutch is also new, with a less travel than before. Together, the new clutch and shift linkage make do-it-yourself gear changing vastly more pleasant than in the previous model. Like many sporty cars, the Mustang does not provide the smoothest ride, and the car sometimes hops a bit over bumpy pavement, due to its live-axle rear configuration. The base model's 16-inch wheels do a better job of blunting sharp impacts than do the 17-inch wheels and lower-profile tires on the GT. The downside to the base car's more comfortable ride, however, is greater understeer (a tendency to plow straight ahead rather than turn when cornering) in hard turns. While the Mustang's steering is neither as quick nor communicative as that of the best sports cars, the car handles predictably for the breed and exhibits very little lean in corners.
For those who are attracted by the rich history and retro-themed exterior but are wondering about the overall package, we can confirm that new Mustang is not just a show pony-there's real substance behind the style. Unlike Mustangs past, the six-cylinder base car is now a pleasant driver, even if it is more of a cruiser than a hard-charging sports car. The GT is truly fast, but it isn't a finesse machine. The convertible-which is available in either series-is a great way to go topless. Cost of Ownership varies widely depending on model and trim level, so it's crucial to check the latest IntelliChoice ratings before you buy.
Ford has successfully captured the magic that is "Mustang" in the all-new model, improving performance and refinement, yet retaining an attainable purchase price. The modern incarnation of the original pony car, the new Ford Mustang is pure American muscle, and it begs to be flexed.