Sunday, November 4, 2012

Ford Mustang GT - Mighty Fun

The Ford Mustang is by now a classic model, known to all from its 48-year history of giving affordable power and motoring amusement to a vast number of folks. The car is approaching its half-century mark and new designs are being teased to avid readers, but meanwhile, the current car is probably the best Mustang ever.

If you're a true enthusiast and have the means, you can pick the mighty Boss 302 (nostalgically named and appreciated) and the $54,000 Shelby 500 road-going beast. However, you don't have to go quite that far to find excitement and muscle-car performance. Even the "regular" Mustang coupe and convertible feature a strong 3.7-liter V6 that puts out 305 horsepower and 280 lb.-ft of torque. Not bad, although the V6 model weighs in at 3,500 pounds.

My tester, however, was the 2013 Mustang GT, with its 5.0-liter V8, through the optional six-speed automatic transmission. Although a six-speed manual is standard, this automatic has a button on the shifter to allow manual gear selection (clutchless, of course). You can hold in the gear you want up to the redline, so it's up to you how you treat your engine and the other motorists.

I didn't use the manual shifting, as it wasn't really a benefit in my typical driving. I did, however, at the urging of my enthusiastic neighbor, take a ride out on the nice, curving back roads in my community and the car sticks great in the turns, powers out effortlessly, and provides a surprisingly comfortable ride while its doing it. And--this might not be good news for some folks--the V8 is well mannered and less macho than you might expect.

Fuel economy is decent, considering the level of performance here. The EPA gives the Mustang an average mpg of 20 (18 City, 25 Highway). I got 18.3, including my backroad antics, stop-and-go commuting, and occasional ventures past 65 on the freeway when it wasn't packed. The car's window sticker gives Air Pollution rating of 6 and a Green Gas rating of 5. That's right in the middle for a car that is much more fun and energetic than the average Camry or Accord. 

My Sterling Gray Metallic test car had the California Special package, which, for $1,995, adds custom mats, side and hood stripes, side scoops and a pedestal rear spoiler. That spoiler looks good and may have some modest effect at speeds over 100 mph (not attempted), but it does obscure the bottom half of any car following you. The original California Special featured T-bird taillamps and striping and badging, too, and is a collector's item today.

The Mustang's history began with Lee Iacocca's genius transformation of the Ford Falcon economy compact into a sporty car for everyone, but went through the "dressed up Pinto" phase before landing on Ford's midsize platform at the end of the 1970's. In the 1990's it regained some of its classic styling, and the latest car is perhaps the best looking ever. It's all there--the long hood, short deck, side scoops, triple taillamps, and good-looking wheels. Of course there's the horse in the grille, too. My car had the logo tucked into the driver's side of the grille--not center-mounted--but it was still undeniably a Ford Mustang even at a glance.

The interiors of Mustangs have not always been the most attractive or hospitable, but over the last decade or so dashboards have become more handsome and squeak-free, controls have the right heft, and the classic look--twin hoods, large circular gauges, pleated bucked seats, console shifter and plenty of Mustang logos--is there to enjoy.

One feature simply  amazed me. You may know that some cars offer "puddle lamps," which are lights that shine onto the ground from under the side mirrors. The idea is to help you see where you're stepping at night. The Mustang has them--and they are large, clear images of the Mustang horse logo.

The car is fine for travel, although the forward-projecting headrests caused me to recline the seatback more than I really wanted. The rear cushion reclines, but the entire seat can be angled electrically to help you find a good position. The rear seats are not for people--but are handy for carrying a jacket or briefcase. For me, the car was useless as a bass carrier. The interior was too tight for the big upright and the trunk, with its bulky subwoofer that comes with the optional Shaker Pro audio system, wouldn't even carry an electric bass guitar. The back seat served the purpose.

Mustangs have always come in a range of prices. My GT Premium tester, with its mighty engine and performance mission, base priced at $34,300, and by the time you add in the optional equipment, hit $40,230. The entry point for Mustang ownership is $22,995, including shipping.

With its long history, great looks, powerful engine, and reasonable entry price, the Mustang, built in Flat Rock, Michigan, is an all-American success story.




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