2013 Ford Mustang GT Road Test Review

Simon Hill - CAP staff
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Eight years after the debut of the tremendously successful fifth-generation Mustang, and with an all-new sixth-generation version slated to arrive for 2015, Ford could easily be forgiven for letting the well-loved pony car rest on it laurels for a bit. But one look at the new 2013 Mustang and it's clear that standing still is not in the plan.

The most obvious changes are outside, where the Mustang's familiar profile has been updated with an aggressive new grille and hood that are reminiscent of the Shelby GT500, plus new HID headlights, new LED character lighting (including "pony projection" lights in the mirrors that project the Mustang emblem onto the ground when you unlock the doors), a selection of new wheel designs and a revised taillight design featuring smoked lenses and a gloss black panel between the taillights. There's a couple of new colours, too - one that's fairly subtle (Deep Impact Blue) and one that's anything but (Gotta Have It Green).

Inside, the 2013 Mustang gets a useful display screen that can show a range of information related to vehicle performance and economy, including track data such as G-forces, acceleration times and braking times. Optional interior equipment now includes Recaro sport seats, the same as in the Shelby GT500 and Boss 302, and a pair of new audio systems: a 370-watt eight-speaker system and a 550-watt nine-speaker system. I found my test car's Recaro seats to be supremely comfortable, both during aggressive cornering and when just loping along on long highway drives. As for the audio systems, my tester had the biggest of the bunch, the 550-watt system (which includes a trunk-mounted subwoofer), and it had plenty enough punch to satisfy any sane audiophile.

The changes continue under the hood, where Mustang's engineers have put to use some of the lessons they learned developing the Boss 302, and have revised the GT's 5.0-litre V8 engine to increase its output to 420 horsepower and 390 lb-ft of torque - an 8-horsepower bump over the 2012 model. In addition to the standard-equipment 6-speed manual transmission, all new Mustangs can also now be specified with a 6-speed "SelectShift" automatic that allows full manual control of the shifting with no "second guessing" of the driver's input according to Ford engineers.

I wasn't able to test out the SelectShift because my test car was fitted out with the 6-speed manual transmission, but this did give me an opportunity to check out another new feature for 2013: the standard hill-start assist for manual transmissions. I happen to live in a very hilly neighbourhood and found that the system worked seamlessly and unobtrusively in the background, holding the car firmly from rolling backward and letting go promptly as you engage the clutch and get the car rolling (this is unlike some systems I've experienced on premium European sports cars that can hold the brakes too firmly and require aggressive launches on hills).

Sadly I was wasn't able to take the GT out on the track, as that would be the only place to truly test out the V8's newfound horsepower. Even before the power bump, the "Coyote" V8 offered copious horsepower and torque across a wide power band. In its latest incarnation it makes that much more power and revs eagerly, allowing for a blistering 0-100 km/h acceleration time of 4.6 secs. But what stands out most about the engine is how effortless it makes it all seem, and how tractable and easy-going it is when loafing around town. This isn't some high-strung powerplant, but rather it's simply massively capable, with a pleasant rumbling exhaust note. It also turns in best-in-class fuel economy (at least when driven with restraint) at 12.2 / 7.6 L/100km in city/highway driving. The V6 Mustang likewise tops its class at 11.1 / 6.9 L/100km.

The GT's standard 6-speed manual transmission is a good fit with the engine, and is similarly capable but easy going. It's clearly a beefy gearbox with a solid, notchy feel to it, but it's also remarkably easy to shift, with a crisp and quick throw. The clutch is reasonably light and very easy to modulate when driving in a relaxed manner, though I found it a little harder to keep it smooth when accelerating hard (something I'm sure an extra week of practice would take care of).

Around the corners, the Mustang GT is well planted and develops good levels of grip, and the steering is quick and accurate. While the Mustang uses a live rear axle I found this to be of little consequence in the real world - on my favourite "fast sweeper with sharp bump" corner, my test car stepped out only imperceptibly, indeed less than some independently sprung cars I've driven.

In practical matters the Mustang continues to trump most of its immediate rivals. Its back seat is not roomy by any stretch, but unlike many sporty coupes it can realistically fit two adults. The trunk, too, is not especially commodious, but is bigger than most direct competitors and can fit a surprising amount of stuff (there are also 50/50 split folding seat backs for days when you need more luggage space).

With suggested pricing starting at $22,364 for the V6 coupe or $28,004 for the V6 convertible, and climbing to $33,608 for the GT coupe or $38,008 for the GT convertible, the Mustang represents great value in a performance car, certainly if you go easy on the options. On the other hand, if you want to go crazy there are plenty of goodies you can add onto your Mustang: My test car was outfitted with a wide array of options that bumped its price up by a whopping $9,900, including a $2,300 electronics package that added navigation and dual-zone air-conditioning, a $1,000 Shaker audio system, a $1,000 Recaro seat package, a $2,200 panoramic glass roof, a $300 rearview camera, a $700 security system, and a $2,200 GT performance racing package that added massive Brembo brakes, a Torsen limited slip differential and 19-inch aluminum wheels. All of this bought its price tag to $49,199, plus the $1,500 destination fee for a final sticker of $50,699 (which is actually a touch above the Boss 302's base price of $48,799).

Overall, if a sporty, powerful coupe - a pony car - is what you're looking for, the Mustang is certainly a must-see contender. It's the car that launched the pony car segment, and thanks to its continuous development the 5th-generation Mustang is still the stick that other pony cars are measured by. 
©(Copyright Canadian Auto Press)

Topics: Sports Coupe, Ford, 2013, Mustang GT, $30,000 - $39,999, $40,000 - $49,999,

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