The refreshed 2013 Ford Mustang V-6 isn’t a lightweight, tipping the scales with 3511 bred-in-America pounds. But despite its corpulence, it can accelerate, turn, and stop quicker than most of the competition. Take a look at the spec panel — 0-60 mph in 5.3 seconds, quarter mile in 13.9 seconds at 100.1 mph, lateral acceleration of 0.95 g, figure eight in 25.4 seconds, and 60-0 in 110 feet — and it’s evident the Mustang overachieves in almost every major objective test. The updated 274-horsepower 2013 Hyundai Genesis Coupe 2.0T R-Spec, for instance, trails the Mustang to 60 mph (5.7 seconds), in the quarter mile (14.2 seconds at 98.4 mph), around the figure eight (25.5 seconds), and in 60-0 braking (111 feet). Granted, the numbers are very close, and the Genesis, at 0.97 g, actually outgrips the Mustang, but the bottom line is that Ford’s pony car is the real deal. So how’d it get so real? Power — and a lot of it. With a 3.7-liter, 24-valve V-6, the Mustang puts out a lofty 305 horsepower and 280 lb-ft, or 138 more horses and twice the torque compared to a Miata. We’re talking about a 13-second car capable of a 100-mph trap speed that starts at under $23,000. But equally vital to its objective dominance are the Mustang’s super-sticky Pirelli summer tires, part of the optional $1995 performance package that also adds a 3.31 rear axle and handsome 19-inch alloys. “Undoubtedly, this Mustang is a highly capable car — thank you, Pirelli’” said associate road test editor Carlos Lago.
Given the numbers and niceties, our nuclear-waste-colored tester represents strong bang for the buck. But if high performance is your number-one objective, then the bang for the buck can get even better. For instance, pass on the Premium, stick with the base V-6 , and tack on the performance pack , and voila!, you have a 13-second pony car for under $25,000. Though the tires and engine make a nice performance pair, the chassis doesn’t quite relay their magic. The steering, while linear and nicely weighted, is like a talented conductor whose orchestra is always a note behind. Associate online editor Nate Martinez: “When spurring the Mustang, you end up waiting for your commands to be translated into actions. There’s just a ton of roll.” Associate editor Rory Jurnecka echoes those sentiments, but also points out what still makes the Mustang a satisfying machine. “It’s not very precise or nimble, but it is fun to hammer and slide it around the course, playing Dan Gurney or Parnelli Jones in the old Trans-Am series.” The next-generation Mustang, due out in a couple short years, is rumored to be a lot lighter than this car. We hope that rumor becomes reality, as 305 horsepower in a car weighing closer to 3000 pounds would be a game-changer for the Blue Oval. We also hope Ford’s icon finally loses its solid rear axle, since an independent setup would make the Mustang a more rewarding tool when exploring those last few tenths. With this current iteration, we experienced too many rear-end hops, skips, and bounces on the track and through the canyons. Still, there’s no doubt the Mustang V-6 is a quick car — like fast food, it makes you happy when you’re in a hungry and in a hurry — but it’s not as fulfilling as other performance coupes in its price class (think Subaru BRZ and Scion FR-S), and keeps reminding you that it needs to go on a diet.
Ford’s Mustang has been answering the cry “power to the people” for nearly a half-century, and this year that power dosage inches up another eight ponies in the GT, but that’s not important — anyone who says they can feel it is all bluster. What’s really cool about the 2013 Mustang — apart from its new exterior lighting — is that formerly exclusive high-performance hardware reserved for certain hard-core racer versions is now available on civilian models. The V-6 performance package can now be had with an automatic, while a new Track Package brings Boss 302 and GT500 items like a Torsen helical limited-slip differential and Recaro racing seats to the GT (with a manual trans). And automatic Mustangs at long bloody last get manual control with almost no second-guessing (it won’t execute a shift that would frag the motor). Let’s start with those eight extra horses, which nobody was clamoring for, but are welcome just the same. They were found in Boss 302-inspired calibration changes like making the spark retard a bit less conservative and deleting the oil-squirters that cooled the pistons but were deemed superfluous and a source of windage losses. We suspect there’s sufficient untapped bandwidth in the 5.0-liter to allow additional tweaks to GTs and Boss or other special edition models for years to come.
If the above hasn’t provoked a stampede toward dealerships, the styling revisions may. Up front, a body-color grille surround looks a bit like GT500s past, and high-tech HID headlamps flanked by LED accent strips and LED foglamps are now standard — further evidence of technology democratization. There’s a new chin splitter that reduces lift in a meaningful way, and GT models get functional heat-extracting hood vents. The rocker panels are now body-color to give the car a more substantial, hunkered-down look. But the coolest styling revision is the taillamps. “I almost got fired over those taillamps’” says chief engineer Dave Pericak, noting that with 12 LED circuit boards, they’re way spendier than a few two-element bulbs. For each of the six lamp elements, one board controls the outer taillamp set of diffused LEDs, and another controls the inner section for the braking or sequential turn signal functions. Oh, and the center board in the middle segments also lights the white reverse-lamps. Set in a gloss-black panel on all models, they look quite sinister — like vacant eye sockets.
Inside, a new 4.2-inch LCD info screen between the speedo and tach provides extra gauges featuring such arcana as cylinder head temperature and instantaneous air/fuel ratio (we observed 12-20), but only lists oil pressure as “normal.” This display also enables Track Mode displays like a lateral/longitudinal g circle (which you probably shouldn’t look at when generating big gs), and performance-testing screens for acceleration and braking. The former even includes a little dragstrip Christmas tree for a count-down start (but no, the results it provides do not subtract the one-foot rollout). Other new features: hill-start assist for manuals; more powerful Shaker and Shaker Pro stereos; selectable effort (three settings) power steering assist; and SYNC’s new App Link, which allows voice control of smartphone applications.