Steve Turner
Former Editor, 5.0 Mustang & Super Fords
July 6, 2012
Photos By: Ford Motor Company

For some this stretch in the product cycle is just a means to getting to the next all-new model. For those of us in the enthusiast trenches, this is when the cars really start to hit their stride. Often the sins of early production are forgiven, and unexpected features spring up to tempt us into an interim purchase.

Ford obviously viewed the introduction of the 2013 Ford Mustang as somewhat of a secondary launch. As throngs of media hit the dreary streets of Portland, Oregon, to drive this car, their attention was also diverted to the new Flex, Taurus, and Mustang. Certainly those other Fords are nice rides, but for us the Mustang is far more than an afterthought. Thankfully for us and the other temporary denizens of Portlandia, the Mustang engineers maintained focus and revamped the Mustang with numerous surprise and delight features that easily distance it from the outgoing '12 'Stangs. Yes, it seems that our friends in engineering are enjoying their jobs so much that the contagious enthusiasm spills over onto the order sheet in the form of myriad tweaks and options.

Naturally, the '13 Mustangs will be largely known for their cosmetic changes. That's how it is at this stage of the product cycle, but in this case, the changes are more immediately accessible than any styling refresh in recent memory. Obviously the designers spent some time copying from SVT's notebook, but they have successfully fused the everyday world with the Special Vehicle moxy--though the GT500 could have used a bit more differentiation, but that's a topic for another story.

So the front fascia is better, and the taillights are night and day. How does it drive? In practice it would be silly to say that we could feel that extra 8 horsepower. It's near the top of the tach, and that comes up in a hurry in a GT. Suffice it to say these might be a bit quicker, but you'll never know it. However, the last car's power was invigorating, and this one isn't taking a step back.

Likewise, much of the driving experience is familiar. The GT handles well--really well. It's not quite the balanced precision of the Boss 302, but it's still leagues ahead of Mustangs built just a few years ago. Throw in options like Brembo brakes and adjustable EPAS and this is a driver's car.

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On our brief sprint down the Oregon trail, we had to run on all-season tires in deference to the wild changes in the Pacific Northwest's weather. That said, the car still acquitted itself well on the wet, slippery surfaces. From the reassuring embrace of the optional Recaros to the extra braking, this car was just fun.

Unfortunately, our time in the car was just that--a sprint. We were on a short timetable and had to work in time to snap photos, so we didn't get to try all the new options and variations available to the car.

Several of these bear a more in-depth experience, and none deserves more seat time than the new Track Apps. We briefly played with gauge mode and the g-force measurements, but the environs didn't lend themselves to testing the acceleration app. We can't wait to do a quarter-mile run using this function. Likewise we didn't get to sample Shaker Pro or the Select-Shift automatic, though prevailing opinion is that the Mustang deserves paddle shifters as much as the SHO does.

In any case, rest assured that we made good use of our time in the Mustang, but note we're still left wanting to experience the wide variety of choices available. That they are compelling enough that we're left wanting more is a testament to the magnetic appeal of the '13 Mustang.

If you held off on buying a new 5.0 Mustang for the last couple of years and you're in the market now, you'll be glad you waited. The car is better. The options are more prevalent, and the only problem you'll have is deciding how you want to order it.

Horse Sense: As you may have gathered in prior issues of this magazine, deleting the piston-oiling jets was a running production change on the later '12 5.0 Mustangs. What that means to owners of those cars is that they are a few horsepower happier than '11-'12 5.0 'Stangs built prior to the change. However, they don't make it all the way up to the 420 hp of the '13 5.0s.

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Performance Packed

We were excited to make a short drive in a V-6 Mustang with the Performance Pack option, but we'll admit our impression was somewhat mixed. After a steady diet of GTs, the V-6 revs OK but lacks the Coyote's low-rpm hit, of course, and we suppose we've become addicted to that hit.

We also noticed the 3.7-liter annoyingly hangs on to its rpm between shifts, and when pushed, the V-6 is thrashier sounding. However, the power is actually entertaining as long as you keep the rpm up. If twisting back roads or open-track duty is part of your fun, the V-6 will hold your interest there. If quick squirts on the street or dragstrip are your style, not so much.

Handling was quite good; had we been on more challenging roads, we might have thought it excellent. Still, the perceived reduction in front axle weight wasn't as strong as we'd hoped, and if we had a V-6 in our garage we'd be eyeballing Boss 302 chassis parts as bolt-ons.

All said, the V-6 has all the refinement inherent in a '13 Mustang and would make a great second car in a Mustang household. Clearly the pricing, insurance costs, and fuel savings are significant incentives, and with some electronic help to rid it of the hanging rpm during high-engine-speed shifts, it would be a great platform to play with or simply put a touch of pizzazz into the daily commute.--Tom Wilson

Feeling Special

There was a time in Mustang history, from the later '90s through the early '00s, that we had only a few Mustang models from which to choose. Ford built loads of trick show cars, but few if any made it to the production stage. My how things have changed.

We all know about the Boss and GT500, but now there are so many models available that even we have a hard time keeping track of them all--and that's a great thing.Perhaps even more impressive is that even the base Mustang is available in a number of configurations that exceed the base car.

A long-running option for the sixer is the Pony Package (202A), which delivers a unique grille, striping, badging, and polished wheels. It's that little extra.

For hardcore Mustangphiles, there's the Mustang Club of America Special Edition (203A). This ride gets the requisite MCA logos as well as a billet grille, Sterling Gray Metallic Painted aluminum wheels, a unique fascia with foglights, and more.

Atop any V-6 coupe--save the Pony Package or, curiously, one with white stripes--you can add the highly desirable V-6 Performance Package (67B). We've long wanted this on the order sheet and it's here. It gets you all the brakes and suspension of a GT on a V-6. You also get 19-inch Foundry Black wheels, Performance Friction brake pads, 3.31 gears, and even a unique stability control calibration. For more on that package, check out Tom Wilson's thoughts in our Performance Packed sidebar.

On the V-8 side of things, there is an even more aggressive performance package called the Track Pack (55R), which gets you Brembo brakes, additional cooling, and a Torsen diff. And you can add this to most coupes, however it's not all go on the V-8 side. You can also still order the California Special (402A) and this year it retains the vaunted 5.0 badge. If you select the fetching Cal Special, you'll gain unique badging, stripes, seats, sidescoops, and much more. You also get special Black Painted/Machined-Aluminum Wheels.

In short, we're only scratching the surface of the available options. This is a wonderful Mustang era; you really can order a Mustang to suit your own unique personality.

5.0 Tech Specs

2013 Mustang GT

Engine and Drivetrain
Block Low-pressure-cast, 319 aluminum; pressed-in, thin-wall iron liners
Crankshaft Forged steel, fully counterweighted, induction-hardened
Rods Powered metal forging, I-beam, no balance pad
Pistons Cast aluminum
Camshafts DOHC, four camshafts, independently adjustable timing
Cylinder Heads Aluminum, four valves per cylinder
Intake Manifold Composite shell-welded with runner pack
Fuel System Port fuel injection, returnless
Exhaust Stainless steel tubular headers w/ 2.75- to 3-in exhaust
Transmission Getrag MT-82 six-speed manual w/ Hill Assist Start
Rearend 8.8-in w/ limited-slip differential and 3.73 gears

Electronics
Engine management Copperhead
Ignition Coil-on-plug
Gauges MyColor w/ 4.2-inch LCD productivity screen

Suspension and Chassis
Front suspension
K-member Stamped steel
A-Arms Reverse-L
Struts Independent MacPherson strut
Springs Coil
Brakes 13.2-in vented discs w/ twin-piston, 43mm, floating aluminum calipers
Wheels 19x9-in Dark-stainless, Premium painted- aluminum wheels
Tires Pirelli P Zero 255/40-R19
Rear suspension
Shocks Independent MacPherson strut
Springs Coil
Control Arms Three-link
Brakes 11.8-in vented discs w/ single-piston, 43mm, floating iron calipers
Wheels 19x9-in Dark-stainless, Premium painted- aluminum wheels
Tires Pirelli P Zero 255/40-R19

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