Muscle Mustangs & Fast Fords
First Drive: 2013 Mustang
A steed for every need!
"A steed for every need," is how Chief Engineer Dave Pericak described Team Mustang's goal for the 2013 model year.
What began as a "secretary's car" nearly 50 years ago has become a car for everyone from secretaries to CEOs. Every iteration over nearly five decades has contributed to what Ford has just released--the best Mustang ever.
Other than taking styling cues from the '10-12 GT500's front fascia, the new Mustang is anything but a copycat. LED and HID lamps front and rear, 12 wheel choices, a more prominent front end, heat extractors on the hood (GT model), and a redesigned rear fascia come together to give the Mustang subtle, but functional improvements.
The leading and most noticeable feature is the redesigned front fascia and grille. More aggressive, this leading panel houses a more prominent splitter, larger lower grille open-ing, larger running horse, and LED foglamps (GT). Flanking the grille are standard HID headlamps surrounded by what Ford calls Signature Lighting. These two individual LED bars are part of the headlamp assembly and they stay illuminated both day and night, so the Mustang's approach is unmistakable.
Along the side, the rocker moldings are now painted body color for a cleaner, more finished look. Wheel choices have been increased drastically--12 options in all--and even the V-6 comes with 17-inch wheels standard. The GT's hood now has functional heat extractors. And side-view mirrors even get an upgrade with a heated option and an optional a pony projection lamp, which casts the shape of the Mustang emblem on the ground as a courtesy lamp.
Out back, things have gotten much better for Mustang. The all-new taillamps are much more dramatic and aggressive, treated with LED lights throughout, smoked lenses, and a gloss black applique between. This look is much improved over the previous model, and reminds us of the '12 Shelby GT350 that was so appealing to us last year.
The 3.7L V-6 and 5.0L V-8 engines aren't going anywhere for a while, and neither are the current transmissions or 8.8-inch rearend. But Ford did give the existing V-8 a boost from 412 hp to 420 hp--a slight increase attributed to the elimination of the piston squirters and a slight calibration change, according to Pericak.
One thing Ford has been missing the boat on is shift-on-the-fly technology. The new SelectShift feature on all automatic-equipped cars solves that problem with +/- buttons on the shift handle, though we would have preferred paddles on the steering wheel. Shift response is quick and concise, and the hand-on-the-shifter driving position is comfortable and natural.
Definitely the best performance upgrade is the GT Track Package. Only available on manual GTs with 3.73s, this package adds an engine oil cooler, upgraded radiator, performance friction brake pads, and the Torsen differential shared by the Boss 302. If you can't afford a Boss, then this is the next best thing. (Make mine with the Track Package in Gotta Have It Green and stick a fork in it. Oh, and leather-wrapped Recaros.)
Comfort and Entertainment
Inside the new Mustang is where you really feel the change. The optional leather Recaros are welcoming, comfortable, and supportive. You still can't get them with power but who cares. Between the tach and speedo is a 4.2-inch LCD screen, housing a slew of information and tools. And the Shaker audio system has some improvements, including the Shaker Pro option with nine speakers.
Though the popular Shaker audio system is better than the generic stereo, it was always missing something and sounded flat. Now, not only is the Shaker upgraded to eight speakers and 330W of power, but the optional 550W Shaker Pro system offers nine speakers and bass below the range of the human ear, making the musical experience engaging and enveloping. SYNC is now capable of AppLink, which allows you to link your favorite apps like iHeartRadio, NPR News, Pandora, and Twitter to the car's stereo system.