Donald Farr
Former Editor, Mustang Monthly
January 27, 2014

A facelift for ’10 provided the S197 Mustang with a sleeker appearance and interior sound was enhanced by a “sound tube” into the passenger compartment, but it was the underhood improvements the following year that made the biggest splash. Thanks to a brand-new Coyote 5.0-liter V-8, the GT came from the factory with 412 horsepower (upped to 420 hp later) to compete against 400hp Dodge Challengers and the rumors of a new Camaro with over 400 horsepower. Perhaps even more surprising was the new V-6 that boasted 305 horsepower (same as the ’96 SVT Cobra!) combined with fuel mileage rated at 31 mpg.

All-new body panels (except the roof), plus revised front and rear end treatments, updated the S197 for the ’10 model year.

With the vintage look of the S197, many at Ford had explored the possibility of a new Boss model. But hard-core enthusiasts within the company resisted the urge, mainly because they felt the 4.6-liter engine wasn’t up to the task, nor did it displace 302 cubic inches like the original Boss 302 from ’69-’70. But with the new Coyote 5.0-liter measuring an exact 302 cubic inches with 412 horsepower as a starting point, Mustang chief engineer Dave Pericak and his team created a worthy successor to the Trans-Am Mustang from ’69-’70, raising power to 444 and establishing a new high-water mark for Mustang handling. Intentionally, Team Mustang scheduled the new Boss 302 for just two models years, with ’69-like C-stripes for ’12 and sweeping ’70-like stripes for ’13.

But SVT saved the best S197 for last with the ’13-’14 Shelby GT 500, a 662hp supercar capable of 11-second quarter-mile dashes and nearly 200-mph top speeds. Yet for normal everyday driving, the GT 500 boasts perfect street manners with a fuel economy rating of 24-mph highway to avoid the gas-guzzler tax. When cruising at 80 mph with the six-speed transmission, the engine loafs along at 1,800 rpm. Pretty impressive, even for owners who don’t send their GT 500s to Shelby American for the 850hp Super Snake package.

With 662 horsepower from its supercharged 5.8-liter engine, the ’13 Shelby GT 500 set a high water mark for Mustang performance—a level that may be difficult to surpass or even match in the future. Rumors say that the Shelby’s current 5.8L won’t fit under the hood of the all-new ’15 Mustang.

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For the S197, it’s been a grand 10-year run, plus a few extra months for the extended ’14 model year as Ford prepares the S550 for on-sale release. Over the past decade, we’ve seen GT, Pony Package, GT/CS, Shelby GT 500, Boss 302, GT 350, Super Snake, and Bullitt, not to mention aftermarket editions like the Saleen/Parnelli Jones and Roush 427R.

So we say, “So long S197. It’s been good knowing you.” We can only hope that the S550 can match the S197’s 10-year run of great Mustangs.

Driving the ’14

Pleasant—that was the word that kept running through my mind during my week with a ’14 Mustang GT convertible. Equipped with the six-speed automatic, the new GT was perfect for my work commute through red-light hell, offering a stable but comfortable ride and plenty of power to merge into traffic or zip past slow moving commuters.

Of course, with 420hp on tap from the Coyote 5.0-liter V-8, the ’14 GT transforms from mild-mannered to muscular with the application of right foot to the throttle. The power comes on smooth and strong, pulling harder as the tach needle rises. But for normal driving, the GT tools around like a cordial commuter, only with a lot more torque. The exhaust note is muscular but not obnoxious, even at full throttle scream.

It’s been awhile since I’ve been in a new Mustang convertible, so I was particularly impressed with the improvements in the top mechanism, which now drops much lower into the well and even provides a built-in mini tonneau, although a foam cover is stored in the trunk in case you’re entering a car show. I especially liked the top’s forward railing, which now incorporates an oval opening that can be used as a handle to pull the top down tightly while latching the corners. That’s a better idea.

The only disappointment is price. Our ’14 Ingot Silver Mustang GT was equipped with $6,575 worth of options, including navigation and Brembo brakes, to take the sticker shock to over $47,000. For a Mustang, not a Shelby, that’s not too pleasant.