Donald Farr
Former Editor, Mustang Monthly
February 13, 2012
Photos By: Courtesy Ford Motor Company

If you thought Team Mustang would sit back and bask in the glory of the new Coyote 5.0L engine and Boss 302 for the next couple of years, think again. In the final 24 months before an anticipated full make-over for the 50th anniversary model (rumored as a mid-'14), Mustang is stepping up its game for '13 (available spring 2012) with fresh front and rear styling, a few more ponies for the GT, a lot more power for the Shelby GT500, and totally new graphics for the Boss 302. Not to mention new standard equipment and option packages to enhance the driving experience, especially at the track.

Most notable is the fresh front end styling. The sleek nose from '10-'12 has been replaced by more aggressive upper and lower grille openings, similar to the '10-'12 Shelby GT500. It's accompanied by a new hood with functional heat extractors on the GT and Boss 302 models, along with a more prominent splitter.

Mustang fans have been vocal in their criticism of the latest Mustang's angled taillights. For '13, Ford has taken a cue from the '11-'12 Shelby GT350 by painting the rear panel black, which tends to connect the taillights to soften the angular appearance. The taillights themselves are revised with a smoked appearance and separate LED "ropes" to accentuate the Mustang's traditional tri-bar design. Sequential turn-signal operation returns.

Lighting plays a large part in the '13 Mustang revisions. High-intensity discharge (HID) headlights are now standard for all, while "pony projection lights" are offered for the mirrors to cast an image of the pony emblem on the ground when the unlock button is activated.

Thanks to the R&D from the 444hp Boss 302, another eight horsepower has been added to the Mustang GT's Coyote 5.0L, taking the new V-8 from an already-impressive 412 hp to an even 420 hp.

Other changes include body-color rocker panels, revamped wheel selection (from standard 17-inch to optional 19-inch for GT and V-6 Performance Package), two new colors (Deep Impact Blue and Gotta Have It Green), availability of leather or cloth Recaro seats in the V-6 and GT, and optional hill start assist for manual transmission Mustangs to help keep the car from rolling backward on slopes when accelerating from a stop.

Proving that Ford "gets it" when it comes to performance driving, a number of new options are aimed at owners who plan to put their '13 Mustangs on the track. A six-speed SelectShift Automatic transmission offers a choice between fully automatic shifting or manual control by using a button on the side of the shifter. For manual GT Mustangs with the 3.73 axle, the GT Track Package adds an engine oil cooler, upgraded radiator, performance brake pads, and a Torsen differential, plus everything found in the Brembo Brake Package--14-inch vented front discs, unique 19-inch alloy wheels, and summer performance tires. For the first time, the V-6 Performance Package is available with the automatic transmission. There's even an available LCD productivity screen between the tach and speedometer that measures g-forces, acceleration times in quarter-mile and 0-60 increments, and braking times, complete with countdown starts.

Or if you'd rather put your performance in the sound system, the '13 Mustang is available with a pair of optional audio systems--the Shaker with eight speakers and 370 watts or the Shaker Pro with nine speakers and 550 watts.

Mustang fans have been vocal in their criticism of the latest Mustang's angled taillights.

When Chevrolet revealed its '12 Camaro ZL1 with 580hp, no one at Ford seemed concerned. Here's why. They knew what was coming for '13--a Shelby GT500 with a new supercharged 5.8L V-8 that puts out 650 hp and 600 lb-ft of torque, making it the most powerful production V-8 engine in the world, and one-upping the hottest Camaro by 70 horsepower. Ford says the new Shelby is capable of 200 mph. And although Ford has not yet released fuel economy numbers, they say the GT500 remains exempt from the gas guzzler tax. Amazing.

Obviously, Ford's SVT found a way to get a 100hp bump over last year's 5.4L GT500. Most of the credit goes to a larger, more efficient supercharger, a TVS series 2300 with 2.3L displacement and a unique design for the 5.8L, combined with a more efficient air cooler, higher-flow intercooler pump, and an intercooler heat exchanger with 36 percent more volume. Updated camshaft profiles also contribute to the power increase.

While the Shelby doesn't get as much of a visual make-over as the rest of the '13 Mustang line (notable exception: quad tailpipes), nearly every vehicle system has been upgraded to handle to additional horsepower and torque. The six-speed manual transmission offers upgraded gears and bearings, and the final drive ratio has been revised to 3.31:1 for optimized gearing. The dual-disc clutch has increased torque and rpm capacity.

With 200 mph capabilities, SVT updated the front grille, fascia, and splitter to make the GT500 more secure and planted to the road at high speeds. To better manage the torque, a Torsen differential is now part of the optional Performance Package, which also includes SVT-designed Bilstein electronic adjustable dampers, while a new launch control system is integrated with both engine and traction controls to let drivers set the desired launch rpm. The Performance Package can even be upgraded with a Track Package that includes coolers for engine oil, transmission, and differential.

Stopping is also addressed with a new Brembo braking system that includes six-piston calipers in front along with larger front and rear rotors with improved brake pads. Goodyear Eagle F1 SuperCar G:2 are standard on 19-inch front and 20-inch rear wheels, with a unique wheel available for cars with the option packages.

Obviously, with 650hp and 200 mph capabilities, the '13 Shelby GT500 rates as the most impressive performance Mustang of all time. We can't wait to see what Shelby American has in store for its GT500 Super Snake. Last year, the top package made news with 850hp. Will we see 1,000hp for the '13 Super Snake?

As expected, the second year for the Boss 302 pays tribute to the second year of the original. With new hockey stick stripes replacing the C-stripes from '12, the '13 model pays tribute to the '70 Boss 302, which featured Larry Shinoda's eye-grabbing graphics. Like the '70s, the new side stripes are reflective. According to Ford, it's the first modern application of reflective stripes on a modern production car.

Like all '13 Mustangs, the Boss 302 gets the updated front and rear ends; underneath, it's got the same impressive credentials as the '12 model--444hp Boss engine, adjustable dampers, 3.73:1 rear axle, Brembo brakes, etc. Most of the Boss-specific changes are graphic, including side and hood stripes (Laguna Seca models get a single hood stripe similar to the '70 Trans-Am race cars; at press time, Ford had not released photos of the standard production Boss 302). Three new colors have been added to the Boss palette in addition to white and red--School Bus Yellow, Gotta Have It Green, and Grabber Blue. Note too that the roof is now the same color as the rest of the car, not black or white to match the side stripes. Like the '12 model, the grille incorporates fog light covers, but for '12 they are removable to allow more air to flow through the radiator.

The '13 Boss 302 also gets Ford SYNC as standard equipment, adding hands-free features like Bluetooth and other services.
The race-ready Laguna Seca model (pictured) returns without the red accents, which will come as good news to enthusiasts who disliked the black/red or silver/red treatment. For '13, the LS comes in School Bus Yellow or black with Sterling Gray accents for the grille, mirror caps, rear spoiler, and interior rear cross-brace.

At A Glance:

'13 Mustang Highlights
  • New front and rear styling
  • 420 hp for GT
  • HID headlights
  • New colors: Deep Impact Blue and Gotta Have It Green
  • Available SelectShift automatic for fully manual shifting
  • V-6 Performance Package available with automatic Recaro seats offered for V-6 and GT
  • Upgraded GT Track Pack
  • Optional Shaker Pro sound system with nine speakers
Shelby GT500
  • New supercharged 5.8L engine with 650 hp
  • 200 mph capability
  • Updated front end
  • Quad exhaust tips
  • Upgraded drivetrain
  • Torsen differential added to Performance Pack
  • Upgraded Brembo brakes
Boss 302
  • Updated graphics with reflective '70-style hockey-stick side stripes
  • New colors: School Bus Yellow, Gotta Have It Green, Grabber Blue
  • SYNC standard
  • Say bye to the red: Laguna Seca in School Bus Yellow or black with gray accents

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