The Ford Mustang stands out with an updated look, an improved interior, a choice of three engines and a more advanced suspension. The V8-powered, 435-horsepower GT model usually receives all of the glory, but even the less expensive four- and six-cylinder-powered versions discussed herein have plenty of pep.
Buyers looking to experience the 'Stang while getting a tan can opt for the more expensive convertible model.
Derived from Ford's Evos show car, the Mustang's style seamlessly blends new with old. Up front, it adopts a version of the design language that debuted on the Ford Fusion, but the look is clearly more aggressive than before. Perhaps the biggest change is to the Mustang's side profile, which features a new kick-up at the rear of the side windows that emphasizes its fastback-like silhouette. From its tail, the Mustang is more evolutionary than revolutionary, continuing the vertical lamp arrangement of so many of its predecessors.
Under the Hood
The base Mustang is powered by a 3.7-liter V6 engine that generates 300 horsepower at 6,500 rpms and 280 lb-ft. of torque at 4,000 rpms. Buyers after better fuel economy can order the Mustang with a 2.3-liter turbocharged four-cylinder EcoBoost engine tuned to make 310 horsepower at 5,500 rpms and 320 lb-ft. of torque at 3,000 rpms.
Both engines send power to the rear wheels via either a standard six-speed manual transmission developed by Getrag or an optional six-speed automatic unit controlled by shift paddles mounted behind the steering wheel. The Mustang packs a limited-slip differential regardless of which transmission is chosen.
The V6 returns 17 mpg in the city and 28 mpg on the highway when linked to a manual transmission. Selecting the automatic option bumps city mpg to 19. The EcoBoost is rated at 22 mpg in the city and 31 mpg on the highway with the manual and 21 / 32 with the automatic.
Underneath, the Mustang's rear solid axle has been chucked for only the second time ever (the SVT Cobra model briefly offered an independent rear setup). Up front, Mustang gains a new MacPherson strut/double ball joint design that takes up less space and offers improved handling. The suspension tweaks also helps the Mustang weigh noticeably less than the outgoing model.
The Mustang's interior is highlighted by a sporty dual-cowl dashboard design, easy-to-read vintage-inspired gauges and an oversized three-spoke multi-function steering wheel. Aviation-inspired toggle switches located at the bottom of the center console let the driver turn the traction control system off and adjust the car's electric power steering by choosing between standard, sport and comfort modes. The Mustang packs a push-button ignition for the first time in the nameplate's long history.
All Mustangs come standard with SYNC, Ford's Bluetooth-based connectivity system that allows smartphone users to place calls and stream music by using voice commands or steering wheel-mounted buttons. SYNC can also read incoming texts aloud to help the driver keep his or her eyes on the road, and allows the use of Ford-approved apps like The Wall Street Journal news and Pandora radio.
Select Mustangs also come with MyFord Touch, an infotainment system that builds on SYNC by letting users control everything from navigation to climate control to the sound system with voice commands. MyFord Touch also replaces conventional sound system knobs and buttons with a center-mounted eight-inch touch screen, dual 4.2-inch displays in the instrument cluster and touch-sensitive controls in the center stack. Many consumers report that the system is a "love it or hate it" item, so those interested in the Focus are advised to try before they buy.
When called upon to haul people and cargo rather than deliver impressive performance numbers, the Mustang functions fairly well - the rear seats can hold two small adults in a pinch (though long journeys aren't recommended), and the trunk offers a respectable 13.5 cubic feet of stowage space.
Trim Level Breakdown
The Ford Mustang is offered in three trim levels: Base, EcoBoost and EcoBoost Premium.
The base-model Mustang comes standard with a A/C, a locking glove box, a four-way manually-adjustable driver's seat, cloth upholstery, a leather-wrapped multi-function steering wheel, power windows, a six-speaker AM/FM/CD stereo with an AUX input and six speakers, SYNC with MyFord, a rear-view camera, keyless entry and start, HID headlights and 17-inch aluminum wheels.
The turbo four-powered Mustang EcoBoost packs the same standard features as the base-model Mustang but it gains six-way power-adjustable front seats.
Opting for the EcoBoost Premium model adds dual-zone automatic A/C, the aforementioned MyFord Touch infotainment system, aluminum trim on the dashboard, ambient lighting, SiriusXM Satellite radio, a nine-speaker audio system with an amplifier and 18-inch alloy wheels.
Buyers can spruce up their base-model Mustang by selecting the optional 051A equipment package that adds 18-inch aluminum wheels, a trunk-mounted spoiler, LED fog lights and a six-way power driver's seat.
EcoBoost-powered 'Stangs can be upgraded with the EcoBoost Performance Package that bundles a larger rear sway bar, model-specific chassis tuning, beefier brakes, 19-inch wheels, aluminum trim on the dashboard, heavy-duty front springs, gauges for the oil pressure and the turbo's boost, an upsized radiator and a 3.55 limited-slip differential.
EcoBoost Premium models can be purchased with the 201A equipment package that brings an upgraded stereo, memory driver's seat and mirrors as well as a blind spot information system with cross-traffic alert.
Finally, EcoBoost Premium models can be fitted with the commemorative 50 Years Appearance Package for a limited time only. It adds model-specific 19-inch alloys, chrome trim around the tail lamps, a heritage-inspired grille as well as unique emblems inside and out.
Highlights from the list of standalone options list include rear parking sensors, a spare wheel and tire, all-weather floor mats and a host of different wheel options ranging from 18 to 20 inches in diameter.
All Mustangs regardless of trim levels are fitted as standard with dual front and side airbags, side curtain airbags and a driver knee airbag in addition to traction and stability control systems, a post-crash alert system and a tire-pressure monitoring system.
The Mustang's traditional competitors are the V6-engined versions of the Chevrolet Camaro and Dodge Challenger, both of which are heavier and less agile than the Ford but not without their own charms. The Hyundai Genesis coupe is also similar in concept, although it carries a distinct South Korean flavor.
Other potential alternatives include the Subaru BRZ/Scion FR-S twins. The Mustang's handling feels slightly dull in comparison to these lightweight, highly-focused coupes, although it possesses a significant advantage in terms of power.