2014 Ford Mustang

Although a complete redesign is just around the corner, the current iteration of Ford's popular Mustang still deserves consideration due to its hard-to-beat combination of performance, style, personalization options and value. The V8-powered, 420-horsepower GT and 662-horsepower Shelby GT500 models usually receive all of the glory, but even the 305-horsepower V6 version discussed herein has plenty of pep, and it's also an economical choice that returns up to 31 mpg on the highway.

Recent Changes
The Mustang largely stands pat for the latest model year as Ford focuses its attention on the upcoming all-new model. The only changes of note are a new appearance package and revised instrument cluster graphics.

However, the 'stang did receive a mid-cycle update last year that brought freshened styling and a host of other minor tweaks, so it doesn't feel too long-in-the-tooth.

One of the Mustang's selling points continues to be its handsome, retro-themed exterior, which was recently reworked with a more aggressive nose inspired by the fire-breathing GT500. Other notable aspects of last year's update include standard HID headlights and trick tripartite sequential LED taillights.

Power is sourced from a 3.7-liter V6 that produces a healthy 305 horsepower and 280 lb-ft of torque. That output, which is channeled to the rear wheels through the buyer's choice of a six-speed manual or six-speed automatic, is sufficient to scoot stick-shifted Mustangs from zero-to-60 mph in just over five seconds.

Fuel economy is rated at 19 mpg in the city and 31 mpg on the highway with the automatic, while opting for the manual dings highway mileage by two mpg.

Though it still makes use of an archaic live rear axle, the Mustang is commendably capable on curvy roads, especially when equipped with an available V6 Performance Package that adds a host of chassis upgrades and further livens up the driving experience. The firmness of the electric steering assist can be toggled between Comfort, Standard and Sport settings to better suit laid-back cruising or spirited canyon carving.

The interior is highlighted by a sporty dual-cowl dashboard design, vintage-inspired gauges and an oversized three-spoke steering wheel. Base models feature an abundance of cheap, dark-colored and rock-hard plastics, although upmarket versions mostly replace those unattractive materials with more upscale furnishings such as silver and chrome trim.

An available 4.2-inch LCD screen mounted in the instrument cluster provides access to Track Apps, a recently-added feature that delivers performance metrics such as g forces, acceleration times, braking times and automatic and countdown starts.

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 13.2 cubic feet of stowage space.

Trim Level Breakdown
The Ford Mustang V6 is offered in base and Premium trim levels.

The entry-level model comes standard with A/C, full power accessories, an AM/FM/CD stereo with an AUX input, HID headlights, LED taillights, cruise control and 17-inch painted aluminum wheels.

The Premium trim adds an eight-speaker Shaker premium audio system with SiriusXM Radio, leather upholstery, Bluetooth smartphone connectivity via Ford's SYNC system, a power-adjustable driver's seat, ambient interior lighting, a 4.2-inch LCD screen mounted in the instrument cluster, upgraded interior trim and 17-inch machined aluminum wheels with painted pockets.

Highlights from the options list include a glass roof, Recaro seats, a navigation system and a rearview camera.

Enthusiasts will want to spec the V6 Performance Package, which includes a strut-tower brace, a larger front sway bar, an SVT rear sway bar, upgraded front springs, upgraded front and rear brake calipers with performance friction pads, 19-inch Foundry-Black-painted machined aluminum wheels shod with 255/40R/19 summer-only tires, unique stability control calibration and a 3.31 limited-slip rear axle.

Those looking to ratchet up the style factor can add the V6 Pony Package, which brings a "corralled pony" grille, a pony fender badge, fog lights, a unique lower tape stripe, a rear decklid spoiler, 18-inch polished aluminum wheels, embroidered pony floormats and automatic headlights; or the Mustang Club of America Package, which includes a dark stainless billet grille with a tri-bar Pony badge, fog lights, a unique lower tape stripe, a rear decklid spoiler, automatic headlights, premium carpeted front floor mats and 18-inch sterling gray metallic painted aluminum wheels.

New for the latest model year is the FP6 package, which brings body-color rear quarter window louvers, 18-inch inch black-painted alloy wheels and black-painted side mirrors.

Occupant Safety
All Mustangs are fitted as standard with dual front and side airbags in addition to traction and stability control systems and a tire-pressure monitoring system.

Key Competitors
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.