For some this stretch in the product cycle is just a means to getting to the next all-new model. For those of us in the enthusiast trenches, this is when the cars really start to hit their stride. Often the sins of early production are forgiven, and unexpected features spring up to tempt us into an interim purchase.
Ford obviously viewed the introduction of the '13 Mustang as somewhat of a secondary launch. As throngs of media hit the dreary streets of Portland, Oregon, to drive this car, their attention was also diverted to the new Flex, Taurus, and Mustang. Certainly those other Fords are nice rides, but for us the Mustang is far more than an afterthought. Thankfully for us and the other temporary denizens of Portlandia, the Mustang engineers maintained focus and revamped the Mustang with numerous surprise and delight features that easily distance it from the outgoing '12 'Stangs. Yes, it seems that our friends in engineering are enjoying their jobs so much that the contagious enthusiasm spills over onto the order sheet in the form of myriad tweaks and options.
Naturally, the '13 Mustangs will be largely known for their cosmetic changes. That's how it is at this stage of the product cycle, but in this case, the changes are more immediately accessible than any styling refresh in recent memory. Obviously the designers spent some time copying from SVT's notebook, but they have successfully fused the everyday world with the Special Vehicle moxy--though the GT500 could have used a bit more differentiation, but that's a topic for another story.
So the front fascia is better, and the taillights are night and day. How does it drive? In practice it would be silly to say that we could feel that extra 8 horsepower. It's near the top of the tach, and that comes up in a hurry in a GT. Suffice it to say these might be a bit quicker, but you'll never know it. However, the last car's power was invigorating, and this one isn't taking a step back.
Likewise, much of the driving experience is familiar. The GT handles well--really well. It's not quite the balanced precision of the Boss 302, but it's still leagues ahead of Mustangs built just a few years ago. Throw in options like Brembo brakes and adjustable EPAS and this is a driver's car.
While the new front treatment...
While the new front treatment and body-color lower cladding are obvious improvements to the Mustang's exterior, it's the rear of the car where designers really worked their magic. Yes, the rear of the SN-10 cars has long been a point of contention, but the move to these architectural LED taillamps visually joined by a blackout panel offer a view for competitive drivers that simply says Mustang.
Put your foot on the brake...
Put your foot on the brake and hold the traction control button for 4 seconds. That disengages the traction control. It also allowed our pal Bill Deister to warm up the rear tires for our cameras. The Mustang GT has plenty of power to smoke the tires, but the damp Portland pavement made it even easier.
Inside the interior is quite...
Inside the interior is quite familiar, but there are some notable additions, including the 4.2-inch LCD screen between the gauges and the optional Recaro seats. What is not visible is the new Shaker audio system, which was digitally tuned to take advantage of the Mustang cabin. This system is available in eight-speaker, 390-watt version and a nine-speaker Pro version cranking out 550 watts of sound.
On our brief sprint down the Oregon trail, we had to run on all-season tires in deference to the wild changes in the Pacific Northwest's weather. That said, the car still acquitted itself well on the wet, slippery surfaces. From the reassuring embrace of the optional Recaros to the extra braking, this car was just fun.
Unfortunately, our time in the car was just that--a sprint. We were on a short timetable and had to work in time to snap photos, so we didn't get to try all the new options and variations available to the car.
Several of these bear a more in-depth experience, and none deserves more seat time than the new Track Apps. We briefly played with gauge mode and the g-force measurements, but the environs didn't lend themselves to testing the acceleration app. We can't wait to do a quarter-mile run using this function. Likewise we didn't get to sample Shaker Pro or the Select-Shift automatic, though prevailing opinion is that the Mustang deserves paddle shifters as much as the SHO does.
In any case, rest assured that we made good use of our time in the Mustang, but note we're still left wanting to experience the wide variety of choices available. That they are compelling enough that we're left wanting more is a testament to the magnetic appeal of the '13 Mustang.
If you held off on buying a new 5.0 Mustang for the last couple of years and you're in the market now, you'll be glad you waited. The car is better. The options are more prevalent, and the only problem you'll have is deciding how you want to order it.
Horse Sense: As you may have gathered in prior issues of this magazine, deleting the piston-oiling jets was a running production change on the later '12 5.0 Mustangs. What that means to owners of those cars is that they are a few horsepower happier than '11-'12 5.0 'Stangs built prior to the change. However, they don't make it all the way up to the 420 hp of the '13 5.0s.
Our tester featured the Electronics...
Our tester featured the Electronics Packages, which includes voice-activated navigation, Sirius Travel Link, and dual-zone climate control. This latest generation of the MyFord Touch interface is snappier, and the voice-activated Nav actually came in handy.
There were 40 'Stangs to choose...
There were 40 'Stangs to choose from, so we opted for a Gotta Have It Green GT with the Brembo Brake package. Sadly it didn't have the Shaker Pro or Glass Roof, but we did get to try out the base Shaker system. It doesn't have the bottom-end we expect the Shaker Pro to deliver, but it does have impressive clarity, even at maximum volume. The Pro bears further investigation with my iPod hooked up to Sync.
Besides the numerous styling...
Besides the numerous styling upgrades and new options, the big news in the '13 is the availability of Track Apps. Cars have quickly transitioned into the biggest mobile electronics that we own, and Ford is fully embracing that with the new LCD screen in the gauge cluster. This screen can display virtual gauges with geeky info like air/fuel ratio and cylinder head temperature, and it can also host Track Apps that measure g-forces, braking distances, and quarter-mile times. No doubt the countdown-start quarter-mile--complete with dragstrip Christmas Tree--will be a favorite of 5.0&SF readers.