2013 Ford Mustang- Faster Than You Can Say “Heilige Scheiße!”

DSCI1102It’s Saturday evening and just like clock work, the Santa Monica Freeway is to its usual crawl. My fiance and soon-to-be mother-in-law are navigating through the maze of LA traffic and we’re anxious to have a ramen dinner in Little Tokyo. We’re hungry and exasperated from seeing endless brake lights, but fortunately tonight we’re in the 2013 Ford Mustang. Suddenly, we stumble across an opening to the near-empty carpool lane and I punch the accelerator. Faster than my mother-in-law can exclaim “Holy s**t!”, we’re well over the speed limit and those brake lights are a distant memory in the rear view mirror. Not only has the Mustang put a smile on my face and gotten us to our long-awaited dinner. but it also scared the scheisse out of my in-laws. Suddenly, the Ford Mustang has become my new best friend.

DSCI1090Mustang loyalists may balk at a V6 automatic ‘Stang and dismiss it as a “Secretary’s car”, but in 2011 a new aluminum 3.7 liter V6 with 24 valves producing 305 horsepower was introduced in the lowliest versions of the revered muscle car.  Interestingly, when the current generation Mustang debuted in 2005- the optional and highly regarded 4.6 liter V8 on the GT had 300 horsepower.  To put that in perspective, in less than six years, the least powerful Mustang has more available ponies than the most powerful version originally had.  In other words, even though it may not be the 5.8 liter Shelby edition (which can boast having an earth-moving and astonishing 662hp), the aspirated V6 is no slouch. DSCI1075

When turning the key and starting the engine- the growl from the 3.7 liter is intoxicating.  There’s a rumble from the exhaust and the feeling that this car is something special resonates through the steering wheel.  This is an unapologetically loud car, and that’s how it should it be.  The acceleration is addicting- plentiful power is on tap whether from a standstill or when needing a burst of passing power, such as in our carpool lane scenario.  Getting to highway speed is effortless and the car is never strained- it just keeps begging for more and enjoys it.  This is what American muscle cars are all about and in this case, DSCI1097the Mustang delivers  more than sufficient power in daily situations and brings back the fun of driving. Even in base form, most drivers won’t be begging for the V8.  Surprisingly, we achieved 32mpg on highway driving and 25mpg in a mixture of conditions (EPA ratings are 19mpg/city and 31/highway).  Not bad at all given the performance this car comes with.

DSCI1111The six-speed automatic transmission responds almost immediately to requests for more power and is quick and efficient.  In casual driving the shifts are smooth and near transparent.  When flooring the accelerator during passing, downshifts can be a little abrupt, which is more in part to the large power surge that is being sent to the rear wheels rather than an issue with the transmission itself.  It’s just the nature of the beast.  But overall, the Getrag tranny is a good match for the powertrain.  New this year is the ability to select the gears on the automatic, but there was no need to do so with its well-DSCI1109timed shifts.

Unfortunately, we couldn’t see if our Mustang could do more than 80mph.  Standard on all Mustangs is the Ford MyKey system- which is a nanny system for parents with teenage drivers.  Through an “administrative key”- the system can be turned on and off, and prevents the radio volume from going too loud and the car going too fast.  It’s an innovative system and I would usually be in support of it, as there is typically little need to go over 80mph.  However, we were not given the administrative key and were not able to turn the speed limiter off.  This proved aggravating during a drive on a desolate stretch of desert freeway and our red Mustang ended up being the slowest car on the road.  Also when passing, the system kicks in while the engine is hungrily gaining speed and is almost violent in how it intrudes abruptly- causing the car to hold itself back from a full acceleration.  It was interesting to see how MyKey worked, but the Mustang was not the best candiDSCI1113date to try it.

Handling is a mixed bag.  Overall, steering feel is sufficient and gives good feedback.  It may not have the firm feel of a car from the Nürburgring, but it isn’t too light either.  Basically, it’s safe and secure.  The car responds quickly to steering input and feels stable overall.  However, the Mustang is notorious among muscle cars for being the last to retain a live rear axle.  On smooth roads, roadholding is fine.  But any cornering over ruts or potholes will cause the back-end to fling out and go off course, possibly causing a spin out if speeds are high enough.  It can be quite daunting for anyone not used to it and is the car’s oneDSCI1101 performance Achille’s Heal.  Ford defends its decision to continue the live axle and claims it reduces weight and costs over an independent suspension- and has stated adding an independent setup would increase the cost of the car by over $5,000.  So the archaic rear suspension is here to stay, although rumors are that the all-new 2015 model will have a more modern setup.

DSCI1095This generation of Mustang started the retro muscle car craze (followed by the Dodge Challenger and Chevrolet Camaro) and is now eight years old.  Regardless, the car is still attractive and eye-catching.  Throughout the years Ford has tweaked some of the details and for 2013 the front fascia has been updated with a larger grille, standard HID headlights, LED accents, and a new black panel between the tailights, which are DSCI1072now also LED and still have the cool sequential turn signals that were introduced in 2010.  Overall, the look is more aggressive and harkens back to the original 1964 model more than ever.  With a long, bulging hood and short decklid, the Mustang still looks fresh and received many compliments from passer-bys during the time I had it.

DSCI1077Inside, just as it always has been with this rendition, the retro theme continues with a three spoke wheel, twin cowl dash, and touches of faux metal.  The focal point of the artistic flair are the gauges- which also imitate the 1960’s Mustang deep circular pods and have a convincing font representing that golden era.  Although introduced on the 2005 model, the ability to change the color of the gauges and the halos around them is DSCI1106still fun, and owners can even personalize their own colors.  There are literally hundreds of possibilities, but in light on the season (no pun), we went with a very Christmassy green and red theme.  With large denominations of “20” on the speedometer paired with tiny marker points and a thin needle, it was sometimes tough to gauge what speed we were going at a glance.  New this year is the 4.3 in. information screen housed between the tachometer and speedometer.  This system is the same used on other Fords and it’s clear and concise and makes it easy to see all vehicle specs and personalize settings using the control buttons on the steering wheel.  Also on the steering wheel were intuitive cruise control buttons that at first appeared nondescript, but became second nature after a few miles.  Too bad, however, that the steering tilts but does not telescope.

DSCI1079Luckily, the Mustang is one of the few remaining Fords that does not have Ford MyTouch and uses traditional buttons for the radio and ventilation.  The arrangement is similar to the outgoing Ford Fusion and Escape, and has no less than 40 buttons that are all similar in size and labeling with no clear divide between the radio and HVAC controls.  It can be overwhelming at first and the simple, three rotary knobs for DSCI1080ventilation from the 2005-09 Mustang would’ve worked much better and were less distracting to the driver.  Storage space is also at a premium inside as well, with small door pockets and glove box, and a decently sized console bin- whose lid awkwardly opens up into the back seat, requiring the driver to reach far behind the front seats to close it.  Interior fit and finish is good and tight even though the plastics, especially on the doors, are low-grade and reflect back on Ford’s from the mid 2000’s.

Looking around- there aren’t many other places for Ford to integrate storage compartments.  The interior, in a word, is cramped.  Up front it’s not bad, but as to be expected, the rear is extremely cozy.  Knee and leg room is DSCI1087only sufficient for pre-teens and any adult would be forced to stretch sideways across the back seat.  Entry and exit are also tough to the back, with wide opening long doors, a low roofline to duck under, and the seats need to be manually folded forward and slid separately.  To be fair though, most of the Mustang’s competitors have the same issues and any performance car is not designed to carry more than two passengers comfortably.  TheDSCI1086 Mustang can carry four in a pinch, but depending on the length of the trip, passengers may not want to talk to each other afterwards.  Up front there’s decent headroom and legroom even though the seating position is low and knees are forced skyward.  Seat bottoms are flat and very firm, causing some aches after longer trips, yet the side bolstering is contoured well and holds passengers in comfortably, especially during cornering.

DSCI1076While we’re on the subject of versatility,  trunk space was better than expected, especially since the convertible top mechanisms take up valuable room.  The trunk shape is usable and can carry several moderate sized bags.  The trunk opening is on the tight side and getting those bags in or out could pose a problem.  Ford invested in scissor hinges which are more expensive but free up space.

DSCI1103The main purpose of any convertible is to drop the top and have fun.  The canvas top is power operated and is controlled by a switch near the gear selector.  Unlike the Chrysler 200’s, which is fully automated, the Mustang’s is more simplistic and requires the operator to release the latches near the sunvisors before powering the top down.  Vice versa, once the top is raised the latches must be set back in place.  Getting DSCI1110the latches to hook back in can take some strength and may pose a problem for people with weak hands.  The top takes about 25 seconds to raise and lower and is non obtrusive in its operation.  It’s  less finicky than the Chrysler’s and will still operate at low speeds.  Also, kudos to Ford for placing a rear glass window with defroster into the top- although visibility is hindered by how small the glass area is.

Our Mustang only had 10k miles at time of rental and there were no defects or rattles on the car.

DSCI1089The base price for a Mustang coupe starts at $22,200 and exactly $5k more at $27,200 for the convertible.  Ours was the Premium trim, which added upgraded wheels, leather seating, power driver’s seat, SYNC, color adjustable gauges and ambient lighting, auto-dimming rear view mirror, upgraded interior trim, and an eight speaker stereo system with satellite radio and iPod/USB connections. bumping the DSCI1088price to $31,200 and checking the box for an automatic transmission added  another $1,195 making the final tally on our race red Mustang $33,190 with destination included.  It’s not the value that the Mustang once was, but a comparable Camaro convertible with automatic starts at $32k, so it’s not outrageous.  And for the power and style, there’s no better value alternatives.DSCI1093

To evaluate the Mustang, it’s important to remember what it’s sole purpose is.  It won’t ever be a family hauler and it won’t ever be the most sophisticated- if that’s what you are looking for then there’s a Ford Taurus for sale across the showroom floor.  It’s intended to continue the rich legacy of prior muscle cars by offering loads of powDSCI1108er and thrilling straightline performance.  With the recent engine upgrades and styling updates, it fills its duties better than it ever has and even scares the mother-in-law.  Despite its shortcomings, that’s certainly enough to earn it 3.5/5.0 boomerangs.

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