- Tracks and rides so very well
- New roofline embraces present and past
- With launch control, line lock, Recaros, it's all that
- Exterior isn't all that different
- Engines don't sound as inspiring as they are
- Not ponderous, but big
The Ford Mustang keeps its newfound finesse and pony-car attitude, blasting past its 50th year with a rorty new Shelby GT350 variant plus more ways to stand out from the crowd.
The Ford Mustang is in its second year in its best life ever. The latest version of the classic American pony and muscle car was new in 2015—and this generation is easily the best ever, with the most sophisticated suspension, the most powerful and efficient drivetrains, and the most comprehensive set of safety and technology features ever offered under the nameplate.
With the sixth-generation Mustang's debut for the 2015 model year, Ford showed it could give its iconic pony car modern moves while preserving its heritage cues. But the changes weren't radical. All the traditional Mustang cues were mashed into the new pony car, and with a low and wide stance, the Mustang's pretty and graceful canopy rests on muscular haunches. Yet some of the details are a little soggy—the tilted taillight panel, the hashmarks that hashtag the headlamps.
In the 2016 Mustang, more heritage cues are back—most notably, hood-vent turn signals, which return this model year to Mustang GT models. As well, for the new Mustang's second year, it gets newly available wheels and striping, as well as a new California Special Package, Pony Package, and Black Accent Package. A painted-black roof option is now also available on EcoBoost Mustang and V-8 Mustang GT models.
All that means there are more chances to individualize the Mustang, which with its recent redesign became better detailed inside and out. It's not just a little more plush, but more technical and advanced—and in some forms, it's become a luxury coupe of the highest order.
Inside, the cabin is solidly laid-out and more youthful than just about any other luxury coupe—and richer-looking than the Camaro's cabin. There is a distinct aviation-inspired theme, while large, clear instrumentation puts vehicle information right in front of the driver in the roomier cabin, and improved ergonomics and tactile switches and knobs provide better control.
Ford Mustang performance
The change in the Mustang's look may have been evolutionary, but underneath the body panels is where you'll find what's revolutionary. With a new turbocharged inline-4 available, it's truly magnitude shift. That engine delivers strong performance even though it underwhelms in its soundtrack. The GT's intensely strong 435-horesepower V-8 hustles best when it's amped up with a Performance Pack that includes a Torsen limited-slip rear end, summer tires, Brembo brakes and extra body bracing.
Much has happened since the previous Mustang with respect to steering and ride comfort, and credit goes primarily to a wider track, a new independent rear suspension design, and lots of engineering effort toward eradicating all the roughness and Camaro comparisons. This car simply outclasses that car, and the previous 'Stang, with exemplary control, tracking, and stability.
What's also back in the 2016 Ford Mustang is a Shelby variant. The new Ford Mustang Shelby GT350 introduces a flat-plane-crank 5.2-liter V-8 that will make the most of the Mustang's finessed chassis dynamics—and introduce a series of aero and chassis upgrades, including Ford's first application of MagneRide damper technology.
For 2016, the Mustang Convertible is now also available with the Performance Package. That model includes a standard multi-layer insulated cloth top that gives the car a more upscale appearance and a quieter cabin, according to Ford. The new top also lowers twice as fast as before, and has a sleeker profile when down.
The Mustang is still a 2+2 at heart; but it's nearly the size of a Ford Fusion and far, far more usable inside than a Camaro. Front-seat room is generous and not just for the segment and the great Recaro seats are bound to be a popular upgrade over the standard sport seats. The back seats are token gestures, but that's pretty much what we expect here; and as for the trunk, it's good enough for weekend bags, but we wouldn't call it generous. In all, it's enough car for a long weekend for two, for sure.
Ford Mustang safety and features
The 2016 Ford Mustang has earned limited "Good" ratings from the IIHS, and the Mustang Coupe earns five-star scores across the board from the federal government. Its list of high-tech features includes driver-adjustable stability, steering systems, throttle and transmission systems; standard Bluetooth and a rearview camera; and options for blind-spot monitors, adaptive cruise control, and a forward-collision warning system.
Base V-6 models don't offer much in the way of fun options; you'll have to pay into the turbo-4 to get bigger wheels and tires and a Performance Pack—and the latter, with its stiffer chassis tuning, stronger cooling, Torsen differential, six-piston Brembo front brake calipers, and appearance upgrades is what you want if you don't think of your Mustang as a cruiser.
Pricing may creep up on you with V-8 models, where when you add the Performance Pack and options like Shaker Pro audio, a mid-$20,000 pony car can turn into a $40,000 sports car. That may sound on the high side for a Mustang, but we're truly asking whether we'd rather be behind the wheel of a Mustang GT or a $65,000 BMW M4, which is very telling.
There's also one other top feature that will be available in the Mustang beginning in 2016: Ford's new Sync 3 infotainment, a system that essentially starts over in some respects—hopefully for the better. But the ultimate gift to Mustang fans? Launch control and line lock. The former lets anyone knock off impeccable 0-60 mph times, while the latter enables NHRA-grade smoky burnouts.
The Mustang is more frugal than ever—the 4-cylinder manages more than 30 mpg on the highway and even the V-8 runs past 20 mpg combined—but it's not a fuel-sipper by any stretch. The base V-6, which is still the most popular seller for the Mustang, is rated at 19 mpg city, 28 highway, 22 combined with the automatic transmission. With the manual, the numbers fall to 17/28/21 mpg.