2014 Ford Mustang Performance

9.0
Performance

The 2014 Ford Mustang sure looks and sounds like a classic muscle car or pony car. The Mustang definitely lives up to its pony-car heritage in appearance—and in layout, with V-6 and V-8 engines, rear-wheel drive, and a simple rear solid-axle layout—but that's about where the retro comparisons end.

There are two main flavors of the Mustang: V-6 or V-8. They're both modern overhead-cam engines with variable valve timing--and surprisingly high-revving and willing, even though the V-8 especially has that true muscle-car sou8nd. 

The Mustang is a charming, robust performer, with strong powertrains and a surprising level of handling finesse.

Mustang V-6s have Ford’s 3.7-liter V-6, making 305 horsepower and 280 pound-feet of torque. And if you're comparing those with power and torque output of the 4.6-liter V-8 from not too long ago, you're right; it makes the Mustang feel about as quick.

The 5.0-liter V-8 in the GT is the way to go for those who crave the most performance; it has 420 horsepower. V-8 models emit a gruff, throaty exhaust note and feel a bit like straight-line exotics. Compared to the V-6 models, they're different beasts altogether and call for more restraint; due to the V-8’s sharper throttle response and here-right-now torque, weight transfers tend to be a little less fluid, too, if you’re not careful with it.

Since both engines make their peak horsepower at 6,500 rpm and their peak torque at a rather high 4,250 rpm, we firmly advise that you get the manual transmission--although it does now include full manual control, with a +/- button on the side of the shifter to easily thumb through them, and no forced downshifts or upshifts in manual mode; and manual-gearbox cars get a two-second hill-hold function, for convenient starts when facing uphill.

One other thing: There are also now three driver-selectable levels of steering effort—Sport, Comfort, and standard. Steering is very precise in the 'Stang, although we've never been entirely happy with how this unit loads up off center.

There's not as much difference from V-6 to V-8 models as in the past, either, and performance packages don't shave away nearly as much of the decent ride compliance. Despite humble, cost-conscious underpinnings, Ford engineers have worked magic in making the Mustang a better driver’s car than quite a few sports coupes or sedans with more sophisticated mechanical layouts and expensive price tags. If we were performance-minded, we'd opt for the coupe, since the convertibles we've sampled haven't had the structural stiffness to match the suspension's upconverted talents.

Several model years ago, the Mustang's rear suspension was massaged, and the current corner takes advantage of a host of incremental improvements. It takes a set in corners much more easily than former Mustangs, and it deals much more swiftly with choppy pavement and uneven surfaces, even though it's still a live-axle design. So even on wet and imperfect surfaces, the the Mustang has surprising tenacity and poise, and a progressive, predictable feel in tight corners.

At the top of the lineup is the far more exclusive Ford Shelby GT500, and the 662-horsepower engine and a number of other enhancements. Rumor has it that an independent rear setup is on the way next year, so if you want the highest-power Mustang with a solid-axle rear, this is it.


 

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