2012 Ford Mustang Review

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2012
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The Car Connection Expert Review

Marty Padgett Marty Padgett Editorial Director
September 23, 2011

The 2012 Ford Mustang doles out all the tire-smoking pony-car thrills, but it's also grown to become quite a sophisticated car.

If you haven't driven a pony car in decades, you're in for a pleasant shock. Cars like today's Chevy Camaro and Dodge Challenger aren't brutal-handling shipping containers for hoary V-8 engines. They're no longer cavemen. Yes, they're brutally fast, and now, great handling isn't just on the menu--it's a main course.

It's especially true with the 2012 Ford Mustang. No longer a rehashed icon, or a throwback, the Mustang's dragged itself down the quarter-mile into modern times in some amazing ways. There's still a live axle in back, but no mainstream Mustang has ever handled better or accelerated faster than today's V-8 'Stangs--and it's almost true of the V-6s as well.

To the heritage recipe, Ford's trimmed out the Mustang's proportions over the past six years. It's leaner, and more aggressive, and can be customized with all the hood scoops, paint schemes and decal packages you need to fondly remember that night in high school, or college, or detention. The cockpit has the upright dash and big, beautiful gauges with color-shifting lighting and metallic trim, a good blend of Sixties style and today's touchscreen sensibilities.

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Entry-level buyers will get a 305-horsepower V-6 that can turn in 0-60 mph times of about 6.0 seconds--and fuel economy of up to 31 mpg on the highway when teamed with a reluctant-shifting automatic six-speed. It can carry its own weight against the likes of the Nissan 370Z, at long last, and against the Camaro V-6.

The V-8 catapults into a whole other performance category. The 5.0-liter V-8 thumps out 412 horsepower, with six-speed manual or automatic transmissions pushing power to the rear wheels. The live-axle suspension has never been in better tune: the Mustang rides quite well for a sporty car, and much less of the rumbly, jumbled handling of the pre-2005 versions. Electric power steering isn't of the darty variety; it's quick and suits the rorty, rev-happy V-8 quite well. Opt into the supercar-strength Shelby GT500 or the race-ready Boss 302, and you're going even faster, spending more than $40,000 to get there.

As before, Coupe and Convertible editions can be had with either powertrain. The Convertible has a reasonably tight, power-operated soft top, but the body structure isn't stiff enough to make the most of the suspension improvements. We prefer the glass panoramic roof if you want to let the sunshine in--but recognize there's nothing quite like the full top-down driving experience in something like the Mustang GT, where your attitude is sure to be sunny even if the weather outside isn't.

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2012 Ford Mustang

Styling

The 2012 Ford Mustang still manages to look fresh, while it name-checks every classic 'Stang from its stable.

It can be difficult to move icons out of history and into the modern world, but like the Volkswagen Beetle and the MINI Cooper, the latest Ford Mustang has done a brilliant job synthesizing elements from the past into a cohesive look.

In other words, it kicks quite a lot of butt. It's one of the few vehicles that remains instantly recognizable, unmistakable in silhouette. Ford hasn't messed up a good thing, and it hasn't needed to. With the 2005 model, and the 2010 revamp, the old cues have been formed into a body that's grown more aggressive in its details while the proportions have gotten more lean and more tidy. The classic coupe stance is intact, but today's Mustang looks crisper than ever, with more retro details in front and in back.

Ford also has jumped on the personalization bandwagon, so it's easy to re-create the Mustang you may have driven in high school, or college. Side scoops, hood scoops, spoilers and age-inappropriate decals are all offered as accessories--there are even side louvers to recall the classic Mustang fastbacks of the late Sixties.

The Mustang's interior keeps a light grip on retro style too, but it's given more ground to infotainment LCDs and other modern trappings. The deep-dish, classic-look gauges are big and beautiful; the squared-off instrument panel and the wide center console just work, especially with the bright metallic touches and, where offered, the metallic shift knob. The somewhat stark cabin's not into curves for curves sake, and it renders best when two-tone trims are a part of the package.

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2012 Ford Mustang

Performance

The base version's a new pony-car benchmark: in GT form and above, the 2012 Ford Mustang is a straight-line exotic and a better cornerer than ever.

Today's Mustang completely recalibrates our expectations for muscle cars and pony cars, in terms of straight-line and cornering performance.

Last year, the Mustang adopted a new range of engines that brought the famed "5.0" designation back to the lineup--and for the first time, brought a 31-mpg Mustang into the fold. For 2012, those versions are carryovers--a good thing--and there's a new Boss 302 model that's almost strictly for racing, but worth a mention for Mustang collections.

The base Mustang sports a 3.7-liter V-6 that's related to the powertrains in many current Lincoln vehicles. Rated at 305 horsepower, it's no longer a glaring weak link in the powertrain lineup. Good throttle response is programmed in, and there's plentiful low-end torque. Variable valve timing also flattens out the powerband, giving the V-6 a steady power flow throughout its range. The downside can come with the six-speed automatic: though it will provide gas-mileage ratings of up to 31 mpg highway, the transmission isn't happy about shifting more quickly, and doesn't let drivers have direct control over gear choices. We'd stop short of calling this model a fuel-economy special, because it performs to the levels of the V-8 Mustangs of just a decade ago--but we'd opt for a manual gearbox if we were given the choice.

Step into a Mustang GT, and the 5.0-liter V-8 barks a triumphant return. It's rated at 412 horsepower, and its real-world thrust can feel as powerful as Ford's own Shelby GT500, in some instances. The engine's happy as it twists out maximum torque as low as 1500 rpm, but blasts out a signature engine note and runs up to a lofty 7000-rpm redline. Power builds constantly--there's no plateauing, no peakiness. So much torque is available down low, it takes some care to roll on the throttle out of a deep corner. It's a Mustang that begs to be driven hard, and feels easily capable of 0-60 mph times well below 5.0 seconds--and some magazines have clocked it in the low 4-second range. It's a straight-line exotic.

The Mustang does much better in corners now, too. The rear suspension was massaged in 2011, and the steady progress made since the Mustang's big 2005 redo is still paying dividends. The current car takes a set in corners much more easily, and deals much more swiftly with choppy pavement and uneven surfaces, even though it's still a live-axle design. There's not as much difference from V-6 to V-8 models as in the past, and performance packages don't shave away nearly as much of the decent ride compliance as they would have on the inferior, pre-2005 'Stangs. Given our choice, 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.

One major change for this year, which we haven't sampled yet, is a new three-mode electric steering setup. We've been impressed with the Mustang's single-set electric steering since we drove the 2011 range; the new system offers comfort, normal and sport modes for varied quickness and heft.

Two very special Mustang editions are priced outside the usual realm, so we're steering you to our performance-car site for more on them. Turn to MotorAuthority for our coverage of the 2012 Ford Mustang Boss 302 and the latest Ford Shelby GT500.

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2012 Ford Mustang

Comfort & Quality

A classic 2+2, the 2012 Ford Mustang plays the rough-and-tumble pony car but has good front-seat space and a decently large trunk.

The Mustang hasn't grown very much over the past decade, and has changed very little for the 2+2 passengers that will fit inside. However, the Mustang's grown more comfortable, with better seats and with less noise and vibration than before.

It's still a sports coupe, but the 2012 Mustang is certainly more spacious than, say, the Chevy Camaro, which doesn't have the head or leg room or outward visibility for six-footers. Seating in the Mustang's front seats is low and snug, and sitting upright will bring the driver's forehead fairly close to the windshield frame. Height-adjustable seats tilt and rake, and the Mustang has options for power seats, too, but the steering wheel doesn't telescope. On automatic-transmission models, the brake pedal is staggered much higher than the gas pedal, which we find a little odd.

The back seat remains tight even for small adults, mostly for its lean leg room. Convertibles have less shoulder room, too, so wedging in two adults will take compromise and permission.

Especially as a coupe, the 2012 Mustang is a reasonably practical vehicle, given its performance. Trunk space is pretty good: the trunk opening is decently large, and permits at least one large suitcase and a few other bags to be loaded easily. Convertibles don't lose much trunk space, either.

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Interior quality has made steady progress in the Mustang, with noticeably nicer plastics introduced in the 2010 revamp. Noise and vibrations of the unwanted type are largely filtered out, but the sonorous engine note in Mustang GTs makes itself known all the time--thank goodness.
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2012 Ford Mustang

Safety

The Mustang's made progress on safety, but not all of the ratings are in just yet.

The Mustang's made progress on safety, but not all of the ratings are in just yet.

The 2012 Ford Mustang has been crash-tested by the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS), which gives it mixed ratings. Two-door Mustang coupes earn "good" scores for front-impact protection, but just "acceptable" ratings for side-impact protection. Convertibles are "good" on both fronts. The coupe hasn't yet been tested for roof-crush strength.

The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) hasn't done any of its usual tests on the 2012 Mustang, but assigns it a numerically-compiled rollover rating of five stars.

All Mustangs come with standard front and side airbags, anti-lock brakes and stability control. Moving up the model hierarchy, and many Mustangs can be equipped with Bluetooth; blind-spot monitors; a rearview camera; and new this year, rear parking sensors.

Visibility is a challenge with either Mustang, but the convertible isn't as bad as some of its kind when the top is up.

We'll update this review when more information becomes available.

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2012 Ford Mustang

Features

Almost all the tech and infotainment features from other models can be found on the 2012 Ford Mustang, from navigation to real-time traffic.

The Mustang's reputation for no-frills fun still rings true in some basic and racing models, but shoppers of today's 'Stang might be surprised at some of the tech gadgets and infotainment gear offered in the current car.

Most Mustangs come with Ford's SYNC system, which uses Bluetooth-driven voice commands to control phones and media players. Bundled with steering-wheel controls, SYNC also is paired with turn-by-turn navigation (route maps are delivered over the airwaves) and real-time traffic information. It's standard on all but the base Mustang V-6--where it's not even offered.

All versions do get Ford's MyKey system, a programmable set of functions that let parents set up speed limits, volume limits and other warnings. Other standard equipment includes power windows, locks and mirrors; keyless entry; cruise control; and an AM/FM/CD player.

Major options on the Mustang include ambient lighting; leather upholstery; a Shaker 500-watt audio system; satellite radio; aluminum interior trim; and an optional electronics package that bundles real-time traffic and HD radio, and dual-zone climate control. Ford also offers a panoramic glass roof; HID headlamps; a rearview camera and blind-spot monitors; and a host of appearance options, from hood scoops and spoilers to side scoops and louvers.

For performance, a range of larger wheels and summer tires can be had. There's also a Brembo brake package with recalibrated stability control and a sport-tuned suspension.

The Convertible’s power top is easy to operate, but it still does require two latches at opposite ends of the windshield to be fastened.

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New features for 2012 include a universal garage door opener and an option for reverse parking sensors.
7

2012 Ford Mustang

Fuel Economy

A 31-mpg pony car? The 2012 Ford Mustang hits that EPA rating in base form.

There's never been a more fuel-efficient Mustang, and even the most powerful versions of the current car deliver decent gas mileage.

By model, the Mustang's gas-mileage figures span a wide spectrum. Outfitted with the base 3.7-liter V-6 and a six-speed automatic, the Mustang is rated by the EPA at 19/31 mpg. Opt for the six-speed manual, and gas mileage falls slightly, to 19/29 mpg.

The GT's V-8 engine isn't the gas guzzler it's been in past versions. With the automatic, the EPA rates it at 18/25 mpg; with the manual, it scores a 17/26-mpg rating.

The Shelby versions with the larger V-8 engine can't manage the great fuel economy of other versions, but they're still rated at 15/23 mpg.

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August 28, 2016
2012 Ford Mustang 2-Door Convertible V6 Premium

Refined handling,ride and performance.

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Another future classic from Ford.Exterior styling is American muscle without the boy racer or ricer wannabe appearance. The 3.7 V6 is light years ahead of the old truck engine 4.0. Interior refined to a much... + More »
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February 6, 2016
For 2012 Ford Mustang

GT/CS Conv Good fun weekend car

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Fun for weekend not a GREAT weekday commuter.POOR gas milage
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May 24, 2015
2012 Ford Mustang 2-Door Coupe GT Premium

It's a Beast !

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Very powerful car, I bought it just for fun, And I have had plenty of that.
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April 28, 2015
2012 Ford Mustang 2-Door Convertible V6 Premium

A beautiful, fun, fast, reliable car!

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I bought it new, and have had the most wonderful experience with it so far. I'm at 55k miles, and so far, I've not had one issue with this car. Its Kona Blue, and I consistently get compliments on the paint... + More »
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Styling 8
Performance 9
Comfort & Quality 8
Safety 8
Features 9
Fuel Economy 7
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