- Strong, well-balanced V-6 models
- Stunning V-8 power
- Retro look with modern details
- Ride quality
- Performance bang for the buck
- Tight back seat
- Some interior finishes could be better
- No telescoping steering wheel
- Tight, balky shift linkage
Don't let the brash sound and classic looks fool you; the Ford Mustang offers some of the best performance-car bang for the buck--delivered with surprising sophistication.
The Ford Mustang sure might look and sound much like the pony cars of the past, but it definitely lives in the present. Just like the Chevy Camaro and Dodge Challenger, the current Mustang isn't just a one-hit wonder, capable of packing huge V-8s for quarter-mile sprints. That's still part of it, for sure, but handling is now also part of their core set--as is the sort of true sports-car finesse that you might have never expected.
While the Mustang still does have a live-axle layout in back, it's surprising that it handles just as well as some other vehicles with more sophisticated origins. And V-6 models are no longer the compromise they once were. Entry-level buyers get a 305-horsepower V-6 that can turn in 0-60 mph times of about 6.0 seconds, plus fuel economy of up to 31 mpg on the highway when teamed with the six-speed automatic--which for 2013 gets SelectShift manual control.
The V-8 catapults the Mustang into a whole other performance category. The 5.0-liter V-8 thumps out 420 horsepower (up from 412), and the exhaust calls it out to the world with a richer, almost exotic note. The Mustang's electric power steering, which gets a multi-mode setting for steering boost for 2013, is precise if not always well-weighted, and overall the Mustang is far more fun to drive on a curvy road than models of the not-so-distant past. The race-ready Boss 302 gives you what you need for the track--including a higher-output, 444-hp V-8.
The 2013 model year brings some more modern details to the Mustang's classic look. The entire lineup gets projector-beam headlamps, with two strips of LED lighting flanking them, and LED lamps used in back, with a dark-tinted look. The front grille has been amped up a bit, while the lower airdams are neater and thinner. And a clever new night-lighting option, called the pony projection light, beams a pony emblem on the ground next to the doors.
The Mustang's 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. There's no MyFord Touch yet, but new for 2013 is a Track Apps feature that lets you time your own acceleration or quarter-mile times.
Coupe and Convertible editions can be had with either powertrain. Coupes are the way to best enjoy the Mustang's dynamics, with the glass panoramic roof, but the Convertible is still one of the best drop-top picks if you need a back seat.
Parking sensors, dual-zone climate control, and HD Radio are all items that are now offered in the Mustang. But the real allure is in customization and performance options. Of course, you can customize the 'Stang with all the hood scoops, paint schemes and decal packages you need to fondly remember those glory days. And for 2013 we're intrigued by the GT Track Package that’s new and only offered on manual GT Mustangs. It includes a 3.73 axle, an upgraded radiator, performance brake pads, and the Boss 302’s Torsen differential—in addition to the larger front discs, 19-inch alloy wheels, and summer performance tires that are already a part of the Brembo Brake Package.
2013 Ford Mustang
The Mustang still stands out for its classic pony-car profile and retro cues, but for 2013 there are a few fresh, modern touches.
Translating a classic design for the modern world is no simple matter. But along with the Volkswagen Beetle and the MINI Cooper, the current generation of the Ford Mustang is remarkably cohesive.
With an unmistakable silhouette and that classic coupe stance, the 2013 Ford Mustang remains instantly recognizable. With a fundamental design that goes back to the 2005 model year—and extensively revamped for 2010—the current Mustang has been a little more lean and tidy, yet also a little more aggressive.
Retro cues are of course part of the Mustang's appeal. Through various personalization options, you'll find you can pretty easily recreate the look for the Mustang you might have driven in high school, or college—with things like side scoops, hood scoops, and spoilers—or even side louvers.
But for 2013, the Mustang gets a better-detailed look, plus some more contemporary details. The grille has been given a new, more forward look, while the lower airdam is a bit thinner and not so gaping, and GT models get functional heat extractors on the hood. GT models are also distinguished by their big, round foglamps in the grille.
Headlamps are a smaller, more closely detailed HID design (across the entire lineup), and two strips of LED lighting flank the headlights and are an especially distinctive note. Taillamps get a dark-tinted look, with LEDs surrounding the entire affair; there’s also a blacked-out (instead of body-color) panel between the taillamps. And from the side, rocker panels now are body-color. And a clever new night-lighting option, called the pony projection light, beams a pony emblem on the ground next to the doors.
There are a couple of new 2013 Mustang hues—Deep Impact Blue, and Gotta Have It Green—that really show off the facelift and draw a lot of attention in general.
The Mustang's interior follows a design that clearly nods to the past—although it has a surprisingly modern set of materials, and plenty of soft-touch materials on the dash. The cabin as a whole can be a little stark, and it looks at its best in one of the two-tone themes.
Otherwise, the deep-dish, classic-look gauges are big and beautiful (with a new font for 2013); 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.
2013 Ford Mustang
With strong, high-revving engines, and a surprising level of handling sophistication, the Mustang is a charming, robust performer.
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.
The 2013 Mustang V-6s carry over with Ford’s 3.7-liter V-6, making 305 horsepower and 280 pound-feet of torque. V-8 Mustangs all get that power boost this year, and make 390 pound-feet of torque, but the difference isn’t anything you’re going to be able to feel from behind the wheel—if even see on the stopwatch.
The two engines in the Mustang V-6 and GT (V-8) are by no means lopey, slow-revvers. Both engines make their peak horsepower at 6,500 rpm and their peak torque at a rather high 4,250 rpm, so we firmly advise that you get the manual transmission.
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 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.
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.
There are a few performance-related improvements for 2013, but none of them seriously change the feel of the car: The 5.0-liter V-8 in the GT now has 420 horsepower, up from 412 horsepower last year. Also, the automatic transmission now includes 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. Finally, there are also now three driver-selectable levels of steering effort—Sport, Comfort, and standard.
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.
For 2011, the Mustang's rear suspension was massaged, and the 2013 Mustang reaps the benefits of that plus the incremental improvements in handling and refinement that engineers have made since the current generation made its debut in 2005. The current car 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.
One major change for this year, which we haven't sampled yet, is a new three-mode electric steering setup; the new system offers comfort, normal and sport modes for varied quickness and heft.
Two other special Mustang performance models inject an added dose of speed to the lineup: The 2013 Ford Mustang Boss 302, with 444 hp and a host of track-ready hardware; and the upcoming 200-mph, 650-plus-horsepower Shelby GT500, which will start at just $54,200.
2013 Ford Mustang
Comfort & Quality
The 2013 Mustang has a small sports-coupe cabin, but Ford has made the most of it.
Over decades, the Ford Mustang hasn't grown much. Don't count on a lot of back-seat space—the cabin remains just a bit larger than a 2+2—but thanks to good seats and some impressive interior design, the Ford has made the most of it.
Provided you're in those front seats, the Mustang’s cabin remains surprisingly comfortable, with a design that nods to the past yet includes surprisingly modern materials and plenty of soft-touch surfaces on the dash. Only the door panels remain a harder plastic.
You'll likely never forget you're in a sport coupe, but the Mustang has an interior that puts the Camaro's to shame, in terms of layout, comfort, and trims (the Camaro simply won't fit taller drivers, and some will find the Chevy's driving position odd). Even the base seats on the Mustang are a step up from the seats you'll find in most small cars or sedans. And we appreciate how the most supportive Recaro seats are no longer the exclusive domain of the Boss 302; those snug perches are now available throughout the lineup, as an option, and upholstered in leather or cloth. The Recaros' even back support and deceptively robust side support help hold hips in place when the road turns twisty.
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 Mustang remains a reasonably practical vehicle, given its performance. There's good trunk space, and the opening is wide enough for large suitcases.
In general, Convertibles offer a nice, tight-fitting soft top. However, Convertibles don't get as large of a trunk.
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. Convertibles are a bit louder than Coupes with the tight-fitting soft-top up, and although wind buffeting isn't the greatest, it's one of the best ways to pack in a couple of extra adult passengers and (slowly) cruise the boulevard.
2013 Ford Mustang
An impressive list of safety features and good crash-test ratings make the 2013 Mustang Convertible one of the safer soft-top picks.
Sporty coupes and convertibles—and especially muscle cars—haven't exactly had a stellar record for safety in the past; but the truth is, much of that was likely due more to the risky drivers they attracted than to issues with the cars themselves.
The 2013 Ford Mustang is a case in point; it has quite impressive safety, with Mustang Convertible models scoring a top 'good' rating from the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS) in frontal, side, and rear impact. Coupes earn 'acceptable' instead for side impact. And in federal NCAP testing, the 2013 Mustang has earned four-star ratings overall, as well as for frontal and side impact.
Front and side airbags, anti-lock brakes, and stability control are included in all 2013 Mustang models. And with Bluetooth; blind-spot monitors; a rearview camera; and rear parking sensors now all available, you can get more safety in the Mustang than a number of sedans that are priced in the vicinity of the Mustang V-6.
Outward visibility is an issue in the Mustang—particularly in Convertibles—although it's arguably much better than in most other muscle cars and sports cars.
2013 Ford Mustang
No matter which model, the Mustang offers a lot of bang for the buck.
The Mustang has for decades found strong appeal for its combination of tire-scorching performance, classic pony-car looks, a lot of customization potential if you want it, and—at least in entry models—a refreshing no-frills equipment list that's kept the price astonishingly low. Put simply: It offers a whole lot of bang for the buck.
For 2013, the Mustang starts as low as $22,995 for the V-6 or $31,095 for the GT. For less than $30k for the V-6 or just over $35k for the GT, you can get a very well equipped Coupe.
While those very affordable base models still make it possible to own a new Mustang for well under the average price of a new car, 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.
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. A universal garage door opener, and reverse parking sensors are also on the list of possibilities.
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. And there are a few other new Mustang builds for 2013. For instance, the V-6 Performance Package is offered on automatic models in addition to those with a manual transmission. And finally, those who really do want to take the Mustang out on the track, there’s a new GT Track Package that’s new for 2013, and only offered on manual GT Mustangs. It includes a 3.73 axle, an upgraded radiator, performance brake pads, and the Boss 302’s Torsen differential—in addition to the larger front discs, 19-inch alloy wheels, and summer performance tires that are already a part of the Brembo Brake Package.
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.
2013 Ford Mustang
The Mustang V-6 will eke out a miserly 31 miles per gallon—if you can be gentle with your right foot.
The Mustang was hardly known as a fuel-efficient model in the past; but with the introduction of two all-new engines a couple of years ago, it could now be one of the more fuel-efficient performance car picks—especially if you go with the V-6.
In V-6 versions, the Mustang achieves up to 31 mpg highway, according to the EPA. Even 420-horsepower V-8 models aren't the gas guzzlers you might think; they earn up to 26 mpg highway.