- Tracks and rides so very well
- New roofline embraces present and past
- With launch control, line lock, Recaros, it's all that
- Turbo-4's mpg
- V-8 is muscular as ever
- 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.
2016 Ford Mustang
The Mustang adds a few more heritage cues to 2016—to a look that was made much more contemporary this past year.
The Ford Mustang gained all-new looks last year, and it was completely revamped. Yet from the outside, its appearance didn't make any abrupt change or about-face.
The most significant change for the Mustang is its profile, which is now more clearly descendant of the fastbacks of recent vintage. We won't call it as fluent as the 1960s originals, but it's a purposefully styled car with a broad, imposing face and proudly swollen fenders. The roofline arcs as a graceful canopy stretched over the passenger space.
While the 2016 Mustang makes a lot of good in the general sense of its design, we can see plenty to be critical about in the up-close details. The era-mashing fillips of the last-gen 'Stang worked together a little better. There's some disparity between the heft of the lower body and the thinness of the pillars that brings old Pontiac Grand Prix two-doors to mind.
The black panel that surrounds the taillights lays flatter than Mustangs have—it tends a little more Mopar-ish as a result. The tripled-up light pipes that slash at the grille have a distinct "Miami Vice"-era vibe. Two new appearance packages may help lend a better light on this look. A Black Accent Package looks like it embraces that side, with 19-inch black painted alloys, a black decklid spoiler, dark taillights trim, and special "5.0" badging and pony logos; meanwhile, a Pony Package brings more brightwork and may bring back more of a nod to earlier Mustangs.
Separately, a new California Special Package is offered on Mustang GT Premium models, really jazzing up the look with ebony-painted machined alloy wheels, ebony leather and Miko suede, red contrast stitching, a special aluminum dash finish, hood striping, a strut tower brace, black-painted mirrors, and other dress-up items.
Inside, in general, the Mustang's aviation-themed cabin is organized neatly and fitted better than any Mustang yet. A metallic chin-up bar sweeps across the dash like a pull-up bar. It's effective at telegraphing strength, but it devolves the classic dual-binnacle look to a couple of eyebrows over the dash. Large, clear gauges are tucked in more deeply, and the tactile toggle switches and knobs provide better control.
2016 Ford Mustang
The GT with the Performance Pack is our pick to get the most hustle our of the Mustang's newfound bustle; EcoBoost models are great, too, but the soundtrack's underwhelming.
Last year marked the return of a turbocharged 4-cylinder engine to the Ford Mustang lineup, for the first time since the days of the SVO. Now for 2016, Ford is splicing the GT350 back into the Mustang narrative, with a high-revving 5.2-liter flat-plane-crank V-8, plus a Torsen limited-slip differential, larger wheels, upgraded brakes, and exclusive aerodynamic work. As well, Ford's first application of MagneRide adjustable dampers means that the GT350 shouldn't have a spine-crushing ride.
We still haven't driven the base car, powered by Ford's carryover 300-horsepower, 3.7-liter V-6. We're assuming that it's still entirely adequate; yet outside of rental fleets, it's not likely to win over any muscle-car fans who also drive the new turbo-4 or, much less, the exciting V-8-powered GT.
The EcoBoost is no GT substitute, though it does give us permission to ignore the base V-6. And yet it's still a Mustang that will require some getting used to. It can crack off 0-60 mph times of less than six seconds, but its power delivery and most of all, its acoustic delivery, don't have the typical muscle car feel. There's a strong kick of low-end torque right where it should be; what gets us is the artificial, buzzy sound of it, entirely disconnected from what a muscle car sounds like. Ford amplifies and adds some engine noise via the car's speakers, and we'd suggest another round in the studio.
The turbocharged inline-4 is the Mustang's first since the days of the SVO, and it helps to underscore how much change has taken place under the 'Stang's sheet metal. A direct-injected, twin-scroll-turbo unit, the 2.3-liter inline-4 is rated at 310 hp and 320 pound-feet of torque.
Coupled to either a 6-speed manual or the optional 6-speed, paddle-shifted automatic that we used to drill through L.A. traffic and across the spines of some Malibu canyons, the turbocharged engine felt most powerful once we clicked it through its newly available driving modes. The slower throttle and shift response cleared right up once the shifter was pulled down into "Sport." The turbo-4 percolates nicely in its wide powerband, and drops its laggy act.
The best 2016 Mustang (until the GT350) is, obviously, the most powerful one. In the GT, Ford's 5.0-liter V-8 is the lead singer that gets you interested in the entire act. The V-8 checks in at 435 hp and 400 lb-ft of torque. Zero-to-60 mph times are pegged at about 4.5 seconds, and top speed is set to 155 mph. As gutsy as it is, even the V-8 could use some more vocal lessons. There's a layer of isolation between the expected V-8 rumble and the quiet cabin. Sorry, but we've been spoiled by Jaguar's crackly 5.0-liter V-8.
The V-8 gives full license to exercise the Mustang's wonderfully composed road manners car and to anticipate its huge track potential. With a strut front suspension and independent rear (yes, Ford finally ditched the old setup that's hounded the Mustang), a serious limited-slip differential, and standard 18-inch wheels and tires, the Mustang is far more nimble and forgiving. The attitude is flat, and there's none of the old axle hop.
Like the EcoBoost car, the 2016 Ford Mustang GT works its new suspension and revamped electric steering for great effect. Smoothly damped and twice as capable at snuffing out dive and squat, both Mustangs have great ride isolation and steering precision, whether the rack's feel has been toggled to Comfort or Sport from Normal feel. Hurtle it down a straight, scrub off speed with the GT's four-piston front brakes and thick treads, and the Mustang tucks in neatly and quickly into the next corner.
Flick more of the toggles, and the Mustang cycles through drive modes that set its throttle, steering, stability control, and automatic-trans shifts. Skip by wet/snow and normal for Sport's deft reflexes—or Track, for an intervention-free slide (not recommended in Malibu, where washouts and police are equally dangerous hazards).
For those into old-fashioned muscle-car drag racing, there are two terms to remember: launch control and line lock. Knock off impeccable 0-60 mph runs with the former, smoke away as much tire as you can afford with the latter. Line lock only works on level ground with steering set straight ahead and takes a half-dozen button clicks to access, so practice makes perfect before you make your coffee-and-octane debut.
If cornering is more your game, get the Performance Pack option on the GT. It swaps out the limited-slip differential for a Torsen unit, skins the wheels with Pirelli P Zero tires (255/40R fronts, 275/40R rears), slaps on Brembo brakes, braces the strut towers, and stiffens up the sway bars, springs, and dampers. It sticks to the ground in a way that used to be reserved for the likes of the M3—and yes, it might even be a more willing dancer than the current M4.
2016 Ford Mustang
Comfort & Quality
The 2016 Ford Mustang is still a 2+2 at heart; but it's very spacious compared to the Camaro.
Last year's redesign for the Mustang brought a more substantial feeling. That's partly due to far better build quality, but also due to a boost in actual size. It now rides on a 107.1-inch wheelbase, and is 188.3 inches long—basically the same territory as mid-size sedans.
The touring-coupe dimensions really work out in the Mustang's favor against its chief rival, the Camaro, and that model's chintzy cabin space. Yes, the Mustang is still a 2+2 at heart; but 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.
For anyone over 5-and-a-half-feet tall, there's no chance at sitting upright in the back seats. The roofline races to the 'Stang's shoulders quickly. The rear seats fold down to pass through to the trunk, but the trunk itself will hold a couple of golf bags—somehow, that's become the universal gauge for acceptable storage space. The maximum of about 13 cubic feet of storage space in base cars goes down to about 11 cubic feet with the top audio system.
Ford has done a good job with interior storage in the Mustang, as Ford has with most of its current cars; cupholders and a mobile-phone bin are sited perfectly—as is the USB port that stares out from behind the phone bin.
The Mustang's built to a higher standard than before, but the combination of surfaces and textures wasn't perfect on the cars we drove—it was not as good as a Flex crossover, which is at a similar price point. There's still enough hard plastic here to pad in future updates.
The 2016 Mustang rides in a surprisingly quiet, refined way; but if there were one thing we'd wish to upgrade, it would be engine noise. In EcoBoost 4-cylinder versions, there's buzzy, artificial noise pumped into the cabin; it's neither pleasant nor evocative of performance, and in the absence of anything better, we wish we could turn it off. The opposite's true of the V-8: what's there sounds lovely, but the big engine sounds like it's being suppressed for some political reason. In the meantime, leave it to the exclusive GT 350 and its pulsating flat-plane-crank V-8 to inspire.
2016 Ford Mustang
Crash-test ratings are among the best of the sporty coupes, and there are impressive active-safety options to be had.
The 2016 Ford Mustang has a fairly good set of ratings from independent and federal testing.
The insurance-funded IIHS gave the Mustang mostly "Good" ratings, except for the small overlap crash test where it scored only "Acceptable." In federal testing, the NHTSA gave the Mustang five-star scores across the board.
Visibility is surprisingly good here. Sure, there are blind spots over shoulders, but turn halfway around and the big rear glass opens up the view more than expected. The Mustang also has far more head room than its rival, so there's less uncomfortable neck-craning in general.
The 2016 Mustang offers a standard rearview camera and standard Bluetooth connectivity. Reverse parking sensors are an option on most models. But beware: To get the leading safety features like adaptive cruise control and blind-spot monitors, you have to be at least in mid-range EcoBoost territory before you can even tick that option box.
2016 Ford Mustang
From appearance packages to line lock and a new version of Sync—at last—there's a lot in the feature set to please Mustang shoppers.
Remember how modest and humble the Mustang used to feel—and be, in terms of features? Thankfully (to most shoppers), the Mustang is far better equipped today, as well as a far better value than it used to be when it all adds up. Yet we're just a little irked at how Ford now locks those who want to choose the base V-6 model out of some of the more interesting features and options.
EcoBoost models add active noise cancellation and a power passenger seat. Options include the Performance Package; 18- or 19-inch wheels; and cloth Recaro seats. EcoBoost Premium models add satellite radio; more speakers; MyFord Touch; and pony projection lamps from the side rearview mirrors. A Shaker audio system is available in this version.
The basic GT shares the basic EcoBoost's equipment, while the Premium adds leather-trimmed seats; a universal garage door opener; ambient lighting; launch control; and line lock. The Performance Package is an option, as are 20-inch wheels; a 50th Anniversary package; adaptive cruise control, blind-spot monitors, and forward-collision warnings; voice-activated navigation; and leather Recaro seats.
New for 2016, there's a Pony Package available on EcoBoost Premium models. It adds more heritage cues, including 19-inch polished aluminum wheels, side striping, added chrome, and a tri-bar pony logo. And new for the GT is a Black Accent Package bringing a blacked-out look that harks more to the Mustang GTs of the 1980s. Oh, and there's also a painted-black roof option.
That said, of all the options we consider essential, first and foremost is the Performance Package. It swaps out the limited-slip differential for a Torsen unit, skins the wheels with Pirelli P Zero tires (255/40R fronts, 275/40R rears), slaps on Brembo brakes, braces the strut towers, and stiffens up the sway bars, springs, and dampers.
But even at the base level, the 2016 Ford Mustang is very well equipped; all now include power windows, locks, and mirrors; air conditioning; cruise control; a 50/50-split folding rear seat; an AM/FM/CD player with two USB ports and an aux input; Bluetooth with audio streaming and voice control; a rearview camera; and keyless ignition. A power driver seat, rear parking sensors and 18-inch wheels are options.
The V-6 model is now essentially sold as a rental-car special—or a model for those who simply don't care to get any of the special features. Leather seating, HD and satellite radio, a power passenger seat, the Performance Pack, 19-inch wheels, and Recaro seats are simply not offered on the V-6. The same goes for any of the advanced safety technology features like adaptive cruise control, forward-collision warning, or blind-spot monitors.
We'd recommend keeping tabs carefully on pricing. A base 2015 Mustang fastback coupe—the version we would skip—is equipped with a 3.7-liter V-6 and 6-speed manual transmission and will set you back $24,425. The turbocharged, 4-cylinder Mustang EcoBoost costs $25,995, and the V-8-powered Mustang GT runs $32,925 before that Performance Pack and any other goodies are factored in. Keep going, and a loaded GT runs easily to the $45,000 range.
2016 Ford Mustang
The 2016 Ford Mustang ranks as one of the better performance coupes for fuel economy—especially with the EcoBoost turbo-4.
From the 4-cylinder EcoBoost, which tops 30 mpg on the highway, to the V-8 GT model, which now gets nearly 20 mpg combined, the 2016 Ford Mustang does better on gas than it does a few years ago. Yet we wouldn't call it frugal, by any means.
The base V-6 Mustang is a disappointment, by those measures. It's rated at 19 mpg city, 28 highway, 22 combined with the automatic transmission. With the manual, the numbers fall to 17/28/21 mpg.
And, then there's the V-8. Given the sheer happiness its performance imparts, it's worth the middling 16/25/19 mpg rating. Manuals are just a little bit lower at 15/25/19 mpg.
It's probably not so surprising that the EcoBoost turbocharged 4-cylinder Mustang gets the best numbers. It also includes active grille shutters, which might help aid mileage in colder weather and on the highway. Mileage ratings for the EcoBoost 'Stang are 21/32/25 mpg for the manual, or 22/32/25 mpg for the automatic version.
Fuel economy ratings for the 2016 Ford Mustang GT350 check in at 14/21/16 mpg.
If you're looking for a drop-top, the mileage penalty is minimal—except for the turbo-4. Losing the roof can cost up to three mpg on the highway, something we're guessing owners were already willing to part ways with for long cruises.