Ford Mustang GT — Getting better with age

By Jim Meachen and Ted Biederman

While we wait with great anticipation for the all-new 2015 Ford Mustang to arrive next spring on the Mustang's 50th anniversary our excitement over the new Pony Car comes with some sadness. We're sad to see the current-generation All-American Mustang GT muscle car, powered by a rumbling V-8, fade into history.

Purchase the 2014 Mustang and you may h
ave a keeper. It's the culmination of the current generation, and we figure by now Ford has everything sorted out. Where else can you purchase an iconic muscle car design powered by a sweet-sounding engine pumping out 420 tire-burning horsepower for under 32 grand?

The Mustang's classic good looks have never been better than with the current car, which was freshened for the 2013 model year with a new front and rear fascia, a more prominent grille and splitter, standard high-intensity headlamps, painted body-side rockers, and rear LED tail lamps with sequencing turn signals. Hood vents and 19-inch alloy wheels set off the GT look.

The Mustang's interior is familiar to everyone who has spent some time inside one over the years with its twin-cowl dash, large analog instruments, and three-spoke leather-wrapped steering wheel.

When it comes to technology the Mustang has been brought up to modern standards with an available 4.2-inch color LCD productivity screen located in the instrument cluster between the speedometer and tachometer that allows drivers to access information related to vehicle performance via a five-way button on the steering wheel. (Be forewarned there’s something of a learning curve, but once mastered — within the first five minutes or so — it will be your friend for life.)

It lists the basics like fuel economy, trip meter, oil temperature, air/fuel ratio and engine temperature, and also — as optional equipment — contains Track Apps, that measures g-forces, acceleration times in quarter-mile and 0-60 increments and braking times, complete with automatic and countdown starts. In other words it’s the ultimate instrument cluster-based video game for driving enthusiasts. Instrument lighting is very clear and its color selectable. Mustang offers users a choice from several standard colors.

The Mustang interior, however, shows its age in several places. For instance the steering wheel does not telescope, the manual gearbox is too close to the cupholders, and hard plastic abounds throughout the cabin. But that's minor stuff in such a fun-to-drive vehicle.

Our test vehicle was not equipped with the optional Recaro seats, which made us happy. As good as they are — a $1,595 upgrade for those who must have — they are still not designed for people of advancing age — and girth. The standard seats proved extremely comfortable and offered a solid foundation, even when driving aggressively. Both the standard and Recaro seating is available in cloth or leather.

The wonderful retro look inside and out draws people to the Mustang, be it the coupe or convertible, but the biggest reason many people plunk down their cash is because of the true sports car persona offered by both of the two available engines. The 3.7-liter V-6 base engine produces 305 horsepower and 280 pound-feet of torque and can propel the coupe from 0-to-60 in lower ranges of six seconds.†But it's the 5.0-liter V-8 that takes your breath away. Average performance numbers are 0-to-60 in 4.5 seconds and a quarter mile in 13 seconds at 111 mph. The Mustang GT offers a heart-stopping experience when the cabin is filled with the roar of the V-8 — perhaps you will want to roll down the windows to get the full affect.

The Mustang — with either engine — not only goes fast, it handles well, too. The Mustang retains a solid rear axle, and despite what some consider a detriment to handling and rough-road composure, we found that on the rural twisting roads we use to evaluate vehicles, the GT felt well controlled and supremely secure at speeds far beyond the posted limits.

The Mustang is well endowed with safety equipment including the usual — antilock disc brakes, stability and traction control and a full complement of airbags. Braking is an important part of safety and the Mustang excels with stopping times measured by various published tests ranging from 110 to 115 feet.

The Mustang V-6 starts at an affordable $22,995 including destination charge. The V-8 begins at $31,695. Our well-equipped GT Premium coupe with the six-speed manual shifter and track package carried a bottom line of $39,230.

As Mustang nears its 50th birthday the old adage of “You’re not getting older; you’re getting better” sure rings true. We found the 2014 version the best one yet.

Base price: $31,695; as driven, $39,230
Engine: 5.0-liter V-8
Horsepower: 420 @ 6,500 rpm
Torque: 390 foot-pounds @ 4,250 rpm
Drive: rear wheel
Transmission: 6-speed manual
Seating: 2/2
Wheelbase: 107.1 inches
Length: 188.5 inches
Curb weight: 3,735 pounds
Turning circle: 33.4 feet
Luggage capacity: 9.6 cubic feet
Fuel capacity: 16 gallons (premium recommended)
EPA rating: 26 highway, 15 city
0-60: 4.5 seconds (Car and Driver)
Also consider: Chevrolet Camaro, Dodge Challenger, Hyundai Genesis R-Spec Coupe

The Good
• Rumbling V-8 engine
• Retro styling
• Affordable driving excitement

The Bad
• Below average gas mileage

The Ugly
• Interior littered with hard plastics