Ford Mustang GT — A modern pony car

By Jim Meachen and Ted Biederman

The iconic Mustang is the last car standing at Ford Motor Company as the entire fleet of coupe and sedans has been terminated in the U.S. in favor of the current popular flavor — crossover/SUV and light truck. Lucky for Mustang fans — and sports car enthusiasts — the current pony car is enjoying worldwide success or it might have been on the chopping block as well.

Now in its 55th year, the current generation that debuted for 2015 received a refresh for 2018 with revised front and rear styling, and has been endowed with further advancements for 2019 including a very engaging rev-matching feature on the V-8 with manual transmission, a new 1,000-watt B&O PLAY audio system, three new paint colors (Velocity Blue, Need for Green and Dark Highland Green), and "over the top" racing stripes. The EcoBoost 4-cylinder engine has an optional quad-tip fully active exhaust available for 2019.

We had one of the new paint colors — a bright "Need for Green" with black stripes. It's a head turner that definitely stands out in a crowd, but something you may not want to live with for the next five years. We also drove a very bright Race Red convertible GT, also with head turning capability.

The Mustang comes with two engine options — the surprisingly fast and fun-to-drive turbocharged 2.3-liter four-cylinder making 310 horsepower and 350 pound-feet of torque mated to either a six-speed manual or a 10-speed automatic transmission; and the ubiquitous 5.0-liter V-8 making 460 horsepower and 420 pound-feet of torque, also mated to either the manual or automatic. It's the engine that defines the pony car as a performance champion.

Our “Green” GT Mustang test car also came with the $8,800 Performance Package Level 2 that we think would be a good add-on for people who want to get the best overall performance out of their smoking hot — and muscle-car sounding — V-8. It includes Brembo brakes, 19-inch wheels with dark stainless painted aluminum wheels, summer tires, Torsen limited-slip differential, a performance-tuned chassis, and track-inspired springs with rear sway bar.

We found the Mustang is as much a cornering and handling beast as it is a straight line performer. We experienced great satisfaction in carving up our usual rural paved road "test tracks.” Add to that its go-fast performance.

Unlike the days of yore, the automatic transmission actually produces a better 0-to-60 time than the six speed because of the advancement in transmission technology that allows for instantaneous shifts even if it isn't of the dual-clutch format. For example, the Mustang 10-speed GT has been recorded by a major automobile magazine from 0-to-60 in 3.8 seconds. That number jumps to 4.3 seconds with the manual shifter. Quarter mile time with the 10-speed is an exhilarating 12.1 seconds at 120 mph.

An $895 optional feature on our test car called Active Valve Performance Exhaust lets the driver select between varying levels of exhaust volume, including normal, sport and track modes along with quiet mode for those late night or early morning drives through the neighborhood.

Unlike some Mustangs of the past, the new pony car's interior is an impressive effort with quality materials. The newly styled dual-cowl dashboard is terrific. The infotainment system is easy to use and Ford's Sync 3 has a clean design and comes with Apple CarPlay and Android Auto capability.

The optional 8.0-inch touchscreen comes with voice activated navigation, SiriusXM satellite radio, and a nine-speaker Sony audio system. If your ears are tuned to loud and pleasing sounds opt for the 1,000-watt B&O PLAY system. And as a bonus, every Mustang has Track Apps in the gauge-cluster display, which enables the driver to monitor everything from cornering g-forces to acceleration times.

2019 Mustang in "Race Red"

Inside, you will find the switchgear easy to use and well placed. There are actual knobs for radio volume and tuning — a blessing in this age of digital funkiness. Likewise, climate controls are clearly marked and right at hand without the need to dive into an infotainment screen.

Like all the American two-door "pony cars" the doors are extremely wide; and while the front seats are comfortable, rear-seat passengers will find tight quarters. Cargo space is adequate at 14 cubic feet.

Our top-of-the-line GT Coupe test car came in with a base price of $36,925 including destination. Tack on more than $11,000 in options and the bottom line rose to $47,915. For the budget minded, the 2.3-liter 310-horsepower Mustang with manual transmission starts at $27,490 including destination charge. The loaded GT convertible was an eye-popping $51,540 including destination.

Base price: $27,490; as driven, $47,915
Engine: 5.0-liter V-8
Horsepower: 460 @ 7,000 rpm
Torque: 420 foot-pounds @ 4,600 rpm
Transmission: 6-speed manual
Drive: rear wheel
Seating: 2/2
Wheelbase: 107.1 inches
Length: 188.5 inches
Curb weight: 3,705 pounds
Turning circle: 36.5 feet
Luggage capacity: 13.5 cubic feet
Fuel capacity: 15.5 gallons (premium recommended)
EPA rating: 15 city, 24 highway, 18 combined
0-60: 4.3 seconds (Car and Driver)
Also consider: Chevrolet Camaro, Dodge Challenger

The Good
• Powerful V-8 engine
• First-rate handling and braking
• Well-designed cabin
• Good sightlines

The Bad
• Large, heavy doors

The Ugly
• Tight rear seating