2013 Ford Mustang

PORTLAND, Ore. — Ford unveiled its 2013 Mustang to a group of journalists here in March and although it bears a strong resemblance to the current model there’s a lot more to the '13 than meets the eye. But first, the eye. The Mustang gets a new front and rear fascia, a more prominent grille and splitter, standard high-intensity headlamps (HID), painted body-side rockers, and LED tail lamps.

Also, the side mirrors come with pony projection light that casts the image of Mustang’s famous pony emblem on the ground when the unlock button is activated, and a new wheel lineup — 12 to choose from to be exact.

It also adds two new colors to its palette: Deep Impact Blue and Gotta Have It Green. The new Mustang is available as a coupe or convertible. It’s also available with a V6 or V8. (The GT is the V8 model and will be the subject of a separate review.)

The new Mustang with the 3.7-liter V6 engine is one of the more pleasant surprises in the automotive world. It’s a DOHC, four valves per cylinder, twin independent variable camshaft timing (Ti-VCT) V6 that puts out a most-impressive 305 horsepower and 280 pound-feet of torque. Furthermore it redlines at close to 7,000 rpm. (Did I mention it’s a V6?) It runs on regular unleaded (87 octane) fuel and gets 19 mpg city/31 mph highway with an automatic transmission and 19/29 with a manual.

Speaking of transmissions, the V6 is available with a standard six-speed manual or a six-speed automatic. Both transmissions are a story unto themselves. The manual comes equipped with Hill Start Assist that keeps the car from rolling backwards when the vehicle is stopped ascending a slope or hill.

The SelectShift automatic offers the driver the choice between fully automatic operation and manual control that’s activated with a selector button on the side of the shifter. Unlike similar transmission from other manufacturers, Ford’s allows the driver to hold a gear right up to the redline if desired; it doesn’t second guess the operator.

But wait, there’s more. The 2013 V6 has a few more horsepower than its predecessor but whatever Ford engineers did with the tuned exhaust makes all the difference in the world when heard in the interior. To be quite honest I’ve never been much of a Mustang V6 fan, viewing it as something of a “pretender” to the image of a performance vehicle. And when I was given the keys to test out a V6 with a manual transmission I was not enthralled.

To be honest, that view of the world did a 180-degree turnaround when I started the car. I would have sworn that I was listening to the deep burble of a V8 hiding under the hood. (I should have realized this wasn’t just another sheep in wolf’s clothing when I noticed the dual chrome exhaust tips coming out of the rear fascia.) At first I thought this was just an apparition and when I started winding through the gears I would come back to the real world of driving a regular V6 (ugh). Was I ever wrong!

The new V6 not only sounds like a V8…it performs like one. I didn’t try out the automatic transmission and probably won’t because now I’m absolutely spoiled. The short throw gearshift handle combined with an all-new steering wheel gives one the impression of driving a Formula 1 racer.

The tuned suspension makes handling a breeze and the new Mustang’s road manners combined with its roguish attributes would even bring a smile to the face of the Phantom of the Opera. Unlike harsh rides associated with pure performance vehicles the 2013 Mustang gives the driver a solid feel of the road without jarring the teeth of the occupants. The steering is selectable to the driver’s needs and offers three modes; sport, comfort and standard. The V6 Mustang sits on standard 17-inch tires and wheels.

The interior of the new Mustang is equally terrific. My test vehicle was not equipped with the optional Recaro seats, which made me happy. As good as Recaros are they still are not designed for people built like a former description of Lucky Strike cigarettes; so round, so firm and so fully packed. The standard seats are extremely comfortable and offer a solid foundation, even when driving the vehicle aggressively. Both the standard and Recaro seating is available in cloth or leather.

When it comes to technology the interior abounds. A new, available 4.2-inch color LCD productivity screen is 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 an 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 yet for driving enthusiasts. Instrument lighting is really clear and Mustang has studiously avoided falling into the trap many manufacturers have of using red illumination for their readouts. Red lighting is best left to U-Boat commanders.

The new Mustang offers two audio systems that deliver exceptional clarity and sound quality that would compete with the acoustic experience of a live performance. There’s also plenty of room for the front seaters — 42.4 inches of legroom. Those in the rear seat…not so much, 29.8 inches.

Finally, there’s another less-known reason one should consider a V6 Mustang versus the higher-performing GT: While the extra 115 horsepower may be a source of personal pride they’re also a source of increased revenue for insurance companies who equate horsepower to earnings. I don’t know what the cost difference is and a lot depends on the driving record and age of the insured. But you better believe that insurance agents salivate at the prospect of hitting the “option” button when 420 horsepower V8s enter the equation.

As Mustang nears its 50th birthday the old adage of “You’re not getting older; you’re getting better” sure rings true. The 2013 version is the best one yet and now that I’ve become a fan of the new V6 engine, as I’m sure others will as well, a whole corral of opportunities has opened up.  

— Al Vinikour