Ford Mustang V-6 — Tuned for performance

By Jim Meachen and Ted Biederman

The 2013 Ford Mustang bears a strong resemblance to the 2012 model, but there’s a lot more to the ’13 than what immediately meets the eye. For instance the Mustang gets a new front and rear fascia, a more prominent grille and splitter, standard high-intensity headlamps, painted body-side rockers, and LED tail lamps.

Additionally the side mirrors come with projection lights that cast 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. The new Mustang as usual is available as a coupe or convertible and with either a V-6 or GT V-8.

The Mustang with the 3.7-liter V-6 engine is one of the more pleasant surprises in the automotive world for 2013. The V-6 puts out a most-impressive 305 horsepower and 280 pound-feet of torque and redlines at close to 7,000 rpm — and here’s the really good part — running on regular unleaded gas (87 octane) rated at 19 mpg city/31 mpg highway with an automatic transmission. It drops slightly to 19/29 with a manual.

The new V-6 not only sounds like a V-8, it performs like one. We drove the short-throw six-speed manual in the mountains near Portland, Ore., earlier this year and it made us believers in the V-6 performance. We drove a six-speed automatic on home turf and found it an acceptable alternative.

The manual, by the way, comes equipped with Hill Start Assist that keeps the car from rolling backwards when the vehicle is stopped on a slope. Next time you are sitting at a stoplight on a sharp incline worried about rolling back into the guy who is on top of your bumper, you can thank Ford when the light turns green and you expertly pull away from the pushy person behind you.

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 transmissions from other manufacturers, Ford’s allows the driver to hold a gear right up to redline if desired; it doesn’t second guess the operator.

So just how does the Mustang V-6 stack up in the automotive world? Try these instrument-tested numbers on for size (courtesy of Car and Driver magazine) — 0-to-60 in 5.3 seconds and a quarter mile in 13.9 seconds at 102 mph. Only a handful of years ago those would have been good GT numbers.

A re-tuned suspension makes handling a delight and the new Mustang’s road manners combined with its roguish attributes brought smiles to our faces. And 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 its occupants.

The steering is selectable to the driver’s needs and offers three modes; sport, comfort and standard.

The interior of the new Mustang is equally terrific. Our test vehicle was not equipped with the optional Recaro seats, a $1,595 tab. And that was a good thing for us. As terrific as Recaro seats may be they still aren't 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. Available in cloth or leather, the standard driver's seat can be purchased with six-way power. There’s also plenty of room for those in front — 42.4 inches of legroom. Those in the rear seat…not so much, 29.8 inches.

When it comes to technology, there’s a new 4.2-inch color LCD productivity screen located in the instrument cluster between the speedometer and tachometer. It lists the basics like fuel economy, trip miles, oil temperature and air/fuel ratio and engine temperature.

As much as we like the new V-6, the GT is still the gold standard in the Mustang universe. The 5.0-liter V-8 now puts out a whopping 420 horsepower and 390 pound-feet of torque. It will tear up 0-to-60 in 4.6 seconds. Gas mileage is exemplary considering the horsepower, rated at 15 mpg city and 26 mpg highway.

The thing is the V-6 starts at $22,995 while the V-8 begins at $31,095. Our V-6 test car in Premium trim carried a base price of $26,995 and an as-tested price of $29,880 after options that included the automatic transmission.

As Mustang nears its 50th birthday the old adage of “You’re not getting older; you’re getting better” sure rings true. The 2013 versions — V-6 and GT — are the best Mustangs yet.

Base price: $22,995; as driven, $29,880
Engine: 3.7-liter V-6
Horsepower: 305 @ 6,500 rpm
Torque: 280 foot-pounds @ 4,250 rpm
Drive: rear wheel
Transmission: 6-speed automatic
Seating: 2/2
Wheelbase: 107.1 inches
Length: 188.1 inches
Curb weight: 3,530 pounds
Turning circle: 33.4 feet
Luggage capacity: 13.4 cubic feet
Fuel capacity: 16 gallons (regular)
EPA rating: 31 highway, 19 city
0-60: 5.4 seconds (Car and Driver)
Also consider: Chevy Camaro V-6, Dodge Challenger V-6, Honda Accord Coupe

The Good
• Interesting styling updates
• Strong V-6 engine
• Excellent handling
• Good gas mileage

The Bad
• Steering wheel does not telescope

The Ugly
• An all-new Mustang is still two years away