Ford Mustang trades perks for power

  • Article by: LARRY PRINTZ , The Virginian-Pilot
  • Updated: October 5, 2012 - 11:16 PM

It may not be the most sensible car, but so what? The Mustang is a car designed to take you back in time.

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Available horsepower for the 2013 Ford Mustang ranges from 305 hp, for the base model, to 650 hp, for the Shelby GT500.

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You might think that the driver of a Ford Mustang is usually stopped for speeding due to the car's powerful V6 and V8 engines. But you can't entirely blame a Mustang driver's right foot for moving violations. Instead, blame Ford's interior designers.

They are the ones who, in an effort to evoke the 1960s, blessed the instrument cluster with a font that is condensed -- and positively illegible. What's worse is that the speedometer's numbers are squeezed into half of the dial. The rest of the gauge is empty.

And that's not all.

Why does my elbow hit the hard center console? Why are the vanity mirror covers so cheaply made? Why is there no spot for my Ray-Bans? Or change? Why is cabin storage so meager? The sun visors lack that little strap to hold a turnpike toll ticket, cash, slips and the like. The glovebox is barely big enough to hold the owner's manual and a smartphone. The center console lid has a button that's perfectly placed so that every time I rest my arm on the center console, it opens the bin lid. And wouldn't it be nice if a 21st century Mustang had a steering wheel that telescopes as well as tilts? The test car, with a suggested retail price north of $40,000, has an interior worthy of a car that costs half as much.

But none of that matters, for sensibly evaluating a Mustang is ridiculous. You want sensible? Buy a Fiesta.

This is a Mustang. It has a heritage, and cars with heritage have compromises. That's part of the deal.

The Mustang's familiar retro styling has been buffed to a modern sheen by Ford stylists, promising to speed you back in time. And does it ever.

Twist the key and listen to what eight cylinders of Dearborn muscle sounds like. Next, put the car in gear. Then, step on the accelerator and hold on. That's when quibbles fade like promises made in a singles bar the night before.

Mustangs are offered as a coupe or convertible. Base models get a 3.7-liter double-overhead-cam V6 good for 305 horsepower. Next comes the GT and its 420-hp 5.0-liter V8. Both models can be fitted with six-speed transmissions: manual or automatic.

Not enough for you? You can opt for the Mustang Boss 302 with an extra 24 horses under the hood or the big dog, the Shelby GT500 is powered by an aluminum 5.8-liter supercharged V8 producing a ground-pounding 650 horsepower -- more than double that of the Mustang's V6. Both the Boss 302 and GT500 come only with manual transmissions.

I settled for the classic GT coupe. Believe me, for all but the most power-hungry, 420 horsepower is more than enough to bring a smile to your face. Power comes on fiercely. The engine and exhaust are a mechanical symphony, making all of the right noise.

Experienced muscle-heads will find this car easy to control with perfectly weighted steering that returns some road feel and a firm ride that easily handles all but the worst roads.

Of course, if you're feeling frisky, you can turn off the stability control. Then, the advantage of the car's rear-drive set-up is revealed: Sliding this car's tail around is a whole mess of fun.

But if you get in over your head, you'll find the brakes will save your bacon.

With all of the power on tap, you might be surprised to find that, when handled docilely, a Mustang GT can return 27 mpg. But being good in this car is like going to Las Vegas and never gambling; what's the point?

The 2013 Mustang GT is the pinnacle of the retro-themed Mustangs. It's a fun ride, one that lives up to its name. Still, it's a bit like Mae West in her final movie: it looks better from a distance.

So if you like cars that look backward, enjoy this one while you can.

A new Mustang is rumored to arrive as a 2014 model and, if the rumors are true, a more modern steed will soon be prancing in Ford's pastures.

  • 2013 FORD MUSTANG GT

    Engine: 5.0-liter V8

    Wheelbase: 107.1 inches

    Length: 188.5 inches

    Weight: 3,675 pounds

    Cargo space: 13.4 cubic feet

    EPA rating (city/highway): 18/25 mpg

    Base price, base model: $22,200

    Base price, test model: $34,300

    As tested: $42,060

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