2013 Ford Mustang

Ford keeps tweaking and improving America's best pony car

Ford isn't standing pat with the Mustang, even though it's widely viewed as the best American pony car. A 2010 update changed the look and improved the interior, and for 2011 it got two excellent new engines. Though this generation of the Mustang is nearing the end of its current life cycle, Ford is still improving upon its winning formula. The 2013 Ford Mustang gets a minor facelift, slightly more power from its V8 engine, and a cool tech feature to measure performance. These changes only make America's best pony car even better.

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2013 Ford Mustang Updates

The 2013 Ford Mustang exterior changes start up front with new front and rear fascias, a more prominent grille surround, larger air intakes at the front corners, and the addition of HID headlights. Along the sides, the rockers are now painted instead of black and the mirrors add puddle lights that project the Mustang logo on the ground. At the rear, there are now LED taillights.

Inside, the 2013 Mustang offers a new 4.2-inch Productivity Screen between the gauges. This screen handles the trip computer information and displays performance information under the umbrella Track Apps. Other interior updates include new Shaker audio systems and optional leather or cloth Recaro seats.

Performance upgrades consist of eight more horsepower for the 5.0-liter V8 for a total of 420, manual shift capability for the automatic transmission, and Hill Start Assist on manual transmission cars. A GT Track Package also comes with a 3.73 rear axle ratio, an engine cooler and upgraded radiator, performance brake pads, and the Torsen differential from the Boss 302. It is only available on cars with the manual transmission, and comes with the equipment from the Brembo Brake package, which includes 14-inch vented front discs, 19-inch wheels, and summer performance tires.

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2013 Ford Mustang Models, Features, and Pricing

The 2013 Ford Mustang is offered as a coupe or convertible, each in V6, V6 Premium, GT and GT Premium trim levels. Boss 302 and Shelby GT500 models are also offered, but this review only covers the V6 and GT models.

Standard equipment on the $22,200 Ford Mustang V6 coupe includes cloth upholstery, air conditioning, AM/FM/CD stereo, audio input jack, leather-wrapped tilt steering wheel, power windows and locks, remote keyless entry, Ford MyKey, LED fog lamps, HID automatic headlights, LED sequential taillamps, rear spoiler, and 17-inch alloy wheels. The $26,200 Premium V6 coupe adds leather upholstery, ambient interior lighting, auto-dimming rearview mirror, 4.2-inch Productivity Screen with Track Apps, six-months of satellite radio, six-way power driver's seat, Shaker sound system, Ford Sync entertainment and communications system, and a universal garage door opener. The convertibles are equipped like the coupe, but they add a cloth power top and cost $27,200 for the V6 and $31,200 for the V6 Premium.

To the 2013 Ford Mustang V6, the $30,300 GT adds a larger front stabilizer bar, a limited-slip differential, larger brakes, and 18-inch wheels. The $34,300 GT Premium coupe gets the same equipment as the V6 Premium. Prices for the GT convertible and GT Premium convertible are $35,300 and $39,300, respectively.

Notable options consist of an Electronics package with a navigation system, HD radio, and dual-zone automatic climate control; the Brembo Brake package; the GT Track package; and rear park assist. A California Special package for the GT gets a unique, sporty look, and a V6 Performance package adds such equipment as a strut-tower brace, larger sway bars, stiffer springs, upgraded brakes, and 19-inch wheels on summer tires.

Standard safety features on the 2013 Ford Mustang consist of dual front airbags, front side airbags, anti-lock brakes, tire-pressure monitor, traction control, and electronic stability control.

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Fast and Faster: Two New Engines

Ford added two new engines in 2011 that transformed the car from good to great. The 3.7-liter V6 cranks out 305 horsepower at 6500 rpm and 280 pound-feet of torque at 4250 rpm. It is offered with a six-speed manual or six-speed automatic transmission. EPA fuel economy ratings are 19 mpg city/31 highway (19/30 for the convertible) with the automatic and 19/29 with the manual.

The V6 starts strong from a stop and has plenty in reserve for passing response. Ford isn't providing 0-60 mph numbers, but several outlets have posted times of less than six seconds. That's almost as quick as the previous V8. The V6 emits a refined growl, too, befitting a pony car. The six-speed manual transmission is fun to shift, but the shifts could be shorter and the action more positive. The automatic transmission downshifts quickly when extra power is needed. Instead of steering wheel shift paddles, however, it has plus and minus buttons on the gearshift. These aren't nearly as cool as paddles and they require taking your hands off the steering wheel to shift during aggressive driving, which means less control.

Anyone who drives the V6 will love it, but if performance enthusiasts make the mistake of trying the V8, they'll have to have it instead. This modern dual-overhead cam 5.0-liter is a joy to drive. It revs willingly and has tons of ready power. Power delivery is more immediate than the larger overhead valve V8s from Dodge and Chevy, and it revs quicker to make devilish things like burnouts easier. Again, Ford isn't providing a 0 to 60 mph number, but it is likely in the 4.7-second range. That's darn quick. Better yet, the V8 makes a great rumbling sound that is distinctly American and a delight for anyone who loves American muscle.

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Pure Pony Driving Experience

While the Mustang's engines give it an advantage over the competition, the driving experience is an even greater advantage. At 200 to 400 pounds lighter than the Chevrolet Camaro and Dodge Challenger, the Mustang is more agile, more tossable, and more engaging. The Mustang bites into turns with an immediacy the other cars can't match and changes direction far more willingly. Ford's electric-assist power steering is also quicker and offers more feel. That's good news because automakers are having a tough time getting electric power steering to feel natural. Ford also offers adjustable power steering in the Mustang, which gives drivers the ability to stiffen the weight at the touch of a button.

Depending on the model and options, the 2013 Ford Mustang ranges from a sporty feeling street cruiser to practically track ready. At the more docile end of the spectrum lies a base V6 convertible, which lacks the rigidity of the coupe and has the softest suspension settings. It's still fun to drive, but the body flex means ultimate performance isn't on the menu. Opt for a GT coupe with the Track package, however, and you get rigidity, suspension and brakes for the Mustang to survive a day at a racetrack. It should be noted here that while the base brakes will do just fine in everyday driving, buyers intending to take their cars to the track or drive them hard through twisty roads will definitely want the Brembos. They offer more stopping power and dissipate heat better during aggressive use.

The Mustang's one dynamic flaw remains its rear suspension. Its solid rear axle means bumps that affect one side of the car transfer over to the other side as well. That equates to a bumpy, busy ride over broken pavement. Thankfully, the ride isn't too harsh. Still, we would much prefer an independent rear suspension.

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Retro Mustang Interior

2013 Ford Mustang power and dynamics are far more impressive than its interior. Though improved from the previous generation, the cabin materials still smack of cost-cutting and the rear seat is best left to kids. Most of the materials are hard plastic with a less-than-sturdy feel. Same goes for the switchgear.

There are plenty of things to like, though. The dashboard and gauges have a 1960s retro look that will appeal to old muscle car fans. Ford also offers several cool features. Ambient lighting lets drivers choose the color of the illumination around the gauges, Ford Sync provides a connection to cell phones and MP3 players, and the new Track Apps feature is appropriate for a car with the Mustang's performance pedigree.

Track Apps is found within a new 4.2-inch LCD screen between the gauges. It allows Ford Mustang drivers to measure performance stats such as 0 to 60 mph and quarter-mile times, braking distance, and g-forces. It even shows a dragstrip-style "Christmas tree" on the screen as a countdown to timed runs. Dodge has offered this type of system in its SRT products, and we're glad Ford is now doing the same.

Space in the 2013 Ford Mustang is a tale of two rows. The front seat offers plenty of head and legroom for even taller occupants. The seats are fairly sporty in general with decent bolstering, but buyers intending to test the limits of the car's handling on a regular basis will want the extra support provided by the optional Recaro seats, which are available in both cloth and leather.

The rear seat fits only two occupants and lacks both the head clearance and legroom to make it comfortable for adults. If taller occupants are up front, legroom will be almost completely gone. However, the kids can sit back there and yell things like "Wee," or "Daddy, I'm telling Mom," whenever you try to impress them with a glorious burnout.

The Mustang's trunk is roomy for a car of this type. The coupe has 13.4 cubic feet of space and the convertible has 9.6 cubic feet. Both are large for the class, and the coupe has the further advantage of split-folding rear seats.

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The Verdict

With its lightweight, willing power, and sharp moves, the Ford Mustang is what a pony car should be. The changes for 2013, though minor, are welcome. We especially like the Track Apps feature. The solid rear axle remains a point a contention for ride quality and the interior materials could use an upgrade, but those aren't deal breakers. The 2013 Ford Mustang is a more engaging choice than its Chevrolet and Dodge competition and proudly carries the mantel as the best affordable American performance car. www.ford.com

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