When Ford launched the 2013 Mustang at the L.A. Auto Show in November of last year we couldn’t help but wonder what they were thinking. After all, Ford had already launched a revamped Mustang for 2010, introduced new powertrain options for 2011, and with the next generation arriving for the 2015 model year, this new design will only be around for two years. So why even bother? Not that we’re complaining. New updates every couple years keeps things exciting, but it’s also generally expensive.
We surmised that there was more to the 2013 Mustang than just an updated look and a few new options, though, and convinced Ford to give us a week with one to see for ourselves. For the test car we requested as many of the new-for-2013 features as possible including the 4.2-inch LCD screen with Track Apps and Gauge mode, the Recaro bucket seats and the GT Track Package. Yes, Ford is also offering a new SelectShift feature for the automatic transmission for 2013, but forgive us for wanting the manual version. We also inquired about getting one in one of the new colors, Deep Impact Blue or Gotta Have It Green, but we knew that we being a little picky. Ford did the best they could and delivered a Premium GT in Red Candy with everything but the GT Track Package (although it did come with the Brembo Brake Package).
When Ford updated the Mustang’s design for 2010 we weren’t immediately taken with the new styling. The lines seemed too complex compared to the first generation S197 Mustang, and we simply hated the taillights. Since then the look has grown on us, and now the 2005-2009 Mustangs appear dated, albeit still attractive. Of course, just as we started to like the design Ford went and changed things up again. The new design takes cues from the Shelby GT500 up front with a protruding snout and a larger lower grille. Some might think that the two models are now too close in their styling, but we think the 2013 Shelby’s gaping mouth does a good job of visually separating the two. HID headlights, which were a $525 option for 2011-2012, now come standard on both V6 and GT models. Ford has also added dual vents to the hood, and while can appreciate that they’re actually functional (most easily seen with the hood open), we tend to think they only serve to make the front of the Mustang even more busy.
Around back Ford has addressed the universal complaints about the taillight design (we weren’t the only ones) with all-new individual LED units. While the overall housing is still essentially the same shape as the previous taillights, the new design is much improved and does a great job of appearing both modern and retro at the same time. We particularly love the look of the LED ropes at night, which give the 2013 Mustang a distinctive look in the dark. Our only complaint is that the shiny black plastic in between the individual LEDs as well as the panel in between the lights is nearly impossible to keep clean. The S197 Mustang has always had this issue, but the shiny finish makes the problem even worse. We’re also not big fans of the black plastic surrounding the license plate. Overall, though, we think Ford did an excellent job with the refresh.
Inside the 2013 Mustang is mostly unchanged from the the previous year, which isn’t such a bad thing. The updated interior that arrived in 2010 was a significant improvement from the 2005-2009, and we can still appreciate many of the soft touch materials throughout the cabin. One change that might go unnoticed, although we think it’s fairly important, is that the leather steering wheel now comes standard on every Mustang instead of just Premium models. We always thought the plastic steering wheel felt too cheap to be in any Mustang, even rental versions, and we’re glad to see it go. It was the one thing that would prevent us from buying the base model, but now we wouldn’t hesitate to get one.
The first major change with the interior of the 2013 Mustang comes in the form of the Recaro seats. We simply adored the cloth Recaro seats when we drove the 2012 Mustang Boss 302 last year, so we’re happy to see that Ford has made them available on the Mustang GT. Base models come with cloth versions like in the Boss 302, but our Premium came with the leather ones which we like even more. The Recaros give the cabin a more upscale feel and are more than comfortable enough for daily driving (perhaps even more so than the standard seats) but they have enough bolstering that they are suitable for the occasional track day. They’re a $1,595 option (both cloth and leather are the same price), and for us it would be a no-brainer to check it off on the option box.
The second big change for the interior is the addition of a 4.2-inch LCD screen for Premium models that includes Track Apps and Gauge Mode. While we initially thought these new features were nothing more than gimmicks, we found ourselves playing with them more often than we thought we would. The gauge mode displays various items like air/fuel ratio or inlet air temperature, while Track Apps allows the driver to record performance stats like lateral acceleration, 0-60 mph times and even braking distance from 60 mph. Ford specifically states that these items are to be used on track, but we get the feeling that most drivers will be using them out on public roads. The menu is easy to navigate, using the controls on the left side of the steering wheel, and there are plenty of different options to play with. The addition of the LCD screen also makes other features in the car easier to use including changing the ambient lighting or gauge colors, selecting the steering mode or turning the rear view camera on or off. It also has a detailed display for fuel economy.
Other new options of note in the 2013 Mustang, although neither were included in our test car, are two new available audio systems, a 370 watt Shaker system and a 550 watt Pro Shaker system.
With the 5.0L Coyote V8 debuting in the 2011 model we wouldn’t have expected Ford to offer anything new under the hood, but they did indeed make some small updates to the engine. Using lessons learned while developing the Boss 302’s high-revving motor, Ford engineers added a phosphorus coating to the pistons, piston rings from the Boss 302 were added and slight calibration improvements were made. The result is 420 horsepower @ 6500 rpm, eight more than in 2011-2012, and the torque rating stays the same at 390 lb-ft @ 4,250 rpm. The difference was imperceptible to us, although we imagine that every little bit counts.
Even so, it’s no surprise that Ford chose to keep the 5.0L V8 relatively the same for 2013. We had few complaints about the engine when it was introduced for 2011, and we haven’t heard many complaints from others either. Besides, we’re sure Ford didn’t want to step on the toes of the 444 horsepower Boss 302. Regardless, the Coyote remains an impressive engine that should serve the Mustang well for several years to come.
Also new to the Mustang for 2011 was the Getrag MT-82 6-speed transmission used in both GT and V6 models. The gearbox was the source of most of the problems for initial owners, even causing the NHTSA to open an investigation into the matter, but the complaints seem to have decreased since then. The 6-speed manual was flawless during our time with the car, providing quick and accurate shifts. Granted, this was a press car that had no doubt been carefully examined before being handed over, but we still believe Ford has rectified many of the issues experienced by owners. There will always be exceptions, but our experience was not one of them.
While the Boss 302’s high-revving V8 might remain exclusive to the model, a few of the car’s track-oriented items are now available on the GT in the form of the Track Package (it can only be fitted to cars with the manual transmission and 3.73 gears). A $2,495 option, the Track Package comes with everything in the Brembo Brake Package plus an engine oil cooler, upgraded radiator, performance friction brake pads and a Torsen differential. Considering the difference in the Brembo and Track packages is only $800 (the Torsen differential by itself is $1,029 from Ford Racing Performance Parts), we think it’s a cost effective option for anyone who will spend even one or two weekends a year at the track.
For those owners that will keep their spirited driving to the street the Brembo Brake Package should be more than suitable. Considering how quickly the Mustang GT can build up speed it’s an option we’d definitely recommend unless you plan on upgrading the wheels and brakes on your own. The firmer suspension tuning provides much more fun when pushing the car hard, although the ride remains comfortable for daily driving. We also prefer the the unique 19-inch wheels that come with the package, the same ones used for 2011-2012.
Also new to the Mustang GT for 2013 is the selectable steering system that debuted on the 2012 Boss 302. Three different settings are available – Standard, Comfort and Sport – which adjust both steering feel and effort. Although the difference is notable, it’s not extreme either. We preferred using Sport mode due to the increased steering effort, although we’d likely change it to Comfort for long drives.
With the design changes and new features you might expect pricing for the Mustang to increase significantly, but the change is fairly small. The base Mustang GT now starts at $31,095 (compared to $29,995 for 2012), while the Premium model retails for $35,095 (up from $34,895). Our particular test car totaled $40,225 thanks to the Brembo Brake Package ($1,695), Recaro seats ($1,595), Reverse Sensing / Security Package ($695), Red Candy Paint ($395), 3.73 rear axle ($395) and rear view camera ($385).
That price is getting dangerously close to the Boss 302 (priced at $42,995 for 2013), but we could easily live without several items. With only our two essential items, the Brembo Brake Package and Recaro seats, the price tag drops to $34,385.
At the end of the week with the 2013 Mustang GT we undoubtedly had a new appreciation for what Ford has done with America’s favorite pony car. We still aren’t in love with the busier front end, but like with the 2010 Mustang, we suspect it will grow on us fairly quickly. The new taillights on the other hand, are a complete hit in our books. As for the interior, the Recaro seats are simply brilliant, and we gained an unexpected appreciation for the new LCD screen (unfortunately it only comes with Premium models), not just for the Track Apps and Gauge mode but also for its better usability.
Here’s the problem, though. If there’s going to be an updated Mustang coming out every couple years, that only makes it that much more difficult for customers to buy the current model. We can’t help but think how many times we’ve felt sorry for owners who purchased their Mustangs the previous year. 2009 owners missed out on the new 2010 styling. 2010 owners missed out on 2011’s new powertrains. 2011 owners missed out on the Boss 302. 2012 owners missed out on the new styling and features of the 2013. And so it continues. With the next generation Mustang what incentive do potential owners have to get the 2013? Here’s one big reason – the 2013/2014 Mustangs could be the last with retro styling. If you prefer the old school look, then you better pick up your pony car in the next year or two.