Driven: 2013 Ford Mustang V6 Premium

By Brandon Turkus

May 23, 2012

—Lake Orion, Michigan
You can divvy up the changes for the 2013 Ford Mustang into two distinct categories: aesthetic and functional. On the aesthetics end, we’ve attached a fairly extensive gallery of images of our tester, while Multimedia Editor Chris Amos took one of his world-famous quick drive videos of our bright red pony car.
We’ll let you draw your own conclusions on the sheetmetal changes for 2013. In the humble opinion of your editorial staff, though, we think the changes look excellent, particularly when viewed from the rear. As for the functional changes, well, we’ve got you covered.
Mustang Picture
On The Road
Before we get into what’s new, let’s cover what’s carried over for 2013. The powertrain is essentially unchanged, with the now-familiar 3.7-liter V-6 driving our Mustang’s rear wheels. It produces the same 305 horsepower and 280 pound-feet of torque as last year’s model.
The transmission has been swapped out for Ford’s SelectShift six-speed automatic. From the start, it’s pretty clear this isn’t the transmission for an enthusiast.
In normal driving, the shifts aren’t bad, though they are a bit slower than we’d prefer. At speed, punching the throttle results in a momentary pause, where the trans seems to be trying to cope with the sudden throttle application, before finally downshifting. Slotting it into Sport doesn’t help much either.
[Click here to read our review of the 2013 Ford Flex EcoBoost]
Switching to manual mode, our only option is to use the rocker-switch located on the driver’s side of the gearshift. It’s an awkward, unnatural setup, particularly on such a sporty car. Paddles would go a long way here. In manual mode, shifts feel somewhat faster, but downshifts are still sluggish.
Our tester was fitted with the $1995 V6 Performance Package, which upgraded the suspension (strut-tower brace, larger front sway bar, rear sway bar from SVT, stiffer front springs), brakes (upgraded front and rear brake calipers with performance pads), and wheels/tires (nineteen-inch wheels wrapped in Goodyear Eagle F1 Supercar tires). The stability control got a new setting, while a 3.31 rear-end was fitted.
On road, the Performance Pack Mustang is a better dancer than last year’s car. There’s an immense amount of grip on offer (those tires are like glue), and it takes some effort to truly get this car out of sorts.
In the bends, the Mustang feels well balanced. The damping could stand to be a bit firmer, as the nose dives more than is ideal under hard braking, but it’s not hugely disruptive. Side-to-side transitions are smooth and progressive, with just enough roll on offer to remind you that this is still, technically, a muscle car.
The Mustang is willing in the way it rotates, giving it a more agile feel than in something like a Dodge Challenger. Part of this comes down to its overall size. It’s the smallest of the three American muscle cars, and feels easier to manage on the road.
The Mustang’s steering still isn’t great. There’s not enough feedback, which has been an issue for as long as we can remember. We don’t mind relying on the suspension to communicate with us, but when Ford has gone to such lengths to get a lot of the other parts of this car right, it just seems a bit half-cocked to go with the uninvolving EPAS system.
Even the inclusion of adjustable steering (with Sport, Comfort, and Normal settings) doesn’t help with the lack of feedback. That being said, the extra effort afforded by Sport was nice. Switching to Comfort on the freeway also managed to help the highway stability, as the lighter rack required fewer steering corrections.
There’s An App For That
As you may be able to tell, on-road changes for the Mustang are kept to a minimum. There are some cool tech changes, though, with the new TrackApps suite and the accompanying 4.2-inch LCD screen.
Situated in the instrument cluster, this screen accesses all the usual information, including fuel economy data, the trip computer, vehicle settings, and information. At the top of the menu is a sub-menu labeled “Gauge Layout.” This sub-menu offers all manner of detailed information about the goings on under the hood.
Drivers can monitor everything from the car’s range to more nitty-gritty settings like the oil temperature/pressure and transmission temperature to determine just how well their car is running. In a world of cars where the details of how the engine is performing are largely unknown to the driver, this level of information is a breath of fresh air.
The TrackApp menu gives drivers access to a variety of performance metrics. An accelerometer is available for measuring lateral, forward, and rearward G forces, while the “Acceleration” section can record sprints to 30, 60, or 100 miles per hour, as well as eighth-, quarter-, and full-mile trap times. You can also monitor braking performance from 60 or 100 mph. The system is only intended for track use, but we have no doubt that it’ll be used at stoplights far and wide. While we don’t endorse that sort of behavior, we have to say that it’s nice to see Ford step up and offer this sort of performance software on a $30,000 vehicle.
The system works well, but does require a bit of learning as to when the timer actually starts. Once rolling, you’ll see a rather simple bar that fills up as you complete your run. Once complete, it’ll display your time. It’s a simple little toy, but one that adds interest to the car.
Overall, the Ford Mustang remains a solid choice for the driving enthusiast, even if that enthusiast can’t opt for the fire-breathing 5.0-liter V-8. Power in this car is decent, and with its fresh new looks, upgraded technology suite, and optional suspension upgrades, it remains a relative bargain for the Americana-obsessed involvement shopper.
VS: Chevrolet Camaro 2LT
While the Camaro is the better handler, its size works against it. Its wheelbase is five inches longer, and it’s two inches longer overall. It’s also over 200 pounds heavier than the Mustang. So yes, its suspension tuning might inspire a bit more confidence, but this is a more difficult vehicle to place along the roadway.
Despite the extra weight, the Camaro doesn’t deliver much more power. It bests the Mustang by 18 horsepower, but is down two pound-feet of torque. The Ford’s V-6 also makes its power lower (albeit only slightly) in the rev range.
The Camaro’s automatic is better, though, and it is available with paddle shifters (even though they are some of the most useless paddles on Earth).
We’d call this one a solid draw that has all the trimmings of a more in-depth comparison.
VS: Hyundai Genesis 2.0T R-Spec
Expecting the Challenger here? Sorry. The 2.0-liter, turbocharged four-pot in the Genesis presents a much more compelling rear-drive alternative to the big, hulking Challenger.
The Genesis and Mustang are actually really evenly matched here. The Mustang has more power (305/280 versus 274 horsepower and 275 pound-feet of torque in the Hyundai), but is around 100 pounds heavier (3523 in the Ford versus 3424 in an auto-equipped R-Spec). In a drag race, we’d give the trophy to the Mustang, but it’d be a close fight.
In terms of feedback, we’d call the Hyundai the more talkative car, mainly due to its steering. There’s just more feedback through the wheel. Combine that with a decently chatty suspension, and the Mustang is in bad shape.
Despite the extra feedback, the Mustang feels just a little bit better when pushed hard. There’s a lot of grip on offer, in particular when you get the V6 Performance Package. The Mustang isn’t as fast to rotate as the frenetic Hyundai, but it’s more progressive and easier to manage when it does.
2013 Ford Mustang V6 Premium
Engine: V-6, 3.7-liters, 24v
Output: 305 hp/280 lb-ft
Weight: 3523 lb
Fuel Economy, City/Hwy: 19/31 mpg
Base Price: $27,190
On Sale: Now