The iconic pony car returns for 2013 with some cool tweaks and upgrades, soldiering on as one of the most-popular Ford models ever.
Last redesigned for 2010, the Mustang doesn't get a complete makeover for the new model year, but there are some interesting changes.
Among them are optional heated outside mirrors that project the famous pony emblem on the ground beside the car. It comes on automatically when the unlock button is pushed on the remote.
At the front of the car, there are new signature lamps in the grille, LED fog lights on the GT models, LED taillights for all models, and - another cool touch - a center-mounted rear stop lamp that changes from red to white when the transmission is shifted into "reverse," for use as a backup light.
Rocker panels are now body-color, and at the rear is a black panel connecting the taillights. The sequential turn signal feature has been retained, of course, but there is a smoked look to the taillights.
Once again, there are Mustang V-6 models in coupe and convertible styles, and V-8 powered GT models in both body styles, as well. Also returning is the Boss 302 that was introduced for 2012.
The V-6 models get new 17-inch painted wheels. Both V-6 and GT models can be equipped with Recaro bolstered bucket seats in either cloth or leather.
Those are the same seats already featured on the 2012 Shelby GT500 and Boss 302 models. They also come with integrated head restraints that are designed to accommodate a driver and front passenger who are also wearing helmets.
The GT models get a modest bump in power - they'll now have 420 horsepower, up from 412 for the 2012 GT, thanks to the incorporation of some of the technology from the Boss 302's 444-horsepower, 5.0-liter V-8.
With the optional SelectShift six-speed automatic, you'll be able to push the engine all the way to redline while using the manual-shift feature, rather than have the transmission get scared and shift at a lower engine speed on its own.
There's also a new GT Track Package available that's offered only with the six-speed manual gearbox and 3.73 axle. It includes an auxiliary engine cooler, upgraded radiator, performance brake pads and the Torsen differential also used on the Boss 302.
This package has everything that's included in the 2012 Brembo Brake Package, included 14-inch vented front discs, unique 19-inch alloy wheels and summer performance tires, Ford says.
Even without the Track Package, the GT models -- manual or automatic -- will be offered with the Brembo Brake Package. And the V-6 Performance Package will be available on automatic models for the first time.
Also new for 2013 will be Hill Start Assist, available on all models with a manual transmission. It's designed to hold the car on a hill for up to two seconds when the driver's foot comes off the brake, to allow time to start the car moving forward without having it roll backward. I've seen this feature on SUVs in recent years, but it's not usually found on cars.
The new front end has a more-aggressive look. On the GT models, there are heat extractors on the hood to move hot air out of the engine compartment.
A whole new lineup of wheels is being offered. They range from the standard 17-inch painted wheels on the V-6 models to the optional 19-inch wheels available on the GT and in the V-6 Performance Package. Besides the painted finish, there is also a machined-aluminum finish offered on the 17-inch wheels.
Standard on the GT and premium GT are 18-inch, five-spoke painted-aluminum wheels. Optional on the GT are 19-inch machined wheels with a gloss-black finish for a "more sinister look," Ford says.
With the Brembo and Track packages, you'll get 10-spoke, 19-inch dark stainless-painted aluminum wheels.
An optional dash message center has a 4.2-inch LCD screen and comes with "Track Apps," showing such data as g-forces, acceleration times both for zero-60 mph and the quarter mile, and braking times. There is a cool "countdown start" feature that looks like the start lights at a dragstrip.
The steering system offers three selectable settings - standard, comfort and sport - which can be set through the message center.
Ford says the sport mode "provides the most road force felt through the steering wheel and requires the highest level of steering effort, allowing the driver to be more in tune with how the vehicle reacts to the road." That's the setting you would use on the track, of course, but also on fun twisty roads.
The comfort mode gives the driver the least amount of feedback from the road, and also requires the least amount of steering effort. This would be best for city driving and parking lots. The standard mode is intended to be a balance between the comfort and sport settings.
Inside, the new Mustangs offer new Shaker audio systems that are designed to produce sound similar to that of a live performance, Ford says. There are two: the Shaker, with 370 watts and eight speakers, and the Shaker Pro, with 550 watts and nine speakers.
On models with Ford's voice-controlled SYNC system, there is AppLink, a software program that allows for voice control of apps such as iHeartRadio and Pandora on smartphones connected to SYNC.
The Boss 302 models for 2013 ($42,200 plus options) come with a new hockey-stick side graphic.
My tester was the V-6 Premium coupe with a "Race Red" exterior and charcoal black interior. Base price for this model is $26,200.
Mine came with the 3.7-liter V-6 engine, rated at 305 horsepower and 280 foot-pounds of torque. The V-6 has pretty decent fuel economy. EPA estimates are 19 mpg city/31 highway for the automatic coupe I tested; with the convertible, the numbers are 19/30. With the manual gearbox, the estimates are 19/29 for the coupe and convertible. For the GT models, ratings are 18 city/25 highway with the automatic; 15/26 with the manual.
2013 FORD MUSTANG:
-- Base price: $22,200
-- Price as tested: $28,440
All prices exclude destination charges
G. Chambers Williams III has been an automotive columnist for the Fort Worth Star-Telegram since 1994.
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