First Impression of 2013 Mustang – A Worthy Heir to Tradition

Posted by at 1:25 am on March 19, 2012

Many of us have special cars from our childhood.  As kid who tried to drive his mother’s car at age 4, cars are important landmarks in my life. There are a couple of models of cars that will always be special to me – Let’s call them the lighthouses of my life. One of those is the Ford Mustang.  As a young kid there was a sales guy who rented a flat above a garage across the street from us.  He was “The Man” in my mind, and from what I could tell he was for a few ladies as well. He had the nice stereo, the cool threads, and most of all; he had a ’69 fastback Mustang.

For my tenth birthday, in the snow no less, he let me take the car for drive around a few back roads in Eastern Washington.  If you are law enforcement and if the statute of limitations has not passed, I don’t know how the above got into this review. 😉

Fast forward to last Wednesday in Portland, Oregon. Ford was kind enough to have me come down to drive the new Mustang.  The day before I was driving the 2013 Flex and Taurus SHO (Super High Output) in the snow.

When 6:30 AM Wednesday came, the weather was just a little better.  By this I mean it wasn’t snowing in the low lands of Portland.  But right in front of the KGW studios in historic Pioneer Courthouse Square the ponies sat – glass roofs, ragtops and hard tops – ready to be tested.

The Test Pony

Ford’s 3.7-liter 305-hp V-6 roars like a V-8 and the six-speed SelectShift automatic transmission does give you choice between fully automatic operation and manual control. Plus SelectShift won’t second-guess you with an override shift in manual mode. Manual means full driver control and choice. Run up to the red line before shifting, if you want. Plus the shifter has been upgraded for 2013 with a more modern and improved accessibility.

An auto V6 wasn’t going to be the pony I was going to ride out of the stable this cold and wet Portland morning.  No Thank You! I took out a 2013 Mustang GT Coupe Premium with a 5.0 Liter, four-valve, Ti-TCT V8 which sports 420hp at 6,500 rpm with a the very smooth six speed manual tranny.  This candy red pony came with the premium trim and comfort packages.  Rounding out the pedigree was optional Brembo brakes (14-inch front discs, versus 13.2 inchers in lesser GTs), 3.73 axle (only on manual GT Mustangs), upgraded radiator, performance friction brake pads and the same Torsen differential that’s on the Mustang Boss 302.

Also, Manual customers will also get hillstar assist. When you stop the vehicle on an incline, it will hold on to the brakes for up to two seconds, allowing the driver to engage the clutch.


Let’s talk about the looks of the new 2013 line before we drive into results of the test drive.

The grille pulls farther forward with a more aggressive design that gives it more feel of the Mustangs of the past. Plus a more powerful splitter adds to the appearance. Functional heat extractors on the hood of the GT are specifically placed and designed to help move hot air out of the engine compartment and cool the engine.

HID (high-intensity discharge) headlamps are standard, class- exclusive on both V6 and GT. For 2013 there is signature lighting via two LED bars, which are always on, to make easy for everyone to know you driving a 2013 pony.  The GT also has LED fog lamps (excluding California Special).

The rear has the signature Mustang tail lamps look, now updated with LED lights with smoked lenses. The center tail lamp changes color to a reverse light. Keeping with tradition the sequential turn signal Mustang is known for is still there. The black panel ties the lights together.

For some people this may just be a gimmick, but the 2013 Mustang’s mirror lamp casts the shape of the Mustang emblem on the ground when the unlock button is hit. Definitely not a gimmick and welcome for those of us who live in the cold areas of the nation, the mirrors are now heated for 2013.

A revamped wheel lineup ranges from the standard 17-inch wheels for V6 all the way up to 19-inch optional wheels on the GT. In total there are 12 versions to choose from

There are two different finishes on the 17-inch wheel – machined-aluminum and painted-machined. Three optional V6 wheels include an updated 18-inch polished-aluminum set, an 18-inch painted-aluminum and a 19-inch painted design, with a new theme for V6 Performance Package.

The standard 18-inch painted-aluminum wheel on both GT and premium GT is an evolution of the five-spoke design.

The 19-inch optional GT wheel comes with a gloss-black finish with machined face, while the wheel for Brembo and Track Packages offers an updated 10-spoke dark stainless-painted aluminum.

Gone is the black plastic look, for 2013 rocker panels are painted body-color. This really improves the look of the car!


The test pony had a leather wrapped steering wheel with the new controls nicely laid out to use such features as SYNC.  The new instrument cluster comes with a 4.2 inch LCD screen for Track Apps. You may think that you have lost some of the ties with the past with all this high tech gear in the GT, but my hat goes off to Tom Barnes and crew for getting it right with an modern instrument panel which still gives both the feel and look of the Mustang’s heritage.  A job well done!

Ford listen to customers, Recaro leather seats are now an option for more models of the Mustang.  Those seat are very nice indeed for many body shapes and sizes.


Two new audio systems deliver very clear and crisp sound even at wake the dead volume levels. The Shaker system offers eight speakers while the Shaker Pro offers nine speakers for a premium listening experience.

Getting On With IT…How Does It Drive?

The first thing I noticed was the steering.  The Mustang has selectable steering that tailors the driving experience to your style.

There are three settings. Sport mode provides the most road force felt through the steering wheel and requires the highest level of steering effort, but allows the driver to be more in tune with how the vehicle reacts to the road. Comfort mode provides the least amount of road force felt through the steering wheel and requires the least amount of steering effort. Then there is standard mode, which is a balance between the comfort and sport settings.

I found the feel of all three modes to be what Ford claims them to be and improvements on past models of the car.  In short you can control this car in a manner fitting your style of driving.

Since I took a manual for spin, I must say I love the gearbox! This not something I have loved about some of the past ponies, but 2013’s box rocks.  This is coming from someone that doesn’t drive a manual every day.  The clutch was great but engages a little early for my liking but was easy to adjust to and far from a deal breaker. For those of you who may walk past the manual because you live in a hilly city like San Francisco.  Don’t do that! With hillstar assist, which holds the brakes for two seconds on an incline, inexperienced manual drivers can even deal with some of the steepest hills that would have in the past forced them into driving an automatic.

When it came to the back road turns and twists which were covered rain, gravel, snow and sometimes even think ice during the test drive, this pony made its own sun shine!  Gone was what I love to call the “Mustang drift.”  The back-end of the GT was glued to the road in a manner that was a very pleasant surprise!  For those of us that have ridden this horse’s parents, grand parents and even its great grand parents, this will change some driving tactics when you let this new generation of pony run the road freely.  Way to go Ford!!  This was even with the all-season tires that Ford fitted at the last minute on the auto due to the weather.  The cars were setup for summer tires.

Even though it still has that stiff but lively feel, the entire ride was smooth even on the potholes of the passes and the uneven pavement of some of the older roads around Portland.  Road noise was kept out of the cabin even with all the sand on the passes and the gravel of the back roads.  So you only turn up the Shaker audio system, if you want to, not because you need to block out road noise.

The motor was a joy supplying power as soon as you requested it. You get 309 lb-ft of torque at 4,2500 rpm. Speaking of rpms, the motor sounds so lovely between 3500 and 4500 rpms.  Dropping down some in rpms will get you a few miles per gallon more.  But even in my aggressive “nice to meet you officer” driving style for this test drive I was getting around 13.1 MPG per the car’s instrument panel.

When it comes to stopping, those Brembo breaks can kick you to the back of your seat like a mule!

Is It Time to Go to the Showroom?

It was far from perfect conditions to really test drive a car like GT, but even with that being said, this is a car which could make you be on a first name basis with every LEO (Law Enforcement Officer) in your town. Heck you could get a speeding ticket with this pony in second gear!

While I will always have a soft spot in for late 60s/early 70’s Mustangs, the ride and performance of this latest generation is keeping with the 3 core rules of the Mustang: Fun, Fast and Affordable.

My only regret during this drive and ride was our try was so short together and I did not get to test out some of other models in stable Ford brought to Portland.

Disclosure Statement

Ford paid for my travel and accommodations while in Portland while test driving some of their autos. Ford did not have editorial approval or input on any of the stories or reviews of their products. Some photos and/or videos may be courtesy of Ford Motors.

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