The 2014 Ford Mustang sure looks and sounds like a classic muscle car or pony car. The Mustang definitely lives up to its pony-car heritage in appearance—and in layout, with V-6 and V-8 engines, rear-wheel drive, and a simple rear solid-axle layout—but that's about where the retro comparisons end.
There are two main flavors of the Mustang: V-6 or V-8. They're both modern overhead-cam engines with variable valve timing--and surprisingly high-revving and willing, even though the V-8 especially has that true muscle-car sou8nd.
Mustang V-6s have Ford’s 3.7-liter V-6, making 305 horsepower and 280 pound-feet of torque. And if you're comparing those with power and torque output of the 4.6-liter V-8 from not too long ago, you're right; it makes the Mustang feel about as quick.
The 5.0-liter V-8 in the GT is the way to go for those who crave the most performance; it has 420 horsepower. V-8 models emit a gruff, throaty exhaust note and feel a bit like straight-line exotics. Compared to the V-6 models, they're different beasts altogether and call for more restraint; due to the V-8’s sharper throttle response and here-right-now torque, weight transfers tend to be a little less fluid, too, if you’re not careful with it.
Since both engines make their peak horsepower at 6,500 rpm and their peak torque at a rather high 4,250 rpm, we firmly advise that you get the manual transmission--although it does now include full manual control, with a +/- button on the side of the shifter to easily thumb through them, and no forced downshifts or upshifts in manual mode; and manual-gearbox cars get a two-second hill-hold function, for convenient starts when facing uphill.
One other thing: There are also now three driver-selectable levels of steering effort—Sport, Comfort, and standard. Steering is very precise in the 'Stang, although we've never been entirely happy with how this unit loads up off center.
There's not as much difference from V-6 to V-8 models as in the past, either, and performance packages don't shave away nearly as much of the decent ride compliance. Despite humble, cost-conscious underpinnings, Ford engineers have worked magic in making the Mustang a better driver’s car than quite a few sports coupes or sedans with more sophisticated mechanical layouts and expensive price tags. If we were performance-minded, we'd opt for the coupe, since the convertibles we've sampled haven't had the structural stiffness to match the suspension's upconverted talents.
Several model years ago, the Mustang's rear suspension was massaged, and the current corner takes advantage of a host of incremental improvements. It takes a set in corners much more easily than former Mustangs, and it deals much more swiftly with choppy pavement and uneven surfaces, even though it's still a live-axle design. So even on wet and imperfect surfaces, the the Mustang has surprising tenacity and poise, and a progressive, predictable feel in tight corners.
At the top of the lineup is the far more exclusive Ford Shelby GT500, and the 662-horsepower engine and a number of other enhancements. Rumor has it that an independent rear setup is on the way next year, so if you want the highest-power Mustang with a solid-axle rear, this is it.
You likely already know what the 2014 Mustang provides: tire-scorching performance, the classic pony-car look, and a lot of customization potential if you want it. So it's likely no big surprise that equipping the Mustang is kind of an adventure in itself, with lots of choices and plenty of option packages, whether you want a car that's flamboyant or understated, a comfort cruiser or a track-day special.
At the same time, you don't need to spring for all the extras. Go for a base model—with the V-6 or the V-8—and you'll find a refreshingly no-frills equipment list with a price that's astonishingly low. Simply put, there's a lot of bang for the buck.
Keep watch of the bottom line, and you can own a nicely equipped Mustang for well under the average price of a new car. Or splurge, and you'll be surprised at some of the tech gadgets and infotainment gear offered in the current car.
All versions of the 2014 Mustang get Other standard equipment includes power windows, locks and mirrors; keyless entry; cruise control; and an AM/FM/CD player. Also included is Ford's MyKey system, a programmable set of functions that let parents set up speed limits, volume limits and other warnings.
Most Mustangs come with Ford's SYNC system, which uses Bluetooth-driven voice commands to control phones and media players. Bundled with steering-wheel controls, SYNC also is paired with turn-by-turn navigation (route maps are delivered over the airwaves) and real-time traffic information. It's standard on all but the base Mustang V-6.
Major options on the Mustang include ambient lighting; leather upholstery; a Shaker 500-watt audio system; satellite radio; aluminum interior trim; and an optional electronics package that bundles real-time traffic and HD radio, and dual-zone climate control.
Ford also offers a panoramic glass roof; HID headlamps; a rearview camera and blind-spot monitors; and a host of appearance options, from hood scoops and spoilers to side scoops and louvers. A universal garage door opener, and reverse parking sensors are also on the list of possibilities.
For performance, a range of larger wheels and summer tires can be had. There's also a Brembo brake package with recalibrated stability control and a sport-tuned suspension. The V-6 Performance Package, we think, is a must for anyone who appreciates good handling but is sticking with the V-6. And finally, those who really do want to take the Mustang out on the track, there’s a GT Track Package, only offered on manual GT Mustangs. It includes a 3.73 axle, an upgraded radiator, performance brake pads, and the Boss 302’s Torsen differential—in addition to the larger front discs, 19-inch alloy wheels, and summer performance tires that are already a part of the Brembo Brake Package.
Several other special appearance packages include a Mustang Club of America Package, V-6 Pony Package, FP6 Package, and California Special Package. Here, you're simply best looking at each one, as they each appeal to a specific pony-car taste.
Muscle cars, pony cars, and affordable sports cars in general don't tend to have very great records for safety; but that's more due to the types of drivers they attract than to issues with the cars themselves.
The 2014 Ford Mustang is a pretty secure pick, if you plan to drive responsibly (and plan to get top-tier winter tires if you intend to drive it year-round).
In federal NCAP testing, the 2013 Mustang has earned four-star ratings overall, as well as for frontal and side impact. Mustang Convertible models have scored a top 'good' rating from the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS) in frontal, side, and rear impact. Coupes earn 'acceptable' instead for side impact.
The safety-feature set is solid, too. Front and side airbags, anti-lock brakes, and stability control are included. Option the Mustang up with Bluetooth, blind-spot monitors, a rearview camera, and rear parking sensors, and you get more safety features than a number of mid-size sedans costing just as much.
Brash sound and classic looks the Ford Mustang offers some of the best performance-car bang for the buck--delivered with surprising sophistication.