2013 Ford Mustang GT Premium review: Horse of last recourse

2013 Ford Mustang GT Premium

2013 Ford Mustang GT Premium with Brembo brake and wheel package

With at least one Ford enthusiast eye firmly fixed on exactly what the 2015 Ford Mustang (due April, 2014) will be—we know mostly that it will be different but all the drawings you’ve seen are pure speculation—there’s still time to take a final look at the 2013 Ford Mustang GT…and proclaim it a good thing.

That’s the problem right now, deciding whether to buy the last of a good thing before some manufacturer goes and messes it up forever—we know what Ford wrought when it created the wretched Pinto-based Mustang II—or hyperventilate while waiting for the new thing, whatever it may be.

Well, here’s the state of what is, and for the current generation’s last hurrah, Ford made substantial modifications where it just could have played the stand pat card. Last spring, Ford introduced a face lifted and updated Mustang, not only bumping up the horsepower of the GT’s 302 cubic inch V-8 (or five liters, for the insistently modern of you) to 420 horses and adding electronics, but also revising the Mustang’s front end with a more prominent grille and splitter, plus adding standard-on-all-Mustangs high-intensity discharge (HID) headlamps along with LED “light bars” to dress up the front end and make every Mustanger out there know that the 2013 Mustang is indeed a 2013 Mustang.

And for 2013, the Mustang GT gets a pair of hood vents, understated but functional, actually open enough to allow at least some hot air top escape from under the hood. From behind, the panel between the sequential taillights—three lamps in each cluster that light up from inner to outer for turn signals—is now gloss black. And even more subtle, the rocker panels are body color for 2013.

2013 Ford Mustang GT Premium rear lights

Three rectangular taillights on each side light up sequentially when the turn signals are used on the 2013 Ford Mustang. (Click to enlarge)

Still, the 2013 Ford Mustang is a classic pony car, the very blood of the critter that gave the genre its name. It has a front engine with a solid rear axle, front bucket seats  and a back seat that only a masochist—or someone who would otherwise walk—could love. While the base Mustang now has a 305-horsepower V-6 and the Mustang Boss 302 is rated at 444 horses (and Shelby Mustangs well beyond that), the 2013 Ford Mustang GT is rated at 420 horsepower.

The 302-cubic inch V-8 puts the Mustang, at first throttle push, into scary fast territory. The front end rises and the rear end gets loose, swinging to the side if the front wheels aren’t pointed straight ahead. Ford has left the 2013 Mustang GT driver enough freedom in the traction and stability control to allow the driver some play room. The GT does not come with an electronic helicopter parent, although Ford’s MyKey performance limiter is always there to curtail the wildest of Ferris Bueller misbehavior. Otherwise, in first gear and second gear, the Mustang is capable of roll-on wheelspin, and that with traction control on. Turn traction control off and anyone can haze the rear tires.

Meanwhile, inside the classic Mustang double-brow dash continues. The instrument panel has a large speedometer and tachometer, though the 160-mph speedometer’s fat needle and calibration marks make determining exact speed difficult, especially when certain official presence would want one to make sure of legal speed.

A 4.2-inch full-color LCD screen between speedo and tach provides a multitude of information, all accessible via a five-way toggle on the steering wheel. One neat feature is the odometer scrolling up the next number, like a mechanical odometer of yore. Choices of data include a fuel economy gauge with a vertical graph with a line showing average mpg with a vertical bar graph for instantaneous fuel economy. Our in-house math professor called it a calculus teacher’s delight.

Other data available on the ‘tween the dials screen include air/fuel ratio, cylinder head temperature, inlet air temperature, oil temperature and pressure (“normal”) and voltage. Call it a car nerd’s delight.