For a singular nameplate with a long history, the 2012 Ford Mustang line-up delivers a lot of choices. Any of the current Mustangs is quieter, better built, better equipped and more refined than ever, but still visually engaging and good fun to drive.
Improvements for 2012 include more standard features and a selectable power steering system that changes steering effort and feedback from comfort to normal to sport at the driver's selection.
The big news, however, is the return of the Mustang Boss 302. It's a modern take on one the great cars in American road-racing lore.
The Mustang is available as a coupe, a convertible or a unique glass-roof coupe. The top-selling Mustang V6 and GT models are offered in all three body styles, in standard trim or a more feature-laden Premium level, with either a six-speed manual or six-speed automatic transmission. Even the extra-powerful Boss and Shelby GT500 Mustangs deliver reasonable fuel-economy, given the performance potential. The level of fun varies primarily with the potency of the engine selected.
The standard Mustang V6 makes the basic stylistic statement and comes well equipped for about $23,000 with destination charge ($28,000 for the convertible). Its four-cam 3.7-liter V6 delivers 305 horsepower, and it will accelerate faster than the majority of vehicles you'll encounter at a stop light. It also delivers 31 mpg highway with the automatic, according to the EPA, and it makes quiet, comfortable daily transportation. The V6 is offered with just about every feature available on the Mustang, so buyers don't have to move up to the higher-powered models to get the stuff many want.
The V8-powered GT delivers 412 horsepower for about $30,000, and it basically cranks everything up a notch, starting with acceleration. It gets 26 mpg highway, and is just as easy to live with as the V6, with the same 13.2 feet of trunk space and folding rear seat.
The new Boss 302 is geared toward enthusiast drivers who look forward to track days. Its 5.0-liter V8 is massaged to rev higher and deliver a more high-strung 444 horsepower, and everything else in the Boss is tuned to sharpen its reflexes. While hard-core enthusiasts will appreciate its improvements, most drivers will be just as impressed with the standard GT, for about $10,000 less. The optional Laguna Seca package makes the Boss even more fun at the race track, but its not very friendly (or comfortable) for the road.
The ultimate Mustang is the Shelby GT500, combining a supercharged V8 with in-your-face graphics and lots of features. Expensive as Mustangs go, the GT500 nonetheless costs less than any 550-horsepower machine in the new-car marketplace.
Standard safety features include six airbags, all the stability and skid-management electronics and Ford's MyKey system, which allows parents to limit speed and audio volume when they hand the key to teens. The Mustang's appeal include a variety of appearance and wheel packages, allowing buyers to subtly or very obviously tailor the car's appearance to personal taste.
The Mustang as been in continuous production for nearly five decades, making it the longest running model in Ford history. Whether you call it a pony car, muscle car or American Iron, it remains the class benchmark 47 years after it was introduced.
The 2012 Ford Mustang is available as a coupe or convertible, with either a V6 engine or one of three increasingly powerful V8s. All models come standard with a six-speed manual transmission, though an automatic ($1,195) is optional on most.
The Mustang V6 coupe ($22,310) is powered by a 3.7-liter V6 generating a substantial 305 horsepower and 280 pound-feet of torque. It comes with standard cloth upholstery, manual air conditioning, cruise control, split folding rear seat, power mirrors, power windows, power door locks, remote keyless entry, AM-FM stereo with a single CD player and auxiliary jack, a compass, outside-temperature indicator, theft-deterrent system, limited-slip differential and P215/60R-17 tires on alloy wheels.
The Mustang V6 convertible ($27,310) features a power-operated convertible fabric top. It deletes the standard split-folding rear seat, but is otherwise equipped identically to the base coupe.
The Mustang GT coupe ($29,310) and GT convertible ($34,310) are powered by a 5.0-liter V8 delivering 412 horsepower and 390 pound-feet of torque. The GTs also add features, including aluminum interior trim, automatic headlights, rear spoiler, fog lights, and wider tires on 18-inch wheels.
All V6 and GT models are available with a Premium trim-level upgrade ($4,000). This package adds leather upholstery, a six-way power driver seat, a leather-wrapped steering wheel, the 500-watt Shaker 500 audio upgrade with CD changer and satellite radio, Ford Sync entertainment and communications system, iPod adapter, wireless cell phone link, MyColor adjustable gauges, ambient lighting and an automatic day/night rearview mirror.
Further options are plentiful and at least a bit confusing. They start with performance upgrades like the V6 Performance Package ($1,995) which includes a 3.31 rear axle ratio, brake components and firmer suspension tuning from the GT coupe, 18-inch wheels and Pirelli performance tires. The Brembo Brake Package for the GTs ($1,695) adds Brembo brake calipers, reprogrammed electronic stability control that allows more leeway for performance driving, and a 19-inch tire/wheel package.
There's a Sport Appearance package ($295) that adds a rear spoiler and racy body stripes. Other appearance packages include the Mustang Club of America Special Edition ($995) for V6 models, with unique 18-inch wheels, a dark stainless billet grille with tri-bar pony badge, side and deck-lid stripes, a rear spoiler and pony-logo floor mats. The California Special ($1,995) edition for the GT adds 19-inch painted alloy wheels, a chrome billet grille with tri-bar pony badge, unique lower front fascia with fog lamps and a host of other appearance tweaks
Functional interior upgrades start with the Electronics Group ($2,340), which includes a navigation system and dual-zone automatic climate control. The Comfort Group ($595) adds heated front seats and a six-way power-adjustable front passenger seat. Stand-alone options include remote engine starting ($345), a convertible top boot ($160), Ford's Shaker 1000 audio upgrade ($1,295) and a range of tire-wheel packages.
New for 2012, the Mustang Boss 302 coupe ($40.310) is geared toward hard-core enthusiast drivers and offered only with the manual transmission. Output from its 5.0-liter V8 increases to 444 horsepower, thanks largely to a higher RPM redline. It's fairly sparsely equipped inside, but virtually every component, from its manually adjustable suspension to its brakes, is upgraded of better race-track performance. The Boss 302 comes with the Boss Track Attack program, which includes complimentary driving instruction and track time. It's also offered with the Laguna Seca option ($6,995), which rejects road comfort (and the back seat) completely in favor of optimal race-track performance. The Shelby GT500 coupe ($48,810) and convertible ($53,810) are the alpha males of the Mustang line, powered by a 5.4-liter supercharged V8 deliver 550 horsepower and 510 pound-feet of torque. In addition to performance upgrades, the GT500s are also loaded with features, including premium audio and leather/Alcantara upholstery. The Recaro package ($1,995) adds sport seats and a Torsen helical differential, while the SVT Performance Package ($3,495) includes a 3.73 rear axle ratio, unique shift knob, special exterior stripes, rear spoiler with Gurney flap and firmer suspension settings.
Standard crash-protection features include front-impact airbags, front passenger side-impact airbags and full cabin head-protection curtains, as well as Ford's SOS post-crash alert system, which unlocks the doors, turns on the four-way flashers and sounds the horn if an air bag is deployed. All Mustangs come with anti-lock brakes, stability control and Ford's MyKey feature, which allows parents to limit speed and audio volume, among other things, when teens drive the car.
Two new options for 2012 are basically safety related. The Reverse Sensing System and Security Package ($595) adds back-up distance warning, while HID Headlamps ($920) improve forward illumination.