The looks of the Mustang keep evolving nicely. It was the best looking of the reborn retro machines when it was redesigned in 2005, and it's only gotten better looking since then.
For 2013, Mustang gets another facelift, with a stronger and cleaner grille and front fascia, incorporating the air intakes and doing away with all the flat-black plastic from before. New HID projector-beam headlamps have two LED streaks at their sides, a look that will take getting used to.
The sequential LED taillamps are another matter, instantly pretty on the nice rear end that's true to '65 Mustang. At the rear, there's new body-colored fascia on the 2013 Mustang, again replacing flat black pieces (good riddance). Another improvement for 2013 is the loss of the flat-black rockers; they're now body-colored and grownup. And there are many new wheel designs for 2013.
Overall, the 2013 Mustang looks tougher and more Mustangy than ever. The combination of open-mouthed grille and bulging hood gives the 2013 Mustang muscular distinction. The GT boasts real black vents, in the bulging hood over its beefy 5.0-liter V8. The chrome Mustang galloping horse logo against the black eggcrate grille, on the base V6 model, also looks hot, and traditional. The foglamps go inside the grille like bookends on the silver horse, also just like 1965.
The sideview mirrors do something cool: when the unlock button on the remote is pressed, an image of a galloping horse in white LED light appears on the ground like a spotlight on a stage.
The small triangular rear window is a stroke of design brilliance, and makes the roofline sleek. It's wonderfully and totally true to the 1965 Mustang fastback, which used vertical fake louvers in that triangular roofline sweep.
The twin wide stripes on the 2013 Shelby GT that's coming in summer of 2012 are classic. Some of the other graphics packages are dubious. But you could for example get a V6 and add Shelby wide stripes. Casual glances won't know it's not a V8 under the hood. And not when you accelerate away, either.
There are two new colors for 2013: Deep Impact Blue and Gotta Have It Green, which is kind of mellow in a loud green kind of way. Our favorite color is still Grabber Blue, which on another continent would be French Racing Blue. And then there's black, and Mustangs always look GREAT in solid black, it's one of the many reasons it's easy to buy one. Ford makes it easy to stand out in style with a Mustang.
There are many styles of wheels mated to the 11 different models. Some are lovely, some we're not crazy about. We will say that the 18-inch painted aluminum wheels that were on the Mustang GT Premium we drove were gorgeous.
The 2013 Mustang interior doesn't keep up with the exterior, which is disappointing. The standard steering wheel, even on the Boss 302 and Shelby GT 500, looks like it was borrowed from some nondescript sedan; we wish Ford had instead borrowed the lovely steering wheel from the new Taurus SHO.
The trim and soft plastic on the dash are appealing, especially in faux aluminum, though there are some hard plastic bits, namely in the doors, and flimsy plastic hinges on things. The overall shape of the dash is undramatic, but the dash layout and switch panels are uncomplicated and effective. Most controls are big buttons, although climate and radio are big knobs. Premium and up models have standard ambient lighting in five selectable colors.
We think retro instrumentation has worn off. We don't really care to be reminded of the 1970s every time we look at the speedometer or tachometer, and that's what you get with the V6 and GT. On the Boss and Shelby, the numbers on the gauges aren't retro, and they're way more pleasing. We like how Ford pulls off the exterior retro style, but instruments are another matter. You don't just look at them, you use them. Retro-looks good, retro function bad.
On the base Mustang V6, you get a small fuel and temp gauge, inserted into the speedo. There's also what Ford calls a four-gauge cluster, which is digital information in a box between the retro speedo and tach. But it's distracting to have to click arrows on the steering wheel to read the numbers called a gauge.
On some models the 4.2-inch LCD screen between the tach and speedo provides more vehicle information, accessed by using that five-way button on the steering wheel. It displays not only basic information, but test-pilot things like air/fuel mixture and cylinder head temperature. It features Track Apps, which displays g-forces, shows acceleration times in quarter-mile and 0-60 increments, and reveals braking times. It also does automatic and countdown starts. It's a toy, not a need, nor is it much use for most drivers.
The cloth bucket seats that come standard are terrific. They hug the body with material that's rugged. The leather seats on the Premium models don't seem to be shapely enough or have enough bolstering for the Mustang expectation. However, the optional Recaro seats available for on all models in cloth or suede are so great that we'd say they're a good investment, if not necessity.
For a rumbling V8, the Mustang GT is quiet inside, and the V6 is even quieter. So the Shaker Pro audio system can blow your head off. Like Ford says, a complete acoustic experience that simulates being at a live performance. There are two Shaker sound systems; in the Mustang GT Premium it's eight speakers and six channels, while the Shaker Pro with nine speakers was found to be so loud during testing that extra sound-absorption material was added to the Mustang.
Ford's problematic MyFordTouch is missing but not missed in the Mustang. However there is SYNC with voice command, which works well to choose music. Voice-activated navigation is available on upper models.
Drivers of all sizes should be able to find a comfortable seating position. The steering wheel tilts, although it doesn't telescope, and we wish it would. There's good head and leg room up front, and visibility through the windshield is good, especially for a low-slung coupe. There's considerably more room and better visibility than in the Camaro.
Naturally, the two-passenger rear seat is no place for adults. Rear headroom is limited by the rake of the coupe roof, and leg room is minimal, even with the front seats moved forward. That's nothing new. It comes with the territory of such a car and its shape. Small price to be paid for such proportions.
The side mirrors have convex blind-spot panels in their top outer corner, a rearward visibility solution that we like at least as much as electronic blind spot lights and beepers with all their false alarms. The coupe's rear pillars don't block over-the-shoulder visibility, but it's hard to see out the back in the convertible with the top up. The optional back-up camera and reverse sensing system help. The Mustang has a lower beltline than the Camaro, allowing better visibility to the sides. The advantage became especially apparent when we compared a Mustang and a Camaro on an autocross course. We could easily see the cones from inside the Mustang, but not from inside the Camaro.
The Mustang convertible comes uses a power fabric top and glass rear window. The top is released with two slick latches within the driver's reach. The top and frame drop behind the rear seats. The vinyl tonneau cover must be installed manually, and costs an additional $160. The convertible top's storage space also reduces trunk volume nearly one-third. The Mustang coupe's trunk has 13.4 cubic feet of cargo space, which is comparable to that in a compact-to-mid-size sedan. The opening isn't particularly big and the lift-over is high, but the coupe's 50/50 fold-down rear seats expand cargo volume substantially.