By David Colman
Hypes: V8 Performance at V6 Price
Gripes: Illegible Speedo, Chair Flop Annoyances
Most people think V-8 when they think Ford Mustang. To be sure, the brand’s identity is based on the architecture of the 8 cylinder engine. But with gas nudging the $5 per gallon mark, maybe it’s time to rethink the basic Mustang equation. Back in 1964, when Ford introduced the Mustang, the base model’s inline 6 cylinder engine was a weak-kneed shadow of the optional V8. Today, however, the base V6 is a sophisticated triumph of compact engineering, with coil-on-plug electronics and a 12.4 quart oil sump that is just half a quart shy of the 5.0 liter V8’s 13 quart oil pan. Best of all, the latest 24 valve, DOHC V6 makes 305hp and 280 lb.-ft. of torque, and earns an EPA overall fuel rating of 22 MPG.
If you’re going to go the V6 route, then you’ll really want to back up the engine with Ford’s sweet shifting 6-speed manual transmission, which features hill-hold for 2013. This gearbox will help you extract every last ounce of performance from the high-revving V6. The stubby aluminum and leather shift knob glides from gate to gate with just a nudge. Performance off the line is particularly explosive if you stipulate the V6 Performance Package ($1,395), which provides extra initial surge through a 3.71:1 rear axle ratio with Limited Slip differential gears. The “track pack” which for 2013 is available on automatic transmission V6 Mustangs, also brings you distinctive looking painted and machined 19 inch diameter alloy rims fitted with premium Pirelli P Zero tires measuring 225/40ZR19.
These 220 Treadwear Rated Pirellis contribute prodigious amounts of side bite to the Mustang’s athletic cornering ability. If you select the correct gear to keep the V6 on full boil, this economy Mustang will run with much more expensive, higher powered sports cars on any backroad. Of course, with an out-the-door price of just $32,025, you’ll have to accept a few shortcomings in the mix. The spring tension on the clutch release mechanism is so strong that the Mustang will leap forward on the 1st to 2nd gear upchange even before you feed in throttle. This can be disconcerting at first, but you quickly learn to adapt your driving style to this eccentricity.
Inside the cabin, you’ll find handsomely upholstered partial leather seats with diagonal pleating that matches the similar panels affixed to the front doors. A swath of clean looking aluminum simplifies the upper dash structure. The beefy steering wheel, stitched with deviated color thread, features a fat hub center emblazoned with the classic Ponycar stallion emblem. Ford has cleaned up the environment next to the wheel by locating all lighting/wiper functions on a single stalk to the left of the wheel. Spoke-mounted buttons operate Cruise Control and Synch Bluetooth operations. New for 2013 is a handy 4.2 inch digital info screen located between the speedo and tach which will keep you posted on everything from tire pressure to “Miles to Empty.”
Only a few demerits mar the interior. The leading edge of the lower door storage pockets is knife-blade sharp. The catch affixed to the back of the front seats, which allows you to flop them forward, operates with difficulty, then loses your chosen seatback position. Finally, the incremental serrations on the 160mph speedometer make reading the instrument a chore. The lines are confusing and too closely spaced.
Even with these minor drawbacks, the latest V6 really makes the performance case for a Mustang without a V8. Power from this engine even matches the 306hp output of Shelby’ first generation GT350. But the latest 3.7 liter V6 displaces just 227 cubic inches, compared to the Shelby’s gas guzzling 289 cubic inches. So if you look at this Mustang from a historical perspective it disproves the adage that the brand is all about V8 power. This track pack Ponycar gets the job done just fine, without the shame of the V8’s membership in Gasoholics Anonymous.
2013 Ford Mustang V6
- Engine: 3.7 Liter DOHC, 24 Valve V6
- Horsepower: 305hp
- Torque: 280 lb.-ft.
- Fuel Consumption: 19 MPG City/29 MPG Highway
- Price as Tested: $32,025
- Star Rating: 8.5 out of 10 Stars