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.