Its ride and handling have never been better, either, thanks to great steering, stout brakes, and an available adaptive suspension.
We give it a 7 for performance in the base model, and we’d easily add a couple more for the ferocious higher-end V-8s. (Read more about how we rate cars.)
Ford killed off the old V-6 Mustang last year. The base model now sports a 2.3-liter turbo-4. It’s rated at 310 hp and 350 lb-ft of torque, good enough for 0-60 mph runs well under 6.0 seconds, numbers that would make a ‘90s Mustang quake in its shoes. It’s never difficult or frenetic to drive smoothly, since the turbo-4’s power peaks early enough to deliver clean launches (with line-lock control, if you hate tire tread on principle). It sounds like the 4-cylinder it is, despite active exhaust that tries to mimic bigger-displacement engines with more cylinders. It’s still the smart choice that most Mustang buyers make.
The turbo-4 mates better with its 10-speed automatic than do other Mustangs. The pair cooperate well, with crisp and predictable shifts, no matter whether it’s in a Sport or Normal driver-selectable mode.
Ford Mustang GT performance
A turbo-4 Mustang might work for you. We’ll be over in the Mustang GT, thanks, with its sensual-sounding 5.0-liter V-8.
The muscle-car thrill innate to V-8 Mustangs is on full display in the GT. It’s rated at 460 hp and 420 lb-ft of torque, as much grunt as in a top-flight full-size pickup truck. With a newly rev-matched 6-speed manual transmission, it’s a fantastic, fluid performer than can jet to 60 mph in under 4.0 seconds, all for less than $37,000.
We choose the manual gearbox, and not just because of its throwback appeal. The 10-speed automatic that’s fine in a turbo ‘Stang isn’t very compelling or comfortable when it’s hooked to the V-8. It’s not tuned as well as it needs to be to cope with the copious power on tap. Sometimes it drops two gears at a time in search of a smooth landing. Other times, it pauses to consider which gear might be best. It needs a new map, a flashlight, and a few rounds of calibration to properly cover the Mustang’s highest peaks and lowest valleys.
But did we mention how the Mustang sounds? Its V-8 soundtrack gets driver control, so it can slip quietly out of the neighborhood for a morning commute–or thunder down an empty Nevada road at a wide-open roar.
Ride and handling
The rear wheels drive all Mustangs, but not all Mustangs drive alike.
There’s a common complaint with base cars and those without sport suspensions. On smaller wheels and tires, these cars steer quite nicely, with good weight programmed into their electric power steering systems. It’s the ride that needs to exercise more self-control: it can bound over moderate bumps and squirrel through esses, which makes the lesser ‘Stangs feel less focused than they can be with a few simple tweaks–either a Performance pack or on the GT, the Performance Pack Level 2.
From there, we’d also recommend the magnetic adaptive dampers. With them, the Mustang mutes most of the small, quick hits delivered by imperfect pavement, and becomes a classic grand tourer that shrugs off the road with no complaint. Dial the dampers into Sport mode, and the rear end settles down, and the Mustang doles out flat and sharp cornering. It’s difficult to explain exactly how much better today’s Mustang handles when compared to any previous generation of live-axle Mustang, except to say this: today’s Mustang is a true sports car, not merely a muscle car.
Ford Mustang Bullitt and Shelby GT350
Ford’s brought back the Bullitt for the 2019 model year. It’s largely the same for performance as the GT, though output rises to 480 hp. Read more in MotorAuthority’s 2019 Ford Mustang Bullitt first drive.
As for the stunning Ford Shelby GT350 Mustang, it’s an entirely distinct and thrilling beast in its own right. Its flat-plane-crank 5.2-liter V-8 belts out track-ready power, and its magnetically damped ride sets the stage for exceptional road-course handling. It gets brittle on everyday pavement, but in other regards, it’s the best Mustang in history. For a deeper dive into that model, take a look at Motor Authority’s first drive of the Ford Shelby GT350.
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