Ford has been building Mustangs without interruption since 1964. Almost everything else has come and gone in the meantime. This didn't happen by accident.
What It Is
The Mustang is something iconic and familiar. Though it's changed over the years, it's still very much the same car. Some consider it a muscle car — and in GT form, it can be that. But it can also be a cruiser you take out for a leisurely top-down drive on a warm fall afternoon. Or it can be both.
Prices start at $26,120 for the base trim hardtop coupe, which comes standard with a turbocharged 2.3-liter four-cylinder engine and a six-speed manual transmission.
The V-8-powered GT starts at $39,355 with the six-speed manual; a ten-speed automatic is optional (as with the four-cylinder).
Both are available in convertible form as well, $31,620 to start for one with the 2.3-liter engine and manual transmission, and $44,855 for a GT with the V-8.
There's also a limited-run Bullitt (coupe only) named in honor of Steve McQueen's highland green car from the iconic '60s movie. It costs $46,595 to start and only comes with the manual transmission.
In addition to the Bullitt, you can also choose the California Special package, which can be added to any GT coupe or convertible (with manual or automatic transmission).
A 1,000-watt ultra-premium audio rig is available, too.
It's new but it's old, and that's good.
The standard four-cylinder has more power than '80s and even '90s-era Mustang optional V-8s used to make.
It's much more space-efficient than the Camaro without being as huge as the Challenger.
What's Not So Good
Insurance costs can be high — if you are a younger buyer.
Under the Hood
One of the things that has changed about the Mustang is that its standard engine, while economical, is no longer an economy engine.
The 2.3-liter turbocharged four-cylinder is capable of 21 mpg city and 31 mpg highway — fuel economy numbers within about 5 mpg of those delivered by many current economy cars — and has 310 horsepower and 350 foot-pounds of torque.
It gets the as-it-comes Mustang from zero to 60 mph in 5.3 seconds. If 5.3 seconds to 60 doesn't excite you, maybe the GT's 5.0-liter V-8 will. It has 460 horsepower (480 horsepower in the Bullitt) and gets the Mustang to 60 mph in just under four seconds. The one thing you won't get is 31 mpg.
With the V-8, the mileage dips to 15 mpg city and 25 mpg highway. But you'll be able to get to the next gas station a whole lot faster. A six-speed manual is standard; a performance-calibrated 10-speed automatic transmission (with launch control and line lock) is optional.
On the Road
The GT 5.0-liter V-8 is art that speaks. The idle is that of a cammed American V-8, with that lusciously long-duration lope. But the GT V-8 is an overhead cammer that will spin easily to more than 7,000 rpm before it bumps up against the rev limiter — while pulling 20 inches of vacuum at idle. And so, it's is as tractable as a Toyota Camry's V-6 ... until you ask it to be more than tractable.
Pass at will, great leaps in a single bound: This car can get you out of almost any trouble — except the kind that comes from a radar gun.
At the Curb
The Mustang is new, but you can feel the past as well as see it in the lines and the details. Some parts look as though they might actually fit classic '60s Mustangs — but they don't.
Ford did a brilliant job of resurrecting themes as opposed to clumsily cribbing shapes. That's subjective, of course. Some may prefer the Chevy Camaro or the Dodge Challenger's conjuring of yesterday.
What's objective is the Mustang's excellent packaging. At 188.5 inches long overall, it has almost exactly the same footprint as the Camaro (188.5 inches) but has usable back seats (29 inches of legroom versus about 24 in the Camaro) and a 13.5-cubic-foot trunk versus the Camaro's stunted 9.1 cubic-foot trunk.
The Challenger has even more back-seat legroom (33 inches) and a full-size-car's trunk (16.2 cubic feet), but it also has a much bigger footprint (197.9 inches long overall).
Ford lets you buy all kinds of high-performance upgrades without upgrading to the GT. This includes the same Level 2 package offered with the GT that includes track-day suspension tuning (and ABS/traction-control programming) with MagnaRide adaptive shocks, huge brakes, heavy-duty cooling and those Michelin Sport Cup 2 summer tires.
Ford knows that not everyone can afford the V-8 GT — or the insurance on a V-8 GT. For younger buyers, this is excellent news.
The Bottom Line
You don't need a time machine to experience the good old days, just a new Mustang.
Eric's new book, "Don't Get Taken for a Ride!" is available now. To find out more about Eric and read his past columns, please visit the Creators Syndicate webpage at www.creators.com.