February 6, 2014 10:45 AM | By Steve Mertl for MSN Autos

2014 Ford Mustang GT 5.0 Coupe quick spin



2014 Ford Mustang GT 5.0 Coupe (© Photo: Steve Mertl)
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  • 2014 Ford Mustang GT 5.0 Coupe (© Photo: Steve Mertl)
  • 2014 Ford Mustang GT 5.0 Coupe (© Photo: Steve Mertl)
  • 2014 Ford Mustang GT 5.0 Coupe (© Photo: Steve Mertl)
  • 2014 Ford Mustang GT 5.0 Coupe (© Photo: Steve Mertl)
  • 2014 Ford Mustang GT 5.0 Coupe (© Photo: Steve Mertl)
  • 2014 Ford Mustang GT 5.0 Coupe (© Photo: Steve Mertl)
  • 2014 Ford Mustang GT 5.0 Coupe (© Photo: Steve Mertl)
  • 2014 Ford Mustang GT 5.0 Coupe (© Photo: Steve Mertl)
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2014 Ford Mustang GT 5.0 Coupe

Mustang still a fine ride in its final year

What is it?

The Ford Mustang is the original “pony car,” introduced in April 1964 (as a ’64 1/2 model in the days when new models were always rolled out in the fall) as an affordable, youthful sporty coupe. The ‘14 is the last model year in the current retro-heavy design before Ford rolls out an all-new 2015 Mustang designed to grab more sales internationally.

What’s new?
Well, nothing really. The Mustang received a major reworking in 2012 and Ford has limited itself to tweaking things like the driver infotainment system. Unfortunately, this year marks the end of the 444-horsepower Boss 302. The current lineup consists of the base 305-hp V6, starting at less than $25,000 ranging up to the 662-hp Shelby GT500, costing almost $67,000 in convertible form. The 420-hp V8 GT starts at just over $40,000 and our tester rang in at more than $50,000 including freight and dealer charges. That's within $3,000 of what a base Corvette costs.

What’s it like to drive?
Ford went full retro when it redesigned the Mustang about a decade ago, recognizing that fans bought into the car’s Swingin’ Sixties muscle-car vibe. The look, with its bulging, vented hood, big round headlamps and fastback silhouette, I think is more successful than the rebooted Chevrolet Camaro’s hunkered-down Hot Wheels design. Updates include LED tail lamps, and LEDs accenting the front array.

The interior still harkens back to the retro look while blending in modern electroluminescent gauges and displays. It’s a little like fitting a glass cockpit into a DC-3. There’s a big MyFord Touch infotainment screen high on the central dash and a driver-information screen between the tach and speedometer. Speaking of the speedo, the ‘60s-era font is scrunched into the top half of the pod to make room for idiot lights in the bottom half, making speed hard to read for these bifocalled eyes.

An array of controls spread across the GT’s fat, leather-wrapped vintage-look three-spoke steering wheel also look incongruous but with practice are useful for operating the sound system, phone, cruise control and toggling through various info screens.

No complaints, though, about the optional $1,000) charcoal-grey Recaro sports seats, which while only manually adjustable quickly offered a comfortable, supportive driving position. The driver’s left-hand side bolster on our low-mileage “Grabber Blue” tester, however, was already showing wear from repeated entry and egress. If you can get into the sculpted back seat it’s not bad for short trips or short people.

Firing up the GT produces a satisfying rumble only a big V8 can deliver. Snick the six-speed Tremec manual transmission smoothly into gear, feed in some gas, let out the light, progressive clutch and the 3,500-pound coupe leaps effortlessly into motion. Careful, though, if the road’s damp. The Mustang’s 19-inch 245/40 series Pirelli P Zeros – part of the $2,200 track pack that includes Brembo brakes and a limited-slip differential – can be defeated by the engine’s healthy torque until the traction-control nanny intervenes.

The gearbox’s action is quick and positive, though you need to mind the closely spaced shift gates. The Mustang’s clutch has had a hill-holder feature for the last couple of model years, which should take some of the fear out of buying a manual box.

The five-litre port-injected V8 smoothly delivers high power in a way drivers in the golden age of American muscle can only dream about. The engine is happy to loaf around in grocery-getting mode, maybe achieving something close to its claimed 10 l/100 km combined city/highway fuel economy. But punch it and it bellows like an angry lion as it unleashes the fun. The optional performance package offers electronic recording of acceleration, G-force and brake performance, with the caveat it’s for track use only.

The Mustang has joined the electric power-steering club; it’s nicely weighted and with decent feel. The chassis, though, is steadfastly old-school, with MacPherson struts up front and coil-spring, solid-axle rear. While the Mustang is tossable, especially with judicious use of the throttle, and its pieces communicate well with the driver, you can sense the car transferring its weight. The Mustang’s ride, never a strong suit, also suffers with the low-profile performance rubber.

Should I buy one?
I’d recommend the Mustang if you want taste of Olde Time American performance and cabin ambience. The Camaro is a more modern car under its cartoon-car skin, but I’ve never warmed to the dark cabin and bunker-like view out. I like the Dodge Challenger SRT but if you want to channel your inner Steve McQueen, the Mustang is your only choice.

That said, fewer people are choosing it. The original Mustang was one of the most successful model launches in history, selling roughly 385,000 in 1964 in the U.S. after its spring debut, 525,000 the following year and peaking at 550,000 in 1966. Its best U.S. sales year in the 21st century was about 166,000 in 2006, before sliding to about 83,000 last year. It was outsold by Camaro through much of 2013. Mustang’s best Canadian sales of the last decade was 10,000 in 2005, with the total last year just under 5,200.

The 2015, sleeker, more modern inside but retaining the familiar silhouette, has been designed to broaden its appeal, especially internationally. It will add a 305-hp turbo four-cylinder to the existing V6 and V8 engine choices and have standard independent rear suspension for the first time (some past limited specials came with IRS).

So, the choice comes down to getting a 21st-century pony car or cutting a deal on an entertaining time capsule as dealers clear their lots of the ‘14s.

2014 Ford Mustang GT
Base price: $40,099
Type of vehicle: RWD coupe
Engine: 5.0L, 32-valve, DOHC V8
Horsepower/Torque: 420 hp/390 lb.-ft torque
0-100 km/h (est): 4.6 sec
Fuel economy (city/highway): 11.9 / 7.9 L/100 km
Competition: Chevrolet Camaro, Chevrolet Corvette, Dodge Challenger

QUICK SPIN SUMMARY

PROS
Great V8 power
Slick manual transmission
Excellent optional Recaro sport seats

CONS
Handling limited by solid-axle rear suspension
Limited grip in wet weather
Hard-to-read instrumentation

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