2016 Ford Mustang GTPosted on February 29th, 2016
California Special package adds pizzazz to the pony
By Nina Russin
The allure of Ford’s iconic pony car extends beyond its heritage or high-speed performance. The 2016 Mustang GT is a true muscle car that can also live in the day-to-day world of congested roads, inclement weather and unpredictable schedules. In a world made up of round plugs and square holes, the Mustang seems to fit.
As high-performance car prices go, it is also a bargain. Base price for the GT with a 435-horsepower five-liter engine and six-speed manual transmission is $36,395 excluding the $900 destination charge. An optional California package on the test car adds a rear deck spoiler, exterior accent stripes, black 19-inch rims and leather upholstery. An optional security package that includes wheel locks brings the final MSRP to $42,275.
New for 2016
Changes to the 2016 model include the addition of secondary turn signals integrated into the hood vents: a nod to the car’s heritage. New models also get an updated of the Sync infotainment system and a new color palette.
Ford continues to include track apps with line lock as standard equipment on the GT. Introduced last year, the software feature enables drivers to get more consistent results on the dragstrip in bracket competition.
When the driver is in the burnout box, line lock keeps the front brakes locked while the driver warms up the rear wheels without having to balance a foot on the brake and accelerator at the same time.
Test drive in Phoenix
Over the past week, I drove the Mustang around Phoenix, Arizona’s east valley as well as the foothills of the Superstition Mountains. This is the time of year when traffic in the Valley of the Sun reaches its peak: a perfect opportunity to put the pony through its paces.
I drove through gaggles of out-of-towners trying to make their way through the airport and downtown Phoenix, through Scottsdale and along the 101: a freeway perpetually under construction that connects all three.
Active safety features including the rearview camera with cross-traffic alert and blind spot monitoring were a lifesaver. The fact that the engine also has the power to get out of the way of trouble came in handy more than once, as did the car’s very large, vented disc brakes. Unlike competitive products, the Mustang has a large enough greenhouse to give the driver pretty good peripheral vision.
The manual gearbox includes a reverse lockout ring: something all performance cars should have. Although the clutch is stiff, I didn’t find it a problem while creeping through stop-and-go traffic.
The aluminum five-liter engine is a beautiful piece of machinery. Aluminum construction shaves off weight, giving the car a better front-to-rear weight balance. Despite the engine’s 11:1 compression ratio owners can fill up with 87 octane gasoline, containing cost of ownership. Average fuel economy is 19 miles-per-gallon according to the EPA. Those willing to forego some of the engine power for better gas mileage should consider the 2.3-liter EcoBoost engine that averages 32 mpg on the highway: 25 mpg overall.
Launch off the line is beautifully linear in the tradition of the best European sports cars. Given the engine’s 400 pound-feet of peak torque, the driver needs to be more concerned with holding back than trying to get ahead of other vehicles. The four-wheel independent suspension and monotube shocks provide such as supple ride that it’s hard to get a sense of speed.
Driving along the two-lane Bush Highway in the foothills of the Superstition Mountains east of town gave me the chance to open up a bit and test the steering under more challenging conditions. Once again, the attribute that comes to mind first is balance: response that it precise without being dicey no matter the speed. If there is a better electric power steering system on the market, I haven’t found it.
Although the test car comes with large wheels and low profile tires, they don’t beat up the driver. Granted, this part of the country doesn’t suffer from the frost heaves and potholes that portions of the upper Midwest do, but there are uneven road surfaces. The wheel package gives the driver the larger footprint he needs for driving on the track without having to compromise ride handling on surface streets.
The California package adds some appealing features inside the car: leather upholstery with and heated and ventilated front seats. Power seat adjustments are easy to operate and provide ample lower lumbar support for longer trips. A tilt-and-telescoping steering wheel enables smaller drivers to maintain a safe distance from the front airbag.
Keyless entry and start saves the drive from fumbling for the key fob, adding a measure of safety after dark. Infotainment controls are easy to reach from either front seating position. Controls on the steering wheel let the driver access information pages with driving range, fuel economy, tire pressures and more. Both the center stack screen and gauge cluster are easy to read after dark and in bright sunlight.
Engineers did an excellent job of minimizing noise intrusion to the interior. The driver will enjoy the five-liter engine’s rumble and throaty exhaust, but there is no noticeable wind or road noise. Sound quality from the audio system is excellent.
As with most two-plus-twos, the back seats are in place primarily to reduce insurance costs. The seats fold flat to extend the cargo floor. Since the Mustang has a relatively small trunk, it makes the cargo area better suited for carrying multiple pieces of luggage, golf bags and other moderately large items.
The Ford Mustang comes with seven airbags, antilock brakes, traction control, stability control, rearview camera, blind spot monitoring and individual tire pressure monitoring. The factory warranty includes five years of roadside assistance up to 60,000 miles.
Ford builds the Mustang at its Flat Rock, Michigan assembly plant.
Like: A stylish modern muscle car with a high level of standard safety features and excellent all-round performance.
Dislike: Rear seats lack the legroom to function for anything but small children or as extra luggage space.
Model: Mustang GT California Special
Base price: $36,395
As tested: $42,274
Horsepower: 435 Hp @ 6500 rpm
Torque: 400 lbs.-ft. @ 4250 rpm
Antilock brakes: Standard
Side curtain airbags: Standard
First aid kit: N/A
Bicycle friendly: No
Fuel economy: 15/25 mpg city/highway