When Ford redesigned the Mustang for the 2015 model year, it was big news, especially with the advent of its new independent rear suspension. The Mustang GT was so popular at the Motor Press Guild’s Track Days event in 2014 that the line of journalists waiting to drive the car was long and the sign-up sheet was full. By midafternoon, so many people had driven the car at Willow Springs that they broke it. I heard the clutch went out, but I can’t say for sure.
So when the 2015 event rolled around, I made sure I zeroed in on the Mustang GT first, before any journalists, whose skill with prose might exceed their driving ability, had a chance to tear it up.
The first thing you notice when you settle into the driver’s seat is how nice the interior is. Ford has been making strides in its trim work in recent years and the Mustang is a showcase of its latest material choices and build quality. The graphite engine-turned dashboard applique looked great and fit right in with the performance look of the interior.
As with so many previous generation Mustangs, there are nods to past models in the latest car. The twin-cowl dash is present as is the two-dial instrument cluster. Tach on the left. Speedo on the right. Galloping horse on the horn button on the center of the wheel. These elements can be traced back to the first generation Mustang that debuted in 1964. Of course, now the 2016 Mustang has an electronic information display between the tach and speedo and another large screen above the radio and HVAC controls on the center console.
The seat was comfortable and supple without being mushy, and you sit low inside the car. Well, either that or the beltline is inordinately high. You could do long trips in this car easily and comfortably.
Another thing you notice when seated in the car is that the hood looks really long. As in enormous. The hood also has another feature from Mustangs past, but only on the GT and convertible models, the very cool secondary hood vent turn signals. Remember those?
Press the white and red starter button on the console and the engine leaps into motion. In this car, the 5.0-liter DOHC “Coyote” engine makes 435 horsepower at a lofty redline of 6,500 rpm. That’s the same redline as the 2.0-liter four-cylinder in the new Mazda MX-5 Cup cars. A broad power band with a high redline is nice for holding a gear a little longer in a given corner, but the Coyote engine also delivers its peak torque at 4,250 rpm, well shy of its redline.
From the driver’s seat, that creates a rewarding power curve. It comes in handy on the track, too. For example, in Willow Springs International Raceway’s Turn 3, you downshift into third gear. Even though you’re relatively low in the rpm range, you can still spin the back tires and kick the tail out a bit. It’s also important to note that the stability system lets that happen a little before kicking in to save mere mortal drivers.
On the track, this car is a hoot. Yes, it weighs 3,700 pounds, so it likely will annihilate consumables like tires and brakes, but it doesn’t necessarily feel heavy on the track. Brake power and feel is good, but a pad upgrade would be in order for repeated track day usage. That shouldn’t surprise anyone.
Turn-in is good for factory alignment settings. This car is ready for track days and autocrosses right out of the box, and that was kind of surprising. That is due in no small measure to the new independent rear suspension, which also is part of why the car weighs as much as it does. Also, any review of this car must include high praise for the six-speed gearbox, which feels slick.
I have read some complaints from owners about a jolt and clunking noise when shifting into first gear, but the model we tested didn’t do this.
The good news is that the 2016 car never hiccupped at all and made it through what could only be described as one of the hardest days of a press car’s life: enduring a track day with drivers of wildly varied skill levels. If it can take that kind of abuse, the Mustang GT should make for a good daily driver you can take to the track now and again.
|5.0-liter DOHC V8|
|435 @ 6,500 rpm|
|400 @ 4,250 rpm|
|Double-ball-joint McPherson strut|
Rear axle ratio:
|3.15:1 (3.55:1 optional)|