Ford's venerable Mustang received a complete overhaul last year and carries on into 2016 with a few minor changes - the biggest being the integration of Ford's new Sync3 infotainment system. Mustang is a two-door sports car that is available as a coupe or soft-top convertible. Direct competitors include the Chevrolet Camaro, Dodge Challenger and Nissan 370Z.
The rear-drive Mustang seats four and is offered in five different trim levels: base, EcoBoost, EcoBoost Premium, GT and GT Premium. The base is powered by a 3.-7liter V6 that makes 300 horsepower. EcoBoost models get a turbocharged 2.3-liter four-cylinder engine that makes 310 horsepower. GT models pack a 5.0-liter V8 with 435 horsepower. All models are available with either a six-speed manual or six-speed automatic transmission.
Standard safety features include antilock disc brakes, traction and stability control, rearview camera and dual-front, front-knee and front-side airbags. Coupe models also get side-curtain airbags. Adaptive cruise control with forward collision alert and blind-spot warning system with rear cross-traffic alert are available as optional on the EcoBoost and GT Premium.
Sync3 replaces the MyFordTouch infotainment system. It features an 8-inch touch-screen display that supports smart-phone-like pinch and swipe gestures. EcoBoost and GT models are available with sport-minded performance packages. The convertible has a power-operated soft top with glass rear window.
Prices start at $24,915 for the base coupe and climb to $42,420 for the GT Premium convertible. Also available at Ford dealers is the Shelby Mustang, a track-ready offering intended for serious enthusiasts. The Mustang has a destination charge of $900 and is assembled in Flat Rock, Michigan.
The Ecoboost turbo four is a welcome option for Mustang fans that have been put off by mediocre V6 fuel economy. The peppy four has more than respectable power numbers and an impressive 0 to 60 mph time of just 6.0 seconds. Power with the turbo four isn't as instantaneous as it is in the V8. You have to prod the gas pedal, but stick your foot into it, and you'll be rewarded with ample passing power. Sadly, the engine isn't as refined as the V6 or V8 and just doesn't have the reassuring V8 burble at.
The six-speed manual transmission has short and positive throws, but it a trifle heavy. Clutch pickup is smooth and well defined. Traction can be a problem - even on 4-cylinder models. Thankfully traction control is standard. It allows the slightest bit of wheel spin in quick starts, but then kicks in to help the rear tires regain traction on slippery surfaces. Even so, snow tires are a must if you want to make the Mustang an all-season car here in Chicago.
The Ecoboost four is the fuel economy champ in the Mustang lineup. With manual it rates 22/31 mpg in EPA tests. For comparison sake, the V6 numbers are 17/28 mpg and the V8 are 15/25 mpg. All models, regardless of engine, will run fine on regular-grade gasoline. Real-world fuel economy with the 2.3-lilter four is likely to average about 25 mpg in routine suburban commuting. It's not hard to top 30 mpg in gentile highway cruising. Dive deep into the throttle, with any Mustang engine, and you'll experience high teens in overall economy.
On base models, Mustang rides much like a traditional car. There's good travel in the suspension for absorbing the rough stuff and enough stiffness to give the drivers an athletic feel behind the wheel. Step up to the performance suspension or larger wheels and tires and the ride grows firmer. This is not unexpected and is something many Mustang buyers appreciate.
Where the Mustang really shines is on twisty roads. The car feels planted and sure footed when pitched into on ramps or sharp turns. At the same time, the suspension isn't rattled by the mid-corner pothole. The steering is appropriately heavy and on some models the assist level can be adjusted at the flip of a switch. Road feel is excellent. The brakes have great stopping power and an easy-to-modulate pedal.
As you might expect for this class of car, Interior noise levels are quite high. There's a fair amount of road noise with the optional performance tires as well. The V8 makes great sounds under hard acceleration - the four and six, not as much.
Ford's trademark twin-hood dashboard creates clear delineation between the driving and riding chores. Materials are a mixed bag, base models (likely destined for rental fleets) have a fair amount of hard plastic and sharp edges. Step up a trim level though and the interior is augmented with lots of soft-touch materials and spruced up with a dollop of chrome and polished aluminum. Either way, fit and finish are great for the class.
Deeply set into the instrument panel are a large speedometer and. Nestled between is a modern digital information display. It's programmable to show a wide range of vehicle functions and does help to reduce driver distraction. The center console boasts a large central display with traditional radio and climate controls.
For 2016 Ford has replaced MyFordTouch with Sync3. Both are voice- and touch- activated systems highlighted by a large screen in the center of the dashboard. However, where MyFordTouch was dated and clumsy, Sync3 operates quickly and with intuitive commands. It's a big step forward for Ford and will be made even more useful with the inclusion of Apple CarPlay and Android Auto later in the year.
The standard front seats are comfortable and supportive, if not a little confining. There are optional sport buckets more so. They are more firmly bolstered and likely grow a little tiring on long trips. Front-seat leg room is great and head room is acceptable, even with the available sunroof. Rear seats are mainly for show, but will accommodate two adults in a modicum of comfort provided the front seats are pushed about halfway forward.
At nearly 14 cu. ft., cargo space on coupes is a plus. The trunk opening is a little small, but there's a wide and flat floor that will accommodate more stuff than you think. Convertible models less so. As you might expect, interior storage is tight with just a small open bin and shallow covered bin in the center console. Map pockets and a large glove box are a plus. There's also a hidden pop-out drawer to the left of the steering wheel for holding change or small items.
Ford's Mustang is arguably one of the most iconic automotive nameplates. Because of that, the "blue oval" brand has been very careful bringing its pony car into the 21st century. That said, the 2016 Mustang is arguably the best ever. It is more refined than any previous model and among the class leaders in the ride comfort/handling tradeoff. Its interior is at once comfortable, functional and sporty. Its powertrains are potent and surprisingly efficient. Finally, even the price is palatable, provided you don't overindulge on options. It's a worthy competitor in the class and a "must" on the sports-car shopper's list.