2016 Ford Mustang Review

2016 Ford Mustang - Mustang defies aging the past half century


Ford Mustang remains synonymous with American Pony Cars, the one ushering in an era of affordable two-doors sporting rear-wheel-drive and miles of attitude. The 2016 edition emerges with a nice assortment of engine selections and a truly iconic silhouette appealing to multi-generations and now an international crowd.

Mustang's instant popularity during its mid-1964 debut caught the attention of domestic counterparts. Chevrolet responded with its Camaro debut in 1966 (and undergoes a sixth-generation redo in 2016). By 1969 the Dodge Brother's answered with the two-door Challenger. Of the trio, only Mustang production remains uninterrupted since the 1960s.

One proud owner of said 1964-and-a-half Mustang ($2,368 base price): my Godfather (Uncle), who on more than one occasion took his favorite (only) nephew for a spin through the mean streets of 1960s Lombard, long before child seats became fashionable.

Riding shot gun as an inquisitive five year old, memories still abound of a sparse, very loud, rumbling coupe named after a horsey with an eerily strange transmission (my introduction to a manual-shift design). Unfortunately, this collector's gem never was willed or passed down to heirs, serving instead as a trade-in four years later (for an Oldsmobile Cutlass...I vaguely recall).

While the 2015 model year saw a complete sixth-generation redesign, expect little in mechanical updates in 2016. Three new option groups arrive this year. No 2015 Mustang passed by for testing last season, so this 2016 tester reflects my maiden voyage inside this next-gen effort.

This sixth-generation effort offers right-hand-drive builds, growing Mustang's international market appeal. Mustang now reaches upwards of 140 markets worldwide.

Another fun fact: for those who enjoy top-down air conditioning, Mustang continues as the most popular convertible sold in America.

The 'conventional' 2016 hard top Mustang (excluding the low-volume, track-specific, Mustang Shelby GT 350) arrives with three engine selections covering three distinct cylinder banks. Each engine serves as a trim level distinction. Mustang's 2.3-liter Ecoboost inline four cylinder, introduced during the 2015 redesign, cranks out an impressive 310 horses with fuel economy reaching 32 miles per gallon highway.

Rounding out the engine trio are two powertrains basically carried over from generation five: a 3.6-liter V-6 delivering 300 horses serves as the 'base' engine and a 5.0-liter V-8 generating 435 horses (marketed as GT). The V-8's tweaked a bit, delivering slightly less horsepower, but additional low-end torque for improved low-speed get up and go.

All three mate to a standard thrill-seeking six-speed butter-smooth shifting manual transmission with short, predictable throws. A six-speed automatic with steering wheel mounted paddle shifters is optional.

Visually speaking, generations five and six remain closely aligned. Wheelbase (distance between front and rear axle) remains at 107.1, Returning is the long steeply racked rear window, short truck lid and long hood Mustang helped popularize decades earlier. Thin A pillars flank the windshield. Familiar tri-bar tail lights influence tri-bar LED-enhanced daytime running lights up front.

At night, just in case drivers forget what car they're piloting, V-8 GT trims include flood lights emitting from side-mirror projecting the galloping Mustang logo on the ground below. Strap-like door handles mimic the body's color hue. Both side doors retain a seemingly lighter weight, helping ease the closing process when seated in cozy front buckets. My over 50, six-foot plus frame slipped in and out with relative ease.

These diminutive aerodynamic mirrors include secondary blinker bands, helping alert those sharing the road of near-future lane changes. Our GT tester provided two more amber blinkers, built into sliver-like hood vents (new for 2016) visible to the crew when darkness shrouds the driving experience.

Honeycomb filler resides inside the elongated hexagon front grille along with the galloping horse logo in place of the Blue Oval usually adorning other Dearborn Michigan-based vehicles.

Our V-8 enhanced GT tester checked in at $36,900. A blinding triple yellow tri-coat exterior paint ($495 extra) contrasted effectively with the jet black interior. Other options included: upgraded Shaker-brand 12-speaker stereo ($1,795), anti-theft system ($395), GT Performance package ($2,690), voice-activated navigation ($795) and leather-trimmed seats ($395). The bottom line added up to $43,765 with $900 destination charge.

The lowest-priced 2016 Mustang, a V-6 hard top with 6-speed manual checks in at $24,145. By comparison a 2016 two-door Dodge Charger starts at $27,995 (Challenger adorns four-doors in 2016).

Inside, sporty front buckets include thick side bolsters and back contours hugging riders during spirited maneuvers; not a soft, cushy billowy experience. Power seats move north and south to meet driver's individual preferences. A newly implemented independent rear suspension and a stiffer chassis beef up cornering characteristics. Small rear side windows contribute to blind-spot issues when changing lanes.

While Mustang's 5.0-liter V-8 provided plenty of right-foot enticement, the overbearing engine rumble from 1964.5 (at least to a five-year-old's ear) is greatly tamed, allowing sensible conversations without resorting to a shouting competition. A recently tested Dodge Challenger rumbled with slightly more interior engine sound effects.

While promoted as a four seater, this conservative estimate remains a stretch. While never known for leg friendly row-two confines, even Duchess the 20-pound grey Schnauzer had suspensions upon entering. The triangular static rear windows prevent powering (or paw-ering) down for extensive neck craning to bask in nose-friendly summer fragrances. Bottom line, Mustang remains a friendly two seater.

Ford finally relented, and put 'MyFord Touch' infotainment/connectivity system out of touch, updating the experience with SYNC 3 and its friendlier in-dash color touch screen.Great to reunite once again with a large dials controlling audio volume and station selections. The 1964's optional in-dash push-button AM radio incorporated superior human/tech interface when contrasted with 'MyFord Touch'.

Infuriating touch-sensitive pads are gone, replaced with old-school, yet modernly attractive, tactile ventilation buttons and finger-driven rotary dials allowing maximum eye time to focus on the road ahead. Along the bottom resides a narrow open-air shelf with electronics-friendly plug-in port and power outlet.

A retro touch below saluting earlier era Mustangs: chrome-plated toggle switches for selecting the emergency blinker, traction control deactivation and drive mode selection (normal, sport, track, snow). Adjacent to the left: a well-marked, circular, electronic start push-button far, far away from steering wheel interference.

Our tester's manual transmission, a source of wide-eyed wonderment decades earlier, includes six forward speeds and a reverse mode aided by a convenient stalk-located pull ring helping to prevent inadvertent reverse shifts. A hill-holder clutch conveniently delays vehicle roll back for about five seconds while the right-foot dances from brake to accelerator.

Slightly larger trunk volume benefits from exterior strut-like hinging preventing cargo crunch found with interior goose-neck type hinges.

During a weekend getaway to the picturesque Wisconsin Dells, the 2016 Mustang served as an ambassador of sorts. Rarely do Cheese Heads and kind folks from Illinois find common ground about anything, but the 'Can't Miss Me' Yellow Mustang stirred up diplomatic happy talk from both sides of the Cheddar curtain. One Packer Backer mussed all that was missing was the Green Bay 'G' plastered atop the yellow hued hood.

2016 Ford Mustang GT
Price as tested: $43,765
Engine: 5.0-liter V-8
Horsepower: 435
Wheelbase: 107.1 inches
Overall Length: 188.3 inches
Overall Height: 54.4 inches
Overall Width: 75.4 inches
Curb weight: 3,700 pounds
Fuel economy: 15 mpg city, 25 mpg highway
Assembly: Flat Rock, Michigan

Dave Boe

Dave Boe, a lifetime Chicago area resident, worked at the Daily Herald, Illinois' third-largest daily newspaper, for 24 years. In 1989, the Daily Herald began a weekly Saturday Auto Section and he was shortly appointed editor. The product quickly grew into one of the largest weekend sections in the paper thanks to his locally-written auto reviews, the introduction of a local automotive question-and-answer column, a new colorful format and news happenings from Chicago area new-car dealerships.

Five years later, a second weekly auto section debuted on Mondays with Boe adding an industry insight column and introducing a "Love Affair with Your Car" column where readers sent in their own automotive memories for publication. During the next 10 years, the number of weekly auto sections Boe edited and coordinated grew to five and featured expanded NASCAR racing coverage, a dealer spotlight/profile feature and a Car Club Calendar where grass-roots automobile clubs could publish upcoming events for free. Boe also introduced more local automotive columnists into the pages of the sections, all of whom were seasoned members of the well respected Midwest Automotive Media Association. In 1997, Boe earned the Employee of the Year award from the Daily Herald.

Boe is a founding member and current president of the Midwest Automotive Media Association. He has degrees in Journalism and Business Administration from Northern Illinois University.