The Mustang was redesigned for 2015, featuring an independent suspension to replace the live axle in the rear end, and introducing a turbocharged four-cylinder in addition to the V6 and V8 engines. Actually, it was a return of the four-cylinder turbo, but since the original was decades ago and ahead of its time, and not particularly successful except as a pioneer, it almost doesn’t count.
Like it did 50 years ago, the Mustang comes as a Fastback coupe, convertible, and high-performance Shelby 350GT. It’s still a 2+2 at heart, although now it’s nearly as big as a midsize Ford Fusion, at 188.3 inches long on a 107.1-inch wheelbase. That gives it far more interior room than its arch-rival the Chevrolet Camaro. That said, calling it a 2+2 might be generous, as only two small people can fit in the rear.
The 2017 Mustang hasn’t changed much since its introduction as a 2015 model, remaining the best Mustang ever. The 2017 Mustang outclasses the pre-2015 Mustang, with beautiful control and stability. (Note: A revised Mustang is being introduced for the 2018 model year, with freshened styling, updated technology and improved performance.)
The 2017 Mustang offers a choice of four engines. The EcoBoost 2.3-liter four-cylinder uses a twin-scroll turbo and direct injection, to make an entertaining 310 horsepower and 320 pound-feet of torque. That’s more than the V8 of not long ago. Mustang Eco models come with this engine.
Even though the 3.7-liter V6 makes a solid 300 horsepower, it’s not treated with any fanfare by Ford. They mostly send it to rental-car fleets, and sell it to buyers who care more about Mustang coolness than performance. We’d call the engine’s image long-suffering.
The 5.0-liter V8 has 435 horsepower and 400 pound-feet of torque, more than expected from a 5.0-liter. It’s a great engine. The Mustang GT can shoot to 60 miles per hour in 4.5 seconds and reach 155 miles per hour. The Mustang GT is what the Mustang is all about and it’s the one to buy.
Unless, of course, you opt for the Shelby GT350, with a 5.2-liter V8 that runs in rarified air.
The four-cylinder EcoBoost gets the best mileage with an EPA-rated 21/30 mpg City/Highway, or 24 miles per gallon Combined, with a manual transmission. The convertible and automatic get 1 mpg less on the EPA Combined city and highway rating. The V6 gets 18/27/21 mpg City/Highway/Combined with either the automatic or manual. The V8 rates 15/25/18 mpg with either transmission. The Shelby GT350 scores 14/21/16 mpg.
The Mustang coupe earns five stars across the board in crash testing by the NHTSA, and mostly the top Good ratings from the IIHS, but only Acceptable in the difficult small-overlap test that simulates hitting a pole on a front corner.
The 2017 Ford Mustang coupe ($24,645) and convertible ($30,145) come standard with the V6 engine, 6-speed manual transmission and cloth upholstery.
A 6-speed automatic ($1195) is available on all models except GT350. Standard equipment includes power windows/locks/mirrors, air conditioning, cruise control, 50/50-split folding rear seat, AM/FM/CD player with two USB ports and an aux input, Bluetooth with audio streaming and voice control, rearview camera, and keyless ignition. A power driver seat, rear parking sensors and 18-inch wheels are optional. Ford’s Sync 3 infotainment system is another feature that’s either optional or only comes on the more expensive models. (All prices are MSRP and do not include destination charge.)
Mustang Eco models come with the turbocharged four-cylinder EcoBoost engine in coupe ($25,645) and convertible ($35,145) versions.
Mustang GT coupe ($32,645) features the V8 engine and comes with cloth upholstery. Mustang GT Premium coupe ($36,645) and Mustang Premium convertible ($42,145) get leather upholstery and other upgrades.
The Shelby GT350 ($54,295) comes only as a coupe.
Packages include a California Special ($1995) package for the GT Premium with ebony-painted machined alloy wheels, ebony leather with Miko suede, red contrast stitching, a special aluminum dash finish, hood striping, a strut tower brace, black-painted mirrors, and more stuff to add to the ebony. Performance Packages upgrade with a Torsen limited-slip differential, larger Pirelli P Zero tires (255/40R front, 275/40R rear), Brembo brakes, strut tower braces, and stiffer sway bars, springs and dampers. Reverse parking sensors are an option on most models, but safety features like adaptive cruise control, blind-spot monitors and forward-collision warning are only optional with the higher models.
The Mustang has muscular haunches and swollen fenders, a low and wide stance, and graceful fastback canopy. Some models have an available black roof. Some of the details are soggy, and tarnish the lines: for example a tilted taillight panel that looks like it came off a MoPar, and white lighting hash tags at the headlamps have a “Miami Vice” vibe. There’s also some imbalance between the hefty sides and thin pillars, making it look like a Pontiac Grand Prix coupe from back in the day.
A couple of appearance packages might enhance the style. We might not like the ebony treatment in the California Special, but the Black Accent Package has 19-inch black alloy wheels, a black spoiler, dark taillamp trim, and mustang pony badging. And if you want more horses decorating your car, there’s the Pony Package with more brightwork. (Ferrari shoppers pay a lot more for those, making the Pony Package an excellent value.)
The youthful cabin has more richness to it than the Camaro’s. The aviation theme delivers large, clear gauges and information located directly in front of the driver, and the ergonomics are good, with tactile switches and knobs. However the pre-2015 Mustang instrument panel was better organized. There’s a bar like a metal chin-up bar that crosses the dash and adds an appearance of strength, but it reduces the dual binnacles to eyebrows. And the combination of surfaces and textures wasn’t perfect on the cars we drove, not as good as the Ford Flex.
There is generous room in the front seats, and the available (but not inexpensive) Recaro seats are great, a big improvement over the standard sport seats. There’s more interior room and headroom than in a Camaro, but the rear seats are still just gestures, with no chance for an adult to sit upright.
The trunk will hold two golf bags, but otherwise it’s just okay for a weekend, with 13 cubic feet. Make that 11 with the top audio system that needs trunk space for its bits.
As for bins, it’s a good job. The cupholders, cell phone slot, and USB port are perfectly located.
The Mustang feels relatively quiet and refined, even with engine noise we wish we could change, or turn off. The four-cylinder buzzes with an artificial noise pumped into the cabin that is neither pleasant nor evocative of performance.
The V8 is almost the opposite, with a lovely sound that’s suppressed behind a thick wall of sound deadening. We miss hearing the sweet note.
The sleek insulated top on the Mustang Convertible soaks up of a lot of road noise, and that’s a good thing.
Outward visibility is better than might be expected for a car shaped like this. There are blind spots, but if you turn your head, the rear glass exposes enough.
The turbocharged four-cylinder EcoBoost is plenty quick, squirting to 60 mph in less than 6 seconds, but it feels nothing like a muscle car. It starts with a wave of strong torque and pulls strong for about three-fourths of the way to redline, but the artificial buzz of the engine is a turnoff that makes you miss a V8 burble. We think the Ford acoustic engineers need to re-do the piped-in sound system.
The handling is far more nimble and forgiving than it was before 2015, with no rear-wheel hop, thanks to sending the live axle to the rubbish bin.
We got good seat time zipping through L.A. traffic and Malibu canyons, trying the different driving modes. We drove a Mustang Eco with the 6-speed paddle-shifting automatic. We found throttle and shift response slow until we set it the transmission to Sport mode, which kept the engine came in its wide powerband, and any lag time disappeared. Even with the four-cylinder turbo’s wide powerband, it seemed like closer gear ratios would be good.
No such issue with the strong and intense 435-horsepower V8 in the Mustang GT. It shows off the wonderfully composed road manners, from the strut front and independent rear suspension with a serious limited-slip differential, and standard 18-inch wheels. There’s great ride isolation with smooth damping no dive or squat, and precise electric steering in any mode: Comfort, Normal or Sport. With GT’s four-piston front brakes and wide tires, it turns neat and quick into corners.
The modes adjust response from the throttle, steering, transmission and stability control. Another mode is wet/snow. There’s also available launch control, which prevents wheel-spinning burnouts, and line lock that enhances drag racing or showing off like a teenager.
If it’s fast cornering you want most, the Performance Package for the GT replaces the limited-slip differential for a Torsen unit, and adds Pirelli P Zero tires (255/40R fronts, 275/40R rears), Brembo brakes, strut-tower braces, and stiffer sway bars, springs, and dampers. It sticks to the ground in an impressive manner, maybe better than the BMW M4 that’s much more expensive.
Last but not least there’s the Shelby GT350. It’s unrivaled in Mustang history, with its flat-plane 5.2-liter V8 and MagneRide suspension that uses magnetic electronic damping. It’s a bit brittle on the road, not quite as friendly as a Camaro SS, but it’s a stunning track car.
The Ford Mustang is a classic, and the current model is a terrific car. We would opt for a Mustang GT. Great powertrain, great handling, and great looks. The instrumentation is disappointing, but sit in one yourself to decide if that matters enough.
Sam Moses contributed to this report.