I’m driving a mythical creature, a 2012 Mustang GT.With a solid rear axle spun by a 3.73:1 ring gear putting down the torque of a 5.0-liter V8, there’s nothing economical about this car. No fuel is burned while braking, at least, but the Brembo hardware makes short work of stops. Gasoline will soon flirt with $5 per gallon, and 18 mpg feels like hypermiling in this thing, especially with the amount of city driving I’ve been doing. The 412-hp snarl that accompanies every launch makes any concern about MPG evaporate, at least until the rent’s due and all your cash is sitting in the gas tank. But this is a Mustang GT review, not a Prius.
This ain’t no press car, either. What else should an enthusiast who is single with no kids do when looking for a car, right? This being my first live rear axle vehicle, I now understand why that can be a pejorative term. It shimmies and shakes even over slow bumps. Take off on a cold or slick surface and you’ll discover axle hop. If it weren’t for the 5 nice days Ohio has had in the spring, I’d have thought that the Mustang was severely flawed, but no, it’s just the weather that sucks. At least I’m not going to regret NOT doing this.
When the weather clears, the Mustang is the polar opposite. Traction off the line is surprising, the clutch has an easily-found sweet spot, and you can break every speed limit in the United States in a little over ten seconds. It’s an idea that sounds as good to a driving enthusiast as a quick snort of heroin sounds to a junkie. The itch starts at every red light. Sure, blip the throttle and the car fluctuates back and forth. The light turns green and you try to behave but with short gears the V8 quickly ascends to its almost 7,000 rpm redline and from there the only fathomable option is to grab another gear. You quickly become engrossed in managing the cogs and before you know it you’re hitting 4th and approaching the ton mark. Panic ensues and you quickly do a mirror check for that other Five-Oh.
That ox-cart axle is great for launching this 3,600 pound car, and handling is tidy, regardless of the chassis layout. Seriously. You guys talking about how it’s heavy and bounces in turns, eat it. The Mustang GT is well-behaved and quick as snot propelled by a sneeze. You simply cannot find a car that does all that the Mustang can do for anything near its price. I got a lesson in this when I hit a corner too hot. Bracing for a bunch of sliding and protesting from the Pirellis, there was no drama as the car simply negotiated the turn. Those Brembo brakes burned off the speed with the same kind of competence, leaving me to sit at the side of the road, idling, hands shaking, stupid grin on my face. It’s not so much the power that scares the novice. It’s easy to let off the gas the car calms down. No, have a panicked slam of the Brembo’s and you’ll be pulling your face off the windshield.
The modern Mustang is nothing like the old standards we were used to. Still, one eyesore on an otherwise impressive dash can be seen near the steering column, where the faux aluminum finish ends but the plastic continues going. It’s nothing major, but it just makes you scratch your head and go “What the hell, Ford?
The rest of the interior is above Ford average, with quality plastics and thick leather. The seats have some bolstering that can keep the average person from sliding too much, but they aren’t Recaros – an option we wish was available on the standard GT. Still, we won’t complain because we’ve been in the Corvette and we’re pretty sure our Grandfathers Cadillac had more bolstering than those seats.
The car has been plagued by issues with the MT82 Getrag transmission, in the cold some Mustangs refuse to use half of their gears. The rumor is that Ford used the Getrag because of its smoothness, despite the fact that its only rated for 375 lb. ft when the Coyote throws down 390 lb. ft. To Fords point, its a slick shifting transmission compared to the TR-6060 used in the Shelby. However, I think what most Mustang owners want is a transmission that can hold the power rather than be smooth. In reality, its not that smooth of a transmission in the first place. We hope Ford fixes this issue. Otherwise they’ll be faced with a lot of lemon law’d cars, lawsuits and disgruntled owners. The only other option for owners is to throw the warranty into left field and drop an aftermarket Tremec and kissing their cost savings over the Boss or Shelby goodbye.
Still, this brings up a interesting point. A stock GT, is 30 horsepower and a suspension setup away from being a Boss 302. There are significant differences between the GT 5.0 and the Boss 5.0 to be sure. However, consider this build – a GT build like ours, Brembo brake package, 3.73 gears stickers for around $36 (knock off leather and save a few grand), throw in a TR-6060 ($3,000 + install), the Boss/FRPP suspension package ($1,800 + Install), Ford Racing 525 HP Super Charger, and lets say a new axle-back setup for around $600. That puts you on par for horsepower with the $50K Shelby GT500 at $45K + installation. You might say thats too much work, but what you’re getting is the same amount of horsepower as the Shelby, thats a few hundred pounds lighter than it, and mostly crucially a few hundred pounds off the nose. It’s packing more power than the Boss with a pretty close suspension set up. We already know the stock GT’s ability to keep up with an M3 is pretty good, now add 150 HP and better handling. So instead of keeping up the Teutonic bruiser, you’re watching it shrink away in the rear view and still pocketing money.
Overall, color us impressed with the new Mustang GT. Obviously, we bought one. It’s a very well sorted car despite its handicaps and takes our pick as the top muscle car from the big three. It’s lighter, faster, and all around a much more enjoyable car to be in than the slower and sometimes more expensive competition from Chevy and Dodge. Oh, and an easter egg for you other 2012 owners, depress the brake and then the T/C button twice before letting off the brake and you’ll be in “Sport” mode, which dials back the traction control, stability control and firms up the steering. Be careful with this trick!