New Car Review: 2013 Ford Mustang V6 Coupe

Extreme closeup of black 2013 Mustang V6 Coupe
The 2013 Mustang V6 Coupe.

Way back when....a few months shy of 49 years ago, the Ford Mustang was the originator of a segment called "Pony Cars". Never mind that the other cars in the segment were named after a fish (Barracuda) and, well...nothing that actually existed (Camaro). The Mustang was the standard, with a formula that allowed owners to option the three body styles that eventually were available in the first model year (coupe, fastback and convertible) from, as Ford literature put it, "mild to wild".

In fact, in year one (model year 1965), there were six-cylinder engines making as little as 105 horsepower and V8s delivering 271, allowing for some room between the Pony Car and Muscle Cars like the Pontiac GTO, which in 1965 offered a choice of 335 or 360 horsepower (from the Tri-Power engine, which had three 2-barrel carburetors).

Throughout its life, even as Shelby GT 350s, GT 500s, Mach 1s, Boss 302s, Boss 351s and Boss 429s were brought into the Mustang corral, there was always the "mild" option.

It's not so anymore. For while it looks like a small number in the shadow of the 2013 Mustang GT's 420 horsepower, the 2013 Boss 302's 444 horsepower and the 2013 GT 500's 650 horsepower, the most basic, humble Mustang you can now buy packs 305 horsepower.

Yes, it's a heavier car than the '65, but we've learned how to get more power from the engine to the road....its 0-60 time is 5.9 seconds. That, my friends, is a mere one-tenth of a second slower than the aforementioned '65 GTO with the big Tri-Power engine.

Want to keep it in the family? The least-powerful 2013 Mustang's 0-60 time is faster than that of the 1965 Shelby GT 350, the 1967 Shelby GT 500, the 1969 Boss 302 and the 1970 Boss 429.

That's not to say, however, that the base Mustang is now a fire-breathing brute. For while it is capable of some serious speed, technology has allowed Ford to polish off rough edges and deliver some surprising efficiencies.

Even as the horsepower got respectable, nearly everyone hated the Mustang's 4.0-liter V6, which felt  and sounded vaguely agricultural. The current 3.7 liter four-valve V6 is light-years better, with an exhaust tuned to make wonderfully V8-ish noises.

With a six-speed automatic transmission, as on our tester, the power detailed above has very little penalty at the gas pump. The EPA estimate is 19 city/31 highway...which is the average for a new vehicle this year.

2013 Ford Mustang V6 Coupe Gauge Cluster (with Track Pak)
2013 Ford Mustang V6 Coupe Gauge Cluster (with Track Pak)

A mild refresh of the interior a year or so back has brought nicer materials and better fit and finish. The gauge cluster isn't really a replica of any 60s Mustang, but the tall, slightly squeezed font, especially when bathed in Ice Blue lighting (you can choose from several colors at the flip of a switch), is an instant time trip for anyone who's ever been behind the wheel of a mid-late 60s Ford.

Our vehicle was the Premium trim line....bringing leather sport seats, a power 6-way driver's seat, a manual 2-way front passenger seat, center console with armrest, air conditioning, ambient lighting, a Shaker audio system with AM/FM/CD and mp3, leather-wrapped steering wheel with cruise control and tilt, SYNC voice activated systems, Sirius Satellite Radio, two power points, power windows, locks, mirrors and remote keyless entry, a limited-slip rear axle and tire pressure monitoring for $26,200.

Ford's press fleet folks added the 6-speed automatic ($1,195), reverse sensing system and security package ($695), and the V6 Performance Package (a tire upgrade, 3.31 axle, 19 inch wheels and painted side mirrors for $1,995). Total with $795 destination and delivery: $30,880.

Frankly, at that price, with that kind of fuel economy and that kind of performance, it's hard to imagine why anyone who isn't a race driver, speed freak, looking to prove something to the Camaro and Challenger owners on their block, or deeply insecure would need any of the three V8 Mustangs. The V6 may have finally become the best all-around Mustang money can buy.