Served up in a coat of Race Red paint, the new Mustang elicited the kind of online enthusiasm I'd personally reserve for an ultra-exotic like a Pagani Zonda. But I've been a little spoiled this summer and it seems, to their credit, Ford's continually re-invented sports car classic instantaneously conjures collective memory of high school parking lots and Mellencamp and Metallica.
The 2013 'Stang I drove wasn't even one of those all-out psycho Godzilla beasts with 662 horsepower (that's the new Shelby GT500), but even the plainest jane of the Mustang line is now equipped with 305 horsepower - plus the good looks and long tradition of the Mustang marquee.
Many were also surprised that Mustang's new, standard 3.7-liter V6 does not exactly roar like a monster - the exhaust and engine note is pretty sedate, unless you're going 95 miles an hour - but that horsepower figure is absolutely true, presenting a cash-to-horsepower proposition that's pretty impressive.
The 2013's minor facelift details also serve to pump up the volume a bit for one of the most successful of Detroit's retro products. The nose is a little more aggressive and there are nicer body-colored rocker panels; get it with the performance package and you not only get a quicker limited-slip axle but you also get blackened side mirrors and impressive, dark gray 19-inch wheels.
In the rear, there's now a glossy black backing around the license plate and six tall, LED light-infused and smoked brakelamps, and up front, both the headlamps and the foglamps have LED inserts.
Those are just aesthetic details, of course: the primary mission of the Mustang is a cool driving experience, and the car provides that in droves, even with a less-than-insane number of horses. Acceleration response is quite nice, even in the six-speed automatic I drove, and the bigger wheels and tires help impart a grounded, sporty feel in the corners. Mine even had Eagle F1 rubber, which used to be the domain of police interceptors.
I didn't get to do the full track test, but in a safe environment you might be able to maximize boost on the six-speed automatic by using the new thumb-activated toggle to switch and hold gears, right up to the redline.
You can jaw all you want about the Paleolithic-era live axle in the back end, but that's part of Mustang's old-school charm. It will do little to spoil even your most energetic outing. For, if you are like I was for my week in the car, you'll spend most of the time with the windows down and the eight-speaker Shaker audio system blasting inconceivable material from Warrant and WASP. And a gigantic, stupid-looking smile on your face.
Mustang's interior is no slouch, as well. Lit-up sill plates, deep, race-ready bucket seats with white offset stitching, plus a leather wheel and emergency brake shroud are all impressive touches. Rear seating is still miniscule; it's still a Mustang. That's the drill. You can also order the Boss 302 and GT500's Recaro seats if you'd like.
The retro-futuristic thing does falter in a few spots. Those seeking to avoid prosecution will be flummoxed by the 1960s-faithful analog speedometer, which is situated in a deep pot and is hard to read, even if you do have the option to change the display colors.
You also have an overly sophisticated "Track Apps" display on the color instrument screen that can measure your 0-60 times, your G forces and even the gas-air mix being sucked into that engine.
Mustang's long, flat hood does tower a bit over your outside view but overall visibility is pretty decent.