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2013 Ford Mustang V-6 (Michael Bettencourt for The Globe and Mail/Michael Bettencourt for The Globe and Mail)
2013 Ford Mustang V-6 (Michael Bettencourt for The Globe and Mail/Michael Bettencourt for The Globe and Mail)

2013 Ford Mustang

Ford Mustang: There's more power in this pony Add to ...

Pumping up power in a performance-pushing pony car is never a bad sales move. So it’s not surprising that the new 2013 Ford Mustang GT does this, though mildly. But what is most radical about the revised Mustang, in both V-6 and V-8 models, is that Ford now offers a way to check that all horses are presented, accounted for, and working hard at the track, no matter if that track is a straight line, road course or parking lot pylon maze.

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But first, the power, as usual a highlight of Mustang ownership. The stouter 5.0-litre V-8 pumps out 420 hp, up from 412 for 2012s. That’s still slightly fewer than the 426 offered in the manual Camaro V-8, but more than the automatic Camaro’s 400. The lighter and smaller Mustang is now close enough in oomph that the winner of any side-by-side throw down – on the strip, of course – would depend more on the drivers than on horsepower or torque vagaries in the Camaro or Mustang, although the Dodge Challenger’s non-SRT8 V-8 is well down the pole now with its 372 hp.

The Mustang GT’s factory 4.6-second 0-100 km/h acceleration time won’t disappoint anyone, save perhaps Shelby GT500 owners used to seeing more than 500 hp in their beasts. But track-oriented ’13 Laguna Seca Boss Mustangs are no longer available in Canada, since Ford wasn’t able to put fog lamps on it to give it daytime running lights.

The Shelbys were always for those who were more into straight-line speed than handling, and if true muscle car liftoff is what you’re after – and you’re willing to look at a 60-grand-plus Mustang – you’ll want to wait for the upcoming 650-horse Shelby GT500. Scheduled to arrive this summer, its supercharged V-8 will make it the most powerful V-8 sports car on the planet. It will also be the first Mustang to top 200 mph (320 km/h), says Ford, both figures which truly put it into exotic car performance territory.

At least in a straight line.

For those also interested in braking and handling performance, Ford is now offering Mustang owners more track-oriented options, including a Brembo brake package on manual GTs that includes an engine cooler, upgraded radiator, performance friction brake pads and the same limited-slip differential that’s on the Boss Mustang, as well as the 14-inch vented front discs, unique 19s and summer performance tires offered on ’12 GTs with the Brembo package.

The base Mustang’s 3.7-litre V-6’s 305 hp is unchanged for 2013, but still worthy of appreciation. Half a day’s driving in both provided quite the contrast for the two experiences. Sure, the burlier sound and addictive immediate thrust of the GT’s extra 115 ponies and 110 ft-lb of torque provide the kind of animalistic appeal one expects in a Mustang GT, and makes the V-6 feel a touch emaciated after driving them both back to back.

But with similarly rapid rising gas prices, 305 tamer and quieter ponies will still be plenty for most folks.

Owners that want to take the ’Stang to the track will appreciate the available new Track Apps, which allow drivers to measure and record lap times, acceleration runs (0-30 and 60 mph, and quarter-mile), as well as measure lateral forces in g’s and braking distances.

One of the coolest new party tricks of this system in the latest Mustang is a new dash-mounted drag tree, displayed on the available 4.2-inch LCD screen between the speedo and the tach, which can even give you a countdown that mimics that of your local strip. Acceleration runs can also be set for automatic starts, so timing starts as soon as you start moving.

For anyone who has ever bought straight pipes and wondered if they actually added any power on top of the extra noise, this function will help you find out. Mustang buyers are notorious tinkerers, and these measurements are no doubt interesting when new, and could also come in handy even more so three years down the road when you’re out of the warranty period, and maybe looking at perking up the acceleration, or improving the handling with new stickier tires.

Also a neat touch are the puddle lights mounted under the rearview mirror that project the Mustang’s running horse symbol on to the ground when you unlock the car. It’s the kind of small but appreciated touch that shows the engineers behind the Mustang truly love this car – and they do, as do plenty of owners.

Those owners and Mustang enthusiasts will also be interested in the new styling tweaks Ford gave the 2013s, which are now arriving at dealers. Two small LED accent bars now highlight the front headlights, the LED accents at the rear, and new wheels. Nothing radically different, but a notable modernizing all around.

The interior also receives similarly small but appreciated upgrades, including available Recaro seats that were previously reserved for the Boss Mustang, a hill hold function for manual Mustangs and a push-button SelectShift function for automatic drivers to select their own gears. Paddles or a tipshift would be much more welcome, as there’s no intrinsic barbarian appeal to pounding on a button.

The Mustang GT continues to be a sizable 15-grand jump in price over a base V-6, at $39,299 and $23,999, respectively, because Ford of Canada piles on the options into its entry-level GT to what’s a Premium GT in the United States.

Either way, the Mustang – especially in convertible form – is just one of those classic fun machines. But the V-8 just makes it special for enthusiasts, if you’re not turned off by the big fuel bills or ancient solid rear axle, which brittles the ride and handling, but seems to suit the Mustang’s darty personality on the road.

globedrive@globeandmail.com

Tech specs

2013 Ford Mustang

Type: Two-door performance coupe

Base price: $23,999 for V-6; $39,299 for GT V-8

Engine: 3.7-litre V-6/5.0-litre V-8

Horsepower/torque: 305 hp/280 lb-ft for V-6; 420 hp/390 lb-ft for V-8

Transmission: Six-speed manual or automatic

Drive: Rear-wheel

Fuel economy (litres/100 km): 11.2 city/6.8 highway for V-6 manual

13.6 city/7.8 highway for V-8 manual; regular gas

Alternatives: Chevrolet Camaro, Dodge Challenger, Hyundai Genesis Coupe, Scion FR-S, Subaru BRZ

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