California Special Edition of the Ford Mustang GT Coupe
By Barbara & Bill Schaffer
We have never been big fans of muscle cars, preferring instead sport sedans, fun-to-drive convertibles and more recently some of the exciting crossovers.
However, it is necessary to drive all the latest muscle cars for our job and we have discovered the last couple of years that muscle cars have a much greater appeal to us than they used to. The new muscle cars are much more refined and sophistication that the old ones. They are easier to drive and they even go around corners really fast and well controlled.
Almost by definition the muscle cars had big rumbling V-8 engines that produced outstanding acceleration and high top speeds. That’s no longer the case now as many of these machines are powered by four and six-cylinder engines that also produce outstanding performance, but in a subtler way.
Such is the case of the 2016 Ford Mustang which has as its base engine a 300 horsepower 3.7-liter V-6. The optional engines include the EcoBoost 2.3-liter four-cylinder with 310-hp and the 435-hp 5.0-liter V-8 which is the standard engine in the GT model. All three add a different take on Mustang performance, and each is fun to drive.
Our latest test car, the 2016 Ford Mustang, GT Coupe, happen to be one of Ford’s famous special editions, the California Special. There was no question that this was powered by one of those big rumbling, muscular V-8 engines. It sounded great and is very fast –(0 to 60 mph takes only 4.7 seconds, a quarter mile comes in at 13.2 seconds and with a speed of 110 mph and it tops out at 155 mph.)
Every time we heard the powerful exhaust note we were remind of Tim Allen barking “ark, ark, ark!” (or whatever the sound was that he used to make on the popular TV show of the 1990s, “Home Improvement”).
The interesting thing about this car was how civilized it is. The six -speed manual transmission is smooth and precise, and pressing down the clutch does not require the driver to put both hands on the wheel and push with full strength to move it toward the floor so you can shift. We could drive this car like normal people without the roughness that we had experienced with some previous generation Mustangs. The ride is smooth but firm, the steering is accurate and provides the driver with good feedback and the Brembo brakes (Performance Package) – S T O P — quickly.
When the all new sixth generation was introduced in 2015, the Ford Mustang was a clean sheet design, totally new, but there is no question about its Mustang design heritage. The basic shape is classic Mustang, from the signature long sculptured hood to the short rear deck. The sides take new twists with a dramatic sculpting and the rear has an interesting three-dimensional taillight treatment of the signature Mustang taillights. Ford says engineers spent twice as much time in the wind tunnel than would be normal perfecting a more slippery shape, but they don’t tell us the coefficient of drag. Whatever it is, the car stays well planted at all speeds (we are taking Ford’s word for the three-digit speeds) and it helps the fuel economy, too.
The interior in our GT Coupe Premium edition test car looked like a contemporary version of the classic Mustang. The seats were very comfortable and supportive, the controls conveniently placed and the steering wheel was filled with more buttons and controls than the rest of the dash combined. The large two-pod instrument cluster was also classic Mustang with a large color display between the pods that’s used to control a variety of vehicle functions from some of the steering wheel mounted buttons. Cargo space is a reasonable 13.5 cubic feet.
Ford engineers used real buttons and dials instead of “touch” controls making the car much more user friendly than some other Fords. The large navigation screen mounted mid-level on the center stack works better than previous versions and the voice activation understood most of our commands, and was the easiest way to control the navigation and the new Sync 911 Assist® systems.
Adding to the Mustang’s sophistication are available features like the Blind Spot Information System with cross-traffic alert, adaptive cruise control, SYNC AppsLink which lets drivers control their smart phone apps and listen to their favorite entertainment and SYNC 911 to help occupants in case of a collision or emergency.
One of the most important changes is the fully independent front and rear suspension attached to a lighter platform. The older Mustangs were often criticized for their live axle which was not known for its precise handling. The new Mustang has significantly improved handling characteristics thanks to struts in the front and an Integral-link independent rear suspension with coil springs, solid stabilizer bar and twin- or mono-tube shocks. It also has a limited slip differential, standard 18-inch wheels and a revamped electric steering system. The four -wheel disk brakes and a full complement of techno-aids further enhance the handling, performance and safety of the new Mustang.
The result is a sport coupe which is very much a driver’s car. The GT is no lightweight, though, tipping the scale at just over 3,700 pounds.
The EPA fuel economy rating for the Mustang V-8 with manual transmission is 15 mpg city, 25 mpg highway and 19 mpg combined. We actually averaged 16.3 mpg during our week of mostly local driving.
The 2016 Ford Mustang is available as a V6 Fastback, EcoBoost® Fastback, EcoBoost Premium Fastback, GT Fastback and GT Premium Fastback. Pricing ranges from $25,815 for the V6 Fastback with six speed manual transmission and goes up to $39,015 for the GT Premium with the V-8 engine and six-speed automatic transmission. Our well-equipped GT Premium Fastback with the California Special Package and several options including navigation and the premium audio system listed at $42,275.
The Mustang is also available in several convertible versions, and as the Shelby GT350 and Shelby GT350R performance models. To see all the available versions, go on line to http://www.ford.com/cars/mustang/ .
The 2016 Ford Mustang is impressive. It’s fun to drive and so much more civilized than previous generations that we have driven. So for a good time and head-turning looks you might want to consider the new Mustang.