April 17, 2014, will mark the 50th anniversary of the day Ford introduced its first Mustang at the New York World’s Fair as a 1964 1/2 model.
That makes the Mustang the seventh-oldest continuously running nameplate in the automotive world, a year younger than the Porsche 911, a year old than the Toyota Corolla.
It also occupies a unique spot in automotive history as the vehicle that inspired the Pony Car revolution, a car that offered drivers fun behind the wheel in a stylish package, more compact than the stodgy sedans of the day yet without the nuisances (and expenses) of exotic sports cars.
Though other Pony Car models have come and gone and come again in some instances, the Mustang remains the standard bearer in the segment.
The 2013 model represents the end of Mustang’s fifth generation and gets back to the fastback look that contributed so greatly to the original model’s popularity. (Well, it also helped that Steve McQueen was behind the wheel of one in perhaps the greatest car chase scene in moviedom history.)
It comes as a coupe or convertible, V6 or V8, and different trim versions to satisfy your desires and suit your pocketbook.
Pricing for the coupe runs from just under $23,000 for the base V6 to just under $43,000 for the top-of-the-line Boss 302 version available only as a coupe.
The high-performance Boss 302 has a 5.8-liter V8 engine rated at 420 horsepower and 444 pound-feet of torque. If you want even more power, and your budget can afford it, the Shelby GT500 steps up the ante to 662 horsepower and 631 pound-feet of torque.
Yes, those numbers are correct. That’s 662 hp and 631 lb.ft.
You’re talking about a price tag of just under $55,000 for the GT500.
The nice thing about the Mustang is its ability to get all of the aura a Pony Car is known for (less the overall power) in a six-cylinder package as well.
With the V6, you get enough performance (305 hp, 280 lb.-ft.) to satisfy all but the most-demanding of power-hungry driving enthusiasts along with the traditional Mustang look and throaty exhaust notes. My week in the Mustang V6 Premium convertible confirmed that.
Obviously, with a little bit less power you get a little bit better fuel mileage. The Mustang’s V6 drinks 87 octane (regular) fuel at a rate of 19 miles-per-gallon city, 30 highway when equipped with an automatic transmission. For the GT, with premium recommended, the numbers are 18/25 with an automatic.
The V6 Premium convertible has a base price of $31,995. With that, you get such standard features as leather-trim sport seats that are power-adjustable six ways for the driver and two ways manually for the passenger; a leather-wrapped steering wheel that is tilt adjustable (but not telescoping); cruise control; capless gas filler; and more.
Ford’s Sync, voice-activated system also is standard, but its effectiveness is erratic. It quickly responded the first time I requested a change from satellite radio to an AM frequency, but didn’t recognize virtually the same command the next time I tried it.
Frankly, these voice-activated systems can be so annoying at times that they detract from whatever convenience they are supposed to provide. And it’s not just that way in Ford models.
A navigation system and a rear-view camera are available as options. To get this got-have-it-green exterior color in the model in the slide show, you have to pay an extra $495, which I personally wouldn't do, but I might for the green shade of the fastback in Bullitt!
The overall ambience of the cabin is typical of what you would expect from a Pony Car, with more of a lean toward spartan rather than luxury, more plastic than plushness.
At a time when many manufacturers have made their convertibles a one-touch operation when it comes to raising and lowering the roof, the Mustang still requires you to unclasp or retract clamps that secure the cloth top.
My other quibble is with the automatic transmission. You may select gears manually, but to do so you press a button at the top of the shift lever on the console.
These days, paddle shifters (as well as tops that automatically secure themselves) are pretty much expected in any car with performance as a selling point.
All in all, though, this last model before the introduction of Mustang’s Golden Anniversary edition is a worthy entrant in the Pony Car fold. One suspects even Steve McQueen would have happy behind its wheel chasing bad guys through the streets of San Francisco.