Everyone has a Mustang story, myself included. From my Aunt Jill’’s 1966 289 and my Aunt Sandy’s LX 5.0 to my mom’s 2008 V6 Premium – all red convertibles, by the way – Mustangs have always been emblematic of carefree summer vacations and Rockwellian nights at the drive-in.
And there’s no denying the all-American appeal of the newest ‘Stang, which in GT form comes with a new, fourth-generation 5.0-liter V8. Sharp, crisp sheetmetal and an extensively revised technology suite join the party, as well as a few performance doodads that split the difference between genius and gimmick. While the new GT is now the mid-level model in the non-Shelby Mustang lineup – slotting between the four-cylinder EcoBoost I reviewed yesterday and the high-performance Dark Horse – it still offers some pretty exciting driving dynamics and a god-tier exhaust note to give pony car fans plenty of new stories to tell.
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|Quick Specs||2024 Ford Mustang GT Premium|
|Output||486 Horsepower / 418 Pound-Feet|
|Drive Type||Rear-Wheel Drive|
|Price As Tested||$62,325|
|On Sale||Late Summer 2023|
Gallery: 2024 Ford Mustang GT First Drive
Can Horses Growl?
Given the Mustangs I grew up with, it should come as no surprise that I spent some time in a Race Red convertible for my first taste of the Mustang GT – my platonic ideal of the pony car – before switching to a fastback equipped with a six-speed manual gearbox and the $4,995 High Performance Package (HPP). Thumb the start button and the Mustang comes to life with a grumble that portends the impressive 486 horsepower and 418 pound-feet on offer – ditch the $1,225 active tailpipes and those numbers fall to 480 and 415.
Upon setting off in the ‘Stang, I immediately used the custom drive mode to activate the Fox Body gauge cluster and turn up the exhaust to an aurally pleasing Sport setting, then headed for the nearest tunnel. Luckily, from the first drive’s home base in Arcadia, California, the closest two-lane burrow is a circuitous 30-mile drive on Angeles Forest Highway, a route which would give me ample time to check out the new Mustang’s moves, enjoying its good front-to-rear balance and impressive grip.
That said, the helm is overboosted and way too light to make confident corner entries, and feel is absent no matter how hard you push the front tires. Adding to the challenge is an underdamped front end that feels like it bobs around too much. There’s plenty of grip on hand from the HPP-specific Pirelli P Zero summer tires, but the Mustang GT doesn’t communicate its slip angles very well.
That doesn’t mean the Mustang isn’t a fun ride, though. It produces giggle-inducing g-forces in tight corners, and on long sweepers and straights, the five-oh under the hood barks a smooth, mellifluous song through its quad exhaust outlets. The woofling, cammy low end gives way to a high-rpm shriek that reminds me of the 32-valve 4.6-liter Modular V8 from the SN95 Mustang Cobra, and like that distant predecessor, the new Mustang doesn’t have a ton of torque until you hit 3,000 rpm or so. But once it’s boiling, the 5.0-liter V8 cooks up pavement all the way to its exotic, 7,500-rpm redline – higher than a Lotus Emira, by the way.
In addition to the ripping power under the hood, the Mustang also gets some whoa to go along with the go. Supplied by Brembo as part of the performance pack, the braking package boasts six-piston front and four-piston rear calipers, clamping down on 15.4-inch front rotors and 14.0-inch rears. Stopping power is immense, and the brakes are feelsome and easy to modulate. Rounding out the pedal box is a progressive, tractable clutch pedal, which mates to a snickety, close-gated manual shifter and selectable rev-matching for a seamless, fun experience when rowing the gears.
If you’re more of a cruise-nights-and-drive-ins type of Mustang owner, you’ll appreciate the smooth, even-keeled ride, even over bad pavement and riding on 19-inch wheels with low-profile tires. There is some tire slap and roar at freeway speeds, but on a long commute, the Mustang feels more premium than it ever has, with better suspension damping in regular driving and low NVH levels.
Thanks to genteel road manners and a spacious front row, the Mustang GT is a fine daily driver, The standard front chairs lack significant lateral bolstering, but lumbar and thigh support is good and the seats strike a great balance between feather-bed cushiness and long-haul comfort. I’d go for the coupe-specific optional Recaros all day long, though. Though thinner in padding than the standard seats, the sport buckets are much better suited for sporty driving while still offering good comfort on a daily basis.
At 6 feet tall, I had good visibility forward, though the low-ish windshield header might cause problems for those more elevationally blessed than I. Passengers in the back had better be of the small variety – my head hit the roof liner and I had to splay my legs around the front seat when it was set for my 32-inch inseam. Still, I could probably handle a couple hours back there with only a little discomfort. Luggage room is an adequate 13.2 cubic feet, eclipsing the Chevy Camaro but coming up short on the larger Dodge Challenger.
The 2024 Mustang GT has a sophisticated new tech suite that bundles a 12.3-inch digital instrument cluster and a 13.2-inch touchscreen display running on the Unreal gaming engine. Crisp graphics and extensive configurability are the orders of the day, even including the redlines and hash marks on the simulated gauges. I belabored the lack of retro cabin cues already in the Mustang EcoBoost review, so I’ll just say that the tech suite looks wonderful and is easy to use, and I think Ford will nail its efforts to attract a younger, more tech–conscious crowd to the pony car fold.
Many of the design features carry over from the Mustang EcoBoost I reviewed yesterday, though the GT gets a unique front end with slanted struts on the grille insert and larger front bumper openings to provide added brake cooling. Cabin materials are very nice, with only a few decently hidden swaths of natty plastic. Soft-touch materials appear on the door panels, armrests, and knee bolsters, and I love the carbon look of the molded plastic trim appliques.
As the pony car market continues to dwindle – even the venerable Dodge Challenger is headed out to pasture in a few months – the Ford Mustang GT largely competes in a class of one. Still, the $62,315 as-tested price of my highly equipped Premium tester is a hard pill to swallow, rising from a $48,610 base price via an expensive performance package, MagneRide dampers, and an active exhaust system. It’s possible to get a bare-bones Mustang GT for $44,090 or one with HPP and active exhaust for $50,310, neatly putting it in contention with the likes of the two-up Nissan Z and Toyota Supra, as well as the BMW M240i four-seater.
Each of those alternatives is smaller and lighter than the Mustang, with a certain amount of import cachet that some buyers will care about. And yet, I keep coming back to the Mustang’s builder, dreaming of Race Red and manual transmissions and accidental (and very smoky) burnouts and wild horses in full gallop. The new Mustang GT is far from perfect – I’d love heavier steering and a lower price – but those quibbles don’t matter as much when you’re telling your Mustang-fangirl mom about that hot summer day in the mountains with the engine bellowing along.
Everyone has a Mustang story, after all.
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2024 Ford Mustang GT