For over 55 years Ford’s Mustang has been one of the most recognizable and well-loved cars on the road. It’s a symbol of young freedom, the American spirit, and power, lots of power. Earlier this year we saw Ford release a new electric powered Mustang taking the shape of a four-door crossover – oh dear. It may not be all bad though, because clearly Ford recognizes the power of the Mustang brand and its ability to capture the hearts of the masses, and this 2020 Ford Mustang GT Coupe is the perfect way to bring it all together.
The original 1964 Mustang became a mark of change through the 60s, and Ford might be hoping to pull something like that off again, let’s just hope it’s not a crossover. Regardless, the Mustang we have today may or not be here for the long-haul, so to appreciate everything that it is. We spent a week with a proper Mustang, the 2020 Ford Mustang GT Coupe.
The Mustang GT is everything the modern pony car should be, especially when equipped like our tester. Bright Race Red paint on its low slung, aggressive and curvaceous lines, a throbbing V8 under the hood breathing deep through a free-flowing dual exhaust with quad tips, a slick shifting six-speed manual gearbox, big Brembo brakes and a huge set of sticky performance tires. Yes, it’s a bit obnoxious, but it’s also fun, youthful and careless.
The Mustang’s interior carries that same strong iconography with its simple dash layout. It’s very reminiscent of earlier Mustangs, with spun aluminum accents, old-school oil pressure and vac-boost gauges dead center, and a near perfect driving position from the leather Recaros. Everything falls perfectly to hand, especially the thick leather and aluminum shift knob and matching leather wrapped steering wheel.
A simple row of aluminum toggle switches sit below the automatic climate controls for basic functions like hazards, drive mode, traction control and steering mode. Of course, all the modern tech is here too, including a full digital LCD gauge cluster than can be customized to your liking and Ford’s SYNC 3 infotainment system with Apple CarPlay and Android Auto lives in the touchscreen. SYNC 3 is much improved, it responds quickly, is intuitive to operate, and while it may not be the slickest looking system, it’s not a distraction either.
The Mustang is a driver’s car and the cockpit does a great job making you feel like you’re driving something special. Looking past the short classic dashboard over the bright red vented hood, it’s hard not to fall in love. Ford’s interior designers deserve credit for more than that feeling, as the style doesn’t interfere with its ability to serve as a practical space. There’s plenty of storage up front thanks to a deep center console, door pockets, two deep cupholders, and a good-sized glovebox.
The soft leather Recaro seats in our tester not only look fantastic, but cradle you just right to keep you planted in your seat when the driving gets spirited, but perfectly comfortable on long-hauls as well. Even the rear seats are usable with plenty of leg-room for most adults, though headroom is tight for any adults that’d be considered tall. Out back, the trunk is surprisingly roomy and easily handled a week’s worth of groceries with room to space, plus the rear seats fold forward for longer objects to pass through. These sorts of things move the Mustang from a weekend toy, to something that can legitimately be used every day.
The GT is powered by the infamous 5.0-liter V8, a relatively simple naturally aspirated mill making a very healthy 460 horsepower and 420 lb-ft. of torque at 4,600RPM. The engine is the heart of the beast, roaring to life with an energetic growl and rumbling away in a deep tone that’s instantly recognizable as a Mustang. It can be mated to a 10-speed automatic, but our tester came with the standard six-speed manual. First gear is short for aggressive launches, but the rest of the gears are fairly long and so much fun to row through using the short-throw shifter while listening to the roar of the big V8.
The gearbox itself is smooth and tight, if anything it’s the clutch that lets the car down a bit due to its lack of feeling and aggressive grab point that takes some time to get acquainted with. What I did like, surprisingly, is the automatic rev-matching. As you downshift, the car will automatically blip the throttle for perfect rev-matched downshifts every time. It sounds a bit gimmicky at first, but it’s very quick and non-intrusive, and only benefits the driving experience, especially the joy of hearing this through the exhaust.
Our tester came equipped with the GT Performance Package which adds a long list of performance-oriented goodies to help you get the most out of the Mustang’s big power and stiff chassis. Notable inclusions include the Brembo six-piston calipers and oversized rotors, heavy-duty front spring, K-brace, oversized radiator, performance rear-wing, strut tower brace, TORSEN limited slip differential with 3.73 axle ratio, bigger rear sway bar, as well as unique chassis and electronic aids tuning.
The result of all this is a Mustang that wants nothing more than to play, and it constantly begs its driver just to have a little more fun. This is an intoxicating car to drive, and for its relatively large size, is easily tossed around while offering the driver a fantastic sense of control. In some ways, it feels older than it is, but in a good way. The chassis stiffness, tight steering, aggressive brakes, and electronics that let you have a lot of fun before interfering, mean that a dialed-in driver can read the chassis through the senses and really drive the car. It’s quick enough to hang with more expensive performance cars, but there’s more to a car than just being quick, and the Mustang GT has that edge.
Despite the encouragement from the car’s gloriously sounding active exhaust system and the fact that I am still not running my normal grind of a commute thanks to COVID-19, the Mustang managed a weekly average fuel consumption of 12.8L/100km, with a good mix of both city and highway driving. Surely that number could be a lot lower with a lighter right foot, but that’s easier said than done.
Pricing on the Mustang is reasonable, but you’ll need to watch yourself when it comes time to option it out as there are a lot of expensive boxes to check. A base model GT starts at $37,290 – a performance bargain and can be had with the performance package for around $45,000. A GT Premium like our tester, which comes with Leather seating and a long list of convenience features starts at $44,525. Add to that the $4,200 Performance Pack, $2,100 for 401A which includes the LCD gauge cluster, navigation and a heated steering wheel, $1,000 for the active exhaust, $1,500 for the nickel plated 19-inch forged rims, $1,800 for the Recaro seats, and we’re looking at a Mustang that costs a few dollars over $58,000.
This is still a relative bargain compared to most new cars on the market with over 450 horsepower and a nice list of features, comparable only to the likes of the Mustang’s close competitors like the Camaro and Challenger (reviewed here). The problem for me however, would be the used market. $58,000 buys a lot of car on the used market, and if I were looking for a fresh performance car, I might be tempted to go that way.
Regardless, the 2020 Ford Mustang GT Coupe has been one of my most enjoyable tests this year. Its personality, engaging driving dynamics, impressive performance, and ability to actually serve as a practical daily driver made it my first choice on the driveway all week long. Here’s hoping that Ford keeps these high-powered V8 beasts around for decades to come. But just in case, it might not be a bad idea to grab one while you can.