During our week with the 2022 Ford Mustang GT, we found ourselves asking (as we so often do): who is this for? Who looks at this loud, brash, coupe for sixty-odd thousand dollars and says “Yeah, that’s for me.” On one hand there’s the Mustang enthusiasts, the people that have always loved the idea and the spirit of the car and always wanted one. We know them, they are not cross shopping the ‘Stang against a Camaro SS, or a BMW M4. This is what they wanted and that’s the end of it. But who else is this for?
Let me set the scene. You’re bored, both in the immediate and broader sense of the term. You go to a bar, semi-jokingly saying you’re looking to see what kind of trouble you can get yourself into, as you do every Friday. But this Friday is different: you meet her. You hear her before you see her, she doesn’t really do the whole “indoor voice” thing. You turn to look and see her – she looks incredible and more to the point, she knows it and is not shy about it at all. You know instantly and instinctively that she is trouble. This stunning, striking vixen turns her attention to you, and now you’re in trouble
She is the personification of trouble, and now she is talking to you, and now she’s got you thinking that tequila sounds like a good idea. She is everything your friends warned you about, she is the exact opposite of what your Mom might call marriage material, not a single thing she is saying is refuting any of your ideas about who she might be. She is exactly who you think she is. This is who she is all the time. She is fun, and you, for the first time in a long time, start to feel alive again. It’s a little scary at first, and you know it’s going to lead to headaches, and you don’t care. You need more of this feeling.
If you can empathize with any of that, you might be who the Mustang GT is for. In and amongst a sea of ever-faster cars pursuing ever better refinement (read: quieter & dull), the Mustang, particularly in GT trim, is loud and proud about being a serious performance machine, and it’ll never let you forget it. The 5.0L, 450hp “Coyote” V8 engine announces itself with authority from the first press of the start button, and creates drama everywhere it goes. Even in normal mode, our test car’s $1,495 Active Performance Exhaust is not subtle at all, only gets more intense from there. There is a quiet mode, but it’s still not exactly demure, and remember: you don’t care about that anymore, you want more of this.
On a cold start, the mighty V8 throbs angrily at idle, eventually settling into a menacing mechanical murmur. In a quiet neighborhood or in traffic, this is a motor that you have to tiptoe around, using just your big toe to gently breathe on the throttle, as it’ll take any excuse it can to roar and run away. Even at say, 20% throttle, it’ll make the most delicious racket and accelerate with alacrity, banging through its 10 gears like it’s on a mission. It just gets more alarmingly fast and louder the deeper you lean into it, furiously screaming up to its 7400rpm redline before snapping to into the next gear, and the next, and the next, endlessly as the speed climbs higher and higher still, limited only by your nerve. The whole experience is dominated by the engine.
The 10 speed automatic transmission is built to handle serious power, and feels like it – not always in the best way. When you’re at full send, it’s absolutely brilliant, delivering immediate and very crisp shifts, up and down. It knows when to hold gears, it’ll gleefully fire off downshifts in rapid succession to keep the engine at a rolling boil when braking into corners, and it responds dutifully to your commands via paddles, or lack thereof – it’ll let you bang off the rev limiter if you feel so inclined. It’s valved to be firm, so much so that it’ll chirp the rear tires when downshifting into a hard corner. I’m a manual purist myself, but there’s no denying the performance envelope of the 10 speed box.
Curiously, it’s in city cruising where the manual transmission might shine over the automatic. See, if you’re just puttering around, trying not to wake the neighbors, it does okay, generally offering smooth shifts, but there’s no getting around that it’s constantly working its way up and down through the gear range, which is made all the more noticeable by the fact that you can hear everything so prominently.
It also sometimes has difficulty making sense of your desires, frequently being way too aggressive and even jerky with its shifts if it gets even the faintest inkling you want to play. Conversely, it can be far too slow, almost feeling broken, cutting power as it tries to smoothly hand off first gear into second gear under what it interprets as a normal take-off, followed by a big lunge as the power comes back on in third – this all happens before you’re through the intersection, and can make the GT feel sluggish off the line. Sport, Sport+ and Track mode reduce this split personality syndrome, but are also total overkill.
The Mustang GT’s chassis is built to corral the brawny powertrain, and Ford has been incredibly successful on this front. It’s decisively firm for sure, but never quite steps over the line into harsh – it suits the car. This rigid body control pays dividends in handling, as the Mustang is agile and eager, and blessed with an abundance of mechanical grip, with the meaty 255-size front tires only giving way to understeer when thoroughly overcooked.
Rear end grip is extremely impressive, with the fat 275-size Pirellis biting into the pavement through a limited slip differential, with power being deftly managed by a remarkably slick traction control system – even in tight corners on damp, greasy pavement, the rowdy Mustang never tried to bite me, but never got in the way of a good time, either. Ford knows wrecked Mustangs are a meme, and have made damn sure any further memery will be strictly your own fault. A flip of a toggle will disable the digital safety net and let the rear end light up with ease, if you’re feeling bold.
Bold is very much the word of the day in the Mustang, especially with our tester’s new for 2022 Ice White Appearance Package ($2995), which includes Oxford White paint, exclusive 19” wheels with machined faces and white pockets, white trim, a white spoiler, and what Ford calls “Iced Out” tail lights. This package, which is a nod to the Triple White package on the last year of the original 5.0 “Fox” Mustang in 1993 (and is allegedly not a Vanilla Ice reference), drew some very mixed opinions from us. I personally like it, as it’s a nice break from the trend of everything being “murdered out” with black, but I’m not sure it’s an option I’d select on an order sheet. Others thought it was… we’ll just say a bit much.
If you also think it’s bit much, be warned: it continues inside too, with white leather inserts on the seats and doors, as well as a patterned white panel running the full width of the dashboard (on the 1993 car, the interior was entirely white, so Ford is showing some semblance of restraint here). There’s a few other things to be warned about too, that have nothing to do with all the ice. The dashboard on our test car was crooked – visibly not straight across the center – and it rattled intermittently. The headliner wasn’t quite straight either, which was visible in the rearview mirror. The digital gauge cluster and infotainment generally worked well and looked good, but we saw some significant slowdowns in the navigation and satellite radio.
Beyond those disappointing quality control issues, the interior was by no means a bad place to be. The seats are comfortable and supportive, and the driving position is excellent. Controls are well placed and easy to use, and touch points generally feel good. Head and leg room are better than you’d expect, and the air conditioning and vented seats are among the best we’ve ever seen. The rear seats are basically just for show, suitable only for children in a pinch, and we noted that the stitching was starting to come apart on the bottoms. Visibility is okay – I’d hesitate to call it good, but it’s head and shoulders above its pony car competitors, the Challenger and Camaro. Trunk space is pretty good, but the opening is high and small, making loading larger items a challenge.
There’s one more thing: the gas tank is on the smaller side (70L), and it’s capable of pounding it back in a hurry, as our first full tank saw a range of only 322km. Granted, we’ll say that the first tank saw a lot of exuberant behavior, as one does with a partner like this. I tried my damndest to behave myself exactly once on a quiet highway cruise and got 9.8L/100km, and then went back to coaxing more glorious thumping V8 harmonies from that sinfully good exhaust system, returning a final average of 13.5L/100km. I couldn’t help myself.
That’s what this is all about, right? It isn’t exactly practical, it doesn’t make a ton of sense, it’s a little rough around the edges, and none of that matters because it’s fun. The giggly, slightly nervous fun that you know you probably shouldn’t be having. Ford’s real achievement here is weaving very serious, world class performance with a hearty wink and nod to classic muscle car charm. It’s comically fast, loud, and dumb, almost a caricature of a sports car, wrapped up in a package that you could feasibly use every day, if you’re ready for more of that feeling.