2014 Ford Mustang: Nostalgic, sizzling performance

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The 2014 Ford Mustang GT convertible is the last of the fast retro-classic Mustangs. It will be replaced with a significantly new Mustang next year.

“This latest Mustang design is very respectful of its heritage while continuing to look forward with a more powerful and modern look,” said Darrell Behmer, Mustang chief designer.

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The original Mustang debuted on April 17, 1964, although Ford called it an ”early 1965” model. (Many call it a “1964 ½” model.) When the redesigned Mustang comes out next year as a 2015 model, Ford will officially celebrate the car’s 50th anniversary—although the 2014 Mustang is actually the 50th anniversary model because of its early 1964 introduction.

2014 Ford Mustag Convertible
2014 Mustang GT convertible

Buyers could get the first Mustang with a hot 289-cubic-inch V-8 with 271 horsepower, although most opted for lower-horsepower V-8s or six-cylinder engines. The 2014 GT V-8 is about the same size as the first Mustang’s V-8, but generates 420 horsepower and 390 pound-feet of neck-snapping torque.

I tested the 2014 Mustang GT Premium convertible, which is slightly better equipped than the regular GT convertible, and is priced at $39,750.

The 0-60 mph time of the 2014 model is about 4.5 seconds with the high-revving, docile engine. The quick steering is selectable with three settings to allow a driver to choose steering effort depending on on his or her driving style. I kept the steering in its “standard mode,” which was just fine.

The ride is supple, although some bumps can be felt.The upcoming new model has the  Mustang’s very first independent rear suspension for better ride and handling, but the 2014 GT’s “solid axle” rear suspension generally does a good job. The latest-generation Camaro, an old Mustang rival, has an independent rear suspension.

Handling is sharp, partly because the GT’s V-8 is set way back in the engine compartment for better weight distribution. Braking is sure, with a progressive pedal action.

The 2014 Mustang GT’s engine is sophisticated compared to the 1964 pushrod V-8, with such items as dual overhead camshafts, four valves per cylinder and variable camshaft timing. It’s got an impressive 7,000 r.p.m. tachometer redline and a high 11.0:1 compression radio. The exhaust produces a genuinely sporty sound under brisk acceleration, and dual exhaust outlets add to the car’s racy look.

The V-8 calls for 91-octane fuel for the best performance and delivers an estimated 15-18 miles per gallon in the city and 25-26 on highways. My test car’s engine loafed at 70 mph when in the manual transmission’s sixth gear. Fifth gear is good for quick 65-75 mph passing, but fourth gear is better.

Fuel tank capacity of the approximately 3,600-pound GT is 16 gallons, which should give a rough idea of the highway driving range of this car, which is a natural born cruiser.

The clutch is moderately heavy and has a long throw. The short-throw shifter is fun to use, although it occasionally gets notchy. You can order a six-speed automatic transmission with a manual-shift feature, although a car such as the GT calls out for the driver involvement of a stick shift.

As has been the case since Day One with the Mustang, a variety of models are offered. They range from a $22,200 coupe with a 3.7-liter V-6 that develops no less than 305 horsepower to a supercharged 662-horsepower V-8 Shelby GT500 convertible that stickers at $59,800. Mercy! But there’s a good chance that this model, like most Shelby Mustangs, will become a collector’s item.

The V-6 provides an estimated 19 miles per gallon in the city and 29-31 on highways. The Shelby supercharged V-8 comes in at 15 and 24.

The 107.1-wheelbase GT looks racy with such items as functional hood heat extractors (slots) on its hood. They’re  designed and placed to help move hot air from the V-8 compartment and cool the engine.

The GT has a prominent grille and a hefty front end “splitter,” which adds to the car’s appearance but sits low and thus can be subject to damage.

Dual front and side air bags are among safety features.

A GTTrack Package is offered for the GT with a manual transmission and a 3.73 axle. It contains an engine cooler, upgraded radiator, performance friction brake pads and a Torsen differential for better power delivery to the pavement. The package includes unique 19-inch alloy wheels and summer performance tires. But it’s not the sort of package you want for street driving.

More appropriate for road driving is an optional appearance package for GT models. It includes black-painted side mirrors and rear spoiler—besides body-color rear quarter window louvers. You also get 19-inch black-painted aluminum alloy wheels. Other options include a Brembo Brake Package for manual and automatic Mustang GT models.

Being a convertible, without the benefit of a body stiffening hard top, my test GT had a front strut brace arching over its engine and additional bracing in the chassis structure to minimize body shaking over bumps—once common with convertibles. However, there was a little dashboard judder on a rough Chicago expressway section.

The soft top involves undoing two latches near the windshield but automatically lowers all windows and works effectively and fairly quickly. The interior is quiet with the top up, although the raised top creates rear-vision problems, despite large outside mirrors. The reverse-park-assist option thus is a good idea.

Front-seat wind buffeting is average with the top lowered.

Interior improvements include cleaner, easier-to-read instrument cluster graphics. The appearance of the speedometer and tachometer reminded me of those gauges in my 1967 Mustang fastback.

The front leather-trim sport seats have nice stitching and provide good lateral support, although the driver’s power seat should move back more if a driver prefers a pronounced upright position. There’s a mixture of large and small climate and audio controls. The upgraded interior looks less plasticky, and subtle blue interior lighting highlights here and there are a classy touch, especially at night.

Front console cupholders are nicely placed, but there’s not much interior storage space. A 4.2-inch screen LCD “productivity screen” lets drivers get information related to fuel economy and vehicle performance.

There’s decent room up front but no Mustang ever has had anything but a marginal backseat.

The trunk has a high opening, but is moderately large, and the lid raises on struts instead of conventional hinges,which would eat into cargo space.

Those who grew up with—or owned—earlier Mustangs might want to take a good look at the 2014 model before the significantly new version arrives.

Likes: Fast. Rakish. Agile. Supple rides. Efficient power soft top.

Dislikes: Tight back seat. Long throw clutch. Marginal top up rear visibility.

Bottom Line: A swift warm weather cruiser.

Dan Jedlicka has been an automotive journalist for nearly 45 years. To read more of his new and vintage car reviews, visit: www.danjedlicka.com.

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2 thoughts on “2014 Ford Mustang: Nostalgic, sizzling performance”

  1. The “ ’64-1/2” Mustang – the first 121,538 produced before the official August 1964 model year introduction, was available with little 260 V8; after that the 289 was supplied.

    • Dan Jedlicka replies:
      I’m well aware of the 260-cubic inch V-8 and the virtually identical 289-cubic inch V-8s in early Mustangs and had that in mind when writing the road test. (Note that I mention both the “260” and “289” V-8s in my Mustang article in the “Classic Car” section of my web site.)
      In fact, the first Shelby Cobra sports cars had a 260-cubic-inch V-8, then Carroll Shelby changed to the virtually identical bored-out 289-cubic-inch version.
      Both the “260” and “289” small-block V-8s are widely considered “5-liter” engines because they’ve almost always been rounded off in terms of liters and cubic inches to avoid confusion. That wasn’t something I wanted to go into in a road test. Both powered the “first’ Mustangs and the engines were only separated by a few months, so why confuse people in a road test?
      Interesting aside:The Ford V8 powered British Sunbeam Tiger (’65-’67), first had the Ford “260 V-8” and then the “289” V-8.
      Editor’s note: For more information on vintage Mustangs, read Jedlicka’s review: 1965 Mustang

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