by Cobus F. Potgieter
The Ford Mustang has been the affordable American pony car for years and the 2-door 2021 Ford Mustang GT Coupe is set to continue that tradition with its characterful and potent Coyote V8 - arguably the only 'correct' engine configuration for a Stang. Starting at an MSRP of $36,120, the GT provides V8 sports car thrills that people can actually afford. Its thumping 5.0-liter V8 produces 460 horsepower and 420 lb-ft of torque, and although a state-of-the-art ten-speed SelectShift automatic transmission is optionally available, true enthusiasts will appreciate that a six-speed manual is the standard transmission. Buyers get a choice of two trims, both with very reasonable price tags, a trademark of the Mustang nameplate. Often criticized for not being as track-focused as a Chevrolet Camaro or as fast in a straight line as a Dodge Challenger, is the GT Coupe a compromised also-ran or, in actual fact, the best of both worlds?
Elsewhere in the range, there have been wholesale changes, with some models discontinued and the new Mach 1 introduced, but the sweet-spot Mustang GT Coupe has remained virtually unchanged. For 2021, however, the Ford CoPilot360 safety suite is now standard equipment, incorporating BLIS (blind spot information system), a cross-traffic alert function, automatic headlights, lane-keeping assist, pre-collision assist (with pedestrian detection), automatic emergency braking, and a backup camera. There are other detail-spec changes, too; for example, whereas previously, one had to opt into the GT Performance Package Level 2 to get the MagneRide adaptive damping, this feature is now listed as an individual extra.
See trim levels and configurations:
The new Mustang GT Coupe model has not changed on the outside and retains its classic long-hood proportions and menacing visage, accentuated by its hood vents. Sequential LED taillights are used, as well as full-LED headlights. The daytime running lights and fog lights are LED too. The raised decklid spoiler is present as well, but can be removed by ticking the spoiler-delete option - or a performance rear wing can be specified in its place instead. At the rear, quad GT dual exhaust tips and a diffuser round off the styling. The standard wheels measure 18 inches, upgradable to a different style of 18-inch or various 19-inch choices. The GT gets bespoke '5.0' badging on the front wings behind the wheels and the round Mustang badge at the rear loses the dashing horse and gets 'GT' instead.
The Mustang remains one of the more compact sports cars in this class, with the Camaro having similar dimensions and the Challenger being noticeably larger. It has a length of 188.5 inches, a width of 81.9 in with mirrors (or 76.1 with them folded), and a height of 54.3 in on the standard wheels. It rides on a 107.1-inch wheelbase. Curb weight for the manual GT Coupe is 3,730 lbs, with the auto weighing 3,752 lbs.
There are ten colors on the GT Coupe's palette, of which eight are standard, no-cost hues. These include Race Red, Velocity Blue, Iconic Silver, Oxford White, and Shadow Black. Rapid Red costs $395 extra and Twister Orange adds $495. For an additional $995, the Black Accent Package brings a black-painted roof and black-treatment on the mirrors, spoiler, wheels, and badging. Either a black or white racing stripe can be added for an additional $475. The 2020 Kona Blue and Grabber Lime hues have disappeared from the palette and have been replaced by Antimatter Blue, Grabber Yellow, and Carbonized Gray. The striking Twister Orange looks particularly fetching on an extroverted sports car like the Mustang.
The 460-hp/420-lb-ft Coyote V8 revs all the way to 7,500 rpm and is a thrilling companion. With the ten-speed automatic transmission, this 5.0-liter Mustang GT muscle car should dispatch the 0-60 mph sprint in about 4.3 seconds, although independent testing has measured this at even less. The six-speed manual takes around half a second longer than the rapid-fire auto. Top speed is limited to 155 mph. It is very evenly matched with the 6.2-liter Camaro and while the Mustang lacks the Chevy's low-end punch, it compensates with more top-end fizz and revability.
The Coyote V8 has become legendary in its own lunchtime and it exhibits the classic American V8 burble at low revs, while revving freely to its 7,500-rpm redline. It is the perfect engine for the Mustang GT Coupe sports car and delivers forceful performance when it needs to, while quietly idling away on the highway when cruising. The ten-speed SelectShift automatic transmission is so slick-shifting and fast that it comprehensively dispenses with the six-speed manual in performance terms, although figures matter little if you want to do the gear-changing yourself - nothing matches the manual for driver involvement. And to make you sound like a track hero, the manual has a rev-matching function as standard.
The automatic transmission has been co-developed with GM and has proven a little hit and miss in its various applications. In the Mustang, it's mostly a hit and at its best, both when trundling around sedately or driving it like you stole it - suitably tweaked via the available driving modes on the GT Premium. It's in between where it occasionally puts a foot wrong - it can be indecisive and thump into gear when asked to drop multiple ratios. But for overall performance and gas mileage, it comes out on top. For the daily grind in traffic, it is certainly a left-calf saver.
The Mustang GT might not be quite as hardcore as some of its rivals, but it strikes a perfect compromise, with balanced and confidence-inspiring RWD handling coupled with good ride quality on the standard suspension. Regardless of the options you tick, the 5.0-liter engine remains the same and is the highlight of the vehicle, providing ample low-rev torque and an exuberant top end that loves to chase the needle on the rev-counter. It makes the stump-pulling, lower-revving Chevy 6.2 seem a little agricultural by comparison, even though it can't match it for torque at low engine speeds. We'd be very tempted to throw caution to the wind and go for the manual with its rev-matching tech.
You can dial it up with the $6,295 GT Performance Package if you want to, adding sports suspension and all manner of performance accouterments like upgraded brakes, a larger radiator, and special bracing, but it's not as livable every day and makes it a harsher, more uncompromising track-focused machine, especially since the MagneRide adaptive dampers not included in this package. For everyday driving, the standard GT is perfect and arguably the best of all its natural US rivals. In the GT Premium, you can fine-tune your driving experience with the five selectable driving modes: Normal, Sport+, Track, Drag Strip, or Snow/Wet. The optional MagneRide damping system provides excellent comfort but can tighten up appreciably for enthusiastic cornering.
While it may lack that tire-melting torque right off idle that a huge supercharged V8 might provide, the Mustang's fuel economy is sadly also no better than big-engined competitors. The EPA-rated gas-mileage figures for the six-speed Mustang GT Coupe come in at 15/24/18 mpg city/highway/combined and the auto is only a fraction better with 15/24/19 mpg. It is not thrifty by any means, and the big 6.2-liter Camaro with the same automatic transmission achieves 16/26/20 MPG. Not that fuel economy is that important to a buyer of this type of car, but the Mustang should have done better. Be that as it may, you can expect a max range of between 290 and 300 miles on the combined cycle from the 16-gallon tank.
The GT Coupe's interior features comfortable sports cloth seats, which can be upgraded to leather-trimmed variants on the GT Premium trim. Materials used are a little workmanlike, but overall construction is solid. The firmer suspension packages can sometimes elicit the odd rattle, though. At the price, there isn't much to complain about. To lift the experience to a more premium level, the center console's lid, the knee bolster, and the shifter boot can be upgraded to plusher, stitched items, and graphite or carbon-fiber dashboard appliques can be specified. Upgrading to the 12-inch digital gauge cluster also improves the ambiance. Opting for the GT Premium trim replaces the tiny 4.2-inch Sync infotainment system with an eight-inch Sync 3 touchscreen system with a lot more features.
The driver's seat features six-way electrical adjustment and the passenger's seat four-way. The front seats on the GT Premium are leather-upholstered and climate controlled. There is plenty of space up front and ample adjustment even for lanky frames, but the rear seats can be described as a token gesture at most. The two individual buckets are extremely cramped, even for small children, and are essentially useless for anything but dumping shopping. Getting into the low-slung, two-door coupe requires slouching and some people might not be enamored with the undignified exits necessitated by the low seating position - but a Mustang isn't for that kind of person anyway. Getting into the back is even more of a chore than sitting there. The long, wide-swinging doors don't help any in this regard, either.
The Mustang GT's standard interior features electrically adjustable Ebony or Ceramic cloth bucket seats and a 'Silver Arrow' aluminum finish on the instrument panel. Upgrading to the GT Premium trim brings leather upholstery, instead, with the added choice of Tan. Leather with Alcantara inserts is available in Ebony for $ $1,195, while premium leather upholstery in Ebony Showstopper Red or Midnight Blue with cross stitching adds $2,200. This is also what it costs to specify leather with Miko Suede inserts in Ebony with red stitching. Leather-trimmed Recaro seats are also available at $1,595 extra, available in all the Premium-leather color combinations for an additional $2,200. They are additionally also offered in Ebony with Miko Suede inserts.
People don't buy sports coupes for their trunks, but it is heartening to learn that the Mustang performs well on this front. The trunk volume of 13.5 cubic feet is not to be sneezed at and is, in fact, bigger than that of a Mercedes-Benz E-Class Sedan. Touring two-up with luggage is, therefore, no problem at all. The rear seat can be used for storage as well or folded down in a 50/50 split to increase the trunk space. By comparison, the Camaro, although of similar size on the outside, makes do with a scant 9.1 cu-ft, but there's no touching the Challenger's 16.2 cu-ft. Interior storage spaces are adequate but not generous, the door pockets not being particularly large. At least the console storage bin is of a good size.
The standard-feature tally has been increased over the years and the 2021 GT Coupe now has a decent factory-built specification. These include manual climate control (dual-zone costs extra), power-adjustable front cloth seats, automatic lights and wipers, an auto-dimming rearview mirror, a backup camera, and two USB charging ports. The GT Premium replaces or adds to these features by offering dual-zone climate control, heated and ventilated leather front seats, ambient lighting, and better interior trim finishes. Several driver-assistance features come standard courtesy of the Ford CoPilot360 safety suite, such as lane-keep assist, blind spot monitoring, and forward collision warning, as well as stability control. A smart 12-inch digital gauge cluster, ambient lighting, heated steering wheel, and a wrapped and stitched center console are some of the optionally available features.
The standard Sync infotainment system on the GT Coupe is a let-down with its 4.2-inch screen but at least the FordPass Connect system is standard, as are voice recognition, TrackApps performance metrics, 911 Assist, and AppLink. The infotainment system is linked to a six-speaker audio system. Sync 3 is optionally available on the GT and standard on the GT Premium. Its touchscreen measures eight inches and it adds Apple CarPlay and Android Auto compatibility, as well as a better nine-speaker audio system. The audio system can optionally be upgraded to a 12-speaker Bang & Olufsen system that includes a trunk-mounted subwoofer and HD Radio. In use, Sync 3 is perfectly satisfactory, but sometimes a little laggy.
The NHTSA has not issued any recalls for the 2021 Ford Mustangs, GT Coupe or otherwise. Furthermore, J.D. Power's overall dependability rating for the Mustang range is an excellent 86/100, with a score of 88 for quality and reliability, identical to 2020's scores, and virtually on par with the Chevy Camaro's scores of 87. The standard warranty ensures that the Mustang is covered for three years or 36,000 miles. The powertrain enjoys five years or 60,000 miles of cover and you have complimentary roadside assist for the same period. Extended service plans are available at extra cost.
Gone are the days when pony cars were fast but not safe. In the NHTSA's safety review of the Mustang GT sports coupe, it was awarded a full five stars. Its IIHS scores were slightly lower and it did not receive a Top Safety Pick award, probably due to scoring only Acceptable in the small front overlap test. In all the other crashworthiness categories, it received the top rating of Good.
The standard safety kit on the Mustang GT Coupe is comprehensive and includes stability control, a backup camera, tire-pressure monitoring, and eight airbags - consisting of dual front, dual front-side, dual knee, and dual curtain airbags. Belt reminders and an SOS post-crash alert system are standard, too, and the CoPilot360 suite of safety features has become standard for 2021. This adds lane keep assist (with the ability to make minor steering inputs), blind spot monitoring (also works in reverse), and forward collision warning (also applying the brakes under certain conditions).
There is no denying the Mustang's brilliance, and there are few that can match it in the price bracket. To our mind, the Mustang does enough to stay on top and remain the default choice in the pony car class. Its rivals beat it in certain individual criteria, but none of them offer the complete package that the Mustang does. The Mustang GT Coupe in Premium trim is the pony car to beat, offering more space than a Camaro and more refinement and sophistication than a Challenger. A large trunk, impressive safety and infotainment specification, a potent V8 engine, and refined ride and handling dynamics all make it a true master of its craft.
The base price of a Ford Mustang GT Coupe in 2021 is $36,120 for the manual and $37,715 for the automatic. Opting for the GT Premium instead raises this to $40,120 for the manual or $41,715 for the automatic. That $4,000 hike adds some much-needed equipment that is well worth the money, if only for the lovely leather and proper infotainment system. We wouldn't bother with most of the cosmetic upgrades unless we're hellbent on personalizing the car. Instead, we'd add 19-inch Luster wheels for $795, because the Mustang looks a little under-wheeled on the standard 18s. These are MSRP prices and do not include tax, registration, licensing, or the $1,195 destination fee.
The 2021 Ford Mustang GT Coupe is offered for sale in two trims, namely the base model and the Premium. Both make use of the same naturally aspirated Coyote 5.0-liter V8 engine with 460 hp and 420 lb-ft of torque. Either model can be had with a six-speed manual transmission or with a SelectShift ten-speed automatic.
The standard GT Coupe has powered front seats in cloth upholstery, manual climate control, FordPass Connect 4G connectivity, two USB ports, a 4.2-inch infotainment system with a six-speaker audio system, and the Track Apps performance-metrics software. Standard safety features include the CoPilot360 safety suite (with blind spot assist, forward collision mitigation, and lane keep assist), automatic wipers and lights, a backup camera, and eight airbags.
GT Premium models add several luxury features; chief among these are heated, ventilated, and powered leather seats, an eight-inch touchscreen Sync 3 infotainment system with Apple CarPlay and Android Auto, dual-zone climate control, premium interior finishes, ambient lighting, five driver-selectable driving modes, and a nine-speaker audio system.
A lot of additional packages are available on both trim levels. It can become confusing, as some features are available separately, others only as part of a bundle, and yet others only in combination with certain features and/or packages. We suggest carefully perusing the online configurator. Some noteworthy packages available on the standard car include the Sync 3 infotainment package ($2,000), the exterior Black Accent Package ($995), and the Ford Safe and Smart Package ($725), which adds adaptive cruise control and voice-activated navigation with SiriusXM. The Premium can be up-specced with the 401A equipment package that includes a digital gauge cluster, voice-activated navigation, and a heated steering wheel for $2,200 and the Carbon Sport Interior Package for $1,195. The $6,295 GT Performance Package is available on either model and turns the GT into a track-ready car with performance summer tires on 19-inch rims, additional gauges, heavy-duty front springs and a K-brace, Brembo brakes, a heavy-duty radiator, a performance rear wing, shorter final-drive ratio, and a limited-slip rear differential, among other features.
We would go for the GT Premium without thinking twice. It upgrades the standard car's interior with its mundane cloth seats and tiny infotainment system to much better heated and ventilated leather chairs and a proper eight-inch Sync 3 touchscreen infotainment system. It has driving modes, better climate control, and a better audio system, too. We would take the manual and only add 19-inch alloy wheels for a total of $40,915. If you must have the auto, it's all the same GT Premium goodness plus $1,595.
For around the same price as a Mustang GT, there's a comparable Camaro with a 6.2-liter V8 developing around the same horsepower, but more torque,supplying comparable overall performance. The Camaro is sharper and more track-focused as a standard car but, as a result, also more compromised for daily use. Add to this its smaller trunk and worse outward visibility from behind the wheel and the Mustang just edges it to earn our recommendation. Specced to our taste, the Mustang costs just a whisker more than the competing Camaro 2SS 6.2 V8 manual, but for its higher level of practicality, equivalent charm, and impressive infotainment, the Mustang is the everyman's pony car of choice.
Completing the USA's homegrown triumvirate of pony cars, the Dodge Challenger is a larger car with more interior and trunk space, arguably placing it in the next size class. Still, it's too brash to be considered a touring car, despite a genuinely usable rear seat and large trunk. When comparing the base manual V8 cars, the Mustang GT's $36,120 MSRP is a bit more expensive than the Challenger R/T RWD with the 375-hp V8 but around $3,000 cheaper than the R/T Scat Pack RWD with its 485-hp V8. We'll take the well-rounded Mustang GT Premium instead if we're going to spend $40,000.
The most popular competitors of 2021 Ford Mustang GT Coupe:
Check out some informative Ford Mustang GT Coupe video reviews below.