by Jared Rosenholtz
Mid-size sports cars these days have evolved into all-rounders that are no longer just indulgences for the mid-life crisis sufferer - now, they're more practical and more economical than ever. With Ford recently celebrating the production of its ten-millionth Mustang, the popularity of the pony car seems to be everlasting. The 2019 Ford Mustang coupe is one of the finest examples of the "everyman's sports car" ethos, particularly in 2.3 EcoBoost trim. The 5.0 GT, however, has become such an icon that it requires its own article for us to appreciate it fully. That's not to say that the 2.3 should be ignored, though. Its 310 horsepower, 350 lb-ft four-cylinder turbo is respectable enough, although considerably thirstier than claimed. Some seriously amusing and thoroughly enjoyable options, like an active exhaust system, add some spice to the entry-level 'Stang - and spice it needs if its to stand up to long-time rival, the Chevrolet Camaro.
After 50 years of solid rear axles, Ford finally introduced independent rear suspension last year, improving both the handling and comfort of the already impressive sports car. No major changes were required thereafter, so 2019 sees a new Bang & Olufsen stereo system becoming available, while a quad-tipped valve-tronic performance exhaust system adds some fun noises to the four-banger. There are also two new paint colors and the option of racing stripes that can be added to the sides and/or top of the car.
The designers in charge of the Mustang did a sterling job in with the 2018 model, managing to both refresh the modern styling of the Fastback while remaining true to the original design elements of the 60's legend. Thus, the LED headlights and taillights, together with the hood scoops and signature LED daytime running lights, needed no new flairs to remain current and edgy: if it ain't broke, don't fix it. It's instantly identifiable, and in a world where new cars are imagined every day, brand recognition is just as important as modernization and evolution. All models, whether Premium or not, have access to a decent variety of wheel design choices in both 18- and 19-inch flavors, all of which are painted black, silver, or combination black and silver.
Maintaining its classic long hood and short trunk two-plus-two layout, the Mustang is not the most compactly sized vehicle out there, but at 107.1 inches, its wheelbase is still shorter than either of its main rivals can claim. It measures in at 188.5 inches in length, with a width of 81.9 inches including the wing mirrors. Weighing in at 3,532 lbs in base guise, the Mustang tips the scales perfectly between the pony-car Camaro and heavier Dodge Challenger.
Perhaps it was considered too much a Camaro's kind of color, but for 2019, the vivid Triple Yellow color option has been removed from the palette. Lightning Blue and Royal Crimson Metallic also got the chop, leaving buyers with ten options to choose from, one less than in 2018. These made way for Velocity Blue and the rather vibrant Need for Green, a hue that will definitely catch the eye of fleeing pedestrians at your local Cars & Coffee meet. Ruby Red Metallic will cost you an extra $395 while Orange Fury Metallic is $495. All the other colors can be specced at no charge, but Need for Green is only available in conjunction with ebony over-the-top racing stripes.
The Mustang, no matter which model, trim level, or spec you choose, is - and has always been - only available with rear-wheel drive. It's part of what makes it what it is, part of the fun factor that is associated with the brand. Interestingly, this hasn't deterred the bigwigs at Chevrolet and Dodge from offering all-wheel-drive options on their Camaros and Challengers. Nowadays, more and more automakers are looking at not just alternative fuelling for future models, but also better stability and grip for existing models. Rumors already circulate that we could see an electric all-wheel-drive Mustang very soon.
The 2.3's 310 hp in the EcoBoost makes 35hp more than the base Camaro, and a respectable 5hp more than the Challenger's V6. Not bad for a four-pot. It also bests the other two in terms of torque with 350 lb-ft versus 275 in the Chev and 268 in the Challenger. Ford's official figures read 5.5 seconds from 0-60 mph with a top speed of 155mph. The Camaro and Challenger do the sprint in 5.4 and 6.0 seconds respectively, and both top out at the same 155 mph mark.
The 310 hp motor, although not the most tuneful, is pretty adequate for most daily drivers. Remember that Ford has won multiple awards for its EcoBoost motors, and the refinement is evident, as is the power. The old V6 that Ford scrapped last year really won't be missed. Yes, it's now a smaller engine, but the performance from this motor is more than sufficient to give hidings to some of its older brothers from the Fox-body era and even a little later. Despite the bulk of the Mustang, the turbocharged engine pushes the 'Stang around very well, whether paired with the optional ten-speed auto or the standard six-speed manual.
Both the manual and the auto are quicker than the outgoing models, but you get a bonus if you select the manual - the option of line lock, which means performing fat burnouts and strong launches is not something you need too much practice to achieve. Of course, this is not recommended for road use, unless you want your license to be taken off you by a friendly trooper. If, however, you decide to go for the SelectShift automatic option, the shifts will be smooth and predictable, which is all one could really ask for. For driver engagement, however, the auto is not so good, as there is a little delay between pulling the lever and feeling the gearchange if you put the auto box in manual mode. For this reason, we'd stick with the genuine manual.
With a little less weight than the GT, and that weight being subtracted from the nose of the car, the Mustang feels incredibly agile for its size. This spurs you on to engage with the car more, and find its limits. When you find the end of the grip, the rear end of the fastback steps out very progressively, allowing you to either manage your mess or push on a little more for a wider drift angle. Thanks in part to the modernization of the rear suspension through an independent setup as opposed to the ancient solid axle, the new generation of Mustangs are truly well-behaved while remaining tight enough to take advantage of twisty stretches of tarmac.
Under spirited driving, you'll be glad to know that the brakes are excellent, but in traffic, they can feel a little touchy, and smoothly coming to a stop from a low velocity takes some getting used to.
As with most new cars these days, the steering is electrically assisted, but this has been tuned rather well too. It's light in Comfort and sufficiently weighted in Normal and Sport modes.
The powertrain and chassis also have multiple modes, including one specifically calibrated for the drag strip and another for track attacks. Snow/Wet and Sport+ round off the additions to your normal daily driving setting, but the biggest factor in fulfilling the driving experience is the optional MagneRide adaptive damping system, which adjusts based on the conditions of the surface you're currently tearing up, absorbing bumps with ease for a smooth ride.
When it comes to economy, the EcoBoost-powered Mustang is a little underwhelming. 21/31/25 mpg on the city/highway/combined cycles aren't terrible figures, as the EcoBoost's figures are slightly better than it's counterparts on paper, but in real-world tests, some have found that the V8's claimed figures are closer to the truth than the four-cylinder gasoline turbos are.
Scoring on average a few points better than rivals is nothing to look down on though, particularly when considering the 2.3-liter's general performance is on par or better. Altogether, this adds up to an approximate range of 388 miles on a full 15.5-gallon tank.
As with the exterior, Ford has taken inspiration from its older models and incorporated retro touches throughout. The key, though, is that this does not detract from the functionality and ergonomics of the place where you plant your backside. It also doesn't appear overdone, and you can still tell immediately that this is a modern car where aesthetic nostalgia does not detract from modern practicality. The toggle switches and aluminum trim pieces are particularly well-thought-out details that look purposeful yet elegant. The leather steering wheel is another beautifully crafted detail, which is chunky and functional. It could, perhaps, do with fewer buttons to make the view a little more focused, but in the end, each button makes the car easier to live with day-to-day. This is not a full-on race car and should be comfortable and convenient 90% of the time - which it is.
The front seats of the Mustang are very supportive, comfortable, and spacious, even for taller individuals. Legroom is ample, and the headroom is cavernous. The seats can be had in Recaro flavor too, but this removes the option for heating or power adjustment. We'd stick with the standard seat design, though, as the stock seats are more than capable of holding you in place when attempting to find maximum lateral G. Combined with the clear visibility, placing the car is easy, while the pedals are strategically placed to be easy to shift, brake, and accelerate.
Behind each seat, however, is a space where two small children could conceivably sit, provided they have not had early-onset growth spurts. If you're an adult and a friend offers you a ride in one of the back seats, it would be better to decline the invitation or risk back injury from curling yourself into a little ball. Much like in Porsche's two-plus-two offerings, the rear seating is a bit of a joke if the person sitting there is not Hobbit-sized.
In the base models of the Mustang EcoBoost, one can choose between Dark Ceramic and Ebony cloth seats. Ticking the Premium box unlocks access to the same colors in leather, as well as a tan leather option. The Premium Plus package includes a number of other options which include Showstopper Red and Midnight Blue leather variants. Another rather special option if you like your exotic materials is the Carbon Sport Interior Package. This consists of a carbon-fiber instrument panel and shift knob, Alcantara seat inserts, and Alcantara door inserts. However, in order to unlock this package, you have to spec the roof of your Mustang with black paint.
Despite the poor rear seating space, the Mustang is actually well-packaged. It has more interior storage than either of its two main rivals, and the rear seats fold easily in a 50/50 split via the aid of a strap. However, that's not saying a lot. Two average cupholders and a few medium-sized storage bins are just enough for the basics. The trunk has 13.5 cubic feet of storage, and you can fit two golf bags in the back with a bit of careful negotiation of the tall rear opening. However, if you option the Shaker audio upgrade, that space is minimized by the intrusion of a large speaker mounted on the side of the trunk.
Always welcome in a sports car not designed primarily for easy reverse parking, the Mustang comes standard with a reverse camera. However, parking sensors have been omitted in the base model. Blind-spot monitoring with rear cross-traffic alert, lane-departure warning, and active cruise control are available but cost extra on all models. Keyless entry and start are standard while heated & ventilated power seats can be had if you option the Premium package. The Premium package also gives you access to the optional digital display, which works well as a secondary source of information, helping keep your eyes on the road. The automatic dual-zone climate control works well, and the vents are well-positioned for maximum efficacy. As with the Dodge, it also has the available option of a heated steering wheel.
Ford's SYNC infotainment system with a 4.2-inch display is accompanied by Android Auto and Apple CarPlay as standard, but navigation (which is voice-activated) is only available with the Premium package. AM/FM, HD radio, SiriusXM, BlueTooth, auxiliary and dual USB input are all featured throughout the range. As standard, music plays through a six-speaker system, but this can also be upgraded to a 12-speaker Bang & Olufsen system or a bassy Shaker system along with SYNC 3 - which allows for connectivity of multiple smartphone apps - and an eight-inch touchscreen display, which makes viewing information much easier than on the standard system. Wi-Fi hot-spotting is also optional.
The 2019 Ford Mustang has been subject to one recall thus far, issued in March 2019 for an electrical issue that caused some instrument clusters to go blank on start-up, thus not showing important information like speed, temperature or fuel level, and safety warning notices. There have, however, been some reliability issues for other parts of the car, including further electrical components, drivetrain, and the engine cooling system - these problems have been communicated by Ford. Additionally, these issues should be covered by the warranties in place, namely the three-year/36,000-mile bumper-to-bumper coverage, five-year/60,000-mile powertrain warranty, five-year/60,000-mile safety restraint coverage, and five-year/unlimited-mile corrosion warranty.
In terms of safety, the 2019 Mustang performs well, scoring a full five out of five stars in ratings by the NHTSA, and achieving the best possible safety rating of Good from the IIHS in all the crash tests it undertook, except for the small front overlap test, where it scored only Acceptable.
Available with a number of safety features, the Mustang is not a bad place to be even on long drives. The rear-view camera, blind-spot detection system with cross-traffic alert, pre-collision assist with automatic emergency braking, lane departure warning system, and adaptive cruise control, work together well to help prevent crashes. In the event that you still find yourself in an accident, the Mustang is equipped with six airbags, including a curtain airbag system designed to protect occupants in the event of a side-impact or rollover situation. There are also seat airbags for both front individuals and a driver's knee airbag.
The real question here is this: do you really want one? This is a car bought based on desire. The storage is a little underwhelming, the rear seat space is hilariously cramped, and the fuel economy, although decent, is not going to cause any Prius drivers to think that they'd save some gas money by switching to a 'Stang. Therefore, it isn't a masterpiece of practicality. It also gets very expensive very quickly when you start ticking the extras boxes, at which point it makes more sense just to get the V8. That said, the 2.3 performs very well against its rivals from Chev and Dodge, while being arguably more practical than the Camaro and more modern than the Challenger.
The problem here is the Mustang GT. Are the normal EcoBoost's retro styling and respectable handling enough to bring a massive grin to your face, or will you feel a little twinge of jealousy when you hear a 5.0 V8 burbling away next to you at the traffic light? Possibly. But the EcoBoost is the smart compromise between a boy's hot hatch and a man's symbol of excess and desire.
Overall, it's a far better car than its cylinder count suggests, and is well capable of punching above its weight on the track. Also, with new models and revisions of the GT version being invented almost every other month, the EcoBoost stays relevant by being subject to only mild updates each year. Keep the options low, and it's not a bad buy. We'd do it.
The 2019 EcoBoost Fastback starts at $26,395. This excludes taxes and Ford's $1,095 destination charge. If you decide to spend a little extra, you can spec the Premium trim level, starting at a base MSRP of $31,410, excluding the same destination charge as the 'normal' Fastback. We played around with the online configurator and managed to rack up a fully loaded price of $48,615 - more than you can pick up a limited edition BULLITT for.
The 2.3 EcoBoost is available in just two flavors - the Fastback and the Premium Fastback. Both models can be had with manual gearboxes or the optional ten-speed auto, and both can be optioned with the excellent MagneRide adaptive dampening system. Full digital displays featuring lap-timers and other track-based info as well as line-lock, or 'burnout mode', are also available on both models.
The regular Fastback is equipped as standard with Ford's SYNC radio which features smartphone integration, USB input, and Bluetooth. The seats are manually adjustable and are wrapped in your choice of off-white or black cloth. The steering wheel is wrapped in leather and features steering functions, while keyless entry and a push-button start system, along with power mirrors and cruise control, are nice extras thrown in from the factory.
The Premium gets 18-inch wheels as standard, SYNC 3 radio with optional HD radio, optional remote engine start, heated and cooled leather bucket seats in front - both of which are power-adjustable - dual-zone climate control, heated mirrors, and access to few more options, like the carbon fiber interior trim package.
Both variants of the Fastback are available with a number of customization packages to add some bling to the look of your new Mustang. The Black Accent package ($995) and the Wheel & Stripe Package ($895) both come with 19-inch wheels, with the former offering a black roof and badges, and the latter adding contoured stripes to the side of the car. However, these aesthetic upgrades prevent you from specifying the Pony Package at $995 (unique grilles, badges, floor mats, chrome window trims) or the more interesting Performance package, which costs $2,495 and features upgrades that extend beyond the visual. This offering provides you with a larger radiator and stronger rear sway bar for added rigidity, bigger brakes, oil pressure, and boost gauges, a large rear spoiler (which can be deleted at no cost), a 3.55 Torsen LSD, unique aluminum interior trim, and a black strut brace.
So, which to buy? The normal Fastback is comfortable enough but lacks some of the amenities that make it enjoyable as a daily driver - the larger touchscreen infotainment system being a big one. It also doesn't have the dual-zone climate control system, which seems a bit poor considering that most cars these days come with this option as standard. Thus, the regular Mustang with the Performance package is a good buy if you'd like to use it as a track toy.
The Premium, however, is the better overall car. Keyless start, leather seating, a better stereo system, and heated mirrors all make the Premium easier to live with. Heated and ventilated seats are also great features that will be appreciated every day. Keeping the options low and ticking 201A equipment group will add a heated steering wheel, the LCD instrument cluster option, and voice-activated navigation. This is what we'd go for to make a fun and comfortable daily driver without breaking the bank too much.
Since 1967, two years after the first Mustang was released, the Camaro has been one of the Blue Oval's biggest rivals to its sports car. Now that they both offer turbocharged small-capacity offerings, the rivalry moves to a different plane. The Chevrolet is arguably more aggressive visually, but in terms of performance, the engine just doesn't have enough grunt to keep up with the Mustang. This makes the car feel heavier than it is. It is also more difficult to see out of when checking blind spots, and it's far smaller trunk makes it less practical too. Standard infotainment equipment is also lacking. Climate control is standard though, as are power front seats. Overall, however, the Mustang trumps the Camaro in just about every measurable way except price, as the Camaro costs $1,395 less. The Mustang just has more going for it at the bottom end of the trim ladder. Value for money, modernity, comfort, safety, and performance are cleverly and neatly packaged in a way that the Camaro just can't come close to.
The Challenger has also been around since the '60s, doing battle with the Mustang and Chev ever since. In today's market, though, the age of the Challenger is starting to show. The infotainment system feels dated. The car itself has not had its design altered as radically as the Mustang has over the years, but it is still an attractive, if brutish-looking vehicle. It's also roomier than either of its competitors, with more trunk space and an extra (if tiny) seat in the back, a differentiator between its muscle car stature compared to the Mustang's pony car classification. Climate control and power seats are also standard here as they are in the 'Stang. You can also have your Challenger in all-wheel-drive format if you so desire. Performance-wise though, the two extra cylinders and 1.3-liters of extra capacity in the Dodge's motor are not advantages, as the Mustang is faster, more economical, and weighs less. The safety and comfort departments are also areas in which the Ford excels when compared to the Challenger, not to mention refinement. The cherry on top is the price, with the base Mustang starting at $1,450 less than the cheapest Challenger.