(Full Disclosure: Ford wanted me to drive their new Mustang GT so bad they lent me one for a weekend.)
I made a trip to Albany, NY during my three days with the Mustang GT. There, I found a desolate parking garage — the perfect place to examine the new Mustang’s features.
The taillights are my favorite part on the car, hands down. They look purposely under-designed, like an iPhone 4 or that really neat bridge in Boston. All that’s there is the Mustang’s signature tri-bar tail light, and nothing more. I often wonder why other cars even have more than this.
The new Mustang also projects the car’s logo onto the ground beneath you via an LED underneath each sideview mirror, a feature which I hated, at first.
Then I realized this is, in fact, a V8 Mustang with a “triple yellow” paint job. It made unlocking the car in a dark parking lot a spectacle, too. Everyone who saw the illuminated steeds immediately wanted to know “what kind of car” it was projecting from.
The shifter on the new Mustang is smooth, supple, and forgiving. I found myself rowing through the gears more often than I needed to, just to enjoy the action.
Here is where I’ll draw a direct comparison to the 2013 Mustang Boss 302 that I drove that same day, which has a shifter that is the exact opposite of smooth, supple, and forgiving. Its paint is black, sinister, and menacing.
The clutch throw is heavy and long, the shifts short and hard. Rowing through the gears in the Boss is like dating—get it right and you’ll be rewarded, get it wrong and you’ll have a lot of making up to do.
Even though the Boss 302 has the more hardcore rap sheet out of the two, the 2016 Mustang , with a more aggressive “shark nose” and headlights which stretch down the sides of the car, looks angrier in a side profile comparison.
Look at that hockey stripe, though. Find the right angle of the Boss 302, and the car transforms into a menacing, old-school bruiser. The cutouts in the hood, the fog light deletes, the heritage.
This particular Boss 302 featured a cat-back Magnaflow exhaust and a track key, which is a magical device that when used in place of the car’s “normal” key, turns the Boss into an even-more-race-car-version of the already race-car-esque car.
The track key ensures that drivers of the Boss 302 are guaranteed to develop an unhealthy addition to jersey barriers and tunnels. Next time I’ll bring my audio recorder, because no amount of words can adequately describe a 7500-rpm V8 wail exiting a side exhaust pipe and reverberating off a concrete barrier directly into your ear.
Sure, the old Boss 302 sounds like a Bat out of Hell, but it drives like you’re wrangling one, too. The steering is heavy, yet communicative—regardless of what drive mode you’re in. It’s a part-time race car with the stiff, unforgiving ride quality to back it up.
Yet, when you drive the Boss 302 aggressively and the numbers on the speedometer begin to increase, those traits which made the Boss uncomfortable at low speeds actually contribute to a positive driving experience at higher speeds. Yes, the steering is heavy regardless of what mode, so when your fingers begin to sink deeper into the alcantara’d wheel to compensate, you get a better feel for the road. The shifter is not smooth or forgiving because it is a short throw, but once you memorize the precise location of the gears beneath the boot, you’ll naturally become quick at changing gears. The suspension is stiff, which will teach you to drive smoother and more predictably as to prevent the rear axle from hopping over a bump and breaking traction.
The Boss 302 demands you to be a better driver, and you must comply in order to keep your wits, and your smile behind the wheel.
The new GT, with its various drive and steering modes, can seamlessly blend into its surroundings. Set your steering and suspension into “normal” mode while you’re cruising on the highway, and flip them into “track” when you inevitably want to show a Boss 302 what a few years of R&D can do for a vehicle.
I cannot stress how easy the new Mustang is to drive. I especially enjoyed it in traffic, as weird as that sounds, which is a testament to how the clutch, steering, and gear shifter work harmoniously together to deliver such a pleasant driving experience. Near the limit, it’s like the new Mustang has your back—it’ll catch you if you fall. When there’s a 435-horsepower V8 under the hood, that’s not necessarily a bad thing.
And that’s the thing. The new Mustang is better looking and easier to drive fast, while the old Boss 302 delivers the experience you expect from a high-revving, last generation, race-bred Mustang.
Could you choose one over the other?
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