2016 Mustang GT Review - The Vintage You Want

Seth Parks
by Seth Parks
Fast Facts

2016 Mustang GT Premium Coupe

5.0-liter, DOHC V8, CVVT (435 horsepower @ 6,500 rpm; 400 lbs-ft @ 4,240 rpm)
Six-speed Getrag MT82 manual transmission
15 city/25 highway/19 combined (EPA Rating, MPG)
19.4 MPG (Observed)
Tested Options: GT Premium Trim, Ruby Red Paint, 401A Equipment Group, Performance Package, Enhanced Security Package, Navigation
Base Price
$37,200
As Tested
$43,665
All prices include $900 destination fee.

The automotive press expends much effort (present company included) telling OEMs what they should and should not do. Automakers may not always take action, much less seem to care, but they value your opinion. Otherwise they wouldn’t have given me a car for a week in hopes of influencing your next buying decision.

I’m thankful they did. The 2016 Ford Mustang contains a long list of items the fourth estate has been asking for: contemporary design, competitive interior, independent rear-suspension, and a roaring V8. And this from a nameplate that’s been near death multiple times, almost been forced to go front-wheel drive, and was inches away from shedding cylinders in favor of forced induction.

Thankfully, none of those doomsday scenarios came to pass. This is now the pony journalists have been asking for in Mustang reviews from the last decade.

The 2016 Mustang is largely a carry-over of the all-new Mustang introduced last year. That’s not a bad thing. You’ve seen the new car and, apparently, you like it. Ford sold 129,000 Mustangs in the U.S. and Canada last year, close to a 50-percent increase over 2014. The segment is known for sales volatility, as consumers reach for the most fashion-forward model or the fastest quarter-mile, but this Mustang offers more than new paint schemes and hood vent mounted turn signals. This is a mature design with immense capabilities. And thanks to the push for continuous improvement at Ford, the year after a complete redesign is the vintage you want.

Exterior

This is the best looking Mustang in decades. The bloat of the fourth- and fifth-generation Mustangs is styled away by lithe sheet metal, tighter wheel gaps, and larger wheels. Yet its athletic presence has little to do with size; this car is no smaller than its predecessor. The only dimensional change of note is its width, where it grew almost two inches between 2014 and 2015.

Critiquing automotive styling is a subjective exercise. Proportions, on the other hand, follow a more established pattern. Thankfully, this car continues to boogie with the same date that brought it to the dance in 1964. The long dash-to-axle span and short rear deck helped build the Mustang’s visual DNA, and both elements are preserved in the sixth generation car.

Every Mustang gets HID headlamps and sequential tri-bar LED taillamps. Mustang spotters have probably discovered dual exhaust is standard across the range. GTs can be identified from the rear by the prominent GT badge centered on the deck lid. Lesser Stangs get a galloping horse. From the front, GTs are distinguished by small hood bulges housing the new driver-facing turn signals, as well as subtly revised upper and lower grilles with angled vertical elements.

There is no such thing as a bad angle, particularly when equipped with the generous 19 inch Luster Nickel-Painted Aluminum Wheels in 40-series summer rubber. The ebony black wheels look great, too.

Interior

Unlike previous generation Mustangs, where the dual cockpit design was overwrought, the subtle dash-top twin-binnacle is neither forced nor retro. More soft-touch materials are in evidence and the car gets some fun non-parts bin switch gear. Features and layout are sector competitive, but a pair of objections remain.

First, as a driver’ car, the steering wheel should get more attention. The one in this premium coupe, for example, should be thicker with higher grade leather. Second, hard plastics still abound. The cowl stretching from the base of the center stack to the center arm rest is particularly egregious, both for its expanse of tactile severity and its lack of adornment. Quality can be punctuated by simplicity, but simplicity for the sake of cost savings is a blight on an otherwise improved interior.

The back seat of this 2+2 is more than capable of family duty. My two- and four-year olds took no fewer than a dozen rides in the Mustang, their smiles nearly as wide as mine. If you are a parent of young ones and this is the car you desire, get it. But consider leasing, because at some point those children become kids and what’s cozy today is cramped tomorrow.

Technology

New for 2016 is SYNC 3, integrated with voice activated navigation and a new 8-inch touchscreen. The system transitions between functions rapidly, allows pinch to zoom navigation, and can update itself via Wi-Fi. It’s feature laden but can be cumbersome. For example, when searching for an addressing using voice command, users no longer need to indicate the state. However, the convenience comes at a cost. Queue up an address search using voice command and the system responds with an 18 word (eight second) set of instructions, every time. It’s like your friend’s voicemail recording that unnecessarily describes how voicemail works.

The 401A Equipment Group nets several valuable items, including the Blind Spot Information System (BLIS). Get it – no matter how fast you drive, you cannot outrun those C pillars. 401A also comes with the Mustang’s top-end audio system. This 390W 12-speaker Shaker Pro Audio System is the proper emotional sound-mate to this extroverted car.

Drivetrain

The Coyote V8 received a new valvetrain, cylinder heads, and intake manifold for 2015. Horsepower increased from 420 to 435, both at 6,500 rpm. Torque increased from 390 to 400 pounds-feet, both at 4,250 rpm. An exceedingly experienced tester may notice the difference in the Coyote between the ’14 and the ’16, but that would miss the point. This rev-happy 5.0 puts out 87 horsepower per liter. That exceeds the specific output of some well-respected smaller displacement engines such as the 2.0-liter mill in the 2016 Mazda Miata (78 hp/liter) and the 2.4-liter four-pot in the 2015 Honda Civic Si (85 hp/liter). Hell, the Coyote outperforms the turbocharged 4.7-liter beast found in the 2015 Mercedes-Benz E550 (86 hp/liter).

This Mustang has a lot of engine. Without falling back on the old Detroit habit of swelling displacement, Ford has incrementally increased its output from 412 horsepower at launch in 2011 to 435 today. Well done, Dearborn. Now in its sixth model year, the Coyote is ready for the direct injection we know it was originally designed to host ( Do Not Buy a 2011 Mustang 5.0).

Drive

The GT is competitive in a straight line, reaching 60 miles per hour in 4.3 seconds and running the quarter-mile in 12.9 seconds at 112 miles per hour, per Car & Driver. Adding the $2,690 GT Performance Package with strut tower brace, expanded radiator, larger rear sway bar, Brembo front brakes, 3.73 Torsen axle, and other enhancements turns the 2016 Mustang into a true canyon carver.

A blast up Angeles Crest Highway north of Los Angeles confirmed the car’s handling prowess. A 22-mile section from La Canada Flintridge to Upper Big Tujunga Canyon Road traces the crest of the San Gabriel Mountains through more than 100 turns. Corners are dispatched in a rapid confident succession. The six-piston fade-free Brembos bleed speed easily. The steering feels a little numb, but turn-in is crisp and exits explosive. But watch the RPMs. The Coyote does not howl in submission as redline approaches – it wants to keep going. The short-throw shifter is a joy to row and the clutch no longer provides an excuse to cancel your gym membership. This is no tractor-cum-coupé like its ’80s and ’90s forbearers. This is a real sports car with a broad portfolio of capabilities.

Pricing

The Mustang lineup is familiar. The car comes in two forms — fastback coupé and convertible — and two trim levels — standard and premium. Select from one of three engines, 300 hp 3.7-litre V6, 310 hp 2.3-litre EcoBoost four-cylinder, or 435 hp 5.0-litre V8, in any roof and trim combination. Except the base V6 fastback, which starts at $24,145 and cannot be spec’d in premium trim. There are also limited edition Shelby GT350 and GT350R models slotted above the GT.

The GT Fastback starts at $32,395 and with Premium trim moves up to $36,395. My tester carried a $43,665 MSRP. Were I getting a Mustang, this is nearly the car I would spec, save the premium paint ($395) and enhanced security ($359). Not only is it refined, but at 15/25 miles per gallon city/highway, it’s no gas hog either. During a hard-driving, 474-mile test loop, this car achieved a respectable 19.4 mpg. Cross shop the other pony cars, the Nissan 370Z, and even the BMW M235i. You will discover why Ford finally let the Mustang out of the corral and into international markets.

Disclosure: Ford provided the vehicle, insurance, and a tank of gas for this review.

[Images: © 2016 Seth Parks/The Truth About Cars]

Seth Parks
Seth Parks

Twenty year auto industry professional. Currently CEO at Turbo International, the premier American manufacturer of OEM replacement turbochargers for the global aftermarket.

More by Seth Parks

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  • Heather Heather on Apr 04, 2016

    Have a 2006 GT with 71k miles on her. Custom sapphire metallic paint, white (painted on) racing stripes, positive track rear end, Hurst speed shifter, hydro-static clutch, bored headers, massive air-induction system, Shaker 1000 stereo system, Flowmaster pipes, 15% tint (yeah yeah I know) and logo etched on top front windshield, top-end pristine leather interior etc. Takes me 11 hours to do my definition of a complete detailing and she's Grand National show worthy. As long as the VIN# tells my insurance company she only a V-8, I'm gold. She's built for racing and barely, just barely, street legal and has the computer to convert her to blow your doors off on the track. Paid 40k back then, WITH the mods installed at the dealership before she left the lot. I took a 50th anniversary edition in her. Gods what a rush! Will post a pic after she gets a pollen detailing. (I'd bet she could still take the doors off one of these even modified) The 2016's look HOT! Must have Pony package though and a few ahem..slight modifications

  • TheEndlessEnigma TheEndlessEnigma on Apr 05, 2016

    Call me a heretic but within the last 2 weeks I went from a 2013 V6 Mustang to a 2016 Fiesta ST. I took a Mustang out for a test drive and a Fiesta ST. Compared to my 2013, the 2016 Mustang actually felt sluggish and a bit unwieldy - not saying it's a bad car (it's a beautiful car!), but the handling and engine actually felt like it didn't compare well to the 2013 model.

  • Moris Nice cars .my nissan 1988 beautiful I own one
  • CKNSLS Sierra SLT I am thankful for those who have served/and serve this country to protect our freedoms.The "usual suspects" are quiet.......
  • KevinB Hemmings ran an article on the 1960 Cadillac Series 62 grille and its complexity. It took a lot of work.https://www.hemmings.com/stories/article/1960-cadillac-series-62
  • Kwik_Shift_Pro4X Now going for $7000.
  • SCE to AUX Working on a deck project. Also replaced the A/C compressor in a Subaru.
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