The Mustang definitely lives in the present, though. Powerful V-8s, special editions, and quarter-mile sprints are definitely still a big part of its identity and existence, but the 2014 Mustang has a cozy cabin, surprisingly confident handling, and something close to true sports-car finesse that you probably never expected to find here.
It's all a bit surprising because the Mustang still does have a live-axle layout in back. But thanks to some great chassis engineering, it could fool you much of the time. As well, V-6 models aren't the compromise they used to be; the base model now has a 305-horsepower V-6 that can turn in 0-60 mph times of about 6.0 seconds, plus fuel economy of up to 31 mpg on the highway if you get the six-speed automatic (with SelectShift control).
Opt for the V-8, and you goal-kick the Mustang into another zone entirely. With 420 horsepower, the 5.0-liter V-8 has the stopwatch times and overall responsiveness to fit in with far more expensive performance cars--and the exhaust calls it out to the world with a richer, almost exotic note. The Mustang's precise electric power steering last year got a multi-mode setting that lets you pick the weighting, and for the most part, it's a hoot to drive on curvy roads, too.
You can get Coupe and Convertible versions with either powertrain. If you want to enjoy the Mustang's dynamics, the Coupes are the way to go--and you can even geta glass panoramic roof--but if you want a Convertible with a usable, useful back seat, the drop-top Mustang has loads of appeal.
Missing from the lineup this year is the race-ready Boss 302 and its higher-output, 444-hp V-8; that has seen its special two-year run come and go.
Last year, the Mustang got a number of more modern details to help give its retro silhouette a more punctuated, detailed look up close. Projector-beam headlamps, with two strips of LED lighting flanking them, help frame the front; and in back, LED lamps with a dark-tinted look separate out these models from earlier year. Lower airdams are neater and thinner, too, and lighting up the ground next to the doors is an optional pony projection light.
The Mustang's cockpit has the upright dash and big, beautiful gauges with color-shifting lighting and metallic trim, a good blend of Sixties style and today's touchscreen sensibilities. Don't expect MyFord Touch until the next major refresh, due next year, but you can time your own acceleration or quarter-mile times with a Track Apps feature.
You can get a Mustang with parking sensors, dual-zone climate control, and even HD Radio; but the real allure here is customization, and special performance and appearance packages. There's also a Brembo brake package with recalibrated stability control and a sport-tuned suspension; or the serious GT Track Package; or the V-6 Performance Package, we think, is a must for anyone who appreciates good handling but is sticking with the V-6. Several other special appearance packages—each dressed up its own special pony-car aesthetic—include a Mustang Club of America Package, V-6 Pony Package, FP6 Package, and California Special Package.