I had the chance to take a friend's brand new Mustang GT manual on a drive today. A bright red specimen, with retro wheels, and the cheapest trim level available. Here are a few observations.
The car looks great. I'm not a fan of retro styling, especially on interiors, but the outside of the car is great. The car has a huge hood, hinting at the power underneath, and a sharkey maw up front. The wheels are far forward, and the sheet metal is wrapped tight around the sides, the car looks fast standing still. Anyone would look good sitting in this car.
I'm not a fan of spoilers, though, and if I bought one of these I would check off the "spoiler delete" option at the dealership. A well designed car like this doesn't need a spoiler to look quick. All the fake ones do is add wind resistance and cost, and reduce your rearward view.
The interior is functional, and neatly assembled, but not rich looking. Some of the pieces look and feel light weight, rental car cheap, but they are put together tightly. There aren't any large gaps or ugly seams. The steering wheel is shaped like an old school 3-spoke wheel, but it is actually a firm foam rubber like material, with a very nice, grippy texture. Cruise control buttons are on the inside top spokes, but I was disappointed that there were no wheel mounted radio controls. The seats are covered with a pronouncedly textured fabric, which is also quite grippy. The seat back had a nice pattern of galloping mustangs on the fabric. The dashboard trim was simple black textured plastic, with a little shiny chrome-like trim around deep gauge wells and the air outlets. The door panels were hard plastic, but nicely textured, with smooth inserts.
Ergonomics are very good. The previous Mustang was apparently designed for apes (...by apes?), in that tall people could not easily reach the steering wheel or the shifter without tilting the seat way back, like a lazy-boy. Only if you had short legs and unnaturally long arms could you sit upright. On this car, I had no problem finding a good seating position. The pedals are arranged so that you can heel-toe shift if you want to.
There was not much of a dead pedal, which is a crime. There should be a nice rubber pad, at least, not a skinny bump in the carpet.
The cup holders need to be offset by about 1" towards the passenger, in the center console, to avoid interfering with the drivers arm if a drink is present.
The rear seats are nearly useless. If a 6' tall adult is driving, I don't see how an adult can sit behind, there is maybe 4" of clearance for legs. Mabye Ford should just do away with the farce, and put an un-cushioned storage area back there.
The stock radio is average--not great sounding, but not awful. Unlike many cars today, it is not integrated into the console, so it can be upgraded easily (Crutchfield!). It has a speed sensitive volume adjustment, which is a nice feature, especially in this car. The other controls are easy to reach, smooth operating, but plasticky.
The driving dynamics are very good, compared to the previous Mustang. The body seems very stiff, with very little vibration and no rattles on potholes and speedbumps. The car seems very composed and solid, although it feels a little heavy to me. The steering is nicely weighted, with a good amount of road feel coming through. There is very little wallow, and the noise points smoothly and quickly when you make sharp adjustments. You can tell that you have a solid rear axle, when you hit bad pavement the rear end skitters sideways a little, but on smooth pavement it doesn't not seem to matter much.
There is lots of noise at highway speeds. Lots of road surface and some wind come through loud and clear, I would get tired of the racket on long highway trips. There is also the engine, which never lets you forget that you have nearly 5L of V8 sitting a few inches in front of your feet. If you turn off the radio, you can hear lots of mechanical music coming from the V8, as well as a little gear whine from the transmission. You also feel the engine loud and clear, through the steering wheel, pedals, and especially the shifter. The overall effect isn't that you are driving a cheap, unrefined car, but that you are connected to a powerful machine through your right hand.
The power band on the Mustang is addictive. Especially for those of us who drive Volvos every day with less than 200HP. Bored? Slide into the clear lane, clutch-in-throttle-blip-downshift, wind it up to 4000RPM, listen to the engine howl in the bass register. You are pushed back into your seat, and before you know it, you are going 80MPH on Woodward Avenue, which is a 45MPH road. That's when you discover the brakes, which are excellent. Linear, nicely weighted like the steering, lots of stopping power.
The Mustang is not a European sports coupe. It drives and idles more like a tightened up old-school muscle car. It is obvious where Ford chose to invest its money in the Mustang, and I think they chose wisely. They spent money on the parts that make car drive well, go fast, turn tight, stop short, and look great on the outside. I don't think I personally would buy one, if I only can have one car, for practicality and comfort reasons, but I would borrow one every chance I got.
Now, if I can just borrow a Corvette for a few hours...