On one hand, the 2012 Ford Mustang is a capable, even sophisticated coupe or convertible with a big range of talents, including 31-mpg highway fuel economy. On the other hand, it's a tire-smoking pony car rechristened last year with new powertrains and given a jolt of throwback goodness for this model year with the return of the Boss.
Mostly on the strength of the GT, the new Boss and the returning Shelby GT500, we're giving the Mustang a solid 8 out of 10 for its performance strengths, and even for its upscale luxury and tech features.
Last year, Ford brought back the "5.0" Mustang, with that displacement netting it 412 horsepower in the Mustang GT. Base models gained a new corporate 3.7-liter V-6 with 305 horsepower. The GT is our clear winner: it's a torque-happy engine with good throttle response and a sharp attitude, something the old modular V-8 strained to deliver even while it turned out decently competitive numbers.
The 2011 updates also brought a set of upgraded brakes,...