2012 Ford Mustang BOSS 302Enlarge Photo
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, some tighter suspension tuning and a switchover to electric power steering, which Ford's rendering about as well as any manufacturer. It's part of the Mustang's evolving personality--quicker on its heels, defter to the touch.
The convertible option makes the Mustang an especially appealing muscle car. It opens its fabric top quickly and tucks it out of sight, while it also leaves the 'Stang vulnerable to a little more body flex than you'll find on smaller two-seat convertibles. And Ford's learned the lessons of Scion, opening up the order sheet to custom-fitted Mustangs with all sorts of wheel-and-tire packages, decals, scoops and interior treatments. There's even SYNC Bluetooth control for infotainment and navigation, and Sony stereo systems.