Note that higher axle ratios typically trade fuel efficiency for acceleration, and if a certain ratio — or wheel size, for that matter — makes minimal sales, the EPA doesn't require specific ratings.

The EPA has yet to rate the Shelby GT500. Here's how the drivetrains stack up:
Mustang Drivetrains Compared
 V-6GTBoss 302Shelby GT500
AvailabilityCoupe or convertibleCoupe or convertibleCoupeCoupe or convertible
Engine3.7-liter V-65.0-liter V-85.0-liter V-8Supercharged 5.8-liter V-8
Horsepower (@ rpm)305 @ 6,500420 @ 6,500444 @ 6,500650 @ 6,200
Torque (lbs.-ft. @ rpm)280 @ 4,250390 @ 4,250380 @ 4,500600 @ 4,250
Transmissions6-speed man.;
6-speed auto
6-speed man.;
6-speed auto
6-speed man.6-speed man.
Available rear axlesCoupe: 2.73 or 3.31;
Convertible: 2.73
Coupe: 3.31, 3.55 or 3.73;
Convertible: 3.31
3.733.31
EPA gas mileage
(city/highway, mpg)
19/31 (auto)*,
19/29 (man.)
18/25 (auto),
15/26 (man.)
15/26TBD
FuelRegularPremium recommendedPremium recommendedPremium required
*Coupe. The EPA rates automatic convertibles at 19/30 mpg city/highway.

Inside

Cabin inconsistencies still mar the interior, where Ford has dressed the dashboard with premium materials but given the doors short shrift. There's still no telescoping steering wheel, widely offered in other coupes. The optional Recaro seats, previously unavailable in V-6 and GT models, are supportive and comfortable, but they don't have power adjustments or seat heaters, which the standard buckets offer.

An available 4.2-inch LCD screen between the gauges can come with Ford's Racing Apps, which display everything from an accelerometer to the air-fuel mixture entering the engine. It's entertaining, but adjusting the power-steering assist requires rooting through the LCD's submenus, which is onerous to do on the fly. Other cars fast-track you to their sportiest settings with dashboard buttons.

The backseat is tight, but we prefer it over the borderline-unusable backseats in the Camaro and Nissan Altima coupes. Still, if you plan to haul adults around much, the Challenger and Honda Accord coupes are roomier. Trunk space is a generous 13.4 cubic feet, beating the Camaro and both Japanese cars. The Challenger trumps the group, with 16.2 cubic feet.

Mustang convertibles have a standard power-retracting top. An optional boot provides a cleaner top-down appearance is optional.

Safety, features & pricing


The Mustang's reliability has been average. In crash tests by the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety, the Mustang coupe earned Good front- and rear-impact scores, but rated only Acceptable in side impacts. (In ascending order, IIHS grades cars Poor, Marginal, Acceptable and Good.) IIHS cited lackluster protection for backseat passengers, but the convertible version scored Good in all three tests. Neither car has undergone IIHS' roof-crush tests. In the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration's revamped crash tests, the Mustang coupe earned four out of five stars overall; NHTSA has yet to test the convertible.

The Mustang's so-so ratings are cause for concern — especially in an age where the vast majority of cars earn top IIHS ratings — but there are few models with which it can be compared. Due to limited sales, most coupes aren't crash-tested. The Challenger and coupe versions of the Accord and Altima are among them. The Camaro coupe earned five stars from NHTSA, but IIHS has yet to test it. Standard safety features include front and side-impact airbags for the front seats, but there are no side curtain airbags — a feature every major competitor has. Antilock brakes and an electronic stability system are also standard. Click here to see all safety features.

Stick-shift V-6 coupes start well-equipped at $22,000. At the other end, a loaded Shelby GT500 convertible runs more than three times that. Options include power front seats, heated leather upholstery, automatic climate control, navigation and Ford's Sync with AppLink, which streams Bluetooth audio and smartphone applications like Pandora and Stitcher internet radio.

Mustang in the market

Detroit's muscle cars combined for nearly 200,000 sales last year, proving that sports cars still appeal even amid a shaky economic recovery. Camaro sales outpaced the Mustang, but the 'Stang outsold everyone else. It ought to: For its performance value, the Mustang deserves admiration from kids and parents alike. The venerable Ford turns 50 next year, and the changes this year should help it meet that threshold at full steam.