More than ever, the 2021 Ford Mustang is about more than just power. Originally, the Mustang was about attitude. Slick styling and a powerful street presence were all that was needed to draw a crowd and impress anyone the little coupe rumbled past. But after some Carroll Shelby-applied upgrades, the Mustang became a true performance machine, capable of killing giants both on the track and dragstrip. Over the past half-century, the Mustang has continually been upgraded to be at the forefront of both speed and style, and the modern incarnation is truly a jack of all trades and a master of many.
More than a stylish pony car, more than a powerful muscle car, more than an agile sports car, and more than a comfortable grand tourer, the 2021 Ford Mustang is capable of being all of the above. And all at once. With the looks and handling to impress at any price point, the Mustang is the modern American performance machine for every person and every purpose. Without equal and without compromise.
The defining traits of the Mustang are many, but the engine is the most impactful to the driver. Over the decades, many different engines have found themselves under a Mustang’s hood, but the 2021 lineup is the strongest yet. Every option brings its own sporting personality and more than enough power to generate smiles on the street and shows opponents those famous triple tail lights on the track. The options are the 2.3-liter Ecoboost turbocharged four-cylinder and the series of V8 engines that the Mustang has been known for since that original run-in with mister Shelby all those years ago.
TThe EcoBoost engine itself is a punchy beast, full of turbocharged drama and theater. While 2.3-liters might sound small to muscle car aficionados, it should be noted that the engine produces 310 horsepower in base form and 330 horsepower with the factory performance pack added. Thanks to modern technology and a double helping of turbo boost, this 2.3-liter inline-four punches out more power and more torque than V8 mustangs did in the early 2000s. It does that while being less than half the displacement and all-aluminum. Compact and lightweight, this feisty four-cylinder means Mustangs equipped with these engines are no less sporty than their more muscle-laden V8 powered siblings. Most will never even feel the need for more power, given the EcoBoost’s torque.
TFor those who require old-school muscle, however, there is the Coyote series of V8 engines. Powering the Mustang GT variants, this stalwart 5.0-liter V8 has been making smiles and breaking hearts for years, and is one of the best bang-for-buck engines in any car on sale today, anywhere. This engine produces 460 horsepower, which is enough to give the Mustang one of the best power to weight ratios of any car in this price range from any manufacturer in the world. If you get the Mach 1, the 5.0-liter V8 also gets a slight upgrade, producing 480 horsepower to really get you moving, particularly when you add the Mach 1 Handling Package.
TThe GT is especially a great performance car bargain, considering the fact that a new 5.0-liter equipped GT can easily be optioned for less than 40,000 dollars. There are Porsches and other European exotics that retail for double that price with over 150 less horsepower. Thanks to the modern tires and suspension under the current Mustangs, not to mention the world-class interiors, the main reason one would go for the exotic these days would just be the badge.
TThat Mustang-signature capability only grows more apparent as one climbs through the trim levels. The Coyote is a wonderful engine, but the cross plane crank of the 5.2-liter V8 Predator is something that doesn’t just embarrass the odd European sports car. This supercharged powerhouse was built to humble supercars, all while still being barely contained under the hood of the Shelby GT500. Loosely based on the Coyote, the Predator is a shock to the system. With 760 horsepower and 625 lb-ft of torque, this monster essentially picks up and hurls the Mustang down the road when the accelerator is pressed. It is as if a monster has been harnessed to propel this ultimate current incarnation of the mighty GT500, which is fitting.
TOverall, the EcoBoost, Coyote, and Predator engines all deliver a different kind of sporty. The EcoBoost is for those going for the sports car feel, with lightness and agility at the forefront of an experience still underpinned by significant horsepower. The Coyote punches far beyond its cost class while maintaining that proud Mustang tradition of cheap muscle. Finally, the supercharged Predator does not so much challenge opponents as force them to flee before its wrath.
Comfort, technology, and style come together to great effect in the Mustang’s interior. In generations past, the inside of a Mustang was not often described as a premium place to be. But these days, any Mustang can comfortably blast across continents, and the driver will arrive refreshed instead of drained. The modern Mustang is a true sports grand tourer, with all the performance, style, and comfort to make that work. All while remaining half the cost of many cars it could lock horns with.
The signature Mustang dash shape has been treated with aircraft-inspired accents and details, all created with premium materials and finished to a high degree of precision. Available technology includes the Ford SYNC 3 infotainment system, voice recognition, Apple CarPlay and Android Auto integration, and wireless Bluetooth phone connectivity. While things like the available six-way power driver’s seat and 12 speaker Bang & Olufsen audio system with subwoofer all add to the Mustang’s new status as a seriously competent continent crosser, none of these available features really do justice to the fact that the 2021 Mustang manages to feel both plush and supportive, thanks to immaculate suspension tuning and incredible seats.
There are many cars that are hardcore track demons that can turn a corner inside out, and there are many straight-line slayer muscle cars that can roar down a piece of blacktop like a charging dinosaur. There are even a few high-end grand touring machines that can flow over huge swathes of terrain like water down stairs. But there are very few cars that can effortlessly flip from doing one of these things perfectly and then do another without skipping a beat. And fewer still that can do all that while being so attainable and stylish, inside and out like the 2021 Mustang.
Stiffly built, so it does not have to be stiffly sprung, the 2021 Mustang is a tour de force of chassis tuning for a modern sports car. Yes, sports car, not just muscle car. This car is not quite like the purposefully wayward bucking broncos of previous Mustang iterations. Equipped with modern suspension systems and high-capability tires and braking systems, this Mustang knows how to keep it professional but can still let the hair down when desired.
The highlight of this generation of Mustang’s chassis makeup is that it is the first generation to come with independent rear suspension as standard across the range. While the solid axle Mustangs of the past were not quite as obstinate to drive as many would try to convince you, that setup was never going to make for a good grand touring car. Being able to go long distances without ever considering grip, or lack thereof, in any situation, meant going from the traditional drag-racer friendly and incredibly low-cost solid axle suspension system to something that could be precisely tuned to both soak up bumps and create an immensely stable cornering platform.
The independent rear suspension setup accomplishes that, which is impressive on an engineering level for a vehicle this affordable. That said, it is more impressive in terms of feel because now all that power and fury the Mustang has always had can be tucked away at will, without drama. But the moment one wants that drama; it’s just a gas pedal press away.