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2013 Mustang GT California Special: Ridelust Review

Posted in Best of, Car Reviews, Domestic, Domestic Review, Domestic Rides, Featured, Ford, muscle cars, Mustang, Rides by MrAngry | November 26th, 2012 | 4 Responses |

2013 Mustang California Special

PRO’s: Great power, interesting options thanks to the “California Special” package, outstanding 5.0-liter engine.

CON’s: High rear spoiler, soft suspension, lazy automatic transmission.

FINAL THOUGHT: An expensive Mustang that hides its true potential with body makeup and funky interior gimmicks.

Over the past few months I’ve been inundated with new Ford Mustangs. I’ve had a 2013 V6 Performance Pack, a track pack equipped 2013 GT Base and just recently, a 2013 Mustang GT California Special. There hasn’t been one Mustang that’s been “better” than the other in as much as each one has appealed to a different audience. You see while most cars have just one market segment in mind, the Mustang is one of the few automobiles that appeals to just about everyone.

2013 Mustang California Special

This weeks new ‘Stang was a 2013 Mustang GT with the “California Special” package, a package that consists of more dress-up than performance items. Now before you say negative things about a dress-up package, understand that the Mustang GT, even in base form is one helluva performance car. That means that while not for some, a little added makeup isn’t necessarily a bad thing.

2013 Mustang California Special

What you get with the CS package is as follows; a tri-color Pony badge, faux side vents, a special grill and front fascia with unique fog lamps and chin spoiler, custom rear spoiler, painted hood vents, leather seats with suede inserts, special 19-inch CS only wheels and a rear emblem that says “California Special”.

2013 Mustang California Special

There’s no groundbreaking stuff here aside from those new accessories, but for some, this will be all they need for the 2013 Mustang to appeal to them. All California Special cars start life as Mustang GT Premiums, which means you get all the goodies like the Track Apps, tech package and power seats, as well as a host of other options.

2013 Mustang California Special

Getting comfy in the CS Mustang was not an issue, but there are a few little things that did bother me. For example, my tester was equipped with the optional Shaker Pro Sound System which means 6 speakers in total throughout the cabin and a suitcase sized sub-woofer in the trunk. This is great in theory, except when you consider that two of the additional speakers are tacked on to the lower door panels and thus push up against your calf in such a way that after 20 miles they’ll drive you crazy.

2013 Mustang California Special

Then there was the case of the rear spoiler which sits higher than that of the standard GT. It was directly in my line of sight when looking out the rear view mirror and it drove me nuts. It’s not a deal breaker mind you, but something I think perspective CS owners should be aware of.

2013 Mustang California Special

The cabin was equipped with enough subtle changes to make you aware you’re driving something different while the leather seats were nicely bolstered and offered all day comfort. Rear seats are only big enough for small children or adults on very short trips.

2013 Mustang California Special

The dash has been given a carbon fiber-eque look to it, while the floor mats are monogrammed with “California Special”. Other items worth noting are the illuminated cup holders and halo-ringed gauges. These are completely unnecessary, tacky and thus cheapens the cars overall feel.

2013 Mustang California Special

The heart of any real Mustang is what lies under the hood. In this case we’ve got the GT’s 5.0-liter V8 that pumps out 420 hp and 390 lb-ft of torque on premium fuel and 402 hp and 376 lb-ft on regular.

2013 Mustang California Special

My tester was equipped with Ford’s six-speed automatic transmission with Select-Shift that was mated to a rear end sporting a 3.15 gear ratio. Acceleration was good, however shifts through the transmission were very lazy. Then there’s the Select-Shift mode which is operated by a small toggle style switch on the side of the shifter. It’s awkward to use and offers no benefit to the driving experience in my opinion.

2013 Mustang California Special

This is still a Mustang GT, which means big smokey burnouts are no problem, nor is hanging the tail out at will. As a solid live axle car road imperfections may compromise handling manners at speed, but since this is a California Special, it’s likely owners are interested in more flash than dash.

2013 Mustang California Special

After experiencing a track pack equipped GT with the Brembo brakes and sport suspension, I can tell you the California Special felt very soft. The suspension, although compliant, left something to be desired when it came to handling. The track pack equipped GT for instance did a great job of masking the Mustang’s 3,603 lb. curb weight. It handled great and returned decent feedback to the driver.

2013 Mustang California Special

This car however, especially when equipped with the automatic, just wasn’t my cup of tea. Maybe it was the smaller 245 series all-season Pirelli tires, or the fact that I just wasn’t keen on all the extra bells and whistles. Whatever the case though, this Mustang felt a bit bloated when compared to other versions I’ve driven.

2013 Mustang California Special

Mileage is rated 18 city/25 hwy which seems about accurate. Having only a 16 gallon capacity though means you’ll be lucky to pull 250 miles from a tank a fuel – how’s that for annoying.

2013 Mustang California Special

Overall, and I hate to say this, but this Mustang was the first one that I wasn’t fond of. The V6 Performance Pack for instance felt light on its feet and fun, as did the Track Pack GT. This California Special though felt like it was being let down by a week suspension and too much makeup. Combine that with a price tag of over $40k and well, you can see why I have to recommend that you look at other models.

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4 Responses

  1. Kyle H says:

    A shift tune can probably take care of the lazy transmission, only from what I understand it’s less about crisp engagement and more about the “feel” that’s programmed into the unit.

    According to a couple of techs, the transmission locks up just as well (just as firm as just as fast) before a tune as it does after. The difference is in the shift points.

    As for the massive curb weight, we’re on the same page. You would think this car would be lighter…

  2. Dean V says:

    You could learn how to drive a manual, you’re truly getting 50% of the experience.

  3. Cobragtk says:

    Interesting post and I can understand why you feel that way. I own a ’13 GT/CS but with the Manual transmission. I love the power of the car (GT) but for me I like the overall visual add ons to the GT/CS while I know they add unneeded weight. I also agree that the suspension is very soft. At some point I’ll do the suspension and add bigger brakes on mine but for now I’m just enjoying the car. Initially I thought the lighting was unnecessary, not tacky, because you can choose any one of a million colors, so you could choose something more subtle and tasteful if you don’t like it. Also I find the interior actually quite nicely appointed, the combo leather and suede seats are really a nice touch. The SYNC interface is horrible though – it does cool things such as streaming audio from your phone, txt msg read aloud, etc. but using that touch screen and the buttons to toggle between radio/media/maps is just horrid. Anyway love the car and thanks for the write up.

  4. Luis M says:

    I agreed with some of the comments here but I gotta tell you that all the models, all…have some audience to appeal as you just said. I test drove a Gt premium with 6M and Brembo package, well that car is a monster especially if you have the .373 ratio. However, I was planning this car to be a daily driver here in California. We have Hwy405, I have a wife that wanted to use it too and Auto provides a slightly better gas mileage so decision was GT/CS auto. Let me tell you the electronic shifter if properly used can give some of the manual feeling. So to me GT/CS auto gives it a Dr. Jekill and Mr. Hide personality. The suede will keep you glued to your seat!