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.
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.
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”.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.