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Improvements for 2012 include more standard features and a selectable power steering system that changes steering effort and feedback from comfort to normal to sport at the driver's selection. It's a modern take on one the great cars in American road-racing lore. The standard Mustang V6 makes the basic stylistic statement and comes well equipped for about $23,000. Its four-cam 3.7-liter V6 delivers 305 horsepower, and it will accelerate faster than the majority of vehicles you'll encounter at a stop light. It also delivers 31 mpg highway with the automatic, according to the EPA, and it makes quiet, comfortable daily transportation. The V6 is offered with just about every feature available on the Mustang, so buyers don't have to move up to the higher-powered models to get the stuff many want.
Standard safety features include six airbags, all the stability and skid-management electronics and Ford's MyKey system, which allows parents to limit speed and audio volume when they hand the key to teens. The Mustang's appeal include a variety of appearance and wheel packages, allowing buyers to subtly or very obviously tailor the car's appearance to personal taste.
All V6 and GT models are available with a Premium trim-level upgrade ($4,000). This package adds leather upholstery, a six-way power driver seat, a leather-wrapped steering wheel, the 500-watt Shaker 500 audio upgrade with CD changer and satellite radio, Ford Sync entertainment and communications system, iPod adapter, wireless cell phone link, MyColor adjustable gauges, ambient lighting and an automatic day/night rearview mirror.
Standard crash-protection features include front-impact airbags, front passenger side-impact airbags and full cabin head-protection curtains, as well as Ford's SOS post-crash alert system, which unlocks the doors, turns on the four-way flashers and sounds the horn if an air bag is deployed. All Mustangs come with anti-lock brakes, stability control and Ford's MyKey feature, which allows parents to limit speed and audio volume, among other things, when teens drive the car.
Over the past two years, the Mustang chassis has been upgraded, tightened and stiffened, delivering a tauter ride, crisper response and less pitch, dive and body roll than any previous base Mustang. And the V6 comes standard with all the driving aids and skid control electronics, including anti-lock brakes, traction control and AdvanceTrac stability control. For track work, both the traction control and the stability control can be turned off (but not the ABS), and there is a Sport mode which allows higher handling limits before traction and yaw control step in to save the day.
The only potential drawback for contemporary daily driving remains the Mustang's solid rear axle, which can create a busy ride on bumpy roads because jolts to the rear axle are transmitted from side to side. An independent rear suspension would deal with bumps better by isolating road imperfections. Ford claims it sticks with the solid rear axle because it's the set-up old-time Mustang aficionados and amateur racers prefer (and there are a lot of them). Either way, the solid axle is not a huge liability, given the Mustangs combination of muscular feel and general easy living.