2012 Ford Mustang Review and Prices

Last Updated: Nov 30, 2010

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2012 Ford Mustang Buying Advice

The 2012 Ford Mustang is the best sporty car for you if you want the finest all-around version yet of a true American classic.

The 2012 Ford Mustang adds a historically named performance model but otherwise is largely a carryover after a host of mechanical improvements for model-year 2011. Joining the 2012 Mustang lineup of coupes and convertibles is the limited-production 2012 Ford Mustang Boss 302. Offered in coupe form only, the 2012 Boss 302 resurrects a hallowed model designation and backs it up with exclusive appearance touches, added V-8 power, and assorted performance tweaks. The 2012 Ford Mustang continues in heated competition with America’s other two retro-flavored “pony cars,” the 2012 Chevrolet Camaro and 2012 Dodge Challenger.

Should you buy the 2012 Ford Mustang or wait for the 2013 Ford Mustang? Buy the 2012 Mustang. The original pony isn’t likely to see major changes for model-year 2013 -- except perhaps for added muscle in the top-line Shelby GT500 version. And if you’re in the market for one of the limited-edition 2012 Mustang Boss 302s, you’ll want to act before they’re gone. No matter which version you fancy, buying a 2012 Mustang means you’ll enjoy an added year of this car in its current form. No revisions of consequence are anticipated before a full redesign for model-year 2014.

2012 Ford Mustang Changes back to top

Styling: Cosmetically the 2012 Ford Mustang stands pat. It returns as a fastback coupe or convertible with a power fabric top. Both essentially channel the 1969-1970 Mustangs in a modern and more aggressive manner. Styling highlights again include a wide grille, round headlamps, trademark body-side scoop indentations, and three-lens taillamps with sequential-flashing turn signals.

Both 2012 Mustang body styles seat four in an interior that honors the original with rectangular dashboard forms and retro-flavored round instrumentation and air vents. Otherwise, the 2012 Mustang dashboard continues plagued by a lifeless assortment of buttons and switches for the radio, climate control, and other functions. The 2012 Mustang instrument panel looks especially dull in base form, requiring the aluminum-panel-look that’s part of the extra-cost Premium trim to come alive. Specifying the optional navigation system adds an LCD video display to the center stack of controls.

The 2012 Mustang’s driver and front passenger are treated to bucket seats that support in turns but are wide enough to accommodate an expansive middle-aged frame. Plenty of seat travel suits taller motorists, too. The 2012 Mustang’s back seat is another story: even with a shorter driver at the helm, a dearth of legroom leaves it suited only for small children. And with the front buckets in their rearmost positions, Mustang’s rear seat is more padded cargo shelf than passenger perch.

The main 2012 Ford Mustang lineup continues with the V-6 coupe and convertible and the V-8-powered GT coupe and convertible; all these are available in base-level trim or in upgraded Premium guise. The high-performance 2012 Shelby GT500 is available in coupe and convertible form in essentially one level of trim but with performance and audio options.

Mustang GTs are visually identified by their second set of round lamps in the grille and by “5.0” fender badges, denoting the liter displacement of their V-8 engine. The 2012 Shelby GT500 models are distinguished by a specific front-end treatment with more prominent air openings, unique wheels, and assorted minor styling tweaks, including available racing stripes along the top and sides of the body. Genuine aluminum trim and a round white gearshift knob are among the upgraded interior touches for the Shelby GT500.

The 2012 Ford Mustang Boss 302 is named for the original Boss 302 produced for model-years 1969 and 1970 as the street version of the Mustang that competed in the Trans Am racing series. The original Boss 302 is one of the most coveted of all Mustang variants. While most of the serious revisions to the 2012 Boss 302 are mechanical in nature, the new Boss does sport a unique front fascia and grille that Ford says improves aerodynamics. Buyers can choose a hood that’s painted in white or black, corresponding with the car’s body-side stripes. Inside, the ’12 Boss 302 features dark metallic trim, a black pool-cue shifter ball, and suede-like upholstery.

Mechanical: Revised engines and transmissions that came on board for model year 2011 helped keep the Mustang competitive with its archrivals, the Chevrolet Camaro and Dodge Challenger. The basic elements haven’t changed for the 2012 Ford Mustang.

An all-aluminum 24-valve 3.7-liter V-6 powers the base 2012 Mustang coupe and convertible. This V-6 utilizes modern engine technology, such as cold-air induction and twin independent variable camshaft timing to produce an impressive 305 horsepower and 280 pound-feet of torque. (Torque supplies the sensation of being pressed into the seat upon acceleration and helps insure off-the-line starts.) Not long ago, this V-6’s level of horsepower and torque would have been impressive coming from a gasolholic V-8. But output like this is now the price of admission among six-cylinder pony cars. The 3.6-liter V-6 in the 2012 Dodge Challenger, for example, has 305 horsepower and 268 pound-feet of torque, while the 3.6-liter V-6 in the 2012 Chevrolet Camaro generates 323 and 278, respectively.

The 2012 Ford Mustang GT coupe and convertible have a twin-cam, 32-valve 5.0-liter V-8 that produces 412 horsepower and 390 pound-feet of torque. That’s competitive with the 2012 Camaro SS V-8’s 426 horsepower and 420 pound-feet of torque with manual transmission and 400 and 410, respectively, with automatic. Lagging a bit behind is the 2012 Challenger R/T’s Hemi V-8, at under 390 horsepower and less than 400 pound-feet.

Transmission choices for the 2012 Mustang V-6’s engine and the GT’s V-8 are a smooth-shifting six-speed manual or a six-speed automatic. The automatic does not feature a separate floor gate or steering-wheel paddles to facilitate manual-type gear control. It does include a "hill mode" designed to automatically determine optimal gear ratios on ascents and descents; the mode also locks out sixth gear, holds lower gears for longer periods on uphill climbs, and contributes engine braking downhill.

The 2012 Ford Mustang Shelby GT500 coupe and convertible feature a supercharged 5.4-liter dual-overhead-cam V-8 with 550 horsepower and 510 pound-feet of torque; a six-speed manual is their only transmission. Shelby 500s also have performance-enhancing steering, suspension, and brake upgrades. They need all this go-fast hardware to compete with their hot-pony rivals. The 2012 Camaro ZL1 coupe has a supercharged 6.2-liter V-8 with 550 horsepower and 550 pound-feet of torque. The 2012 Dodge Challenger SRT8 392 model has a 6.4-liter Hemi V-8 with 470 horsepower and 470 pound-feet of torque.

The new 2012 Ford Mustang Boss 302 raises the performance level of the Mustang GT upon which it’s based. For the Boss, the 5.0-liter V-8 is modified with a new air intake and specific camshafts to produce 440 horsepower and 380 pound-feet of torque. A quad exhaust system is also included. A six-speed short-throw manual is the Boss’s only transmission and it comes with an upgraded, race-inspired clutch.

The 2012 Mustang Boss 302 also features enhanced suspension, steering, and braking systems to maximize performance on the street or track. Its traction- and stability-control systems can be disabled to allow tire-smoking launches and rear-wheel “drifting” in curves or set in an intermediate mode for faster cornering before the systems intervene. The Boss includes Ford’s TracKey system that allows drivers to switch from stock engine settings to full-race calibration, with a two-stage launch control that allows them to set the tachometer needle at a desired launch rpm for quicker off-the-line acceleration. Ford also offers a handful of race-modified 2012 Boss 302 Laguna Seca models, named for the California track where racer Parnelli Jones won the 1970 Trans-Am class season opener in a full-competition Boss 302.

Like its Camaro and Charger competitors, Mustang hues to a traditional rear-wheel-drive format. Rear-drive spreads the weight of the powertrain over the length of the car to enhance handling balance and frees the front tires to concentrate on steering. By contrast, sporty front-wheel drive coupes, such as the 2012 Scion tC, group the mass of the powertrain over the front wheels and demand that the front tires both propel and steer -- not the ideal formula for a high-powered performance car.

Unlike Camaro and Challenger, which employ a modern independent rear suspension, the 2012 Mustang stays loyal to an old-school solid rear axle. Ford says this saves weight and keeps Mustang affordable and true to its muscle-car heritage. It says most owners don’t care, as long as the car fulfills their driving expectations, and to be fair, 2012 Mustangs ride and handle very well, given their attainable, sporty-car mission.

Road manners are aided by Ford’s astutely calibrated electric power steering system. Like other electric-steering systems, this one eliminates the performance- and fuel-economy-reducing drag of a belt-driven hydraulic steering pump. But unlike most others, it’s also tuned to automatically compensate for the drifting and vibratory effects of crosswinds, crowned roads, even out-of-balance wheels.

For model-year 2012, Mustang’s electric steering system gains three selectable modes that allow drivers to tailor effort and response to their tastes and driving conditions. Sport mode requires the highest level of steering effort and delivers the most feedback through the steering wheel. Comfort mode requires the least amount of steering effort and is best suited for extended highway driving. Standard mode strikes a balance between the two. All three settings are tuned to afford a bit less assist on the Shelby GT500 model.

The 2012 Ford Mustang uses 17-, 18-, and 19-inch wheels and tires as standard or optional equipment, depending on the model. All 2012 Mustangs come with antilock four-wheel-disc brakes for enhanced stopping control, with a limited-slip differential to even out power delivery during fast take-offs, and with Ford’s AdvanceTrak antiskid stability-control system to reduce chances of sideways slides.  

Features: New features for the 2012 Mustang include a universal garage door opener as standard on all models; illuminated dual vanity mirrors also are added. Audible rear-parking assist is newly available on V-6 and GT models, and the 2012 Shelby GT500 is newly available with optional Recaro-brand front sport seats that provide additional lateral support in turns.

The Shelby GT500 also adds Ford’s new AppLink feature to the Sync hands-free infotainment operating system. AppLink integrates Sync voice-command control with selected apps stored on the owner’s smartphone; these include Pandora Internet radio to create custom music playlists.

All 2012 Ford Mustang coupes and convertibles have front side airbags designed to protect the torso and head; coupes add head-protecting curtain side airbags. Standard on every ’12 Mustang is air conditioning, cruise control, power windows and locks, and a CD audio system with auxiliary input jack. Mustangs have Ford’s Easy Fuel system that does away with the separate gas cap. Likewise included is Ford’s MyKey system that can help parents set practical limits on their teenage drivers by limiting vehicle and audio system volume and help encourage seatbelt usage by muting the radio if they’re not fastened.

Premium versions of the 2012 Ford Mustang V-6 and GT models include assorted upgrades, such as leather-upholstered power front seats, rear spoiler, lower exterior tape stripe, Bluetooth hands-free mobile-phone connectivity, and a 500-watt audio system with a USB iPod interface. They also bring Ford’s Sync system that affords voice-command control of the audio, climate, and available navigation systems, and other assorted functions.

Choosing a Premium version is the only way to obtain such options as the navigation system, heated front seats, a panoramic smoked-glass roof, rear backup camera, and a 1,000-watt Shaker audio system.

Mustang buyers seeking added factory performance can look to model-specific upgrade packages. For model-year 2012, the V-6 Performance Package for the six-cylinder coupe and convertible is renamed the Mayhem Mustang Package. It bundles an acceleration-enhancing 3.31:1 axle ratio (versus the standard 2.73:1), the GT’s firmer suspension, a more aggressive calibration for the stability-control system, beefed-up brakes, and 19-inch wheels with performance-tread tires.

The Mustang GT Brembo brake package has 14-inch Brembo-brand rotors and four-piston calipers up front and 11.8" rotors and two-piston calipers at the rear; 19-inch high-performance tires and the more aggressive stability-control calibration also are included. An optional SVT Performance Package for Shelby GT 500s improves driving dynamics via lighter wheels, higher axle ratio, stiffer springs, 19-inch high-performance tires, and specific styling cues.

2012 Ford Mustang Prices back to top

Base-price range for the 2012 Ford Mustang is $23,105-$41,105 for V-6, GT, and Boss 302 models and $49,605-$54,605 for the 2012 Shelby GT500. (Base prices in this review include the manufacturer’s destination fee; Ford’s fee for the 2012 Mustang is $795.)

Base price of the 2012 Ford Mustang V-6 is $23,105 for the coupe and $28,105 for the convertible. The 2012 Mustang GT starts at $30,105 for the coupe and $35,105 for the convertible.

Add $1,195 to a V-6 or GT model for the six-speed automatic transmission. Tack on $4,000 for the higher-content Premium trim level that adds the aluminum-look dashboard trim, the Sync system, an upgraded power driver’s seat, leather upholstery with a leather-wrapped steering wheel, and a 500-watt Shaker audio unit with Sirius satellite radio.

The 2012 Ford Mustang Boss 302, which includes myriad performance upgrades over the standard GT coupe, carries a base price of $41,105. Demand from Mustang collectors, however, may drive up the purchase price -- and Ford dealers of course are free to charge with the market will bear.

Among key options for the 2012 Mustang V-6 and GT models: Premium versions are available with the navigation system as a $2,340 option and the glass roof panel at an extra $1,995. The Mayhem Mustang Package for V-6 models (suspension, steering braking and wheel/tire upgrades) costs $1,495. The GT’s Brembo brake package is priced at $1,695.

Base price for the 2013 Ford Mustang Shelby GT500 is $49,605 for the coupe and $54,605 for the convertible. The GT500 SVT Performance Package is priced at $3,995.

2012 Ford Mustang Fuel Economy back to top

EPA fuel-economy estimates for the 2012 Ford Mustang are unchanged from model-year 2011.

The 2012 Mustang V-6 coupe and convertible with the six-speed manual transmission rate 19/29 mpg city/highway and 22 combined city/highway. The V-6 coupe rates 19/31/23 mpg with the six-speed automatic. The slightly heavier automatic-transmission convertible rates a tick lower, at 19/30/23 mpg. These figures are impressive considering the 3.7-liter V-6’s V-8-like horsepower.

The V-8 powered 2012 Mustang GT coupe and convertible are rated 17/26 mpg city/highway, 20 mpg combined with the manual transmission and 18/25/20 with the automatic.

Fuel-economy ratings for the 2012 Mustang Boss 302 were unavailable in time for this review but we estimate roughly 16/25/19 mpg. The 2012 Ford Mustang Shelby GT500 rates 15/23/17 mpg.

Note that Ford recommends premium-octane fuel for the Mustang GT and Boss 302 and requires it for the Shelby GT500.

2012 Ford Mustang Release Date back to top

The 2012 Ford Mustang should arrive in dealerships in September 2011.

What's next for the 2012 Ford Mustang back to top

The Ford Mustang won’t undergo its next makeover until model-year 2014 at the earliest. Don’t expect big changes in the meantime, save more appearance and performance packages and perhaps additional special editions like the Boss 302. In response to the new-for-2012 Chevy Camaro ZL1, a higher-performance engine is rumored for the 2013 Shelby GT500 that could generate as much as 620 horsepower.

It’s not certain what the next-generation Mustang would look like but you can be reasonably certain Ford won’t alter what’s been a winning formula for most of the Mustang’s lengthy run. In other words, “if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it.”
Ford learned a valuable lesson in the 1990s when it nearly turned the venerable Mustang into a more passive front-wheel-drive coupe. Mustang fans were livid over the prospect of their proud pony turning into what eventually became the Ford Probe. The automaker relented and continued making Mustangs in old-school fashion, with heritage styling, rear-drive, and ample horsepower.

Fuel economy will be even more critical when the Mustang comes up for renewal at mid-decade. Stricter federal regulations require that automakers boost corporate fuel economy averages about 40 percent by model-year 2016. This will likely demand additional tweaks to the next-generation of V-6 and V-8 engines, with improvements such as stop/start technology that shuts down the engine when the car isn’t moving and variable displacement that selectively idles cylinders in low-demand situations.

It’s unlikely the next-generation Mustang would violate its mission as an affordable muscle car by adding, say, Ford’s high-tech but costly turbocharged and direct-injected EcoBoost four- or six-cylinder engines. Still, a turbo Mustang is not without precedent. An SVO (Special Vehicle Operations) version of the Mustang that had a brief run in the mid-1990’s was powered by a fuel-injected and turbocharged 2.3-liter four-cylinder that generated as much as 205 horsepower and 245 pound-feet of torque. Ford’s current 2.0-liter EcoBoost four-cylinder produces around 240 horsepower and could likely be tweaked to 250.

2012 Ford Mustang Competition back to top

Chevrolet Camaro: Reintroduced for 2010 as a modern rendition of Chevy’s own classic pony car, Camaro goes toe-to-toe with the 2012 Mustang thanks to new convertible versions that joined the coupes in spring, 2011. For 2012, Chevy goes after the Shelby GT500, adding the ZL1 coupe with a 550-horse supercharged 6.2-liter V-8. The 2012 Camaro otherwise comes with a choice of a 323-horsepower V-6 or a V-8 of up to 426 horsepower. Each engine is available with a slick-shifting six-speed manual or six-speed automatic transmission with manual-shift steering-wheel paddles. Fuel economy ratings are 18/30/22 mpg with the V-6, 16/24/19 with the V-8, and lower yet with the supercharged V-8 (final fuel economy ratings were not available in time for this review). Base-price range for the 2012 Camaro is around $24,000-$32,000, with the ZL1 priced near $50,000.

Dodge Challenger: Essentially a coupe version of the previous-generation Dodge Charger full-size sedan, Challenger is the largest of these retro-flavored pony cars. That makes it less nimble around the corners, but unlike the Mustang or Camaro it has a genuinely useful back seat and a sedan-like 16-cubic-foot trunk. The 2012 Challenger features a 305-horsepower 3.6-liter “Pentastar” V-6 as its base engine. R/T versions pack a quicker 5.7-liter Hemi V-8 of over 375 horsepower and the top SRT8 has a 6.4-liter Hemi with 470 horses. Fuel economy is rated 18/27/21 mpg with the V-6 and 16/25/19 for the R/T. The SRT8 rates 15/24/18. Base prices are around $26,000 for the V-6 SE model, $31,000 for the R/T. and $44,000 for the SRT8. Challenger isn’t expected to change notably until at least model-year 2014, though its future beyond that is uncertain.

Hyundai Genesis Coupe: An affordable rear-drive sporty car from an unlikely source, the Genesis Coupe is only partially related to the more sedate South Korean sedan of the same name. Unlike the Mustang, Camaro, and Challenger, the Genesis Coupe comes wrapped in thoroughly modern styling and offers completely different engines. Base versions come powered by a turbocharged 2.0-liter four-cylinder mated to a six-speed manual transmission. A 300-plus-horsepower V-6 is also available and provides a welcome measure of thrust, though the Genesis Coupe has nothing to counter the domestic pony cars’ lusty V-8s. The car’s handling is first-rate, though, with Track versions adding a stiffer suspension for the benefit of weekend racers, but at the expense of a too-rough ride around town. Fuel economy should again range from 21/30/24 with the turbo four and 17/27/20 with the V-6. Base prices range from around $23,500-$32,000.