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In college, questions about the future abound. I sometimes hear people asking “Where will I work?” or “Where will I live?” While I can’t necessarily help answer those questions, I can tackle the question that follows in those scenarios: “What will I drive?”
When I asked myself that question, I decided to see if I could find the best well-rounded vehicle that would suit a college-aged individual. My answer, after weighing the criteria, was the Ford Mustang V6. Mustangs aren’t generally known for being very comfortable, efficient, or versatile, so how could the Mustang be the ideal car for any college student? I’ll walk you through my test of the 2012 Ford Mustang, and my reasoning should become clearer.
Thanks to the folks at Robert’s Motors in Alton, I was able to get out for a quick jaunt in a “Race Red” V6 Premium model. The Mustang’s aesthetic remake in 2010 gave the car a slightly more aggressive look than the 2005 to 2009 models, and left the Mustang with a massive hood bulge, a more cleanly tapered rear, a slightly downward-facing grille, and one or two nice retro touches (the sequential turn signals are inexplicably captivating). The interior of our V6 Premium model was swathed in tan leather with black stitched accents, and ambient lighting (in any of 135 changeable colors) bathed the foot-wells, cup holders, door-sills, and other interior features. Our model also had heated seats as part of the Premium package, but the most basic V6 Mustang has plenty of amenities to keep drivers happy. One of the notable features on the base Mustang is the Shaker 500 audio system, which has crisp but powerful sound output, and provides plenty of ways to hook up to an iPod or other external audio source. Interior space is great in the front two seats, but the rear seating is best for people under six foot; the sloping roofline, while looking great from the outside, doesn’t help headroom for rear-seat prisoners.
The major news for the V6 Mustang came in 2011, when Ford retired a nearly 40-year-old archaic engine design and stepped into the modern V6 scene with an engine that boasts incredible efficiency, given its power output. Many Ford commercials from late 2010 touted the Mustang as being the first mass-produced car to have over 300 horsepower while still managing better than 30 miles per gallon on the highway. This new heart makes the V6 Mustang roughly as fast as the previous V8-powered GT model, but with much better fuel economy. Our tester had the optional six-speed automatic transmission, but the standard six-speed manual is much more engaging. The short throws are mated to a light, forgiving clutch, and the manual is $1,195 cheaper, too. While I was able to manage just above 31 miles per gallon driving quite conservatively, the V6 Mustang shines most brightly when hustled. The engine makes melodiously guttural music under load, and pulls at almost any speed, proving that the most basic Mustang model can now live up to its somewhat ostentatious exterior. Tenacious tires and a somehow viable live rear axle keep the Mustang on track when the roads start twisting, allowing the Mustang to shed the image of a car that goes fast but can’t turn.
In a time of compact cars that can cost over $25,000, Ford’s Mustang offers great looks, smooth drivability, high performance, and great efficiency in a relatively inexpensive package. The 2013 Mustang starts at $22,200, but it isn’t hard to find incentives and rebates on nearly identical 2012 models. Used 2011 models also bring the price to an increasingly attainable level. While $20,000 is a large amount of money, we live in an age where a Toyota Camry can cost nearly $40,000. It’s difficult to find one car that will fit everyone well, but the Mustang is a fantastic candidate. Of course, if the Mustang doesn’t fit you, head over to my website at, and I’ll be happy to help you find the car that suits your needs!