The Mustang GT’s V8 Is the Most Under-Appreciated Engine Out Right Now

© DW Burnett / PUPPYKNUCKLES   The Mustang GT's Engine Is Under-Appreciated

By Brian Silvestro, Road & Track

When the current Mustang was introduced, one of the biggest upgrades was the more powerful V8 engine. Eager to rev and fantastic to listen to, it was only overshadowed by the introduction of an independent rear suspension. But when the Shelby GT350 arrived, its exotic 5.2-liter, flat-plane crank V8 with an 8250-RPM redline forced the more mundane GT and its engine into the background.

Even after a 2018 refresh granted the car 25 more horsepower, the GT350 still gets the bulk of powertrain praise. Thing is, we should really be paying more attention to the GT's 5.0.

Here are three reasons why.

The Sound

Before I get into how Ford’s 5.0-liter Coyote performs, I have to talk about the sound. It makes all the noises you expect from a great V8-everything from the subtle rumble at idle to the trumpety roar as it sails past 7000 rpm. It also has a character all its own-the higher redline means you get a top-end pitch not found in anything with pushrods. It reminds me of something European, like a more patriotic E39 M5.

There's also an $895 active exhaust option, which is a lot more useful than you might think in the real world. A quiet start mode allows you to start it without waking up the entire neighborhood, while the track setting lets you hear as much of the sound as possible when you want; at full throttle, there’s a lot of it. Personally, I liked the ability to quickly switch to quiet mode if I saw a police car up ahead. No, I wasn't driving flat out in New York City. I don’t drive that fast, but I do worry about getting a noise citation-the NYPD is pretty strict about that stuff.

If you’re just cruising along, the sound isn’t disruptive or droney, either. It’s still there, of course, just tucked nicely in the background waiting patiently for you to drop your foot to the floor. The moment you decide you’d like to do so, the engine responds with a wonderful growl that carries all the way to redline. It’s truly addictive-I found myself flooring it between stop lights for no good reason more than a few times.

© DW Burnett / PUPPYKNUCKLES   The Mustang GT's Engine Is Under-Appreciated

The Powerband

Ford seems to have struck a perfect middle ground with this engine’s power delivery. It doesn’t lack torque on the low end, and doesn’t die off as you approach the top of the rev range. No matter the RPM, twist is readily available at a moment’s notice, eager to pull you out of a tight traffic situation or send you down the road as quickly as humanly possible.

Torque-wise, it’s miles ahead of my M5’s V10, and feels nearly on-par in terms of power. And unlike my car’s engine, this one will probably last a lot longer before it blows up. The numbers Ford's 5.0 puts up (460 HP and 420 lb.-ft. of torque) are still impressive, even by today’s 1000 horsepower-plus hypercar standards. For just over $35,000, the GT remains one of the best value propositions on the market.

The Livability

Thanks to a ton of new tech (plasma-coated cylinder linings, direct and port fuel-injection, variable valve timing, etc.), the Mustang GT’s new engine is perfectly usable in most situations, whether it be commuting or hot laps on track. There’s even something called a Charge Motion control valve that makes the engine hyper efficient at low RPMs without sacrificing performance. If you can keep your foot out of the throttle on your commute, it’s not unreasonable to see gas mileage in the mid-20s-pretty damn good for a 5.0-liter motor with no turbos.

© DW Burnett / PUPPYKNUCKLES   The Mustang GT's Engine Is Under-Appreciated
Within the last decade, muscle cars have transformed from traditional, big-engined cars with questionable handling to full-blown sports cars that can hold their own against the best of what Europe has to offer. The Mustang's suspension geometry is well-tuned, the brakes are strong, and the six-speed is a joy to flick into gear. Steering is quick and easy to manage at low speeds despite the car's long nose.

The only real complaint I have with the drivetrain is the inclusion of what feels like an anti-stall device. This feature seems to automatically rev the engine if it thinks you’re going to stall while setting off, which made me look like I couldn’t drive stick (I can, I swear!). In most situations, it’s not noticeable, but in heavy traffic it wouldn’t stop blipping unnecessarily as I creeped forward.

Thanks to all of the modern tech Ford’s injected into this car, you can get the best of both worlds without having to deal with single-digit gas mileage and dodgy handling. The engine is at the center of all of this, letter the driver enjoy the sound and response of what a naturally aspirated V8 has to offer without impeding the rest of the modern driving experience.

Powertrains like this won't be around forever, in fact, they're already on the way out. Enjoy them while you can. I know I will.

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