PORTLAND, Ore. -- To test the poise and temper of Ford's redesigned pony car -- a fresh-from-the-factory 2013 Mustang GT -- we head up steep Burnside Road as it climbs the western hills rimming downtown Portland to reach Skyline Boulevard, a ten-mile-long serpentine strip of asphalt perched high above Oregon's Columbia River Valley.
Cocked low on a rear-wheel-drive platform tuned for sporty action and packing a kick-butt 5.0-liter V8 tied to a six-speed manual transmission with torque-sensing limited-slip differential plus the optional new GT Track Package adding black painted 19-inch alloy wheels and summer performance tires, our new Mustang GT tester coupe romps over the wiggly Oregon ridge route.
This newly-minted Mustang GT coupe still looks unmistakably like a Mustang with that classic stretched hood and stubby tail, muscular body bulges and way-big wheels. And Mustang signatures have been retained -- the C-scoops on flanks, tri-part lamps on the tail and a shark's pointed nose with round headlamps.
But there are styling changes to 2013 Mustangs which become apparent to the observant eye: The front grille seems more pronounced and includes a dominant prow-wrapped splitter, new headlights consist of tiny high-intensity lamps flanked by LED bars, a bulging hood resembles a weightlifter's muscle-bound chest, rocker panels below side door sills wrap the body and at the rear new LED rings become the tri-bar taillamps which blink sequentially as turn signals.
Mustang's cockpit also scores a make-over although the layout is classic to Mustang with dual seat positions marked by symmetrical instrument panels on a horizontal dashboard with square-arching brows.
Ford continues to build Mustang in V6 and GT (V8) versions, and each adds a new 4.2-inch display in the instrument cluster to show vehicle and engine functions.
Recaro bolstered front bucket seats are optional now for both V6 and GT, as is the new Track Apps gadget which displays performance figures such as 0-to-60-mph and quarter-mile times, lateral g-forces and braking distance.
Perhaps the biggest enhancement for 2013 Mustang concerns powertrains -- the power numbers increase and transmissions provide six forward gears.
Mustang V6, the price leader and volume model, stocks a larger V6 engine while Mustang GT draws from a powerful V8.
Standard is Ford's DOHC (dual overhead cam) 3.7-liter V6 with performance-enhancing Ti-VVT (twin independent variable camshaft timing) technology.
Output climbs to 305 hp at 6500 rpm with torque of 280 lb-ft at 4250 rpm.
Shifter choices are a six-speed manual transmission with HSA (hill start assist) and a six-speed automatic with SelectShift (manual shifting mode).
Mustang GT brings an upgraded DOHC 5.0-liter aluminum V8 with Ti-VVT camshaft timing controls.
It rips to the heady mark of 420 hp at 6500 rpm and pushes the torque out to 390 lb-ft at 4250 rpm.
Six-speed manual and automatic SelectShift transmissions also apply to the GT's V8.
The new GT Track Package nets the six-speed manual transmission with a 3.73:1 rear-axle ratio, Torsen limited-slip differential, an engine cooler and upgraded radiator, Performance Friction brake pads plus Brembo front brake calipers, and the summer performance tires.
Also, a limited-production 2013 Mustang Boss 302 based on the 2013 Mustang GT extracts even more juice from the GT's 5.0-liter (302-cubic-inch) V8. The Boss 302 V8 delivers 444 hp at 7400 rpm with big torque of 380 lb-ft at 4500 rpm.
For Boss 302, those Brembo four-piston aluminum front brake calipers work on huge 14-inch vented discs.
In the suspension department, Boss models are lowered by 11-mm at the front and by 1-mm at the rear compared to Mustang GT.
Front suspension components for Mustang GT include independent MacPherson struts with reverse-L lower control arms and a 34.6-mm tubular stabilizer bar.
At the rear the GT suspension is a three-link solid axle with the limited-slip differential, coil springs, Panhard rod and 44-mm stabilizer bar.
All 2013 Mustang models contain dual-stage frontal air bags for front riders plus seat-mounted side air bags. Equipment promoting active safety includes electric-power rack and pinion steering and four-wheel disc brakes tied to ABS (anti-lock brake system) and TCS (traction control system) with ESC (electronic stability control).
Model designations for Mustang divide further by trim packages -- standard or premium.
For instance, Mustang V6 standard gets the V6 engine and six-speed manual shifter, 17-inch painted alloy wheels plus cabin equipment like power windows and door locks, dual power side mirrors, cruise control, manual air conditioning, cloth fabric seat upholstery and a 4-speaker stereo kit with single-disc CD deck.
Mustang V6 premium adds six-way power for the driver's seat, leather cabin trim and a leather-and-alloy steering wheel, audio and cruise control tabs on the steering wheel, aluminum trim for dash, electrochromatic interior rearview mirror, front reading lamps, and an 8-speaker sound system.
Ford pares MSRP figures for the 2013 Mustang to $22,200 with a V6 or $30,300 for the GT. The Mustang Boss 302 lists for $42,200.