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2012 Ford Mustang, Mustang Owners Club Edition Ride and Review By Thom Cannell

PHOTO (select to view enlarged photo)

By Thom Cannell
Senior Editor
The Auto Channel
Michigan Bureau

If you’ve got $32,000 your choices among sporting vehicles is huge. How about a svelte Mazda RX-8 or a curvy Mitsubishi Eclipse Spyder GT? Maybe a muscular Camaro SS or basic Nissan 370 would fit into your carport? Then there’s the upstart Hyundai Genesis 3.8 Track version or BMW’s 128i convertible, all squeezer in above $30,000 and below $32,000. However, just one gets EPA rated above 30 mpg while delivering 305 horsepower. So, at $30,180 MSRP, our Grabber Blue Mustang might rate as somewhat of a six-speed, six-cylinder bargain.

Minted in 2011 and returning for 2012 the Mustang Club of America Mustang is solidly based on the improved, not reinvented, chassis and this version sports (pun intended) all the goodness of the hottest ‘Stang while maintaining a lower insurance profile than you’d ever get with a GT or Boss version, EPA rated 29 highway mpg, and 305 horsepower and 280 pounds-feet of torque.

MCA Editions build on Premium V-6 models with a $995 cosmetic package that sharpens your Mustang’s appearance. The face is unique with a dark stainless billet grille and tri-bar Pony badge, the tail sports a deck lid spoiler and custom tape job between the tail lamps. Sides are also striped and fog lamps are fitted. This model has 18” sterling gray painted aluminum wheels, automatic headlamps, and MCA embroidered front carpeted floor mats. It’s a great deal for the bucks, especially with the Shaker audio system. But that’s only a poseur’s starting point, true enthusiasts will demand the really good stuff, adding steely bits to improve handling, the Performance Package.

The package is extensive; there’s a strut tower brace to improve front end response in tough cornering over rough track or pavement. A larger 34.6 mm front anti-roll bar and SVT’s 24.0 mm rear anti-roll bar minimize weight transfer over bumps and in corners. Finally there’s unique front springs, and that is the beginning of increasing performance, the kind you can use on every corner every day, well every day but snow days.

The next step is the Brembo Brake package of upgraded front and rear calipers complete with their own caliper finish and higher performance pads: Mustang brakes have frequently been sited as a weak point and it’s ticked off the list. Add 255/40R19 summer-only tires (you’re going to have winter tires and wheels, of course) on 19” Dark Stainless painted aluminum wheels and a 3.31 rear axle for better launch and the job is nearly done. As a last step, Ford experts diddled the stability control calibration for more fun, the real performance is complete.

“Hey, that’s great”, you say, “but does it come together as muscles or fiction?” Good of you to ask. If you’re kind of average height you’ll fit deeply into the seat in proper Steve McQueen style, and there’s enough control over seating for anyone but height extremes. If you’ve been driving Mustangs a long time, it’s home. A Ford Flex, you’ll feel all gangsta’.

The engine starts with a snarky grumble. True, not the rumble of a V-8 but surely acceptable (and we expect you’ll be playing with the exhaust a bit, right?) and not effeminate. Snap into first gear and release the well-adjusted clutch. Notice how slick and tight it is? We’ve driven sloppier race versions. Now feel the engine, it delivers torque from bottom to top with seemingly no peaks, just as Ford claims.

Now, fifth and sixth are designed for economy and won’t get your juices all hot and bubbly, sorry, but that’s how you get 30 mpg. In fact there’s modest, at best, passing power in sixth gear. You bought this car to row unless you bought the automatic version, so pass in fourth and skip back to 6th and no more whining, OK? Oddly the car is quiet, quieter than you’d expect and perhaps a bit more restrained in engine noise than you’d want. We think some sneaky aftermarket gang will borrow the V-8’s trick and add a device to bring engine noise back into the cabin in “just right” amounts. What, you didn’t know?

We didn’t track the car so no gory details of Turn 1 at Mid-Ohio, Turn 5 at Elkhart Lake, or Laguna’s Corkscrew. Nope, it was a very nice daily driver that could embarrass just about anything on the on/off ramps. Note that for 2012 version MCA adds selectable steering effort dialed into its electronic power steering. Selecting Sport give the most connected feel while Comfort lets you lend the car to Uncle Max. Standard is where you’ll likely keep it set, and changes are made through the message center.

We used Ford’s SYNC and easily streamed phone calls and music. Voice command recognition appears to get better every year, as it should. Is selectable ambient LED light for footwells and cup holders a gimmick? You bet, and it’s way cool, too. Other 2012 upgrades include vanity visor mirrors on both sides, sun visor storage, and a universal garage door opener. Options include a new Lava Red Metallic paint color, obstacle sensing when in reverse, and HID (High Intensity Discharge) headlamps.

Not that we thought everything is perfect, ‘cause we did not. Frankly, if you’re 5’7”-5’9” you’ll likely nock your knees on the steering column as often as we, and that is just plain unacceptable. We also had zero joy when putting anything larger than a gym bag into the trunk. It’s opening is both small and narrow, and combined with its high lift-over it’s a pain. Admittedly, capacity is decent enough for a vacation. Let’s just put it this way, you wouldn’t want to get the spare out in a rainstorm!

Likely our few negative remarks won’t discourage you, only make you think. Got a walker or wheel chair in the family, or require large packages frequently? Maybe not perfect. However, if you want the kind of performance you could only dream of just ten years ago, 300 horsepower and 30 miles per gallon, priced affordably with realistic insurance premiums, what’s not to like? Not to mention that it is, after all, a genuine Mustang.