So, I took the plunge and traded in my 2010 WRX for a new 2012 Ford Mustang GT Premium (+ Brembo and 3.73 gear limited slip packages). I ended up getting $24,700 for my trade, which is slightly more than I paid for it new. My WRX had low miles, was in pristine condition, and the earthquake in Japan jacked up demand in my area. It was a good economic opportunity to get a nice trade for something different in my driving experience.
I decided to write this comparison while both cars are fresh in my mind. I try to be as unbiased as possible, not trying to justify my purchase. I am a fan of both cars and wish I could have both (but can only afford one).
So, where do I start? Ah, getting in the car: The GT premium's interior is very nice and has a lot more stuff than my base WRX. There is clearly a difference in style with the WRX being more modern and the Mustang more classic. The Mustang's seats are softer and more comfortable, but they lack some bolstering. There is plenty of room for my 6'5" self (plus a helmet), and my kids can sit comfortably behind me (I couldn't say this about the Camaro SS I tested around the time of purchase). The Shaker stereo is a lot better than the stock WRX one. However, despite the Mustang’s more features and amenities, the Mustang’s HVAC system is completely manual and not semi-automatic like the WRX’s.
The Mustang’s steering wheel is quite large, perhaps a little too much. Once rolling, the steering feels solid. More so than the Subaru's, and of earlier Mustangs I drove. I would dare to say it reminded me of some German cars I drove Unlike my WRX with SPT exhaust, the Mustang cruises quietly, though the glorious soundtrack comes alive when throttling it. The Mustang’s clutch is pure sex; much, much better than the WRX’s. It was plug and play for me, who usually has and adjustment period with different car’s clutches. Immediately I was launching and shifting better than I did in my Subaru I owned for 2 years. The Mustang’s shifter was nice too: short throws and nice engagements, although 1st to 2nd can be scrappy sometimes. Occasionally, an annoying “skip shift” feature may rear its ugly head and shift to 4th when you want 2nd. Luckily, this disappears with tuning or you can have your dealer disable it.
The Mustang feels big, though, even bigger than the aforementioned older (90's) Mustangs. It also has some reduced visibility spots, like with the tiny rear windows and over the long/wide hood up front. I did some autocross on this car already and it was hard to see the cones. I knocked quite a few of them :/.
Which brings me to the performance side: Power-wise, there is a lot more power in low and high RPM’s, but surprisingly to me I could not tell much difference in the mid range (2K-4K) between the 412 HP Mustang and my stage 1 WRX. On an onramp stretch marked by a pylon that is (very rough estimate) about 1/6 mile long, I hit around 80 mph with both vehicles, so it’s a tie; though beyond that the Mustang will go faster. However, keep in mind that this is mod vs. stock, so I got a feeling that for the same amount of $ in mods the Mustang will be a lot faster. Also, on normal city driving, there is so much power in all gears down low that I don’t need to shift as much as in the WRX. I do most of my launches at 2nd and shift to 4th and 5th, and go uphill 35 MPH in 5th gear with power to spare where the WRX would probably be close to stalling.
Handling wise, I won’t get into the obvious RWD vs AWD differences. However, I should say that the Subaru’s lighter weight, better visibility, and smaller steering wheel make it feel more nimble around the cones/curves. Lack of seat bolstering also may hinder some performance for the Mustang during autocross. Suspensions are comparable for both cars: a compromise between soft and hard IMO. However, the Mustang’s rear axle suspension is noticeable over large bumps (and scary sometimes).
The Brembo package affords the Mustang excellent braking, though I haven’t pushed the WRX’s brakes to the point of fade so I can’t compare there. The tires that come with the Mustang’s Brembo package are excellent; better in Autocross than the WRX’s OEM ones. However, it would still be nice to upgrade them to some DOT’s for racing, but the huge Brembos really reduce the tire/wheel choices while increasing the prices
Fuel economy: I get 25 mpg on the highway with the Mustang vs. 24 with the WRX. However, on my city driving, there is a much different story: 19 for the WRX vs. 14 for the Mustang. I think Ford underestimated city mpg. Then again, my 3.73 gears and lead foot may not be helping much.
And finally, here are some other nitpicks about the Mustang:
- When you open the doors, the window rolls down a little. This leads to an ugly clunk when you close them. Nothing like a nice German-style thud upon closing the door
- Some of the interior surfaces are reflective: This leads to some interior glare problems at certain times in sunny days, and also some surfaces getting very hot in the summer.
- Ford’s Sync has issues communicating with my old iPod. Newer iPods or smartphones connect well via Bluetooth.
- Like every Ford I ever drove, turning signals are prone to disengaging at the slightest turn of the wheel.
- The glove compartment and map pockets are tiny and useless
- There is a compartment latch right where I like to rest my right elbow, so I tend to open it inadvertently. Also, it is metallic so it gets very hot in the summer.
Minor things that I can live with, and I could also nitpick about the WRX as well (stereo, hanging revs, clutch/shifter, etc), but it is not really the scope here. So there it is. Two great cars. It was great to drive the WRX, and I will miss her. I will remain a fan/admirer of Subarus. Together with the American V8, the boxer rumble is the sweetest sound on earth.