2013 Mustang GT Tech Drive: Next-Generation Navigation, AppLink, More

The 2013 Mustang GT is one of those rare cars that’s capable of producing a visceral feeling of speed and raw unadulterated power from its looks alone. From its new dual heat extractors located on its hood to its reworked front fascia, the Mustang GT simply oozes machismo. But who says geek cred and street cred can't mix? Ford has added its Next Generation Navigation system and Sync AppLink to its famous muscle car, which we recently took for a test drive through the busy city streets and serpentine mountain roads around Portland, Ore.

 Next-Gen Navigation

The 2013 Mustang's monstrous 8-inch home screen is made up of three panels. The first panel, which takes up the left half of the screen, is dedicated to Ford’s Next Generation Navigation system (NGN). The right side is divided between the system’s media and climate panels. The navigation component was almost as fast as the Mustang’s 5.0-liter engine, but not quite. Inputs registered quickly, with little to no lag. Searching for street addresses and points of interest was as easy as tapping the appropriate button on the nav screen. Searching for nearby restaurants brought up a lengthy list of establishments ranging from McDonald’s to more upscale eateries.

NGN features three navigation views, including a stationary overhead view that perpetually faces due north, an overhead view that tracks your vehicle's movements around corners and a view that follows the horizon. Changing between views, like the rest of the NGN’s operations, was snappy.

Using Ford’s voice-activated Sync system was fun as well. However, navigating through menus can be difficult when you don’t know which phrases the system understands.

Sync AppLink

Ford’s Sync AppLink system first debuted in the 2012 Fiesta, and now the Blue Oval is letting Mustang owners get in on the action. AppLink works by connecting your smartphone (Android or iOS, Windows Phone is coming), to your car’s in-dash telematics system through your handset’s Bluetooth connection. The number of AppLink-compatible apps is currently limited to six, including Pandora, Stitcher, iHeartRadio, NPR News, Slacker and OpenBeak, but Ford is actively working with developers to bring new offerings to the system soon. One example is the Scout navigation app, which we previewed at CES.

During our drive we connected our Droid X to AppLink and were able to control both our Pandora app and NPR News app from both the NGN’s touch-screen display and with our voice using Sync. Don’t try reaching for your smartphone to control the app; Ford has gone out of its way to lock your phone’s screen when AppLink is active. All you'll see is the active app and Sync’s logo.

But that doesn’t mean you can’t make calls from your phone. AppLink allows you to completely control your phone through Sync and the NGN system, so you can make voice calls, listen to voicemail and have text messages read to you — all without having to touch your phone. We really appreciated this smart approach to safety during our drive.

Track Apps

The Mustang GT has always had a bit of split personality. It’s a daily driver with the soul of a sports car. And nowhere is that more obvious than with the new Track Apps pack. For the first time, Ford has placed a 4.2-inch LCD screen smack dab between the car’s tachometer and speedometer, which is operated via a five-way direction pad on the steering wheel.

Ford’s Track Apps provide drivers with access to a built-in accelerometer that gives you a reading of the G-forces exerted on your ride when you put your pedal to the metal, apply the brakes or take a sharp corner. You also get access to a 0 to 60 mph timer, 0 to 100 mph timer and a 1/4 mile and 1/8 mile timer.

The best part? You can choose between an automatic timer that begins counting your time when you take off or a Christmas Tree timer, similar to those found on your local dragstrip. When the light counts down from yellow to green, you can smash down on the accelerator and try for your best time (on a closed track, of course).

Track Apps also includes a nifty brake distance calculator, something that should prove quite useful to track day enthusiasts. The feature works by measuring the distance it takes your car to stop from 60 to 0 mph. A secondary option allows you to measure the distance for 100 to 0 mph.

Like the rest of the Mustang’s tech features, Track Apps ran smoothly during our test drive, and navigating between menus was quick and easy. Our only nitpick is that it didn't appear to exit the Christmas Tree timer once we engaged that option with the car parked.

 The Drive

Turn the key and crank its 5.0-liter 420-HP V-8 engine and the roar that erupts from the 2013 Mustang’s dual chrome-tipped exhaust pipes is enough to make your hair stand on end. Drop the hammer and dump the clutch and the Mustang’s massive 390 lb.-ft. of torque will liquefy the tires before rocketing down the road with you firmly planted in the seatback.

Bombing down Oregon’s coastal and mountain roads, we pushed the Mustang’s improved suspension system to the limit and were impressed with the muscle car’s poise. Despite a persistent rain, and the threat of a larger storm looming on the horizon, the Mustang hugged the roads tightly. The only instance of wheel slip we detected was when we hit a patch of gravel pushed onto the roadway by the rain. But thanks to the Mustang’s traction control, we were able to bring the car back under control quickly and continue bounding across open stretches of roadway.

Road noise during our roughly two-hour drive was limited to the roar of the GT’s engine, thanks in large part to Ford’s decision to pump the sound of the engine into the vehicle’s cockpit. We also heard a bit of chatter from the Mustang’s 19-inch wheels when we crossed divots in the pavement.

Finish line

Ford’s Mustang is an American icon, and this newly teched-out model takes it to the next level. While the 2013 Mustang GT’s 420-horsepower and an estimated 26 mpg on the highway are the centerpieces of this great coupe, the addition of Ford’s NGN and the vaunted AppLink system make the vehicle an even greater force to be reckoned with. And with a price tag starting at just over $31,000 ($39,415 as tested) the Mustang GT is one car we’d like to see sitting in our driveway.

Daniel P. Howley
LAPTOP Senior Writer
A newspaper man at heart, Dan Howley wrote for Greater Media Newspapers before joining Laptopmag.com. He also served as a news editor with ALM Media’s Law Technology News, and he holds a B.A. in English from The Richard Stockton College of New Jersey.