A modern Mustang. The 2021 Ford Mustang enters its seventh year on the market (expect a redesign sometime next year), but it brings some important changes. Most notably, Ford’s Co-Pilot360 tech is now standard on all models.

That means that adaptive cruise control, blind-spot monitors, and lane-keeping assist come on every Mustang — a far cry from the low-tech pony car of days past. The Mustang stands alone in this respect, as rivals like the Camaro and Challenger don’t offer automatic emergency braking on any trim.

The Mustang has also wised-up somewhat on fuel economy. The base engine is a turbo four-cylinder engine making 310 horsepower, which the EPA rates at up to 25 mpg combined. That’s good for the class, although it still pales next to increasingly common hybrid and plug-in powertrains. For a more efficient Mustang, look to the unconventional Mustang Mach-E (covered separately).

Still a bruiser. If the new tech has you worried that the Mustang has lost its way, put your mind at ease. The base engine is surprisingly punchy, and for those who want a louder soundtrack, GT trims are powered by thunderous V-8s.

The popular Mustang GT gets 460 horsepower, enough for a 0-60 sprint under four seconds. A decent six-speed manual comes standard, but the optional ten-speed automatic is snappy and improves fuel economy. The GT is good fun, but its suspension is easily unsettled.

If you can afford the premium, we’d recommend the limited-edition Mach 1 for performance and handling. The Mach 1 adds 20 horsepower, but more importantly, it gets adaptive dampers and stiffer springs. Even at around $50,000, it's a solid bang for the buck.

For the truly dedicated, few cars can match the GT500 Shelby for performance. It costs another $20,000 over the Mach 1, but it’s a stunning drive.

Ford Mustang

Performance, not practicality. The 2021 model doesn’t change a fundamental Mustang rule: don’t bring more than one friend. While the Mustang technically seats four, its rear seats don’t have enough leg or headroom for most adults, and getting past the front row is difficult.

The back seats fold down to expand trunk space, and they’re more useful that way. Coupes start with only 13.5 cubic feet of cargo space, which is decent for the class but subpar for a sedan. Convertibles offer a more extreme tradeoff — cargo space shrinks to 11.4 cu ft, but you get to listen to the engine in the open air.

Cabin space is good in the front seats, but the interior trim has room to improve. Metallic accents are pleasantly retro, but they’re spoiled by an abundance of hard plastic.

Worthwhile upgrades. The base EcoBoost trim is an affordable way into the lineup at under $30,000. But we’d recommend skipping it — the standard front seats are poor and limited to 2- or 4-way manual adjustment. Infotainment is disappointing as well, with a simple 4.2-inch LCD screen.

At the very least, we’d step up to the EcoBoost Premium, which gets power seats and an eight-inch infotainment touchscreen with smartphone compatibility. For the best Mustang experience, we’d add a V-8 powertrain. One sore spot on every model: the 3-year/36,000-mile warranty is uninspiring.

No matter which Mustang you choose, it will look the part. The latest Mustang is much larger than the ones of decades-past but no less striking. Wide flares, a long hood, and sleek lines catch the eye from every angle. The Mustang may have modernized, but it’s as stylish as ever.

Final thoughts. For a car that's been around for nearly 60 years, the Mustang has adapted remarkably well. With the latest safety tech and the desirable Mach 1 edition, the 2021 model makes a strong case for itself over pony-car rivals.

Even so, the interior trim is disappointing, and the Mustang isn’t as practical or efficient as most cars on the road. There’s still plenty to like, and for those who prefer futurism to nostalgia, the Mustang Mach-E is right across the showroom.

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