Checking the option box for the 2016 Ford Mustang GT California Special costs you about $2,000 on top of the Mustang GT Premium Coupe or Convertible, the base trim level you get it with. And like back in 1968 has has a lot of little things that add up for a unique look.
Starting with the stripes, you get them down on the lower rockers front to back and on the hood. They’re well done I think but don’t actually say GT/CS in them like they used to. The fake gas cap emblem at the back does say it though, and the rear deck spoiler is finished in gloss black which gives a BOSS 302 kind of vibe.
Up front is a bigger splitter down low, the same as you would have found on the 50th Anniversary Edition. And anchoring the look is an offset Tri-bar Pony emblem set on a unique black grille that has some pretty nice detail in it if you look close.
You get unique 19-inch aluminum wheels, black of course. And the blacked out trims continue with things like the side mirrors and those cool sequential tail lamps out back. Also black are the new for 2016 turn signal hood vents which are a throwback to the 1967 and 68 Mustangs.
There is little in the cabin you will find gimmicky though. The interior is one of the best of be found in a Mustang in terms of materials quality, fit and finish. It still has that dual cowl design the original made famous, only with a modern spin or two.
The instrument cluster still has the same two dial design as the old but has a modern day tech screen in the middle with all manner of customizable displays. The steering wheel too is quite well done with a lot of controls that somehow remain easy to use and navigate.
The California Special package does bring some unique things to the table, namely special black leather seats with GT/CS embossed logos, red accent stitching and some very nice Miko suede inserts. They really hold ya tight.
This theme continues to special door panel inserts and carpeted mats. And as you’d expect, there’s a special dash plaque. Mustang people love their dash plaques.
Optioned here was the 12-speaker Shaker Audio system which has a nice fat sound, augmented by a huge sub-woofer in the trunk. Sound quality is an 8 on the 10 scale I think, and with the new SYNC3 infotainment system I gotta score technologies here at 5 stars for the first time ever in a Ford.
The remainder of the interior beyond the front seats is cramped and small with little storage space. The back seat is for your insurance rates, not really for people. The trunk is reasonably large for a sports coupe though part of it does get lost with the Shaker sub-woofer.
The one thing I frowned about was the lack of a spare tire. The fix-a-flat and air pump won’t help you when you run over a sharp thing and cut a tire open. If you do long road trips, I suggest optioning a spare tire. All in, this interior rates out at 4 of 5 stars.
While engine and suspension remain largely the same, popping the hood of the GT/CS will reveal a strut tower brace that says California Special. It frames the 5.0 liter V8 pretty nicely, which has a pretty handsome mug.
Under that engine cover is 435 horsepower and 400 pound feet of torque. And while you can get it with a six-speed automatic, our tester here had the manual which made me so very happy.
Thirsty yes. The EPA rates it at 15 mpg city, 25 mpg highway and 19 mpg combined. I was happy that indeed 19 mpg combined is exactly what I achieved in my time with the Mustang. And had I not been romping on it like a bull in a China shop, I would have gotten better.
The engine’s sound and its rip snorting character to me are well worth the price at the pump. And it’s still refined enough to drive around from light to light, the clutch and shifting action much improved over the last generation. So, the powertrain gets 5 of 5 stars.
It’s worth noting the GT/CS does come with the stock GT suspension and brakes which are on the softer side. If you want more in the handling department you’d have to go with the Performance Package instead. Still it’s a nice balance of handling and fun which I score at 5 of 5 stars.
I have been a Ford enthusiast much of my automotive life but even I have to admit their quality, fit and finish are not always all that. And here, it manages to be better than average, particularly in the rattles and squeaks. There were still some body panel alignment issues here and there they obviously consider normal, that I don’t. Quality feel scores in at 4 of 5 stars.
When it comes to safety, the IIHS has not yet tested the 2016 Mustang in their full battery of tests to be eligible for a Top Safety Pick rating or not. It has been tested for the moderate overlap crash test in which it earned a Good rating as well as with the head restraint and seat performance.
At $42,275 it is a spendy proposition but as equipped we feel it offers a substantial value given the few competitors at that price point, therefore we give it 5 of 5 stars for value. All in that gives the 2016 Ford Mustang GT/CS a test drive score at 4.5 of 5 stars.