Test Drive: 2013 GT/CS California Special Ford Mustang

Optional GT/CS Package Kicks Things up a Notch

2013 GT/CS California Special Ford Mustang
The first thing that came to mind as I glanced at my Race Red GT/CS Mustang was, “Wow, what a looker.”. Photo © Jonathan P. Lamas

California dreamin' on such a winter’s day? Ford’s got just the cure in its “California Special” GT/CS Mustang, which pays homage to the limited-edition Mustang package sold by California dealers in 1968.

First Glance: She’s a Beauty

The first thing that came to mind as I glanced at my Race Red GT/CS Mustang was, “Wow, what a looker.” The car was loaded with numerous Mustang goodies including 19-inch gloss black-painted machined aluminum wheels, body-color side scoops, a pedestal decklid spoiler, heated leather trim sport seats and a stainless steel dual exhaust. The car was even equipped with a 3.73-ratio limited-slip axle.

The car’s side mirrors, with optional pony projection lights, cast the image of the Mustang's famous pony emblem on the ground when the unlock button is activated. How cool is that? 

California Special Package

The California Special Package is an appearance package option offered on Premium edition GT Mustangs, Features include:

  • Arresting black billet grille with a body-color surround
  • Tri-bar Pony badge
  • Unique lower fascia with fog lamps
  • Body-color side scoops
  • Rear pedestal decklid spoiler and unique decklid badge with “California Special” displayed on the rear gas cap badge
  • Diffuser-style rear lower fascia insert
  • 19-inch gloss black painted machined aluminum wheels with P245/45-19 A/S tires
  • Aluminum instrument panel with carbon-style finish
  • Exclusive interior Miko suede door panel inserts
  • Leather-trimmed seats with Miko suede inserts and contrast stitching
  • Premium carpeted front floor mats with an embroidered California Special logo

While no performance upgrades are offered as part of the package, there are plenty of visual enhancements for drivers looking to kick things up a notch. 

In the Driver's Seat: Feel like a Star

My California Special Mustang was loaded with several interior creature comforts. Take, for instance, the dual zone electronic automatic temperature control system. This option, which is part of the optional Electronics Package, allows for different temperature settings depending on where you’re sitting in the car. 

Another feature of the Electronics Package was the car’s navigation system, which was equipped with SiriusXM Traffic and Travel Link. The Mustang was also equipped with ambient lighting, which is a standard feature on Premium GT Mustangs. Some other noteworthy standard features include a universal garage door opener, an electrochromic auto-dimming rear-view mirror, SiriusXM satellite radio and a 4.2-inch LCD message center with MyColor and Track Apps.

The car’s optional Comfort Package included six-way adjustable power heated front seats and the heated side mirrors with pony projection lights.

In all, the cabin felt very comfortable, with plenty of visual accents, like GT/CS lettering on the dash. While the back seat area felt somewhat cramped, kids and small adults shouldn’t have a problem back there for short periods of time.

I found the driver’s side setup to be comfortable, even for extended periods of driving. The steering wheel’s integrated audio controls continue to be a great feature.

On the Road: Well Balanced with Plenty of Power

One of my favorite memories of the GT/CS was taking it out for a cruise. With 420 horsepower and 390 lb.-ft. of torque at my disposal, the Mustang’s 5.0L V8 engine did not disappoint.

In an effort to really soak up the whole “California” experience, I took the GT/CS out for a Saturday morning cruise along the beautiful Pacific Coast Highway. With the ocean to my left and the mountains to my right, the GT/CS galloped along, eager for action.

Somewhere between Point Dume and Leo Carrillo State Beach I had an opportunity to really open her up. The GT/CS accelerated quickly, with ease. Even better was the sound of that dual exhaust as I put my foot to the floor. 

On my return trip back to Los Angeles, I navigated through the narrow two-lane mountain roads that connect Malibu to the San Fernando Valley. The car held nicely to the road, handling twists and turns with ease. My only gripe relates to the car’s rear decklid spoiler. The thing, combined with the rear seat headrests in their up position, obscures the view from the rear view mirror, and can take some getting used. That said, it’s not a deal breaker and the headrests do fold down.

Journey's End: Plenty of Visual Bang for the Buck

I had a blast driving the 2013 GT/CS Mustang for a week here in Los Angeles. In a town that’s all about glitz and glam, the car felt right at home. While some folks may balk at the GT/CS due to its absence of noticeable performance upgrades like those found on the GT500 or Boss 302, I think the car is a real deal. For only $1,995, buyers can transform an already slick-looking premium GT Mustang into a pony that’s sure to attract attention.

That said, if you’re dead-set on performance enhancements, you can always opt for the optional Brembo Brake Package, as well as numerous performance upgrades offered by Ford Racing Performance Parts. 

The GT/CS Mustang, which is assembled in Flat Rock, Michigan, is available in both coupe and convertible versions; purchase entitles the owner to inclusion in the official enthusiast-run GT/CS Registry. It comes with a 3 year/36,000 mile bumper-to-bumper warranty, a 5 year/60,000 mile powertrain warranty, and 5 years/60,000 miles of roadside assistance.

In Brief

What I Liked About the 2013 GT/CS California Special Ford Mustang:

  • Great overall value for the package price
  • The car sports some amazing looks
  • The car’s pony projection lights were a great optional feature

What I Didn't Like About the 2013 GT/CS California Special Ford Mustang:

  • The rear seat headrests in their up position, combined with the rear-pedestal decklid spoiler, can make for some serious blind spots

Who Should Buy the 2013 GT/CS California Special Ford Mustang:

  • Buyers seeking a Mustang that stands out in a crowd with its exterior features

Who should not buy the 2013 GT/CS California Special Ford Mustang:

  • Buyers seeking serious performance upgrades in addition to custom exterior styling
  • Those seeking a high mileage vehicle. On average, our tester got 16 mpg, combined highway and freeway driving in Los Angeles

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