Testing Ford's newest tech in the 662-hp GT500
Driving a ‘Stang daily is a pleasant experience, but it’s another revelation to drive it to its maximum potential.
Each year, Ford engineers and designers deliver new features that keep consumers and enthusiasts alike appreciative of the manufacturer’s constant efforts in improvement. Within the new Mustang’s dashboard mounted 4-inch LCD productivity screen, drivers can view extensive details on their fuel consumption and vehicle performance. Now, transforming that screen and the drive into a real-world video game is the all-new Track Apps feature.
Track Apps is an option that aims to please. Available in the base 2013 Mustang V6 and GT models and standard in the Premium Package V6 and GT models, not to mention the BOSS 302 and the Shelby GT500, Ford wants its buyers to let loose their Mustangs by measuring their performance skills and metrics with the all-new Track Apps feature. Accessible through a five-button selector on the steering wheel and with aid of multiple sensors, drivers can track real-time 0-60 and 1/4 mile acceleration times, G-forces and braking distances. Usually such an elaborate setup would require costly aftermarket equipment to properly document this kind of telemetry but Ford managed to squeeze in the same tools into their beloved Mustangs. Unfortunately, the only thing missing with this app is the road to drive it on. That’s all up to you.
At AutoGuide, we couldn’t leave our trials of the new performance applications to be conducted in any base model Mustang. We opted for the very, very powerful 2013 Shelby GT500. As one helluva beautiful car in any color with an unforgettable legacy, the Shelby GT500 houses a 5.8-liter supercharged V8 engine making 662-hp and 631 lb-ft of torque. Performance stats indicate that it hauls 0-60 in 3.7 seconds with a maximum speed of 200 mph. And just looking at it, it beckons to be used for this kind of testing.
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Our first challenge was all about the familiar need for speed, using the Acceleration Timer app to discover the fastest times from 0-30 mph, 0-60 mph, 0-100 mph, plus 1/8th and ¼ miles. Making the experience more vivid is the digital display of a simulated drag strip Christmas tree. At “GO!” time, we let out the clutch, put the throttle to the floor and got the GT500 to 60 mph in no time. And the results were in as we came to a cocky halt. While not the record-shattering times Ford claims, the overall lesson of this app is about timing, quick-shifting and controlling a whole lot of power in a short burst of asphalt. A very long and private stretch of road is fully recommended if you want the most out of this application.
The accelerometer measures the G forces the car is pulling. Showing a full 360 degrees around the car, it provides info on how many Gs you’re pulling under hard acceleration and braking, not to mention lateral movement. It will record just how far you’re pushing the car in the corners – just don’t get caught staring at it on an on-ramp.
STOP AND STARE
While playing with the acceleration-inspired apps definitely gets your adrenaline going, the Brake Performance Indicator illustrates stopping times for speeds from 60-0 mph or 100-0 mph. And of course, braking distances are also displayed.
Stopping a brute like the GT500 requires attention and consideration and our results were surprisingly varied, though perhaps that had more to do with the poor quality of the stretch of asphalt used.
THE HIGH SCORE
And last but not least, the Results app, where drivers can view all-time bests in each app category. The indicator is no more glamorous than a high score listing page of a vintage arcade game, but it does legitimize gloating.
Unfortunately, unless your friends can view the screen in person or you tweet a picture to them, there’s no other way to share the data. Ford has yet to implement a sharing technology to be able to connect with other Mustang drivers and Track Apps users.
Safety is a big issue with Track Apps. It may transform your Mustang into a real world video game, but its important to remember that this is still the real world, with traffic laws, not to mention laws of physics. And unlike a video game, you only get one life.
The warning display “Track Use Only” isn’t to be taken lightly.
Unfortunately, as much fun as testing out the capabilities of the car and the driver are, finding a venue to test at can be its own challenge.
Some owners may gloss over these applications with disinterest while true enthusiasts will hope to test them out at some point, if not often. Regardless of whether its being used for some fleeting fun or to help make you a better driver, Ford’s Track Apps is a playful addition to the constantly evolving Mustang.