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Loving Life Behind the Wheel of a 2019 Mustang GT California Special

HOT ROD logo HOT ROD 9/6/2019 Michael Johnson

a red car parked in a parking lot: image00011.jpg
We love our Fox, SN95, and New Edge Mustangs. We're accustomed to using a key to start our cars, and for some, a key to even get into the car. We've learned an SN95 or New Edge makes for a nicer daily driver than a Fox, but for most of us, the Fox is what brought us to the dance, so that is our first love. It was 225 horsepower that set the hook, and we've been in the boat since that very first taste. However, with each generation, our favorite car keeps getting better. Therefore, when we spend extended time behind the wheel of the latest Mustang, getting back into ours is a heavy dose of reality.

We recently had the chance to spend quality time at the wheel of a 2019 Mustang GT California Specialin California. First of all, to differentiate a standard Mustang GT and a California Special, Ford gave the GT/CS specific wheels, a unique grille and quarter scoops, along with unique exterior and interior callouts denoting the car's GT/CS status. These additions make for a Mustang that definitely stands out, especially when said car wears Race Red paint. The GT/CS Gloss black wheels against the red really pops. The GT/CS has all the bases covered from an exterior standpoint.

From the mechanical side of things, everything is standard Mustang GT, but that's a good thing. The same 460 horsepower Coyote is under the hood of a California Special, but that's perfectly okay to us. The GT/CS we experienced featured a six-speed manual, but the GT/CS is available with the 10R80 ten-speed automatic, as well. Both are great transmissions, but this author prefers to do his own shifting, so the six-speed was very welcome, even on California's crowded thoroughfares.

a red car parked on the side of a road: 001_california_special© Hot Rod Network Staff 001_california_special

The 2019 GT/CS presented a few features we never knew we could live without. We're also trying to figure out how to retrofit them to our Terminator-swapped 1994 Cobra. The heated and cooled seats, the gear counter on the dash, the glorious rev-matching, the active exhaust, the various drive modes, and the electronic dash changes that follow. Our Cobra has none of these. We have to look at the shifter to see what gear we're in, and rev-matching is controlled by our right foot. The exhaust is what it is, it has one drive mode, and our dash cluster, even though it's from a Terminator, is one color, and that's all it will ever be.

Furthermore, our Cobra has skinnies up front, so therefore the California Special has our car covered in spades when it comes to handling. Turn-in is above average compared to many cars we've driven, and we put it to use on Mulholland Drive, Sunset Boulevard, and 154 headed north out of LA. In a nutshell, the California Special went where we pointed it with very little drama. The only drama was from us wondering if the GT/CS was going to be able to make the turn, but the car just did what we asked of it. It didn't push, it didn't step out, it didn't argue with us at all, especially during trips to various SoCal eateries, but that's a story for another day.

We were very happy to be at the wheel of this California Special instead of our Cobra on California's twisty and mountainous roads. Our Cobra wouldn't have been near as fun as the GT/CS. The S550 chassis gobbles up the road imperfections like it was born to do it. The active exhaust and chassis modes lets you decide how your ride is going to be, whether you want to be seen and heard, or just heard. However, at the wheel of a 2019 Mustang GT California Special wearing Race Red paint, there's little you can do to blend in, and that's fine with us. A car like this deserves the attention.


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