I recently spent a day out at Monticello Motor Club with Leo Parente, the host of Shakedown on DRIVE, to sample the 2014 Hertz Penske Mustang GT on the track. Also on hand for the fun were Jalopnik's Travis Okulski and our friend and R&T contributor, Roger Garbow. You know Hertz's history with special-edition Mustangs: it started in 1966 with the Shelby GT350H, the original rent-a-racer. After a 40-year hiatus, Shelby returned to the rental fleet with the 2006 GT-H, first as a coupe, then as a convertible. As we run out the clock on the S197 Mustang, Hertz looked to Roger Penske for the latest addition to the rental fleet.
The Hertz Penske GT is a 2014 Mustang GT, loaded up with all the good stuff (Brembos, the Recaros, etc), around $4,500 in Ford Racing Performance Parts (the Handling Pack, CAI tune, supplemental gauges, and GT500 mufflers to name a few). They're all black, dressed up with Penske Racing fender badges, a screaming yello offset hood/roof stripe, and the de rigeur door stripe. There are only 150, and it's the last special-edition Mustang of this generation.
Because the Penske GT is a rental car, and Americans no longer drive manuals, they're all automatics. Or at least that's what Hertz says. What they don't tell you is that cars #1–10 are all manuals, and they'll never enter the rental fleet. They're for VIPs like Roger Penske himself and Hertz execs. That's not rumormongering, either. One of the manual cars was on hand. You can see it here:
So, how's the package? In a word, great. Power, no surprise, is abundant, the Brembos are really good, and the FRPP handling Pack transforms the car. It's dropped an inch and extremely flingable. I feared the automatic would ruin the car, but I was wrong. Frankly, the slushbox was a lot better around Monticello than I would have expected. Dropping into the S mode and leaving it there meant that the car did a better job staying in the gear you wanted. "Manual" shifting with the 2013-and-later automatic is possible, but it sucks, because you use a Buick Enclave-style rocker on the side of the shifter. Paddles for the next gen, okay Ford?
Of course, the secret-handshake car with the manual is better still, because the manual is always better in a Mustang GT.
Hertz also had a regular 2012 Mustang GT automatic on hand, pulled from the local rental fleet. The model year is notable because the 2012 automatics don't have the S mode or the cheesy manumatic feature. Hence, when circling the racetrack in regular drive, the car does a fantastic job of choosing the wrong gear at every opportunity. Compared to the tuned car with the newer transmission, it felt sloppy around the track and its non-Brembos did a reasonable impression of what a toaster looks like when you leave your bagel in too long. I couldn't get out of that car fast enough that car—a sentiment I thought impossible for a late-model 5.0 Mustang.
The Penske, however, is legit. Big fun, even with the auto. So much so, that I made Zach Bowman rent one yesterday in Texas. He'll have a full review and tales of his weekend adventures soon.
My two cents can hold you over until then. Okulski's impressions are , and you can watch all of us gab with Leo in the Shakedown episode posted below.