Ford by Jim Gorzelany (9/17/2004)
Ford's Web site: http://www.fordvehicles.com
Ford haters listen up: Now is the best chance in thirty years to become a Mustang fan. Because, in a year of captivating new vehicles from America and abroad — the 300C, the Corvette, and the new Benz SLK make it a golden year for enthusiasts — it’s the Mustang that consistently blows the minds of everyone in a ten-block radius.
Ford has done all this and priced it less than $25,000. That’s an astonishing transformation worthy of its own reality show, missing only a good cry with Dr. Phil. You’ll forgive us if we skip that step.
The fastback shape is immediately recognizable as a Mustang, though there are plenty of concessions to the different generations of ’Stangs and to modern-day carbuilding. The shark nose tilts forward, studded with round headlamps that throw off pulsars compared to the feeble flickers of the past. The roofline rises and falls more dramatically, to yield better headroom up front, but it’s still tapered with elegance. The rear end draws the theme to a neat conclusion, with three taillamp exclamation points. Elements of Seventies ’Stangs are there, and the side-skirt bulge of the Eighties “5.0” Mustangs has swelled into place on the new car.
It could be sleeker yet, but the hefty B-pillar that buttresses the roof pops up like a 4x4 column that the contractors left in place while installing the windows. Mazda’s RX-8 has the same problem — and in both cases, you don’t get the outstanding body stiffness without it.
Still, better than any Mustang since the early 1970s, this one punches all the right styling buttons. And inside, it’s even more of a home run. Twin binnacles and retro-styled gauges return the dash to the same skyline of the Sixties. The three-spoke steering wheel slimly reminds you that chunky small-diameter wheels are indeed a passing fad. Our tester, with its ribbed aluminum trim panels and red leather interior, successfully walked the sportscar-or-bordello line without falling into utter disrepute. That is, after all, the engine’s job.
Lust for power
We’ll deal with the V-6 car some slow week when we need a little spare car-review cash. The GT car is enough to fill our pleasure centers for years. Mated to a stubby five-speed shifter closer to that on a Miata than prior Mustangs, the GT’s V-8 booms with 300 horsepower and 320 pound-feet of torque, available when you like it with just the light, direct shift down through the gears, and noticeably, lots of gear noise. Ford says the new engine makes 40 horsepower than before thanks to three-valve heads that help it breathe better, even while running on regular unleaded, and electronic throttle control and a variable camshaft that have been introduced with the upgraded engine.
The monthly magazines have clocked the GT at something like 5.1 or 5.2 seconds to 60 miles per hour, something you’ll gun for each time you twist the key. Well, so long as you opt for the manual gearbox; a five-speed automatic can be had if you’ve totally given over your life to traffic.
In the age of computerization, new cars have become routinely stiffer and more resistant to bending, in engineering terms. The new Mustang improves on the outgoing car by a hundredfold in terms of body strength, and that makes every working system attached to the unibody work more effectively and more predictable.
The steering’s a great example. In old ’Stangs it seemed to have a mind of its own, especially over roughly paved roads, while the rear live axle was struggling to stay planted on the ground too. The new car’s steering is an utter delight — dial it in, use the throttle to modulate around tight corners, and let it unwind in a natural progression.
To go along with the massive improvements in handling, Ford shod the pony with bigger disc brakes on all four corners, and outfits the GT with standard anti-lock control as well. Imagine a pedal that’s communicative and strong, and then add on the fact that it’s a Mustang. And along with ABS, Ford has baked in a complete list of safety gear; the GT gets traction control that can be deactivated with a dash-mounted button. Ford's Personal Safety System of dual front with passenger weight-sensing technology is standard; side airbags are available.
Standard features on the $24,995 GT include one-touch up/down power windows, power mirrors, keyless entry and power locks, a heated rear window, and interval wipers. As long as you’re spending on options, pony up to the aluminum trim panels and the optional 1000-watt Shaker Audiophile system that is easily among the best I’ve ever experienced.
And get ready for a blast, even before you tap the sound system to life. The Mustang is back — and it’s better than ever.
2005 Ford Mustang GT
Base price: $24,995
Engine: 4.6-liter V-8, 300 hp/320 lb-ft
Transmission: Six-speed manual or five-speed automatic, rear-wheel drive
Length x width x height: 188.0 x 73.9 x 55.4 inches
Wheelbase: 107.1 inches
Curb weight: 3483 lb
Fuel economy (EPA city/hwy): 18/26 mpg
Safety equipment: Dual front airbags, anti-lock brakes
Major standard equipment: AM/FM/CD player; power locks/windows/mirrors; intermittent wipers; air conditioning; rear defroster; tilt steering; cruise control
Warranty: Three years/36,000 miles