2005 Ford Mustang Photo
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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.

Nostalgia styling and gonzo performance are just the beginning. It’s the Mustang’s new body that deserves a lion’s share of the credit. There is a rock-solid foundation under all the wildly successful retro cues that vaults the ’Stang into the modern age. It has practically cured the Mustang’s live-axle klutziness, and has given the suspension, steering and brakes a can-do mindset. If you’re really cutesy clever, you can say the performance envelope is now delivered by FedEx instead of the Pony Express. (Did you get the clever “pony” reference? Should we explain it?)

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.

Best ever

2005 Ford Mustang GT

2005 Ford Mustang GT

Enlarge Photo
The heart of the new Mustang is actually its exoskeleton. Biologically that’s totally confusing, but nothing defines a Mustang more than the long-nose, short-deck proportions, the C-shaped side scoops, triple taillamps and rearing-horse badges. So when Ford chose to reinvent the Mustang, they stuck to the classic silhouette that subconsciously turns on everyone’s Sixties memories.

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.


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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

2005 Ford Mustang GT

2005 Ford Mustang GT

Enlarge Photo
The Mustang’s V-8 growls with a ferocious sneer, part hoary eight-cylinder burble and part present-day howl. People ask whether there’s a HEMI under the hood of a 300C — but they know at the blip of the throttle that yours is a Mustang with pony cojones.

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.

Tough stuff

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.

2005 Ford Mustang GT

2005 Ford Mustang GT

Enlarge Photo
Ford chose to stick with a live-axle setup because the racing set prefers it for truly outrageous amounts of power. "We talked to a lot of Mustang owners as we were developing this program," said Hau Thai-Tang, chief engineer. "They are a very passionate group, and a lot of them told us — very strongly — that the all-new Mustang had to have a solid rear axle." And yet, because of the ultra-stiff body shell and a rethought rear end with a three-link live axle and a Panhard rod, the Mustang’s suspension doesn’t behave much like the live axles of old. Like the new Pontiac GTO, the Mustang stays pretty much nailed to the road in those same rough corners. Our colleague and friend Csaba Csere from Car and Driver says the Mustang almost doesn’t feel like it’s a live axle anymore, which is what drivers in town and on country two-laners will agree. The ride quality is just on this side of the line between taut and stiff, with cars like the Nissan Z and MINI Cooper way on the other side.

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.


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2005 Ford Mustang GT
Base price:
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

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