After four decades on the market, Ford's sportiest model — the last traditional rear-wheel-drive "pony car" — entered a new generation for 2005.
Styling cues are borrowed from Mustangs of the 1960s, and Ford calls the new Mustang "more modern, more livable and safer," and says it's managed that without losing its "street swagger." The automaker said the Mustang's "menacing sharklike nose imparts an attitude not seen since the 1967 model."
Two engines are available: a 210 horsepower V-6 and a 300-hp V-8 for the Mustang GT. "The new Mustang is pure American muscle," said J Mays, Ford's vice president of design. A convertible is also offered.
A new Pony Package for 2006 gives V-6 models a GT-inspired suspension with larger wheels and tires, antilock brakes, traction control and a custom grille with fog lamps. The GT is available with four different wheel and tire combinations, including two new 18-inch setups complemented by unique suspension tuning.
In its modern form, the Mustang's wheels are pushed to the corners, but the car's signature long hood and short deck remain. Coupes feature a classic fastback profile.
Styling touches from the past include C-scoops in the sides, tri-bar taillamps and a "galloping horse" badge within the forward-leaning grille. Jeweled round headlights sit in trapezoidal housings. A full-length accent line culminates in a "C-scoop" shape just behind the door, which incorporates a small triangular window. Aluminum-spoked wheels hold 17-inch tires on the GT, but V-6 Mustangs get 16-inch rubber.
Mustangs seat four occupants on front and rear bucket seats. An available color-configurable instrument panel can display more than 125 background colors. Chrome-ringed air vents align with large barrel-style gauges. The three-spoke steering wheel has a black hub with the Mustang horse and tri-color logo.
Standard equipment includes keyless entry, interval wipers, a heated rear window, and power windows, locks and mirrors. A CD player is standard, but the GT Premium flaunts its Shaker 500 audio system. Trunk space is 13.1 cubic feet in the coupe.
Under the Hood
Ford's 4.0-liter V-6 produces 210 hp. A 4.6-liter all-aluminum V-8 in the GT pumps out 300 hp and 320 pounds-feet of torque. Both engines run on regular gasoline and work with either a five-speed-manual transmission or an optional five-speed automatic.
Side-impact airbags are optional. Antilock brakes are standard on the GT and optional on V-6 models.
The latest Mustang is more refined than its predecessor. Steering has a satisfying, confident feel that's especially appealing on twisty roads.
Suspension differences between the two models aren't dramatic, but the GT is considerably more sure-footed. Its ride is no rougher, and the overall experience is more civilized. The GT's steering response is more agreeable, too — well-behaved through curves, with little correction needed on straightaways.
Acceleration with the V-6 isn't so enthusiastic at startup, though it's better for passing and merging. Performance is vigorous with the V-8. Exhaust noise from the V-8 can be intrusive, but only when accelerating hard.
Manual-shift GTs almost seem like a different vehicle, with a unique and omnipresent exhaust sound. The gearshift position is good, but its action is a tad balky.