When the all-new Ford Mustang was introduced as a 2005 model, I said at the time that it was a lot better car than it had to be. The Mustang's styling alone would guarantee sales success, but the overall quality of the car was beyond expectations.
Now, four model years later, I think I've been proven correct: Though the Mustang has undergone very few changes, a recent test drive in a 2008 Mustang convertible shows that it still gets the job done. The platform is solid and rattle-free, even on the roughest roads. Handling is excellent, and even the power from the aging 4.0-liter V-6 engine is more than ample, thanks in large part to the willing five-speed automatic transmission.
Sure, problems with the Mustang then still remain problems now: Rear-seat room is marginal, a few interior miscues linger (why Ford designers insisted on using a little untethered cap over the 12-volt power point is mystifying: It was missing in this car, as it is in many Mustangs more than a week old), and fuel mileage, at 16 miles per gallon city, 24 mpg highway, is nothing special.
But so much is right with this car that the minor shortcomings are easily overlooked. The cloth top operated easily and sealed tightly, and when up, managed to keep out most of the road noise. And unlike some convertibles, there's an actual trunk back there, even with the top down.
On the road, the Mustang's elderly suspension design does not absorb bumps as well as more modern cars with independent suspension, but a 150-mile drive in one night was not at all uncomfortable. The test car had optional leather-covered seats, and considering that at one time Mustang seats were less comfortable than a wooden church pew, I have no complaints.
If you want more performance, the Mustang GT has 300 horsepower, and there are other, even more powerful models. But I'm surprisingly satisfied with the V-6, and I'm unconvinced the GT is worth the extra $5,000 or so. Base price on a V-6 Mustang is $24,075, and the test car, with the leather and automatic transmission the main options, listed for $27,740.
Eventually, Ford will be faced with having to perform a major update on the Mustang, especially with the Dodge Challenger and Chevrolet Camaro waiting in the wings. I like this car a lot, and I'll be very interested to see what's next.
Sentinel Automotive Editor Steven Cole Smith can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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