The current-generation Mustang came out for the 2005 model year, and Ford is keeping it fresh in 2008 with new paint colors, additional safety and convenience features and yet another two versions that trade on the name of legendary racer and car developer Carroll Shelby: the Shelby GT convertible and, in the spring, the Shelby GT500KR.
The Mustang comes in coupe and convertible forms, with V-6 and V-8 engines in the base and GT trim levels, respectively. The two versions are further divided into Deluxe and Premium variants. Unfortunately, reliability has been below average in the GT version and downright poor in the Mustang V6.
(Skip to details on the: Shelby GT500KR)
Styling cues are borrowed from Mustangs of the 1960s, characterized by a forward-leaning grille under an overhanging hood and by a fastback profile in the coupe version. Styling touches from the past include C-scoops in the sides, tri-bar taillamps and a "galloping horse" badge within the grille. Round headlights sit in trapezoidal housings. Aluminum-spoked wheels hold 17-inch tires on the GT, but V6 Mustangs get 16-inch rubber. For 2008, the V6 coupe gets an 18-inch wheel option, previously offered only on the GT. All told, the GT is available with four wheel and tire combinations.
Three new paint colors are offered for 2008.
Technically a "2+2," the Mustang has two front seats and two rear buckets that might qualify as seats but are not for most adult passengers.
The dashboard features chrome-ringed air vents and large barrel-style gauges. The three-spoke steering wheel has a black hub with the Mustang horse and tri-color logo. An available color-configurable instrument panel can display more than 125 background colors. For 2008, Ford adds an optional ambient-lighting option that gives drivers a choice of lighting color for the footwells and cupholder accent lights. In this case, the color choices are limited to seven, selectable by means of a dashboard switch.
Standard equipment includes keyless entry, interval wipers, cruise control, a heated rear window, and power windows, locks and mirrors. A CD player is standard, but the Premium trim levels include a Shaker 500 audio system with 500 peak watts. Optional on the GT is the 1000-watt Shaker 1000 stereo. Trunk space is 13.1 cubic feet, though the Shaker subwoofer, when equipped, takes up some of that space.
Xenon high-intensity-discharge headlights are a new option for 2008.
Under the Hood
Ford's 4.0-liter V-6 produces 210 horsepower. 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.
The two new Shelby Mustangs are the Mustang Shelby GT and Shelby GT500KR. The more modest Shelby GT, in coupe or convertible, has exclusive blue paint and gets a power bump to 319 hp. It rides slightly lower and has firmer suspension tuning. The Shelby GT500KR puts out around 540 hp.
In Insurance Institute for Highway Safety crash tests, the Mustang scored Good (the highest) for side-impact protection and Acceptable (one step lower) for frontal protection.
Previously optional on the Mustang V6, side-impact airbags are standard across the line as of 2008. Four-wheel disc brakes are standard. Antilock brakes with traction control are standard on the GT but remain optional on V6 models. Side curtain airbags are not available.
The latest Mustang is more refined than its predecessor — and not just incrementally so, as you might expect from a new generation. The 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. Technically, the solid rear axle is inferior to an independent design, but out on the road it's truly impressive and exhibits far less hop than expected when turning on broken pavement.
Acceleration with the V-6 isn't so enthusiastic at startup, though it's better for passing and merging. Where the manual V6 is surprisingly satisfying, the automatic version's drama comes more from the noise than the acceleration itself. Performance is vigorous with the V-8. Its exhaust noise can be intrusive, but only when accelerating hard, and some buyers are sure to welcome the intrusion.
The manual-shift GT almost seems like a different vehicle, with a unique and omnipresent exhaust sound. The gearshift position is good, but its action is a tad balky.
Forty years ago, Ford fielded a special-edition King of the Road Mustang. Commemorating that model is the Shelby GT500KR, which builds off the strength of the earlier Shelby GT500 with 40 more horsepower from the supercharged 5.4-liter V-8 for a total of roughly 540 hp. Ford Racing upgrades also include a sport suspension, short-throw shifter and a fast rear-axle ratio. A composite hood decreases weight. Look for this one in spring of 2008.
Differences between the regular Mustang and the earlier GT500 variants were subtle, and the KR follows, but with additional KR badging and stripes. The traditional pony logo on the grille is replaced with an offset cobra design, and the headlight enclosures angle in more sharply than those on the regular edition. The hood is fitted with two openings designed to vent heat from the engine bay.
The independent front suspension uses a MacPherson strut design, while there's a solid axle fitted in back. Ford goes out of its way to defend the use of a solid rear axle in the GT500 versions especially by recounting the successes of the Ford Racing Mustang FR500C, which uses the same design. Still, some enthusiasts are likely to bemoan the lack of an independent rear suspension in a car that starts at more than $40,000. The wheels measure 18 inches in diameter and were designed by Shelby himself, according to Ford. Back to top
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