Anyone looking for a nostalgic, but contemporary American ride at a reasonable price
Comparable models in this class:
Acura RSX, Chevrolet Monte Carlo, Dodge Stratus, Mini Cooper, Mitsubishi Eclipse, Toyota Celica, VW GTI Coupe, VW Beetle
More power, new style and great value
Mustang Sally blared through stereo speakers as J Mays squealed a new Mustang GT through the gates of Greystone Mansion, stopping inches in front of auto writers gathered for their first drive of the all-new 2005 Mustang.
The Mustang is a legend, an icon, Mays said. It has long since ceased to be an automobile it is a sense of national pride. Mays is Fords group vice president of design. He said redesigning the Mustang was the opportunity of a lifetime.
New-car introductions are often preceded with fairly lengthy presentations about the cars design and engineering features. Mays was unusually brief in his remarks.
You dont need to hear from a bunch of corporate airbags, he said. The car speaks for itself.
And speak it does, especially the 300-horsepower V-8. The intoxicating rumble from its dual exhausts could have been the soundtrack from the movie Bullitt. The sound is the perfect invitation to jab the gas and to run up and down through the gears at every light like a teenager who has his dads car on Saturday night.
The all-aluminum V-8 has an electronic throttle, three valves per cylinder and variable camshaft timing. It puts out 40 more horsepower than the 2004, and 50 percent more than the comparably sized 289-cubic-inch V-8 used in the 1966 Mustang. Transmission choices include a five-speed manual or a five-speed automatic.
The new Mustang is a free spirit, full of energy and ready to gallop. And I suspect it will gallop out of showrooms. The base price for the 210-horsepower V-6 is $19,410 including delivery, and the 300-horsepower GT starts at $24,995. Three hundred horsepower for $25,000 is quite a bargain. Look for new models to be in showrooms late in October. A convertible is probable by next summer.
Ford expects early sales to be split about 50/50 between the V-6 and V-8. In the past, the V-8 accounted for only about 35 percent of sales.
The fastback exterior is refreshingly modern, yet it carries strong cues from the 1967-1970 models. The dash borrows some lines from the 1966. The sum, however, appears to be far greater than its parts. This is not retro styling like the Thunderbird or PT Cruiser. This is a modern interpretation of a classic theme, and it works very well. The hood is long and the trunk short. The fastback roofline blends into the trunk very neatly. The taillights recall those from the 1966.
Ford designers paid close attention to many details. They even specified tires with relatively tall sidewalls to preserve the proportions of earlier models.
Our afternoon of driving consisted of a combination of Los Angeles traffic and a brief section of the Angeles Crest Highway that rises from the Los Angeles basin into the San Gabriel Mountains.
Congested traffic is not the best place for a 300-horsepower V-8 and manual transmission, but the Mustang was more than tolerable. Depressing the clutch is not like working out at the gym, and the shift linkage is positive and direct.
The new car rides on an all-new body structure for the first time since 1979, and it is 31 percent stiffer. The wheelbase is 6 inches longer, which means there is more room inside.
Loosening the reins on the Angeles Crest Highway, however, let the new cars chassis shine. The front suspension is all new. The solid rear axle now has a three-link design for more accurate handling. The Mustang felt solidly glued to the bumpy pavement. The back axle was calm and controlled. The solid axle may not soak up bumps quite as suavely as an independent rear suspension, but it sacrifices little in the way of ride and handling.
Four-wheel disc brakes are standard on both the V-6 and V-8 models, and they are the largest and strongest ever fitted to a Mustang. Anti-lock and traction control will be standard on the GT and optional on the V-6.
Because the wheelbase is longer, the interior is larger, although this is still basically a two seater whose back seat is best left to kids.
The instrument panel is modern, yet its design shows a heritage to the first Mustangs. The gauge markings resemble those from the 1960s. The owner can choose from 125 different colors for the instruments through a dash control. Brushed aluminum panels span the dash. Gauges and air vents have chrome trim rings. The steering wheel has three spokes with fingertip controls for the cruise control.
Based on brief impressions from one afternoon in California, the redesigned Mustang is poised to be a roaring success. Anytime a company couples 300-horsepower with sharp handling, excellent brakes and a sticker price thats well below $30,000, it has a winner on their hands.
Well see if first impressions are lasting ones once we get to drive a regular production model for a week.