2005 Ford Mustang GT Review


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DRIVING DOWN THE ROAD
CAREY RUSS

2005 Ford Mustang GT

SEE ALSO: New Car Buyer's Guide for Ford

What has made the Mustang so popular over the past 40 years? Bang for the buck. No other car made offers so much performance, image, and aura for anywhere near the price of a Mustang. It's the quintessential American performance car from the 1960s, updated only enough to keep the makers of government emissions and safety legislation happy. The classic formula works - a relatively small car with a powerful engine, preferably a V8, in front, driving the rear wheels. No, it's not sophisticated, but high-tech sophistication is not the point of a Mustang. There are plenty of high-powered, high-revving, front-wheel drive, four-cylinder cars. The Mustang does not compete with them. At the moment, it doesn't compete with anything. It's a Mustang. Period.

It may be hard to believe, but, although it was strengthened and modified over the course of its life, the previous-generation Mustang's chassis structure dated back to the Ford Fairmont of the late 1970s. And after a quarter-century, it was more than a little out of date. So Ford did the right thing, and came up with an entirely new chassis structure for the 2005 models. It's much more rigid, for improved handling and less noise, and has a longer wheelbase for both increased stability and greater interior room. The base-model V6 now is a 4.0-liter single overhead cam unit with 210 horsepower and 240 lb-ft of torque, not much below the output of the V8 model not long ago. The GT gets the newest version of the 4.6-liter V8, now with a lightweight aluminum block and other modifications for less weight and more power - as in 300 horsepower and 320 lb-ft of torque.

The new Mustang is more evolutionary than revolutionary, but that's in its favor. Exotic materials and technologies are notable by their absence. Yes, the V8's engine block is now aluminum, but that is hardly unusual today. Ditto for the overhead cams. You won't exotic metal or composite bodywork. And the rear suspension is still a solid axle, although Ford has done all the right things to tame it, right off the showroom floor. If the specs aren't exotic, neither is the price.

But in performance, the new Mustang GT can show its classic triple-taillight rear panel to plenty of allegedly more modern vehicles. Ever since the glory days of the old 5.0-liter, the GT has all about performance the classic American way - a big V8 in front driving the rear wheels. This one not only goes, it stops and handles remarkably well, too. After a long wait, I've been driving a 2005 Mustang GT coupe for the past week. I'm impressed. It's the best Mustang ever, by far. Ford, after nearly canceling its pony car some years ago only to get a mountain of protest mail from Mustang fans, knows what it has. The newest Mustang has the looks, it has the sound and power, and it's as comfortable and civilized as a Mustang could be. The legend grows.

APPEARANCE: Yes, it's another J Mays retro-modern design, but what could be more fitting? And, yes, it's self-conscious, but that's also OK. A Mustang is not an introvert car. All of the important styling cues from all of the important Mustangs have been blended into this car. It's probable cause for exhibition of speed just sitting parked. The shape and proportions are just right, angular and muscular with no extra fat. The front owes much to the late 1960s versions, with dual headlights, two outside and two inside of the grille. The hood and fenders are clean, with no faux scoops, merely a central character line in the hood and a strong shoulder line on the sides to add definition. A line carved into the lower sides hints at the non-functional scoop behind the doors that was a long-time Mustang feature. The fender flares are the right size to suggest power, but not oversized to caricature. The rear quarter windows are a perfect touch, paying homage to the Shelby GT350. At the rear are, naturally, triple vertical taillights. A variety of wheels are available, but the most appropriate are the five-spoke ones that are copies of the classic late-Sixties American Racing Equipment mags.

COMFORT: Like the outside, the new Mustang's interior takes its cues from all of its forebears. With the six-inch increase in wheelbase, it's the roomiest and most comfortable Mustang yet, and there is even reasonable rear seat room. The instrument panel has aluminum trim in the modern idiom, but the sharp twin-cowl brow over it is a very Sixties touch. So is the type font on the instruments. The tricolor-and-galloping-pony emblem in the steering wheel hub is classic. But the seats are far better than the thin, bolsterless buckets of yore, and provide the support and comfort needed to tame the beast under the hood. If you're looking for a shaker hood, you'll be disappointed, but there is a ``Shaker 500'' sound system, with AM, FM, a 6-CD changer, and MP3 capability. (Still, the stereo outlets under the rear bumper are the best....) Access to the 2+2 rear seat is as tricky as is usual for a two-door coupe, but there is enough room back there for medium-sized adults. And the seatback folds 50/50 for cargo carrying ability if necessary. A recommended option is the ``Interior Upgrade Package,'' which adds seat-cushion inserts that match the car's paint, among other goodies.

SAFETY: If it goes, it better stop, and the Mustang GT stops very well courtesy of four-wheel antilock vented discs with twin-piston front and single-piston rear calipers. Ford's ``Personal Safety System''(tm) includes dual-stage front airbags, with sensors determining front passenger weight and consequent levels of deployment. The chassis structure is much stronger than that of earlier versions, and includes a safety cage around the passenger compartment.

RIDE AND HANDLING: It took some aftermarket modification to tame the rear axle in earlier Mustangs. Those modifications have already been done to the new Mustang at the factory. It's still a live axle, with coil springs, but three-link location, with a Panhard rod for lateral stiffness tames it considerably. Front suspension is by MacPherson struts. Springs and shocks may seem soft, but that helps adhesion on imperfect surfaces, and if the tires seem narrow and high-profile at 235/55 VR17, they work just fine. The ride is civilized without being too civilized, and, for a large car by today's standards, the Mustang is remarkably light on its feet. Mustang owners, being Mustang owners, will undoubtedly want to make changes, but none are really needed. Technologically, the 2005 Mustang's suspension specifications may be at a flint axe level, but it's a good, sharp flint axe that can carve an apex very precisely. The unibody chassis structure is state-of-the-art, strong and rigid to provide a solid mount for the suspension.

PERFORMANCE: All you need to know: 300 horsepower at 5750 rpm, 320 lb-ft of torque at 4500 rpm. All made with a fine, classic American V8 rumble. Life in the Mustang GT sounds like the soundtrack to the chase scene in ``Bullitt.'' Like most modern engines, the 4.6-liter aluminum-block single overhead cam V8 builds more power as it revs. It's strong enough on the bottom, but if you short-shift it, you won't notice how strong it really is. Run it up to the power peak, though, and there will be no doubt at all. The standard five-speed manual gearbox has short throws and smooth action, to enhance performance. Sixty mph comes up in just over five seconds. The optional automatic is now a five-speed, which should lessen its impact on the Mustang's accelerative abilities.

CONCLUSIONS: The 2005 Mustang is the best yet, by far, and one of the best performance values on four wheels.

SPECIFICATIONS
2005 Ford Mustang GT

Base Price			$ 25,705
Price As Tested		        $ 27,630
Engine Type			aluminum alloy single overhead cam
				 24-valve V8
Engine Size			4.6 liters / 281 cu. in.
Horsepower			300 @ 5750 rpm 
Torque (lb-ft)			320 @ 4500 rpm 
Transmission			5-speed manual
Wheelbase / Length		107.1 in. / 188.0 in.
Curb Weight			3483 lbs.
Pounds Per Horsepower    	11.6
Fuel Capacity			16.0 gal.
Fuel Requirement		87 octane unleaded regular gasoline
Tires				P235/55 ZR17 Pirelli P-Zero Nero
Brakes, front/rear		twin-piston calipers, vented disc /
				 single-piston calipers, vented disc
				antilock standard
Suspension, front/rear		independent MacPherson strut /
				  solid axle with coil springs,
				  3-link location and Panhard rod
Drivetrain			front engine, rear-wheel drive

PERFORMANCE
EPA Fuel Economy - miles per gallon
    city / highway / observed		17 / 25 / 16
0 to 60 mph				5.2  sec

OPTIONS AND CHARGES
Active anti-theft system			$ 255
Interior color accent package			$ 175
Interior upgrade package			$ 450
Wheel locking kit				$  50
Front seat side airbags				$ 370
Destination and delivery			$ 625

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