SEE ALSO: Ford Buyer's Guide
SPECIFICATIONS Manufacturer's Suggested Retail Price $ 21,465 Price As Tested $ 22,015 Engine Type OHV 12-valve 3.8 Liter V6 w/SMFI* Engine Size 232 cid/3802 cc Horsepower 190 @ 5250 RPM Torque (lb-ft) 220 @ 2750 RPM Wheelbase/Width/Length 101.3"/73.1"/183.2" Transmission Five-speed manual Curb Weight 3,243 pounds Fuel Capacity 15.7 gallons Tires (F/R) P205/65R15 92T all-season Brakes (F/R) Disc /disc Drive Train Front-engine/rear-wheel-drive Vehicle Type Four-passenger/two-door Domestic Content 85 percent Coefficient of Drag (Cd.) N/A PERFORMANCE EPA Economy, miles per gallon city/highway/average 20/29/25 0-60 MPH 7.0 seconds 1/4 (E.T.) 15.5 seconds @ 84.0 mph Top speed 120 mph * Sequential multi-port fuel injection
The Ford Mustang has soldiered on in the Ford lineup for 36 years now, and the most visible model is the tire-frying, exhaust rumbling GT pony car. The majority of new Mustangs on the road today, however, are the more mundane V6-powered base versions.
That's reasonable, though, because the brawny Mustang GT can easily get an enthusiastic driver into trouble with traffic laws. The V6 version, on the other hand, is a better choice for most since it is an enjoyable car at an affordable price and it costs much less to insure. This week we test the base Mustang.
OUTSIDE - Last year, the Mustang was restyled. Ford took its smooth body lines and made them into sharp-edged creases. New tri-bar "Christmas Tree" tail lights, canted inward at the top, were added, along with new hood and side scoops, wheel wells and headlights. Also changed were the hood and trunk, which switched from steel to plastic, and the chrome pony emblem in the grille, which is now surrounded by a "corral" of chrome. Our test rig was a convertible, and dropping the top was as easy as unlatching a pair of windshield header levers and pushing a rocker button on the center console. New this year are brightly polished, 16-inch, five-spoke alloy wheels, and performance tires.
INSIDE - The Mustang's interior was freshened last year with new upholstery stitching patterns and seat foam contours and more seat travel was added for taller drivers. The dashboard still had a sculpted look as a tribute to the vintage model, with two tall, sweeping arches that connect down low around the shifter. The front seats are comfortable enough, and there's a cockpit-like feeling inside, but the driving position is low and the tall cowl makes it hard to see over the hood for shorter drivers. The climate controls operate using simple twist knobs, but the small radio buttons can be difficult to spot quickly. The back seat is only big enough for kids which is fine for most Mustang buyers. With the top down, we felt few vibrations. Standard equipment includes air conditioning, power windows, door locks and outside mirrors, AM/FM/cassette/CD player, tilt steering and variable- speed intermittent wipers.
ON THE ROAD - The primary reason the more affordable Mustang is less to insure is what's under its hood. The base 3.8 liter V6 engine is less powerful than the 260-horse, V8-powered Mustang GT, though the current V6's 190 horsepower is 40 more than the 1998 model. The boost in power came as a result of a new dual-runner intake system and revised cylinder heads. The cast iron engine block has been stiffened to combat noise and vibration, and to further smooth it out, an internal balance shaft was added. Its 220 lb-ft of torque is available at a low 2750 rpm, which greatly improved off-line launch. Only higher rpms will remind its driver that this is not a GT model. A five-speed manual transmission is standard, while a four-speed automatic is optional. An all-speed traction control system that limits wheelspin on slippery surfaces is also optional.
BEHIND THE WHEEL - The base Mustang is built using unibody construction with very simple suspension components. The front setup uses modified MacPherson struts, while the solid rear axle is located by a four-bar-link layout. Both ends use coil springs and gas shocks, while V6 models get an anti-roll bar only in front. Improvements to its chassis include 19 percent more resistance to lengthwise bending and three percent boost in torsional stiffness. The ride is fairly well-controlled, better in most ways then the 1998 model, though large bumps send noticeable jolts through the cabin. Convertible models receive a new full-box-section support beam that helps combat cowl shake. Its rack-and-pinion steering system was revised last year and its turning circle was reduced by 37 inches. Braking duties are handled by four-wheel disc brakes with a standard anti-lock braking system (ABS).
SAFETY - Dual airbags, ABS and side-impact beams are standard; traction control is optional.
OPTIONS - Traction control, $230.