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NEW CAR REVIEW

Ford Probe GT

By: John Heilig


Probe GT Photo

SEE ALSO: Ford Buyer's Guide


SPECIFICATIONS

The Ford Probe has received a pretty bad rap over the years. One of the reasons for this, of course, is because the Probe isn't a Mustang. But when the Probe was originally conceived, it was to be a Mustang replacement. And it was a lot better car at that time than the Mustang was. Since then, of course, the Mustang has undergone a rebirth that has brought it back, somewhat, to what it was originally.

The other problem with the Probe is that it is front-wheel-drive. Performance cars are supposed to be rear-wheel-drive. Just ask any "expert. " -That's not the case necessarily.

Probe, however, has withstood all the criticism. I thought it was a decent car when it came out in 1989 and the present version is a little better. So what's to complain about. My only reservations about the new Probe are with the styling. I felt that the original design had an "American" feel; the present car appears to be more "Japanese." Now you probably know the Probe is the result of a joint venture between Mazda and Ford, so these feelings of mixed identity make sense.

Styling of the Probe is very dramatic. Anyone who likes the Diamond-Star duo of Eagle Talon and Mitsubishi Eclipse would also like the Probe. The slick fastback styling in a two-door coupe is about as sleek as you can get in a car and still offer practicality.

Let's get to the practicality, just for kicks. The Probe has a hatch rear that has a decent trunk under normal circumstances. But if you fold down the rear seat and remove the parcel shelf in the back, the Probe becomes a mini station wagon. There is enough room in the back there for all my daughter's clothes at one time (I would have guessed they wouldn't have fit in a van.). She also uses her Mark I Probe to carry animals for the humane society, including two big dogs in cages, sometimes a couple of cat carriers and and litter boxes. So while the Probe is justly marketed as a sports coupe, it can also serve as a hauler, although that's definitely not what it was designed for.

Performance of the GT is excellent with the 2.5-liter 24-valve V-6. The engine drives the front wheels through a five-speed manual transmission. Acceleration is good enough to chirp the tires in first gear, not a mean feat for a front-wheel-drive car. While the top speed is good, and road speed is good, the speedometer is marked to 140 mph and we never came close to half that number. But top speed is not the main criteria in a car like the Probe. What you want is good acceleration, good braking, and good handling. The Probe GT offers all of these.

On the highway it will keep up with anyone else. On the winding back roads it will also hold its own with any other car except for the serious GTs that cost two and three times as much. This is the kind of "sporty" car that's fun.

When it's set up in its normal position, the rear seat is adequate for two passengers in a pinch. There is a little more headroom than you'd expect. But if you're putting two adults back there, it'll be a tight fit. As with most sporty cars, the rear seat is best saved for young children.

While I liked the Probe's styling, I have always had a dislike for pop-up headlights. They are a necessity for good air penetration, but when they're raised they spoil the lines of a car so much I'm almost tempted to drive in the dark.

While the Probe has had a tough life it has endured because it's a good sports coupe with nice styling. The GT is a good performing car and is a lot of fun. It's the kind of car you have to drive to appreciate. But it would be nice to have a real cupholder somewhere in the car. It would also be nice to have a real glove box, which was eliminated for the passenger air bag.