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New Car Review


by Matt/Bob Hagin


SEE ALSO: Ford Buyer's Guide


Manufacturer's Suggested Retail Price              $ 23,970
Price As Tested                                    $ 26,700
Engine Type                             4.6 Liter V8 w/SFI*
Engine Size                                 281 cid/4609 cc
Horsepower                                   225 @ 4750 RPM
Torque (lb-ft)                               290 @ 3500 RPM
Wheelbase/Width/Length                  101.3"/71.8"/181.5"
Transmission                           Four-speed automatic
Curb Weight                                     3234 pounds
Fuel Capacity                                  15.7 gallons
Tires  (F/R)                                     P225/55R16
Brakes (F/R)                                      Disc/disc
Drive Train                   Front-engine/rear-wheel-drive
Vehicle Type                        Four-passenger/two-door
Domestic Content                                 80 percent
Coefficient of Drag (Cd.)                              0.36


EPA Economy, miles per gallon
   city/highway/average                            17/24/21
0-60 MPH                                        7.5 seconds
1/4 Mile (E.T.)                       16.5 seconds @ 90 mph
Top speed                                           135 mph
   * Sequential fuel injection

(This week the father/son team of Bob and Matt Hagin try the latest version of an old favorite, the Ford Mustang convertible. Dad remembers the problems son Terry had with his early version, but Matt only remembers that his big brother would sometimes give him top-down rides.)

MATT - Dad, driving around in this new Mustang convertible sure brings back memories. When Terry took me for rides in his '64 with the top down, I really felt like I was one of the big boys. It was great fun, and I guess that's what a Mustang rag-top is still all about. It isn't very practical in that the minuscule back seat if strictly for kids and the fuel mileage isn't all that great, but when it takes off and that V8 engine gives that mellow rap, I'm a teen-ager again - at least for a while.

BOB - I'm enamored by that V8 too, even though it's one of Ford's new single-cam "modular" engines and not the venerable 302 cubic-inch pushrod unit that dated back to your brother's first-year 'Stang. I read in the press packet that came with the car that Ford engineers went to great lengths to give the new V8 engine that same "pony car" V8 exhaust note - and it worked. And it even shows that same old-time Mustang propensity to hang the tail out when you stab the throttle in turns or when the pavement surface is rough. With those modified MacPherson struts up front and a solid axle in back, it's almost vintage Mustang despite its modern wedge-shaped body.

MATT - There's really three different Mustang convertible models available, Dad. The standard one uses a 3.8 liter V6 that puts out a somewhat anemic 150 horsepower and its a popular choice with buyers who want the panache of a Mustang without the extra cost. Next up the line is the GT like the one we had, then there's the Cobra version with the same 4.6 liter V8 as the GT but pumped-up with twin overhead cams, four valves per cylinder and over 300 horsepower. The first two can be had with an automatic transmission as well as a five-speed manual but the Cobra only comes with the stick shift. All Mustangs come with polished aluminum wheels but the sizes vary. Unfortunately, Ford kept that emergency-only skinny spare that's popular with the auto makers these days, but I guess it saves some space in the already small trunk.

BOB - The '98 Mustang is almost identical to last year's offering, except that the engine in our '98 tester has been boosted by 10 horses through a re-engineering of the exhaust system. The extra power really goes a long way in making the car feel quicker than before. Besides, the extra cost of the Cobra version puts it out of reach for many of us "regular" buyers. All the cars come with power "everything," and the top is well-enough sealed so that the a/c really works in hot weather. One of the bug-a-boos of owning a convertible is that they're easy to break into and steal, but the Ford coded ignition key system makes it tough for a bad guy to override the ignition system.

MATT - The top is really easy to operate, too. Disconnect a couple of latches and the top folds in the middle and slips back into the space behind the rear seat. It restricts the space in the trunk but a Mustang convertible isn't bought with the ideal of using it to haul fertilizer for the garden or lumber for a new fence. It's strictly a fun car that can be used for daily transportation.

BOB - Ironically, the front-drive Ford Probe V6 sports coupe that was supposed to be the replacement for the Mustang when it came out in '89 is being phased out next year, while the 32 year-old traditional front-engine, solid rear axle Mustang soldiers on towards the next century. Some things never change and in this case, it's for the better. I hope Ford keeps making the Mustang convertible as it is for a long time to come. It's as much fun to drive today as it was to drive that old-timer that your brother had.

MATT - I wouldn't know about that, Dad. Terry never let me drive it and I didn't get a chance to get behind the wheel of a vintage Mustang until I got married. Suzanne's father has a really well-maintained '66.

BOB - Some marriages are made in heaven, Matt.