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Ford Mustang GT (2002)

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Ford Mustang GT (2002)

SEE ALSO: Ford Buyer's Guide

by John Heilig


MODEL: Ford Mustang GT Bullitt Edition
ENGINE: 4.6-liter V8
HORSEPOWER/TORQUE: 260 hp @ 5,250 rpm/302 lb-ft @ 4,000 rpm
TRANSMISSION: Five-speed manual
WHEELBASE: 101.3 in.
LENGTH x WIDTH x HEIGHT: 183.2 x 73.1 x 53.1 in.
STICKER PRICE: $24,190 (base)

We took the Mustang GT Bullitt Edition (Bullitt for the Steve McQueen movie where he takes a Mustang and bashes it around the streets of San Francisco) to our company's remote location. The ride up there was 30 or so miles on the turnpike, not an exciting ride in any car but less so in a performance machine that's more at home on winding roads.

It was also a bad venue for the Mustang GT because of excessive road and engine noise. When I'm on an Interstate I prefer quiet riding, with as little outside interference as possible. In defense of the Mustang, though, this is a noisy road surface anyway, and it takes a super-quiet sedan to keep that noise outside the passenger compartment.

On the way back, though, we have a nice stretch of highway, maybe five to ten miles, where the road surface is excellent and it isn't straight for more than 100 yards at a time (sort of like my golf game). It's also a low-traveled road, so we can have some fun exercising a good machine.

Well, I have to admit, even five miles on a great road in a responsive car on a beautiful fall day is worth it. I would have preferred a stretch of a hundred miles or so (I remember Route 100 in Vermont was once that kind of road), but I'll take what I can.

Not that I exceeded the speed limit, although I'm certain I did. It was more a feeling of being in complete control of a responsive machine that made the ride perfect. I felt that I could handle any curve (there aren't any nasty hairpins on this stretch of road) easily, and that if there was a need to go at a higher rate of speed (say if I was taking a woman in labor to the hospital), I could attain that speed SAFELY. Catch the key word in that previous sentence.

Under the hood of the Mustang GT is a 4.6-liter V8 engine that develops 260 horsepower. It drives the rear wheels through a notchy five-speed manual transmission. I called the transmission notchy because you get the feeling that the linkages are precise and that you'd better make right-angle turns between the gears or you aren't going to hit the proper one. It was sort of like driving a Ferrari with a gated five-speed, but without the physical gates to lead the lever to the gears.

The exhaust note was throaty. While the teenagers in the neighborhood liked it, I would have preferred something that was quieter during normal operation and growled only when you tromped n the accelerator.

The Mustang stopped through the use of power-assisted disc brakes front and rear with ABS. Just walking up to the Mustang and peeking at the discs through the chrome wheels inspired confidence. Maybe it was the little red mustangs painted on the calipers that helped.

Front passengers sat in individual bucket seats that offered excellent side support. Good side support is important in a vehicle that likes to be driven hard, because if you're constantly sliding around in the seat, you can't enjoy the ride. And let's face it, cars like the Mustang are fun cars. They aren't the kind of car you'd pack the kids in with a ton of luggage and tromp off to Grandma's house. While the trunk did hold a couple of golf bags, it was on the smallish side, less than 10 cubic feet.

When you sit in the driver's seat and look out over the hood, you're staring at the back end of a functional hood scoop. That's another fun thing about the Mustang GT -- it looks impressive.

The steering wheel is fat and leather-covered. Grabbing it gives the driver a good feeling about being in control.

And I guess that's the overriding feeling about the Mustang GT -- control. Here is a car that can easily tempt you to get out of control by driving too fast or recklessly. But it also has the equipment to help you maintain control, with good brakes, responsive steering and a firm suspension that can get you out of most corners you may enter at too high a rate of speed.