For 2007, the 210-hp Mustang V6 and 300-hp Mustang GT are joined by the new 500-hp supercharged Shelby GT500, offering its own look, tuning, and equipment.
Available in fastback coupe or convertible body styles, the Mustang V6 models make nice, stylish cruisers. The GT is an absolute hoot to drive, making all the right sounds, hanging onto corners tenaciously, and delivering thrilling acceleration performance. The Shelby GT500 adds to the fun with its near-Corvette performance. It's quite tossable, making for good sport on gymkhanas, race tracks or back roads. Its solid rear axle can get bouncy on bad pavement, and you'll want snow tires (four of them) for Northeastern or Midwestern winters.
It may be retro inspired, but the Mustang is a thoroughly modern car. Redesigned from a clean sheet of paper for 2005, today's Mustang is faster and more agile than ever. It delivers the bold styling, rear-drive performance and affordability that have been Mustang hallmarks for decades, but it's smoother and quieter and better built than older models.
Its interior looks like a throwback from the '60s, but it's functional and well finished. Granted, interior space is limited, especially given its exterior dimensions; and the back seat might better be described as a package shelf.
The Ford Mustang is an American success story. It holds true to an idea that still appeals to people of all ages, decades after the original was launched. Forty-three years after it created an automotive niche all its own, Mustang is both true to its roots and better than ever.
Ford Mustang V6 Coupe Deluxe ($19,250); V6 Coupe Premium ($20,175); V6 Convertible Deluxe ($24,075); V6 Convertible Premium $(25,000); GT Coupe ($25,275); GT Coupe Premium ($26,455); GT Convertible ($30,100); GT Convertible Premium ($31,280); Shelby GT500 Coupe ($40,930); Shelby GT500 Convertible ($45,755)
Yet the Mustang follows modern trends by offering ever-larger wheels, including two distinct 18-inch wheel designs for the GT. So trimmed, the Mustang looks more aggressively handsome than ever, and much like the concept cars that grabbed everyone's attention at the 2004 North American International Auto Show.
And while the Mustang's retro-inspired look pleases the eyes, there's a lot of updated technology you don't see, starting with an aluminum hood to trim weight. The modern Mustang is based on the same mechanical platform as the Jaguar S-Type, albeit with some cost-trimming measures such as its live-axle rear suspension.
Relative to previous Mustangs, everything under the car has been substantially upgraded. The brakes are bigger by nearly 20 percent. A completely new front and rear suspension yields a much quieter, smoother ride as well as much more precise steering during hard cornering. New engines deliver performance with efficiency. Optional antilock brakes bundled with traction control give any a fighting chance in bad situations.
All Mustang engines are secured to the body with hydraulic mounts, which absorb and counteract vibration and pulsing. By adapting ideas and components from luxury cars, Ford has given the current Mustang a level of sophistication its predecessors never had. Yet the Mustang heritage of low-cost performance and flashy styling has not been compromised one iota.
Like its muscle-era namesake, the Shelby GT500 stands out with a unique front grille and bumper fascia, providing both a functionally larger and unimpeded air intake, while reducing air flow under the body. A unique engine hood with dual air-extraction slits is domed to clear the larger, 5.4-liter engine. Around back a vintage-style duck-tail spoiler on the decklid and a series of four strakes under the rear fascia contribute to air management (or at least the appearance of it). Carroll Shelby's signature striking-Cobra emblem glowers from the gas cap and from a characteristically off-center position in the grille. The whole package rides on unique 18-inch rims sporting Ford's SVT (Special Vehicle Team) logo. Just as in 1968, coupes are topped by Le Mans-style racing stripes. They look terrific, though we're not sure they should carry down onto the rear bumper where they compete with the rear license plate.
Shelby convertibles feature a premium fabric for the top.
There's a heavy dose of 1967 Mustang inside, with the dash divided into distinct right and left pods, blended with modern touches. Chrome-ringed air vents align across the dash, precisely in line with the gauges, and the steering wheel has three spokes with a center hub marked by the horse-and-tricolor-bars logo. While some of the materials have a cost-saving look and feel, the package is not bad given the high style and price of entry. An interior upgrade package adds red leather seats, red door inserts and red floor mats on cars with appropriate exterior colors.
Along with its new inside duds, Mustang offers an optional color-changeable instrument panel display, with 125 color schemes to choose from. It's a gimmick, to be sure, but it's easy to use, and it can brighten your day, and especially your night, as you drive. We're all for that. Speaking of brightening, however, there's enough shiny metal on this car's dash and steering wheel to create some glare problems for drivers on sunny days (just like the old days). Another interior upgrade package, with satin or dark-finish aluminum inserts instead of chrome, goes a long way toward eliminating traces of cheapness.
These are the good old days in terms of roominess in the Mustang. The 107-inch wheelbase and 187.6-inch overall length of the current model are the longest of any Mustang since 1973, and are within an inch of the dimensions of the 1969-70 model. But Ford has learned something about space efficiency since then, so today's Mustang offers more front-seat hip, leg, elbow and shoulder room than any previous generation. We found the front bucket seats to be comfortable, supportive and retentive in hard corners.
The back seat, however, isn't much more accommodating than in the old fastback 2+2 variant of 1965-68. It's not a place adults will want to spend any time. At least it still folds flat, just like in the old days, to expand luggage capacity.
And even without folding the back seat, the Mustang's trunk is as large as those in some more overtly practical sedans.
Seats in the Shelby are more aggressively bolstered, and the positions of the speedometer and tachometer are swapped. The Shelby is upholstered in black leather, with or without red inserts. All interior chrome is replaced by satin-finish aluminum for reduced glare. Snake logos slither on the seatbacks and steering-wheel hub.
The standard sound system that comes in the Mustang is good. The 500-watt upgrade is reasonably priced as part of the premium package, and adds a six-CD changer. The 1000-watt upgrade will impress most audiophiles, but the extra subwoofers in the trunk steal a good chunk of cargo space. We'd be inclined to pass on those.
The previous-generation (1994-2004) Mustang was still built around a body shell that dated from 1979, and it was about as stiff as wet rope. Ford claims the current Mustang's body/frame is 31 percent stiffer and it feels it. This Mustang is simply much more rigid and rattle-free than its predecessor. A rigid foundation provides the basis for a host of good things, including improved ride quality, sharper handling, and less interior vibration.
This new-found solidity applies to the convertible as well. By their nature, convertibles don't offer the chassis rigidity of hard tops. Cars that cost five times as much as the Mustang tend to get shakier when the fixed roof is removed to design a convertible version. In the Mustang convertible, you will notice some shimmy in the windshield frame that you'll never see in the coupe. Yet when it comes to overall rigidity, the current Mustang convertible is light-years better than its predecessor.
The convertible's folding top is simple and straightforward to operate. Unhook it from the windshield header and it powers back behind the rear seat with the touch of a button. The ultimate in posing requires that you manually install the optional boot cover, but the folded, exposed top and frame don't look bad without it.
The wheelbase is relatively long, six inches longer than the previous generation (pre-2005), and that makes a difference in terms of ride quality. The ride has smoothed out, and the remaining harshness is of a completely different (and smaller) order.
The rear suspension uses coil springs and a lightweight three-link design with a Panhard bar to keep all motion under constant control. It's about as good as a solid-axle suspension gets, and greatly reduces skipping and bouncing at the back of the car.
The steering is crisp, precise and confidence inspiring.
The brakes work well in high-speed highway driving situations, as we found during a test in Los Angeles. If you want ABS, you automatically get (and pay for) traction control, which has a dash-mounted off switch for special situations. (Drag racing, for instance.)
The 4.0-liter V6 engine is technologically sophisticated and a solid performer for urban, exurban and suburban duties. The ratios in the five-speed automatic transmission seem well matched to the available torque. When the automatic gets into overdrive fifth gear, the engine goes quietly into economy mode until called upon for a lane change, a pass, or an uphill charge. This is a large-displacement V6 and it sounds more muscular at full throttle than any previous Ford V6 engine. Yet it rates 19/25 city/highway mpg with the automatic transmission, and 19/28 mpg with the manual.
Indeed, the V6 Deluxe is the most popular model (about 70 percent of Mustangs sold today are V6s), and we like it. For just around $20,000, it delivers good torque, good acceleration and generally good road manners, with a sportier feel then previous six-cylinder Mustangs. And while it has less power than the V8 and smaller tires, the V6 seems slightly more eager to turn in for coners, a bit more agile than the nose-heavy GT. (The GT weighs about 150 pounds more, and almost all of that is on the front wheels.)
The GT, on the other hand, is a 300-hp, five-speed pavement-ripper for about $25,000. The three-valve-per-cylinder V8 engine features both variable camshaft timing and electronic throttle control. The Mustang GT will run 0-60 mph in about 5.5 seconds; it will out-brake a large number of sporty cars; and it handles better on canyon roads that any previous Mustang GT, with a minimum of body roll and a large portion of tire grip. Expect 17/23 mpg with the automatic, 17/25 with the manual.
The GT l
The Ford Mustang looks and feels like an all-American car, and that's a good thing. It's quick and fun to drive and offers combination of style, performance, and handling that's hard to beat for the money. The V6 Deluxe is a stylish, sporty cruiser. The GT is a serious performance car. And the Shelby GT500 raises it to Corvette performance levels.
NewCarTestDrive.com correspondent Jim McCraw filed this report from Los Angeles; with Mitch McCullough reporting from Dearborn and Los Angeles.