Tuesday

2005+ Ford Mustang GT review

Few things will give auto execs more sleepless nights than messing with a successful formula. When a vehicle has an almost cult-like following and a fan base of envy, introducing the next generation model can be great...... greatly good or greatly bad. In 2005 Ford gave their bread-and-butter sport coupe, the Mustang, a much needed update. It was the first time it had been substantially updated down to its core since 1979, when it shared its underpinnings with the Ford Fairmont. This time it was different. They took a version of the now-departed Lincoln LS platform, threw a live axle on it, your choice of a V6 or V8 with either a manual or automatic transmission, put a retro-cued body on it, and let it out of the stable as an updated Mustang. People loved it – sales were great, even through the second year of production when interest would normally start to wane.

Best of all for Ford, there was no real competition to the Mustang when this new generation was introduced. GM had ceased production of the Camaro and Firebird, and Chrysler didn’t have anything available yet. For anyone who wanted a throwback muscle/sports car from the showroom, the Mustang was your only choice. That raised an obvious question in my mind – was the Mustang’s sale success because it was the only game in town, or was it because it really is a good car?

If you saw the show car that spawned this generation of Mustang, seeing this new version for the first time was a letdown. It looks a touch plain, like they tried to do the retro thing and keep it modern at the same time. Did they think they were the first to think of this formula?
It’s not an offensive shape; just perhaps not the most aggressive look for a sports car. Even with the GT’s giant fog lights taking up the grill, something always seemed to me to be just a bit ‘missing’. Thankfully, there is a multi-million dollar aftermarket alive and well that will fix any cosmetic deficiencies that may appear in your eyes.

Sliding into the drivers’ seat shows that Ford continued the retro theme as far as they could. The seats are bolstered well enough, but the headrest screams retro. The blocky dashboard seems to be a throwback as well even though Ford has cleverly tried to disguise it with strips of metal. The plastics used are cheap, but in certain editions interior upgrades are available. The gauge markings are a throwback to the sixties and seventies and look cool – until you try to use them. Nevermind that the top of the steering wheel (size-wise also a throwback) blocks a portion of the tach and speedo that you’ll use frequently, but the markings are large which makes them appear close together.
Reading the speedometer can be like reading those illusion books from when you were a kid and needed to look at the elongated words from an almost parallel angle – except that you can’t tilt the dashboard to that angle to clearly read the gauges. Getting more ‘normal’ replacements from companies such as Roush or Steeda goes a long way toward readability, and is mandatory if you intend to drive with anger most of the time. On a track of course……

Ford got the pedals right this time for driving enthusiasts. All three can be manipulated at the same time to rev match downshifts to make corner entry smoother. The 5-speed manual shifts smoothly and predictably with tight, concise throws. Again this is a vast improvement over the last generation transmission. When the GT is brought alive with a twist of the key, a proper American muscle car soundtrack erupts from the tailpipes before settling down into a slightly lumpy idle. Toeing the accelerator pedal unleashes more V8 fury and there is no doubt if blindfolded you could identify what car you are in. Clutch take-up is smooth and progressive. Facilitate an introduction of the accelerator with the carpet and the Mustang leaps forward through the gears with urgency. Power is abundant and available through most of the RPM range. It sounds so good doing it that you’ll find yourself indulging your right foot just to hear the noise, no matter what the effect on fuel economy.

Usually Mustangs are thought of as only being ¼ mile burners. Not this generation. While the steering feel is light, the car will go where you point it without much discussion. Factory default is understeer as you approach the Mustang’s limits. Corrections can be made mid-corner to correct any mistakes without upsetting the chassis too much. Ford has done a good job of hiding the fact that there is a live axle setup under the chassis. Only when really pushing it in a corner and encountering bumps will the live axle really reveal itself. Taking corner just a bit too fast and squeezing the throttle just bit too much to make the rear end squirm brings a smile to even the most jaded enthusiast. Of note too is the traction control system. It allows a lot of leeway and fun exploring the GT’s limits before interfering, making you feel like a better driver than you probably are. If the mood strikes disable the traction control and indulge all your adolescent desires for as long as the tires and clutch last.

The other thing that impressed me was how solid the car felt. There were no squeaks or rattles, and the car absorbed bumps through the suspension without disturbing all the plastic pieces in the interior. For once, structural integrity seems to have been taken seriously by the Mustang design team. Scans of Mustang forums don’t reveal any glaring weaknesses either. Well done.

You know, I really came away impressed. Ford has managed to give that retro muscle car feel, while at the same time upped the quality into the 21st century.
Despite not always being the best performer in every category, the whole package is just fun. It's no wonder they sell so many. Even though there are already hundreds of thousands on the road, thanks to an abundant aftermarket, it is not difficult to make yours your own. Anything from mild to wild is possible; the Mustang makes a nice canvas to bring out your creative side. Some performance parts can be installed right at the dealer and carry Ford’s blessing. Plus this generation makes it possible for both drag racers and roadcourse racers to fine tune the car according to what kind of driving they prefer. For a loaded out hardtop, you won’t push the price much over $30k. Even if you do, discounts these days are readily available. Resale is good too, especially for an American car.

For 2010 there are some improvements in the works, and that’s a good thing because of some new competition coming around the bend. Everyone knows about the new Camaro and Challenger, and both of those are known to be packing heavy horsepower. Heck even Hyundai is jumping in the fray with a RWD sports coupe priced squarely in the Mustang’s crosshairs. It’ll match the Mustang GT’s 300hp – but with two fewer cylinders. No I don’t honestly believe that a Mustang and a Hyundai would be cross shopped – but you have to ask if even Hyundai can get a solid 300hp from a V6, why can’t Ford do more with their V8? As good a job as Ford did with this one, an update is due so it does not become an also-ran. This car deserves that much. Ford really has done a good job with this car. It’s one of the rare bright spots for Ford these days, and Ford needs it to stay that way.

Pics property of Ford Motor Company, blue modified Mustang courtesy of 2NRCARZ

3 comments:

Wyatt313 said...

I really enjoyed your insights. Your perspective seems really fresh and I hope you keep it that way. I hope you consider a comparison or head to head feature to help people who may be on the fence about two models. Also, more pics would be great, and I would be interested to hear your insights on the budget minded, mpg chasing crowd that still wants a little sport in their cars. Great sight. Burn, baby, burn!

Wyatt313 said...

I really enjoyed your insights. Your perspective seems really fresh and I hope you keep it that way. I hope you consider a comparison or head to head feature to help people who may be on the fence about two models. Also, more pics would be great, and I would be interested to hear your insights on the budget minded, mpg chasing crowd that still wants a little sport in their cars. Great sight. Burn, baby, burn!

Chris said...

Hi Wyatt,

Thanks for the comments and suggestions. Welcome to Melted Rubber!

Custom Search