2000 Ford Mustang Expert Review:New Car Test Drive
New Car Test Drive
The first ponycar is still the dominant player.
Ford's Mustang was completely redesigned and re-engineered last year (1999), with improvements to every single system under its brand-new skin. But all the best traits of the Mustang, the original pony car, remain. There's plenty of torque. The engine sounds great at full song, urging you to keep your foot in it. Excellent handling response keeps you involved. Yet it burbles along when cruising, attracting lots of attention from those around you.
The Mustang has only two true competitors, the Chevrolet Camaro and the Pontiac Firebird. There are Japanese and Korean coupes that compete with Mustang on price, but they don't offer pony car performance.
Like the GM pony cars, the Ford Mustang comes in many guises. There are V6 and V8 versions in both coupe and convertible body styles. There's also the Cobra, a super-performance model (available as a coupe or convertible) that competes against the Camaro SS and the Firebird Ram Air. You also get a choice of transmissions: 5-speed manual or 4-speed automatic.
The base Mustang is powered by a 190-horsepower 3.8-liter V6. Mustang GT models come with a 4.6-liter overhead-cam V8 that produces 260 horsepower. Both engines offer substantially more power this year. The limited-production SVT Cobra and Cobra convertible models come with special 32-valve double overhead-cam engines.
Prices for the Mustang coupes: base ($16,520), GT ($21,015), Cobra ($27,605). Convertible prices: base ($21,370), GT ($25,270), Cobra ($31,605).
Redesigned for 1999, Mustang's design features chiseled lines that give it a muscular appearance. The original 1964 Mustang influenced this design. The rear fender air intake is twice as long as the previous generation Mustang, with sharp corners and much more pronounced lines. The rocker panels curve out, and the fenders have pronounced front and rear wheel well arches. This gives the car a racier stance than the previous model. The front features wraparound complex reflector headlamps with integrated side marker lamps, and a larger grille opening with a honeycomb grille texture and a chrome pony emblem reminiscent of the original 1964 car. A new tricolor front fender badge was added for 2000. The hood features a prominent (non-functional) hood scoop. The roof was changed last year to a new design with a sharp edge. The rear quarter windows have a new shape and the three-element tail lamps feature sharp corners. The three available wheel designs, 15-, 16- and 17-inch, each have flat-spoke designs to complement the sharp corners of the body shell.
The selection of Goodyear, Firestone and B.F. Goodrich tires remains the same as last year. All GT models get twin 3-inch diameter polished stainless steel exhaust tips. The GT gets a rear deck spoiler and front fog lamps as standard equipment.
The electrical system has been simplified with the addition of a single module that replaces the functions of a half-dozen single-function modules for wipers, chimes, illuminated entry system, one-touch-down windows, remote entry and the anti-theft system.
Inside the car, there is no change for 2000 other than the addition of child seat anchors. The seat foam is much better than the previous-generation Mustang. The seat tracks were redesigned to add 1 inch of additional rearward travel to better accommodate taller drivers, and seat belts have been attached to the seats to move with them. There's a six-way power driver's seat, along with fabrics and sew patterns in cloth and optional leather. Embossed ponies on the upper portions of the seat backrests give the interior a sporty, traditional Mustang look. Medium graphite, medium parchment and midnight black are the standard interior colors. The instrument panel, the center console and the headliner are color-keyed in 2000 models.
The interior is nice and cozy in the coupe. There's enough seat track length to accommodate tall drivers and just enough elbowroom to keep from feeling cramped. The Mustang's back seat is small, with only enough room for small objects or kids. The trunk is small with an even smaller opening. The split fold-down rear seat is handy for hauling cargo.
Three new colors are offered for 2000. A 16-inch tire and wheel package is included in the V6 model appearance package. An 80-watt premium sound system comes standard on all models. A CD/radio combination, a CD/cassette system, and the Mach 460 system are available as options.
Performance is what the Mustang GT is about. Its 4.6-liter sohc modular V8 engine produces 260 horsepower at 5000 rpm with 302 foot-pounds of torque at 4000 rpm. The engine features revised camshafts, intake manifold runners, and larger valves for improved airflow above 3000 rpm. A new coil-on-plug ignition system replaces the previous ignition system for higher energy spark. The GT engine sounds great, whether cruising or at full throttle.
Power from the Mustang's 3.8-liter split-port V6 engine is up substantially as well. It has been increased from 150 horsepower to 190 horsepower at 5250 rpm, with 225 foot-pounds of torque at 3000 rpm.
All models, regardless of engine or transmission, get a 3.27:1 rear axle ratio. Both transmissions shift smoothly. The flexibility of both the V8 and V6 engines make good mates for the transmissions, which feature sufficient strength to take high-rpm shifts for the life of the car. The 4-speed automatic transmission has been recalibrated for smoother upshifts. The 5-speed Tremec manual transmissions are carried over from 1999, with the V6 using the T-5 and the V8 using the T-45. It feels like you're shifting a big transmission in a big car. Clutch travel is a bit long, so you have to be fleet of foot to pull of consistently clean power shifts.
Traction control is optional. The Bosch system works at all speeds to reduce wheelspin. Whenever wheelspin is detected, the system retards ignition timing, cuts fuel flow, and activates the brakes at one or both drive wheels, in that order. The driver can turn the system off with a console switch.
The Mustang offers good grip when cornering hard and you can really feel what the car is doing. This car involves the driver. Most of the raw edges and choppiness of the Mustang's old suspension behavior have been smoothed out. Engineers retuned the rear suspension for improved compliance by increasing suspension travel. This reduces ride harshness. The GT has linear-rate springs, up in front to 450 pounds per inch. At the rear, the old springs were swapped out in favor of 210 pound per inch linear-rate springs. These decrease the Mustang's ride stiffness and improve steering feel and response.
The steering is more direct and more positive than pre-1999 Mustangs. A revised boost curve gives the steering more linear response and better on-center feel. The turning circle has been reduced by 3 feet through changes to the steering rack, the lower control arms and front stabilizer bars.
The braking system was re-engineered for 1999, with new aluminum twin-piston front calipers reduce front unsprung weight by a significant 10 pounds. The new calipers also contribute to greatly improved brake pedal feel. A new master cylinder design improves the ratio of brake pedal travel to brake force and improves pedal modulation. ABS is still optional for 2000 and must be ordered to get the traction control system.
The Camaro and Firebird are slightly more powerful than the Mustang GT. But the Mustang GT is quieter, rides better, and offers better interior ergonomics and quality than the Camaro and Firebird. The Mustang GT is also less expensive than either of the GM pony cars by several thousand dollars. Both the Camaro and Firebird are slated for extinction in the near future, which will leave the Mustang as the sole pony car. But even now, the Mustang GT remains the best all-around pony car.
Coupe: base ($16,520), GT ($21,015), Cobra ($27,605); Convertible: base ($21,370), GT ($25,270), Cobra ($31,605).
Options As Tested
Mach 460 sound system ($395); Sport front bucket seats with leather seating surfaces ($500); traction control ($230); dual illuminated visor vanity mirrors ($95); Convenience Group ($550) includes front floor mats, cruise control, electric rear window defroster, six-way power driver's seat.
Mustang GT ($21,015).
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