2006 Ford Mustang Expert Review
Driving the new Mustang GT is a surreal experience. Even though I've only had the vehicle in my possession for less than 24 hours I wanted to post something as soon as possible, to tell a simple story about how impressive this car is in person.
Around 12:30 a.m. last night my three-month-old boxer puppy Roxy wakes me up for a walk. I throw on a coat, grab a poop bag and head out the door. Just as she’s finally doing her business and I’m reaching for the bag a police cruiser comes to a sudden halt right in front of us. I’m a bit disoriented and still half asleep but double check to make sure that poop bag is handy so I don’t get a fine.
Two of Chicago’s finest get out with flashlights, point them in my direction and say “Don’t worry sir we just want to look at the car.” My initial shock instantly turned to mild amusement as these two officers, about my age, check out the car with flashlights blazing. When they realized it was “my” car for the week they start asking questions about the ride, power etc. Luckily I had the keys on me and popped it open so they could check out the inside without the need of a flashlight. The two officers were polite and definitely enthusiastic about seeing the new Mustang. After a few quick minutes they got back in their cruiser and continued their patrol.
That’s just the best example of how this car stops people in their tracks. On a few short drives around town other drivers stare, stop short at lights to check it out and basically aren’t afraid to gawk like schoolboys. It certainly is the first Mustang I’ve seen on the road in Chicago so I can understand the interest.
As for initial impressions…it’s nice, very nice. The new model is light years ahead of its predecessor with a pleasant ride and minimal road noise. Only the rumble of the engine intrudes, and rightly so, into the cabin. And I’m floored by how smooth the short throw styled shifter is. The Windveil Blue paint is very attractive and a nice alternative to silver, while the all-black leather interior is stylish and understated. I’ll hold off on driving impressions until I can get some real road time under my belt.
I was e-mailing a source the other day explaining how Autoblog aspires to be an honest, open source of automotive information and commentary. We take advertising, but it's clearly labeled. And we're open to advertising from every manufacturer on the planet. There are no exclusive partnerships. We also don't take those lavish long lead trips offered to many auto journalists out there. Autoblog is sticking closer to newspaper ethics where we are allowed to test a car for the week and basically get a full tank of gas and that's it.
On a personal note I'm not a Ford or GM guy, or even a Mopar freak. I've never understood the rivalry. I just like to drive good cars. Deliver me a Kia that rocks and I'll write about it.
I say all this because I'm in love with the new Ford Mustang.a ??%?%under my belt.
I know, I know I’ve only been driving it a day and most of that has been stop and go city traffic. But I’ve never been in a Mustang that is so stellar. I’ve driven 1960s, 1980s and 1990s Mustangs and while they were fun cars they always had trade-offs. The modern Mustangs always had brute strength but little refinement. Which is part of the allure of the model I guess, but what’s wrong with having a nice ride to go with the muscle?
The new Mustang answers that question with one of the most solid bodies I’ve encountered in any American car of late let alone one with sport handling and 300 horses under the hood. Ford’s crowning achievement besides the mind-numbing acceleration is the ride. I’ve hit the same city bumps in every Autoblog test car and the Mustang handles them as well as anything outside the luxury sedans. The only sports car or coupe that came close was the Mazda RX-8.
Match that pleasant everyday ride with a sweet transmission, shifter and appropriately stiff clutch and this car is a dream to drive. Every gear allows a wide range of idle and acceleration with little fuss. I’m simply shocked at how easy the car is to drive. With 300 hp I was expecting to have to hold on to the reins of this pony with all my might. But instead, even sharp turns can be taken with one hand on the wheel if necessary. All this ease leads me to believe wide-open driving will be a blast and I’ll be hitting the suburban trails soon enough.
As for the interior we’ll add more pictures in upcoming days but I wanted to include the color changing gauges that everyone is talking about. It took me about two minutes to figure out how to adjust them but I really prefer the daytime running white on black than any of the more outrageous hues.
Side Note: It has come to my attention that more than one Autoblog reader finds the Autoblog Garage feature a bit haphazard, some even use the word rambling. Feel free to make suggestions on how to improve these posts if you want to see change. Otherwise I’m just going to keep rambling.
Each day in the new Mustang endears me more to the car. Surprisingly, the performance and ride are just one part of the package. Don't worry, they are a BIG part of the package, but Ford somehow threw out all their interior conventions and upped the ante here. I'm wondering how secluded the Mustang team was from the rest of Ford because the interior is a study in pleasing textures and design.
The striking dash is probably the most noticeable with the faux steel bar running across its length, broken up by
circular vents and the retro gauges I showed off
yesterday. The center stack (click on image for larger
shot) is understated and appropriately flat back. Stereo buttons feel nice to the touch but the environmental controls
are somewhat flimsy in the hand. They’re certainly not a deal breaker but should be addressed in 2006. The only thing I
can tell that carry over to other new Ford models are the circular vents.
Black plastic makes up the majority of the interior but it isn’t overwhelming. Black leather inserts in the doors, metal door handles and that faux steel break it up quite well. In the test vehicle our seats are covered in a high quality leather that also looks like it will hold up to years of use. To answer a reader’s earlier question I don’t think parents will find the new Mustang that friendly. Even without a test baby seat my fiancée and I both agree that the larger infant baby seats on the market would probably not fit in the back easily. I squeezed back there to test it out and I would advise parents of 5-12 year olds could actually use them to their utmost. Sorry new dads. Any other age/shape will not be comfortable back there. My head (I’m 5’10) was scratching the roof and my feet were wedged underneath the front seat. More than 20 minutes would be my limit before limbs went numb.
Drivers on the other hand will enjoy the robust and comfortable front seats. Our test vehicle features a power driver’s seat with lumbar support that can be adjusted for the tallest and shortest of us. My problem is I don’t have the longest of legs and sometimes find cars don’t accommodate. But I’ve discovered a very comfortable cruising position. I think the very tall will also find the Mustang to their liking. The seat goes way back and way down.
The leather wrapped retro steering wheel is a bit on the large side as another reader mentioned, but I don’t find it obtrusively so. Cruise control buttons are worked into the design but it looks like there are plenty of places to have added volume control for the stereo. Another addition for 2006?
Check out Day 1 and our earliest impressions. More driving thoughts to come tomorrow.
It has taken me some time and I wanted to have serious driving under the odometer before reporting on the new Mustang's performance. If you look back at my first day's report many of the things I said remain true and I've discovered some aspects that I want to definitely revise. That's the great thing about blogs.
You can’t talk about this Mustang without first tackling the straight-ahead, tire-burning speed. Many sources have quoted 0-60 times at 5.1 seconds. I have no reason to doubt it. First gear has the slightest hesitation but you can quickly get to a rip-roaring second that will catapult you forward at a healthy clip. I believe first gear is set up more for everyday use than racing and because of how healthy the acceleration still is, I’m happy with the trade-off in the ease of use in traffic.
Shifting is simply a joy. The Mustang’s short throw shifter is so smooth and easy to use it makes even me appear to be a pro. I’ve been driving a stick shift almost everyday for ten years and still have problems in certain high performance test cars. I haven’t had one issue this week and the clutch is already familiar enough to not be an issue. If anyone opts for the automatic I’d worry for their sanity.
But pure speed isn’t what wins applause in the Mustang. The handling is superb and the car solid in the twisties. I took the test car through the most corkscrew of local roads at relatively safe speeds and was amazed at how well the car tracked. The back end briefly twitched during one serious turn but otherwise stayed planted. This was a route that proved the RX-8 such a nimble handler and the Mustang held up as well. I wouldn’t call it nimble, but responsive and precise are words that come to mind.
There are two points from Day 1 I want to revise. The car does suffer from some noticeable road noise on the highway depending on the surface. On concrete freeways it was pretty loud but wind noise didn’t seem to be a problem at any speed. Smooth roads were pleasing to say the least. Also the bumps do become noticeable as the weekend took us to some really horrible roads. This is a problem more in the north and Midwest of course and southerners and west coasters can toss it out the window as a concern. My reasonably bumpy daily commute route is not bad at all.
There’s been talk about what other vehicles to compare the new Mustang to and I’m sure every magazine will try to come up with some in a few months to sell more issues. But from one muscle car to another I think the Mustang is a better package than the Pontiac GTO. Even with a lot less power it is still mighty fast and much more civilized. The shifting alone is worlds apart and would sell me on the Mustang. Don’t let the price fool you, fully loaded the GT comes close to a GTO. However, our test vehicle has everything I’d want and the sticker reads $27,200.
Every day in the new Mustang seems to go by without a hint of trouble. That's a strange feeling as I'm uber-critical when I test new vehicles. But the Mustang is winning me over by not putting up much of a fuss. There are usually a number of trade-offs when driving a car that is so performance based, annoying habits that owners have to live with to get their speed habit satiated. Not so with the Mustang. It remains a civilized ride.
The car is a nice mix of practicality and performance. Despite the low profile glass and seemingly small rear quarter glass, visibility is exceptional. Huge rear glass of course is the biggest factor in keeping drivers aware of what’s going on behind them (click on the picture for a larger view). There are also features like a reminder if you leave your blinker on too long. This freaked me out when I first heard it, but with the stereo turned up and the sometimes hard to notice blinker in the center of the gauges it’s not a bad idea.
Obviously fuel economy is big on everyone’s mind these days and the GT doesn’t win any conservation awards. The trip computer is telling me I’m averaging 13.6 mpg after over 100 miles of mixed driving. That’s pretty poor. Our test vehicle has less than 3,000 miles on it so it’s not appropriately broken in, but these numbers are still low. Luckily the GT does take regular 87 octane gas. That computer in the dash is also a handy device telling drivers how many miles until empty, gallons used, average speed etc. You can even do a system check before leaving the driveway that tells you if all the doors are closed, fluids are full and the gas cap is on.
A decent sized trunk with flip down rear seats gives a fair amount of cargo space for a sports coupe. But the back seat, as mentioned before, is still widely unusable for passengers.
The Shaker 500 stereo with 6-disc changer is definitely loud and has tremendous range in the low end. Play some Black Sabbath or Fu Manchu and cruise freely. After a trip to Best Buy my fiancée put in an acoustic Maroon 5 CD and even it sounded good. Punk CDs don’t come through, as the bass is too overwhelming. Hard rock though seems to be the system’s forte. For the hip-hop inclined the Shaker 1000 system is for you with its trunk mounted subwoofer.
Yesterday I tackled the performance but feel I’m not enough of a gearhead to do the car justice. Out of all the reviews I’ve read I’d say Road & Track’s Matt Delorenzo does the best job of accurately painting the car’s strengths and weaknesses.
Also this is my last day in the Mustang. If you think I’ve missed something or want to see a close-up photo please post a comment to let me know and we’ll address it in the wrap-up tomorrow.
Day 5 has now been posted.
This is it. This is goodbye. I've had some tough departures before but seeing the Mustang GT roll away was devestating. The lasting impression the Mustang left with me wasn't that it was this amazing sports car, which it was, but it was a car I could love driving to work every day without sacrificing any comfort or convenience.
As far as performance the Mustang meets almost all my needs. I would still prefer slightly stronger brakes for such a large and powerful car. But that was the only nitpick here. The shifting was such a joy and the acceleration so engaging that, if this was my own car, I wouldn’t pine for testing others as much as I do now.
Another aspect of driving it every day I failed to mention before were the doors and riding height. In other sports cars like the GTO the doors are so heavy and long they’re an effort to slam shut and others like the S2000 are hard to get in and out of. Neither of those issues occurred here. My fiancée found the Mustang to be her favorite sports car as a passenger for those two reasons as well, although she did think the engine was too loud, a comment that brought a mischievous smile to my face.
By far this car gets more looks than anything else I’ve been in. Only the Chrysler 300C sparked similar interest. But having the only Mustang GT I’ve seen in the city threw up attention beacons to other drivers, pedestrians and just about anyone in the vicinity. Lots of friends and coworkers said it was the only Ford they’ve seen in a long time, or ever, they would consider buying. I didn’t find one person who spoke poorly of the design when they saw it in the flesh. My only thought of improvement is the fairly bland back end. Also why is a middle brake light actually required? Here it really destroys the flow of the design and the other brake lights take up such a huge portion of the back anyway. I doubt anyone would not notice the regular brake lights when lit.
So yes, I do see some flaws with the all-new Mustang but they are few and very far between. Would I recommend it to anyone with $25,000 in their pocket? I already have.
Stay tuned. We’re not done with the Mustang GT quite yet. Tomorrow we’ll post an image gallery of the test Mustang.
It felt like an eternity before the guy showed up with the 2005 Ford Mustang GT Convertible I had been waiting for. It's funny because he was actually early! Then I saw it. Holy retro Batman, that's one yellow car. Bright yellow, black top, and Thrust-style five spoke wheels lay before me. I slid down into the black leather interior. Egad! More retro assaults me in the interior. This much attention to style and design makes you wonder, is this going to be a boulevard cruiser or will it have real performance?
Actually, the car doesn’t look that bad at all. The color is a little loud, but I’ll see if it grows on me. The
interior seems to be very well made and the materials quality is on par with the Ford Freestyle I just finished up
with. I’ll investigate the interior and exterior in detail some other day.
So, this is one huge hunk of Americana. It’s like a Norman Rockwell painting of an apple pie, at least that’s what
you would think.
Actually, the Mustang was developed from the C1 platform, which is shared with the Mazda3,
Volvo S40/V50, and European Focus. Of course, this is no economy car, but the front suspension and even the rear
trailing arms all hail from that most flexible platform. Originally, Ford was set on developing the Mustang on
a version of its DEW98 platform, which is shared between the Ford Thunderbird, Lincoln LS, and Jaguar S-Type. That plan
proved to be too expensive, and most future plans for that particular platform seem to fade out. The DEW98 is a pretty
sophisticated architecture with its fully independent double wishbone suspension. [I edited the section about the C1
out. Basically, the Mustang is not based on the DEW98, despite many media reports to the contrary. It is more
productive for everyone to call the Mustang platform all new. Although it may share some components or be an evolution
of other platforms, it is essentially all new. With that in mind, I will personally vouch for the Mustang platform and
I hope to see it show up in other FoMoCo products.]
That’s not to say the new Mustang is unsophisticated, despite its solid rear axle. When you think that the previous generation Mustang can trace it’s lineage to the late seventies and the Fairmont, the new Mustang is a huge leap forward. After personally having a 2003 Mustang GT hard top, I can vouch for that.
What is funny is when I first dropped into the seat I didn’t like it at all. I had the same impression the first time I drove my previous ‘stang. While it took me two days to warm up to the 2003, it took about five miles before I was singing the 2005’s praises. The charm of the older car was its V8 power, and the car did not really come alive unless you where really driving it hard. Otherwise, it felt really crude and unsophisticated. Coming out of a much quieter car, the Freestyle, the Mustang’s V8 growl was a little off-putting on startup. The rest of the package is well executed and vastly superior to the SN95 Mustang it replaces. The new car’s ride quality, ergonomics, performance are all superior to the last generation. Oh, and the V8 certainly does grow on you. I’m dreaming about it as I type this up.
Just this first day, the convertible seems to be a touch more rigid than my previous hardtop. Actually, it might be a little less, but that’s still saying quite a bit for a convertible. Based on the first day, I would say the Mustang is not quite as stiff as many of the popular sporty roadsters out there, but it’s much better than many other convertibles, like Ford’s other retro convertible the Thunderbird. It seems that is where the Mustang lies. It is not as sporty as the smaller and lighter roadsters in its price range, but it’s significantly more aggressive than anything else with four seats and a drop top. As the week progresses, I will have a better idea about whether this whole package is a good deal.
After the first day, you realize this car is an attention getter. Every were you stop, drive, park, the car gets attention. It's certainly cooler than I am. Anyway, Mustang's exterior certainly has a strong appeal.
J. Mays has his hands all over this car. J. Mays is responsible for penning the Mustang, Thunderbird, and VW Beetle.
The 2005 Mustang is the past reborn in a style often referred to as ‘retrofuturism.’ The GT coupe reminds me of Steve
McQueen’s Mustang in Bullit, with its fastback roof line. While the coupe has its appeal, the convertible is a step
beyond. Even with the top up, the rear window give the drop top a notchback look that is distinctive. It is very proper
for a pony car, almost better looking than the hardtop.
It is when you pull the two front latches and press that magic button that the Mustang really impresses. Rough timing puts it at about 13 seconds for a full open. It’s about the same to close it. With the top down, the Mustang goes from pretty to flat out hot. Topless is the only way to be for this car. The long belt line of the car seems uninterrupted from the front of the hood all the way to the end of the trunk. It is a sight to behold. It makes you want to sing the Star Spangled Banner. Or at least put your hand on your chest and hum it silently to yourself, people might think you’re crazy if you get all patriotic around a car (and we’re not crazy, honest!). In fact, it’s so American, for lack of a better term, that I was having a hard time finding any modern music that sounded right blaring out of the Mustang’s Shaker500 stereo. Those huge woofers in the doors look like they belong in a Jeep, but they do the job. The whole system sounds very clear at high volumes when you’re flying down the road.
It is time to go on to things that we’re not to happy with. I have so many mixed emotions about the front end of this car. While I’m not too thrilled about the rear end treatment and prefer many aftermarket approaches, the front poses its own set of problems. First, it’s a mishmash of influences. There are a lot of Mustangs in the front of this car, except the bumper and we’re not sure where that’s from. The bumper and turn lights seem a bit out of place. Also, the fog lights are too dominating for my taste. I do like big huge fog lights on things like Subarus and VWs and strange rally Volvo 240s. The grill of the Mustang does not seem quite wide enough for these buggers. The upcoming Mustang Cobra is more attractive from the front. I did like the ‘vents’ that are found inboard inside the headlight covers. They could be highlighted a bit more.
If you stand back, the whole package is very appealing. That’s probably why they are so popular. If I could order one, I’d get the GT but skip the fog lights and the rear wing. I’d probably want some different wheels too. Some larger authentic polished Torq-Thrust II wheels wouldn’t look to bad. Actually, if this car had chrome wheels, it would look a lot like the 1993 Mustang convertibles before they came out with the newer body style. Bright yellow, black top, and chrome wheels, it would be retro in more ways than one. Saleen also puts a nice body package on the Mustang. Their rear end treatment is much improved over the stock Ford. In order to keep the car fresh and prevent the dreaded sales slip that many retro models experience, Ford is planning on a refresh before the end of the decade. Bravo!
I will pick it up tomorrow with an actual driving review. In short, the V8 is awesome! Being the second day, giving a good picture of the entire driving experience is not so easy. What is easy? Rolling your right foot into the go pedal and scaring unsuspecting women, children and elderly with the roar of an American V8, <insert Tim Allen grunt here>.
The 4.6-liter 3-valve SOHC V8 that lay before me is the Mustang GT's raison d'être. It gives the Mustang its character, power, and that delicious sound.
Oh, the sound of the V8 with the top down is pure music to your ears. I never wanted to listen to the radio.
Personally, this was it for me. I would go down to a Ford dealer and get one.
I planned on discussing pricing later in the series, but I think it should be brought up now. The Ford Mustang GT Convertible (Premium) that I’ve been tooling around retails at a hair over $32,000. For the price, you get a 300-hp V8, four seats, and a convertible top. There is no real competition at this price range. The Chrysler Sebring is a four-place convertible and it retails at about the same level. The Sebring is obviously not in the same league. Even sporty convertibles, like the Nissan 350Z convertible, are either too expensive or painfully small and underpowered by comparison. Even if you had to pay retail for a Mustang Convertible or even wait for your 2006 to come in, it is worth it. I could not find a better bargain in this segment.
Ok, back to why this car absolutely rocks. Sure, the lack of a roof does take some of the edge off the Mustang, but
you do not buy one of these to go tear up the Tail of the Dragon. The Mustang does handle very well. It’s not
particularly light on its toes, but that matters not. Bury it into the turn as clean as possible to set yourself up to
blast out of the exit. The 4.6-liter V8 provides enough grunt to pin you to your seat and has an intoxicating roar to
keep you wanting more.
You find yourself drag racing at ever stop light to hear that addicting harmony of 8 cylinders at full tilt. You find yourself day dreaming about the next time you drive it. You find yourself checking the weather report and the skies above for another chance to drop the top. Oh, it’s an addicting and satisfying car.
Do not even get me started on the how it transforms you into a juvenile punk. Burn outs are the name of the game, and I could not get enough of them in. The Mustang GT (with the five speed manual) will keep you on the look out for the boys in blue. There has to be something illegal about having this much vehicular fun. Of course, the local constables do not take pleasure in thirty-foot smoky burn outs. That’s too bad, because with all this power on tap it’s hard not to act like a complete fool. Turn off the traction control and let it rip. Oh, I need to get out of here and stop typing this stupid review. Here is the warning. If you’re not careful, the Mustang GT (Coupe or Convertible) will turn you into an oil-well drying, ozone-destroying, rubber-burning hooligan that old women and the environmental types will shake their heads at in disgust. Oh, but you’ll be smiling the whole time!
After having the Mustang for a few days and having the posts online for people to give feedback, it seems that there are a few loose ends to tie up.
The first one that might be on everyone’s mind is the fuel economy. If you are truly interested in fuel economy, the
V6 Mustang might be up your alley. The GT was getting around 15.7 mpg according to my calculations. I have been all
over town in this car, and I can tell you that the sensations that you receive from liberally applying force to the
accelerator do not encourage frugal driving. It is possible to do so, because Ford has nicely included a MPG meter that
gives you a general idea of how efficiently you are driving. It is part of the trip computer/information screen that
displays in the right hand instrument ‘pod’
There is another feature that is not often discussed that does have a certain level of novelty. The Mustang’s instrument panel color can be customized by the driver using this “MyColor” feature. It too is accessed through the trip computer/information screen in the right hand instrument pod, underneath the speedometer. The color is only applied when the parking or head lights are on, meaning that any custom settings do not affect your typical daytime reflective white letter on black background color scheme. The color can be altered by changing the values for red, green, or blue to create any number of shades. It was a novelty to show off, but it does take time to get into the screen to change. I just leave it on a shade of yellow to match the car, but this feature reminds me of Need for Speed: Underground 2 for some strange reason.
Also on my list of items to address is the car’s ride quality and the solid rear axle. Despite its performance intentions, the Mustang’s ride is surprisingly smooth. That smooth character does not interfere with the GT’s ability to handle aggressive driving. It does present a nice balance, especially considering its pony car heritage. I did feel that the chassis has lost some edge by being a convertible. Like I have said before, cowl shake is not bad, and it is certainly better than anything else in its class.
What is truly surprising is how well Ford has tuned the rear axle. A consumer would be very hard pressed to determine that it was anything out of the ordinary. I spent some time talking to the guys over at Ford about the axle choice and their motivation was clear. The solid rear axle is very durable and is capable of handling lots of power. Enthusiasts, especially those who enjoy the drag strip, demand a solid rear axle. Even on the open road, there are few better ways to put down the kind of power the Mustang is capable of. With an independent rear suspension, a lot of development time and money has to be dedicated toward geometry and a balance must be maintained between all the different factors involved. When you add a high power V8 into the equation, it can make the task much more difficult than it needs to be. Previous generation Cobra enthusiasts can speak to the evils of the IRS that was fitted to that car. If you look into the future, you can see that even the 2007 Mustang Cobra is fitted with this rear suspension, and that should say something.
That is not to say that Ford did not put serious development time into their current rear suspension. There is one word that I would used to describe the Mustang’s platform, capable. Gone are the skittish tendencies of the previous generation. It does not seem to matter that the rear axle is not an ultramodern independent rear setup. In all situations, the rear end felt under control. The ugly rough road handling behavior typical of the previous generation is not there. And having this kind of capability in a convertible, especially a four seat convertible, is astounding. It speaks volumes for the time Ford has put into this platform and in its approach with the solid rear axle. Overall, consider the rear axle to be a durable, well evolved asset not some blast from the past antiquity.
The same could be said for the entire car. The old Mustang was the definition of the phrase “long in the tooth.” The new car, despite its retro design, is a clean slate approach to the Mustang formula. It works well on the street, and I have no doubts that it will perform at the track. There is clearly a reason behind the new Mustang’s success at the race track; it is a very capable car. Look at Ken Gushi and his drifting Mustang. He is a young guy going up against drivers like Rhys Millen and winning. He currently stands third in the Formula D championship. Ford is also beating out BMW for first in the manufacturer’s standings for the Grand American Road Racing Grand-Am Cup. Sure, these are prepared race cars, but the foundation is there in the consumer cars. With all this in mind, the Mustang is a terrific performance value. Time is a wasting, however, and I must enjoy what little time I have left with it.
It's time to bid farewell to the 2005 Ford Mustang GT Convertible. That is quite a mouthful, we know. The Mustang as been one of the more enjoyable cars I have driven. It has a special blend of characteristics that make it unique.
Classifying the Mustang is a bit of a challenge. For one, there are very few V8 rear wheel drive sport coupes out
there, even fewer convertibles, and absolutely none in this price range. Needless to say the Mustang has very few
direct competitors. There are, however, a few other sport coupes that are in the same price range. Few have the
character or the muscle of the Mustang, honestly. In the US automobile market, the sport coupes out there serve very
different tastes. All provide performance, but there is a wide range in the flavors available.
So, the Mustang is unique to say the least. Another item that makes the Mustang a bit difficult to explain, especially to enthusiasts, is the rear suspension. The solid rear axle was a serious topic of discussion when the Mustang was first announced. In truth, there is nothing wrong with it. It works, the ride quality is very good and the rear suspension is tuned to control the axle very well.
If the fact that the Mustang is an American car, with a solid rear axle, and V8 in the front bothers you, then perhaps this isn’t the vehicle for you. It is the quintessential American sports coupe, and in convertible form it is a blast. If you look past the surface and allow yourself to be immersed in the Mustang’s brilliant character, you will find it to be as enjoyable as anything else on the road. And for less cash than you would expect. It is simply fun and a throwback to another era in American automotive history.
So, if I would change anything what would it be? For the convertible, I would just leave it alone. I would like a touch more chassis rigidity, but I tend to favor coupes anyway. For the Mustang line as a whole, I feel that Ford should offer a package that takes the handling to another level without customers having to wait for the 2007 Mustang Cobra. I would want tighter suspension, additional frame stiffening, and a quicker steering ratio. Make it an option, charge for it and enthusiasts will pick it up. Also, Ford needs to paint those mirrors. Most of the time, you ignore the fact that there are these two huge plastic mirrors hanging off your beautifully sculpted coupe. It’s the times that your hands run over the mirrors that you realize how inappropriately cheap they feel. How much does it cost to paint them? I’d pay an extra $100 to have painted mirrors, really.
Other than this, the Mustang is spot on. I am actually very sad to see it go. I found every opportunity that I could to drive this car, and it was always a willing companion. Bravo Ford for recreating the pony car. The Mustang is actually gone now, but when the driver picked it up, a tear came into my eye as I heard the V8 sing. It’s a beautiful thing. Having been a Mustang owner, I can say this car trumps it hands down. I should have waited for the 2005.
New Car Test Drive
The all-American pony car.
The Ford Mustang is an American success story. Forty years after it created an automotive niche all its own, Mustang is both true to its roots and better than ever.
The 2006 Mustang is available as both a coupe and a convertible, powered by either a V6 or a V8 engine. The V6 Deluxe comes well equipped for less than $20,000. The Mustang GT boasts a multi-valve, overhead-cam V8 that produces 300 horsepower. Both are available with a manual or automatic transmission. More importantly, both deliver the bold styling, rear-drive performance and affordability that have been Mustang hallmarks for decades.
Retro inspired, to be sure, the Mustang is nonetheless a thoroughly modern car. Launched for 2005 with a clean-sheet design, the Mustang is faster and more agile than ever. It's also quieter and better built (even the convertible), and it rides more smoothly. Its interior is a throwback to the original Mustang, but it's also functional and well finished. For 2006, a new Pony Package gives V6 Mustangs all the show, if not the go, of the V8. The V8s are available with trendy new 18-inch wheels for 2006.
A family car, the Mustang isn't. Interior space is limited for a car of its exterior dimensions, and the back seat might better be described as a package shelf. Its solid rear axle can get bouncy on bad pavement, and we advise snow tires (four of them) for Mustang owners in the Northeast or Midwest. Yet the 2006 Mustang holds true to an idea that still appeals to people of all ages decades after it was launched.
The Ford Mustang has been an icon of American performance since its introduction in 1964. It created the pony car genre, and after 40-plus years of competition with the Barracuda, Camaro, Firebird and others, it's the only one left. We, and a few hundred thousands others, are glad it's still here.
The 2006 Ford Mustang lineup probably seems more complicated than it really is. Mustang is available as either a fastback coupe or convertible, each with either a V6 or V8 engine. The V6 models focus on value, while the V8 GTs focus on performance. All come standard with a five-speed manual transmission, but all are available with a five-speed automatic.
The rest of the difference comes down to trim. The V6 Standard coupe ($19,115) comes well equipped, with one-touch power windows, power mirrors and door locks, keyless entry, air conditioning, AM/FM/CD, tilt steering, speed control, rear window defroster, 16-inch wheels, and a split-folding rear seat. Its 4.0-liter overhead-cam V6 generates 210 horsepower.
The V6 Deluxe coupe ($19,215) adds 16-inch machined-face aluminum wheels. The V6 Premium coupe ($20,090) adds 16-inch wheels with chrome spinners, a 500-watt audio system with six-disc CD changer and MP3 capability, and a six-way power driver's seat.
The Mustang convertibles are subdivided in the same fashion, with the same equipment plus a power-operated folding top: V6 Standard ($23,940), V6 Deluxe ($24,040) and V6 Premium ($24,915).
New for 2006, the Pony Package offers V6 buyers V8 show without the engine. The package includes a firmer suspension, a custom grille with fog lamps, Pony emblems and 17-inch wheels.
In addition to its 4.6-liter, 300-horsepower V8, the Mustang GT Deluxe coupe ($25,140) adds in-grille fog lamps, complex reflector halogen headlamps with integral turn signals, a rear spoiler, and performance tires on 17-inch wheels. The GT Premium coupe ($26,320) comes with the 500-watt CD changer and Aberdeen leather-trimmed sport bucket seats.
The GT Deluxe convertible ($29,965) and GT Premium convertible ($31,145) have the power-operated soft top.
Mustang options include the five-speed automatic transmission ($995), an active anti-theft system ($255), a 1000-watt audio system ($1,295), an interior upgrade package with satin aluminum trim ($450). The GTs are available with 18-inch wheels ($195).
Safety features on all Mustangs include dual-stage front impact airbags and three-point belts for all seats. Antilock brakes and traction control are standard on the GTs and optional on the V6 models ($775). Front passenger side-impact airbags ($370) are optional on all models, so be sure to order them as they are designed to offer torso protection in a side impact.
The 2006 Ford Mustang follows the trend by offering ever larger wheels. The GT is now available with two distinct 18-inch wheel designs, as well as two new exterior colors: Vista Blue Clearcoat Metallic and Tungsten Grey Clearcoat Metallic. So trimmed, the Mustang looks more aggressively handsome than ever, and nearly identical to the concept cars that grabbed everyone's attention at the 2004 North American International Auto Show.
Nothing says modern American sporty car better than this Mustang. Its long hood and short rear deck capitalize on 40 years of Mustang history. The current Mustang features classic design cues that have defined Mustangs since the 1960s: C-scoops in the sides, three-element tail lamps and a galloping horse badge in the center of the grille. Its menacing shark-like nose is reminiscent of the 1967 model. And while this 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.
This Mustang is based on a modified version of the platform that underpins the Lincoln LS and Jaguar S-Type luxury cars, albeit with some cost-trimming features such as live-axle rear suspension. Everything under the car has been upgraded substantially from previous Mustang levels: bigger brakes by nearly 20 percent, completely new front and rear suspension designs that yield much quieter, smoother ride as well as much more precise steering during hard cornering, improved engines and new transmissions. Optional antilock brakes bundled with traction control give any driver much more of a fighting chance in bad situations by allowing the driver to brake and steer at the same time.
The engines are mounted to the body with hydraulic engine 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. We know, because we've driven every generation since the original debuted in the spring of 1964.
Perhaps most retro of all Mustang features is a new-for-2006 Pony Package for V6 models. This includes a grille with GT-style round fog lamps and a chrome bezel, or corral, around the traditional Mustang prancing horse. The package includes 17-inch wheels, front-fender pony badges, a lower door stripe, and a rear spoiler.
The styling themes that so readily identify the 2006 Mustang are apparent inside, too. The interior is as blatantly throwback as the exterior, and nearly as well done. It's sporty and crisp in appearance and straightforward in function.
There's a very heavy dose of 1967 Mustang inside, with two 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, with satin or dark-finish aluminum inserts, goes a long way toward eliminating traces of cheapness. Another interior upgrade package adds red leather seats, red door inserts and red floor mats on cars with appropriate exterior colors.
With its new duds inside, Mustang offers a 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.
These are the good old days in terms of roominess in the Mustang. Thanks to a longer wheelbase and larger overall size, there is a lot more hip, leg, elbow and shoulder room inside this Mustang that in any previous generation. We found the front bucket seats to be comfortable, supportive and retentive in hard corners. The 2+2 back seat, however, isn't much more accommodating than before, and it's not a place adults will want to spend any time.
The trunk, however, is as large as those in some more overtly practical sedans, and the folding rear seat expands cargo space even further.
The basic sound system that comes with the car is pretty darn good. The 500-watt upgrade is reasonably priced in 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 2006 Mustang improves those things that have appealed to so many different kinds of drivers for more than 40 years, and it nearly eliminates some traditionally bad pony car traits. In general, the good has gotten better and the bad, less so.
The previous-generation Mustang, a modified, welded version of a chassis that dated to 1979, was about as stiff as wet rope. Ford claims the current Mustang's body/frame is 31 percent stiffer, and we won't argue. 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.
The new-found solidity even applies to the convertible. It's a fact: 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. Our test car was solid enough to think that it would remain largely rattle-free even after a couple of winters pounding over Midwest roads.
The convertible's folding top is simple and straightforward to operate. Unhook it from the windshield header and it powers back behind the back seat with the touch of the button. The ultimate in posing requires that you manually install the optional boot, but the folded, exposed top and frame don't look too bad without the cover.
It doesn't look it, but the 2006 Mustang has a wheelbase six inches longer than the previous generation, and that makes all the difference. The ride has smoothed out, and the remaining harshness is of a completely different order. The new rear suspension uses coil springs and a lightweight three-link design with a Panhard bar and other locators to keep things constant. It's about as good as a solid axle gets, and greatly reduces skipping and bouncing at the back of the car.
The 4.0-liter V6 engine has more technical sophistication than any previous Ford V6. It's a solid performer for urban, exurban and suburban duties, and 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.
Indeed, the Mustang V6 Deluxe is the most popular model (about 70 percent of Mustangs sold today are V6s), and we like it. For under $20,000, it delivers good torque, good acceleration and generally good road manners, with a sportier feel then previous six-cylinder Mustangs. Interestingly, while it has 90 fewer horsepower and 80 foot-pounds less grunt than the V8, with smaller tires, the V6 seems slightly more eager to turn and more agile than the nose-heavy Mustang GT (the GT weighs about 150 pounds more, and almost all of that is on the front tires).
One of the biggest improvements in this Mustang is the steering. Its predecessor had a mushy steering feel with a large dead spot on center, and hard cornering required a leap of faith. This one's steering is more crisp, more precise and more confidence inspiring.
The brakes, too, are improved, 15 percent larger than the previous generation. They work well in high-speed highway driving situations, as we found during a test in Los Angeles. If you want ABS, you will automatically get, and pay for, traction control, which has a dash-mounted off switch for special situations. Like drag racing, for instance.
The GT is a 300-horsepower, five-speed pavement-ripper for about $25,000. The new three-valve V8 engine features both variable camshaft timing and electronic throttle control, wit.
Few machines say modern American sporty car better than the Mustang. Its combination of style, performance, and handling are hard to beat for the money. Many of the traditional pony car shortcomings, including a stiff ride, rattling construction and considerable interior vibration, have been minimized or eliminated. Nor will buyers suffer if they choose a less-expensive V6 model. These Mustangs start well-equipped under $20,000, with good power and acceleration, even with the automatic transmission. Mustang started the pony car genre, and now, after 40 years on the street and race tracks, its appeal endures for drivers of all ages.
NewCarTestDrive.com correspondent Jim McCraw filed this report from Los Angeles.
Ford Mustang V6 coupe ($19,115); V6 coupe Deluxe ($19,215); V6 coupe Premium; V6 convertible ($23,940); V6 convertible Deluxe ($24,040); V6 convertible Premium $(24,915); GT coupe Deluxe ($25,415); GT coupe Premium ($26,320); GT convertible Deluxe ($29,965); GT convertible Premium ($31,145).
Flat Rock, Michigan.
Options As Tested
5-speed automatic transmission ($995); anti-lock brakes with all-speed traction control ($775); leather trimmed seats ($695); interior upgrade package with satin aluminum trim ($450); side-impact airbags ($370); active anti-theft system ($255) convertible boot cover ($115); wheel locking kit ($50).
Ford Mustang V6 convertible Premium ($24,915).
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