Click Image for high-res gallery of the Mustangs that were at DDC
I admit it, I'm an unabashed Mustang fan. I have been ever since I was a kid and a family friend had a blue '69 Mach1. The first brand new car I bought after I graduated from college was a '91 5.0L LX. It may not have had the classic Mustang looks, but it had the heart of a pony.
At Ford's 2008 model preview in Dearborn they had plenty of ponies for us sample, including the shiny blue Shelby GT ragtop in the picture. Chris and I immediately made a beeline for the Shelby and fired it up. No matter what you think about the Mustang's interior or retro styling, on a summer morning as sunny as this, the visceral thrill of hearing a big rumbling V8 with the top down is enough to make any car fan smile.
Continue reading after the jump.
As we all know, Mustangs are not the most sophisticated machines on the road, but compared to previous generations the current S197s are huge leap forward. The interior may look cheap but the chassis is solid and the live rear axle does a surprisingly good job of staying where it's supposed to be. The surface of the high speed oval where we drove the Shelby (at a Ford mandated maximum speed of 65mph) is smooth but not always perfectly flat. There are some ripples in the pavement that the Shelby absorbed but let our back sides know about. I drive a 2005 Mustang on a daily basis on the surfaces they sometimes call roads in Southeast Michigan and although it's no Lexus, it certainly doesn't beat you up the way some sportier cars do.
There's not a lot new for 2008 on the Mustangs with drivetrains and styling being carryovers. The options list does have some additions to it including HID lamps, interior ambient lighting that lets you choose from a number of colors, and a new version of the 18" fan blade wheel with the center of the spokes painted a darker gray. A convertible version of the Shelby GT is also available for '08 with the GT500KR coming next spring and a new Bullitt coming at some undisclosed time.
Even with the top and windows down at highway speeds wind buffeting was minimal and you can have a conversation with your passenger without shouting. Squeezing the right pedal brings on a feeling of a big hand reaching out to the back the car and giving a good shove. The only real problem comes when you grab the white plastic ball on the top of the shifter. This particular example had one of the notchiest shifters I've ever used --- much worse than on other Mustangs I've driven although hopefully it might loosen up with some miles on the clock.
For those of you who thank the Mustang interior looks cheap, you'll just love the hood scoop on the Shelby. Meant to evoke the riveted on scoop of the original Shelby Cobras of the mid-sixties, it just looks cheap and cheesy on this car. It looks like it was slapped on by the aerodynamic dyslexia guy and if he sees this thing he might add one to his Firebird. All non-functional add-on appendages like this should be banned and whoever came up with this ridiculous thing needs to be sat down and given a talking too.
Over on the Steering and Handling loop we got the chance to try out some regular V6 and GT Mustangs. Even the V-6 used in the current-generation ponies has a nice bark to it that previous models never had the accelerator's punched. Spotters were located all around the track to make sure no journalists approached the limits but under these conditions the Mustangs stayed well planted and fun to drive. Undoubtedly, the Mustang, even in its über GT500 form, won't match a Corvette, Viper or Porsche in outright performance. But for a price that starts at well under $20K for manual box V-6 running up to $50K+ for a GT500 convertible, it's a performance bargain that can't be beat. Don't forget that at least in coupe form the Mustang even has a usable back seat and trunk, which most of the competition don't.