2003 Mustang New Car Test Drive
The Ford Mustang is an absolute hoot to drive. The new Mach 1 and the Cobra deliver brilliant acceleration performance with lots of torque for quickly attaining super-legal speeds. The Mustang offers good grip when cornering hard, and you can really feel what the car is doing. Don't expect sophisticated ride and handling, though. This is a hammer of a car, and it's interior is dated.
Mustang's heritage dates back to April 17, 1964, when the first one rolled onto the streets with its long hood, short rear deck, low profile. Performance and style were its hallmarks.
Today, the Mustang is commonly seen at local racetracks of all types, drag strips, road racing circuits. About 135,000 Mustangs were sold in 2002. Ford claims Mustang is the best-selling convertible in America (54,783 in 2001). With the Chevy Camaro and Pontiac Firebird gone, the Ford Mustang is the last pony standing. A new Mustang is on the horizon, likely to be introduced as a 2005 model.
For 2003, two new special-edition models are available: Mach 1 models boast a powerful twin-cam V8, sports suspension, and shaker hood designed to remind us of the famous 1969 fastback. The Mustang Pony is a new package that offers the aggressive appearance of the GT in an affordable V6 model.
2003 brings important safety improvements to the Mustang. Several new measures are designed to reduce wind noise, the suspension has been retuned, and the V6 and V8 engines get some minor refinements.
Mustang comes in coupe and convertible body styles. Base models come with a V6 engine. High-performance GT models are powered by a V8. Ultra high-performance Cobra SVT models get a supercharged V8.
Base MSRPs: V6 coupe ($17,615); V6 convertible ($23,315); GT ($23,485); GT convertible ($27,790); Cobra coupe ($33,300); Cobra convertible ($37,545).
Standard equipment on all Mustangs includes air conditioning, power windows and door locks, tilt-steering column, a floor console, remote keyless entry system and interval windshield wipers. Reclining cloth front bucket seats are standard, as are 50/50 split-folding rear seatbacks on coupe models. A six-way power driver's seat is available, as are leather-trimmed bucket seats.
The standard Mustang engine is a 3.8-liter V6, an overhead-valve engine rated 190 horsepower at 5250 rpm and 220 foot-pounds of torque at 2750 rpm. V6 coupes offer a choice of two optional trim packages: Deluxe ($730) includes rear spoiler, color-keyed floor mats, power driver's seat and cruise control. Premium ($1845) adds a leather-wrapped steering wheel, MACH audio AM/FM with in-dash 6-CD changer, anti-lock brakes (ABS) and traction control; a stripe distinguishes Premium models.
Pony ($595) adds the GT hood and scoop, 16-inch polished aluminum wheels, Mustang stampede graphics and unique stripes, a special rear bumper with blackened Mustang graphics, and a leather-wrapped steering wheel.
GT comes with a 4.6-liter V8 with single overhead cams and two-valve heads rated at 260 hp at 5250 rpm and 302 lbs.-ft. of torque at 4000 rpm. To manage all that power, the GT is equipped with gas-pressure shocks with unique model calibrations, P245/45R17 performance tires on 17-inch alloy painted wheels, a Traction Loc rear axle, ABS and traction control. GTs come with sport bucket seats and fog lamps. Mustang GT uses the Tremec five-speed manual gearbox with a tall fifth gear for improved fuel economy.
Mach 1 comes with a high-performance twin-cam 4.6-liter V8 with four-valves per cylinder rated 'over 300 hp' and a sports suspension (stiffer springs, special shocks and struts, lower ride height). Distinguished by its black shaker hood, the Mach 1 ($4885) is a package that includes special 17-inch wheels, special leather-trimmed seats, special interior trim, in-dash six-disc CD stereo, and special exterior graphics.
GT and Convertible models offer a Premium package ($2585) with leather seating surfaces, the MACH 460 stereo with in-dash 6-CD changer, and ABS and traction control. Convertible models with Premium trim come standard with an automatic transmission.
Cobra models are massaged by Ford's Special Vehicle Team, or SVT. That includes the 4.6-liter supercharged engine, which uses double overhead cams and four-valve heads. The SVT V8 produces 390 horsepower at 6000 rpm, with 390 pounds-feet of torque at 3500 rpm. It comes mated to a six-speed manual gearbox. Cobra comes shod with P275/40R17 tires and loaded with special interior and exterior trim.
Convertibles feature a power top with a scratch-resistant glass rear window. A black semi-hard boot protects the top and provides a slick top-down appearance.
New safety features for 2003 include a new A-pillar, headliners, sun visors and a revised D-ring seat belt attachment, all designed to offer better head protection in the event of an impact. The firing strategy on both driver and passenger side air bags has been updated. Standard safety equipment includes safety belts with pretensioners to tighten the lap belt and shoulder belts in the first moments of a crash. Energy-management retractors gradually slacken the safety belt if necessary to help reduce the force of the belt on the occupant's chest. 2003 Mustangs get anchors in the rear to implement the LATCH child safety-seat system.