Looks like Bullitt is back.
BY BROCK YATES
PHOTOGRAPHY BY JEFFREY G. RUSSELL
The first Mustang, introduced on April 17, 1964, was a Falcon-based four-seater that was not dubbed a sports coupe or GT but rather a "personal car." Purists of the day hooted at the base model's engine, a feeble 101-hp inline six-cylinder. They also scoffed at its Euro-style pretensions—bucket seats, a long hood, a short rear deck. But for Ford, it was an enormous blast out of the park in the exploding market known as "baby boomers." In one year, Ford sold 418,812 Mustangs. It remains the only car ever to simultaneously grace the covers of both Time and Newsweek.
It's not likely that this new 2005 Mustang will equal the dramatics of that record, but the car is nonetheless attracting huge attention. This is the first mechanically and stylistically all-new Mustang since 1980, and it inherits the mantle of the longest-lived and most successful machine of its class. Despite the Mustang's advanced age in 2003, Ford still sold more than 140,000 of them. Meanwhile, the Chevy Camaro, the Pontiac Firebird, the Mercury Cougar, the Plymouth Barracuda, and the Dodge Challenger are all occupants—at least for the time being—of Detroit's junkyard.
What awaits tens of thousands of enthusiasts is a machine that not only captures the aura of the early Mustangs but also seems capable of kicking its way out of the stable and bucking into an entirely new market segment.
Consider a densely packed four-passenger coupe offering an entry-level 210-hp, 4.0-liter SOHC 60-degree V-6 with a five-speed automatic or manual for less than $20,000. Or a GT version with a 300-hp, 4.6-liter, 24-valve SOHC 90-degree V-8, also with a five-speed automatic or manual, for less than $25,000. If these price points can be achieved, the 2005 Mustang will go unchallenged by any rival, domestic or foreign. (One can imagine designers at GM and DaimlerChrysler furiously scribbling concepts of new Barracudas, Challengers, Camaros, and Firebirds to match it.)
The Mustang is part of a substantial number of new models being introduced by Ford in the coming year, including the Five Hundred and Mercury Montego sedans, a reskinned Focus, the Freestyle and freshened Escape SUVs, as well as the limited-production Ford GT.
The Mustang will be built on a highly modified version of the company's D2C platform that carries the Lincoln LS and Jaguar S-type sedans, a structure offering anvil-like rigidity to the Mustang chassis.
One of the major changes to this platform is in the suspension. Instead of the front control arms and rear multilink setup used in the platform's bucks-up cars, the Mustang gets a simpler strut-front and three-link coil-over solid-axle rear suspension with a Panhard rod. Vented disc brakes are retained at all four wheels. If the layout seems primitive, the overall execution seems first-rate, with optimized geometry, rigid suspension pickup points, and the latest design practice.
The styling of the coupe, with its wide, forward-leaning grille, small quarter-windows, and fastback roofline, is powerfully retro, with images fried into one's brain of the Mustang Steve McQueen drove in Bullitt and the Bud Moore-Parnelli Jones -George Follmer Trans-Am cars. Despite an increase of 5.8 inches in the wheelbase to 107.1 and an overall length of 187.6 inches (4.4 inches longer), the bodywork is so neatly integrated that the package transmits an impression of understated modest size. Although the GT sports a small rear wing, the look is otherwise accomplished without the addition of cornball scoops, ground-effects skirts, spoilers, and decal pasting.
The retro look carries over into the Mustang's interior with a full-width, brushed-aluminum instrument panel; two big round instrument clusters; and a three-spoke steering wheel that recalls the spare, airbag-free wheels from 40 years ago. One modern element is a unique "color configurable instrument cluster." With the touch of a button, 125 different hues for the speedometer and other gauges can be created. This, according to Ford types, speaks to the growing desire of customers to "personalize" their automobiles. How this urge will be met by psychedelic instrument displays has yet to be confirmed.
Our first exposure to the car came during a 140-mile drive to GingerMan Raceway in western Michigan. On a combination of back roads and I-94, the 2005 Mustang GT felt rock-solid and rattle-free. Wind and road noise were both moderate, although the V-8 engine delivers a satisfying rap when you bury the throttle and wind toward the 6000-rpm redline.
The Mustang GT's ride motions felt firm and controlled, just as one expects from a performance machine with 300 horsepower. But there's enough compliance in the suspension that not even sharp-edged bumps can cause harsh crashes or bangs. Steering feel on the highway is excellent, with a combination of great stability and a natural effort increase as you wind into corners.
For a car that appears as tidy as if it were shrink-wrapped, there's plenty of room in the front seats, with an excellent driving position. One major improvement is the new shifter that not only neatly controls the rugged Tremec 3650 transmission but is also located about six inches astern of the old one, eliminating the need for the kinked shift lever. The rear seat remains tight for adults, with the heads of six-footers touching the rear glass, but rear legroom is a bit improved compared with the outgoing model.
Although it took some time for the original Mustang to find its legs in terms of performance, this latest version is ready for battle. Hot laps at the short, tight GingerMan circuit were comfortable, with minimal body roll, accurate steering, secure and linear braking action, and none of the cowl shake and rattles that cursed its predecessor. Both the base V-6 and the V-8 GT lapped GingerMan in the 7/10ths-to-8/10ths speed ranges with little effort.
As we pressed harder, we found that the car is calibrated with a fair amount of understeer, which becomes pronounced if you try to brake late as you turn into a corner. The Mustang is happier with a more conservative entry and will gladly accept plenty of power coming out of a corner while holding an accurate line and solidly planting its rear tires.
Under hard acceleration, the V-8 offers a lusty rumble—the result of a dual exhaust system with large pipes (2.5 inches in diameter) and some proprietary work by Ford engineers that produces muscular sound within noise limits. But stomping on the V-6 betrays its ancient architecture (we recall that this engine dates back to the 1964 pushrod 2.0-liter V-6 from Cologne, Germany), resulting in the customary tinny note endemic to all such engines.
Although we had no opportunity to conduct instrumented performance testing, we can guesstimate the capabilities of the new Mustang. With 300 horsepower packed into the 3450-pound manual-gearbox GT model, 0-to-60 should easily arrive in less than six seconds, and with a standard final-drive ratio of 3.55:1 and a power peak of 5750 rpm, the GT could clear 160 mph—but Ford has slapped on a 143-mph speed governor. We'll confirm all these numbers in future examinations of both the V-8 and more-tepid V-6 models.
To keep costs under control, initial plans to offer the Mustang with an independent rear suspension were shelved after much internal debate. But an independent rear suspension is expected to arrive next year with the pricier SVT model, along with more power from Ford's all-aluminum modular V-8. It remains to be seen whether that power will come from additional displacement—the truck version of this engine has 5.4 liters—or a supercharger as on the most recent SVT Cobra.
Also coming in the near future is a convertible model, which will be popular with the growing female audience—now more than 50 percent—that has for 40 years been a factor in Mustang sales strategies.
With sales of more than eight million units over the Mustang's 40-year history, the car has a legion of loyal owners and collectors. By combining classical elements of the most popular and successful Mustangs of the past with a fundamentally solid, all-American layout, we predict Ford has a winner on its hands.
Vehicle type: front-engine, rear-wheel-drive, 4-passenger, 2-door coupe
Estimated base price: base, $20,000; GT, $25,000
Major standard accessories: power windows and locks; remote locking; A/C; cruise control; tilting steering wheel; rear defroster
Sound system: Ford AM-FM radio/CD player, 4 speakers
Type: V-6, iron block and aluminum heads
Bore x stroke: 3.95 x 3.32 in, 100.4 x 84.4mm
Displacement: 245 cu in, 4009cc
Compression ratio 9.7:1
Fuel-delivery system: port injection
Valve gear: chain-driven single overhead cams, 2 valves
per cylinder, hydraulic lifters
Power (SAE net) : 210 bhp @ 5250 rpm
Torque (SAE net): 240 lb-ft @ 3500 rpm
Redline: 6100 rpm
Type: V-8, aluminum block and heads
Bore x stroke: 3.55 x 3.54 in, 90.2 x 90.0mm
Displacement: 281 cu in, 4601cc
Compression ratio: 9.8:1
Fuel-delivery system: port injection
Valve gear: chain-driven single overhead cams, 3 valves
per cylinder, hydraulic lifters,
variable intake- and exhaust-valve timing
Power (SAE net): 300 bhp @ 5750 rpm
Torque (SAE net): 320 lb-ft @ 4500 rpm
Redline: 6000 rpm
Transmissions: 5-speed manual, 5-speed automatic
Final-drive ratios: base, 3.31:1; GT, 3.31:1-3.55:1
Wheelbase: 107.1 in
Track, front/rear: 62.8/63.0 in
Length/width/height: 187.6/73.9/54.5 in
Ground clearance: 5.7-5.8 in
Curb weight: 3300-3500 lb
Weight distribution, F/R: 53.0/47.0%
Fuel capacity: 16.0 gal
Type: unit construction
Body material: welded steel stampings
SAE volume, front seat: 53 cu ft
rear seat: 33 cu ft
luggage: 13 cu ft
Front-seat adjustments: fore-and-aft, seatback angle,
height (opt); driver only: lumbar support
Restraint systems, front: manual 3-point belts, driver and
passenger front and side airbags
rear: manual 3-point belts
Front: ind, strut located by a control arm, coil springs,
Rear: rigid axle located by 3 trailing links and a Panhard rod;
coil springs; GT only: anti-roll bar
Type: rack-and-pinion with hydraulic power assist
Steering ratio: 15.7:1
Turns lock-to-lock: 2.8-3.1
Turning circle curb-to-curb: 36.0 ft
Type: hydraulic with vacuum power assist and
Front : 11.5-12.4 x 1.2-in vented disc
Rear : 11.8 x 0.7-in vented disc
WHEELS AND TIRES
Wheel size: base, 7.0 x 16 in; GT, 8.0 x 17 in
Wheel type: cast aluminum
Tires: base, BFGoodrich Traction T/A, P215/65R-16;
GT, Pirelli P Zero Nero, P235/55R-17
Zero to 60 mph (C/D est): 5.4-7.5 sec
Standing 1/4-mile (C/D est): 14.0-15.5 sec
Top speed (governor limited, mfr's est): 112-143 mph
PROJECTED FUEL ECONOMY (C/D est)
EPA city driving: 18-20 mpg
EPA highway driving: 24-29 mpg