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There has been no end of controversy surrounding the all-new 2005 Mustang from the enthusiast community.
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There is the styling: Suddenly, it's 1968! The open rear quarter window is more Shelby than the louvers on the early fastbacks, and the nose and taillamps feel more 1969-70. Only the exaggerated wheel flares, soft fascias in lieu of chromed metal bumpers, and a side-sculpted C-scoop that's more of an L (note how the line disappears altogether up near the door handle) hint toward a more contemporary style. For years, Mustang press propaganda has linked the new model's design features to earlier models, but for once, the new style nails it. From the forward-leaning grille to the fastback 2+2 styling, you'll never mistake it for anything but a Mustang. There are those who think this is the wrong move, that there is a way to invoke heritage without succumbing to it: Ford's own F150 pickups are thoroughly modern, continue to look forward, are the best-selling vehicles in America and look nothing like the 1948 or 1954 F-series trucks that are just as iconic; so why can't Mustang follow the same brief? We predict that this will not prevent Ford from selling every single one it can crank out-probably at a premium, at least at first-and certainly in far greater numbers than the 140,000 units shifted for 2004. There is the chassis: Media reports say that the floor (eight times stiffer than last year's) is based on the DEW98 underpinning the Lincoln LS and Ford Thunderbird, while Ford engineers downplay that, estimating that only a crossmember and some suspension-mounting commonalities carry over. We're told that the Mustang actually started out a lot more DEW98, but enough bespoke pieces were designed in that the Mustang is probably 70 percent unique, according to a Ford insider. Whatever the case, the wheelbase is six inches longer than the outgoing car's, which calms the ride down slightly and offers actual room for four passengers; the back seat is less of a penalty box than ever before. There is also the rear suspension: Drag-racers and old-schoolers are no doubt pleased that the revised 8.8-inch axle housing is still solid and, better still, houses 3.55 gears (the steepest factory gears previously were 3.27s); a revised three-link rear suspension allows improved response. The solid axle is also a factor in keeping things under the magic ,000 mark. But there are those who insist that IRS is a must-have for that final degree of driving finesse and smoothness, and that cars costing thousands less come so equipped. Two-thirds of the Mustangs built will be V-6 models, purchased by people who would put the Mustang and an Accord coupe in the same category; they'll think the Accord is smoother-riding but won't know why. To this crowd, a solid axle is inexcusable and crude. The proof is in the driving. And drive we did, from Santa Monica, across Sunset Boulevard, into the Angeles Crest mountains, and back again. Beneath that long hood is the newest incarnation of Ford's all-aluminum, SOHC "modular" 4.6L engine, now treated to a new-for-passenger-cars three-valve-head configuration with variable camshaft timing and throttle-by-wire; all GTs also get a dual-bore throttle body (55mm, smaller than the twin 57mm throttle bodies given to the Bullitt), and now sport 9.8:1 compression (up .4 from last year). It's rated at 300hp at 5,750 rpm (6,250-rpm redline) and 320-lbs.ft. of torque. Sounds stout on paper, and while the variable cams do their part to expand the power band up high, Mustang's acceleration belies its power rating-it doesn't snap you back when you tickle the throttle. The near 3,500-pound curb weight-up 150 pounds from last year's GT, nearly on par with a Mach 1-doesn't help, but the problem remains that peak torque arrives at 4,500 rpm-about 2,000 rpm higher than we might like, and 500 rpm higher than last year. GT models are equipped with the smooth-shifting Tremec 3650 five-speed manual transmission (the 5R55S five-speed automatic is optional); V-6 models get the tried-and-true T5. Finally, a stock GT that doesn't fight you when you try to bang gears through a stick with as many doglegs as a greyhound track. It's a joy: easy action, nicely weighted, and goof-proof. Some may grumble about the lack of a sixth gear (likely coming in next year's Cobra version), but including the 3650 may be the single greatest improvement over the outgoing GT. In a straight line, the gear ratios in the trans and rear were well-matched and got us moving with alacrity, but through the alternately sweeping and tight decreasing-radius turns in the mountains north of LA, a sweet spot was denied us. Modular V-8s have responded best to 4.10 gears for the fifteen or so years that they've been around, and we suspect this one would be no different, but such gearing would destroy gas mileage, wreak untold havoc on the speedometer, and spin the reciprocating assembly far too hard, even in Overdrive. For our circumstances, through the Angeles Crest twisties, 3.73s would have allowed us to hit just where we needed to. We alternated between second and third gears, never quite finding the right ratio in the bends; second was too short, not giving us enough speed before redline cropped up, and third was too long, unable to stay in the meat of the powerband at the right speed. Bucking conventional wisdom, the biggest available tire is a 17-inch, 55-series tire, on either a polished aluminum wheel (our choice) or a faux-Torq Thrust II. That's a lot of sidewall-it's a move that also aids in the retro-look. (What next? White-letter bias-plies?) Ride quality proves itself exactly where you'd hope a Mustang GT should be. It's firm but not jarring, thanks in part to the tall tires, with crisp turn-in; the additional 2.5 inches of track, front and rear, no doubt helps. (We wonder how much the ride would be compromised if the 245/45-17s from last year's car were swapped on.) But that solid axle that we were told wouldn't be a factor in our ride-and-drive, in fact, was. Seat-of-the-pants lateral grip was impressive, but the new chassis cannot hide the solid rear axle. Hit a bump mid-apex and the chassis, while not coming unglued, certainly lets you know it's working on sorting itself. You can also feel it at 80mph on the freeway, where the heat-soaked, rippled, undulating pavement was transmitted straight through to the driver's backside. Better than before? Absolutely. But you can still tell. Inside carries on the retro (sorry, "heritage") style, but gives it a sharp modern edge. Finally, an interior that doesn't look like the designers were in mourning, or got a truckload of grey plastic on sale at Big Lots. The seats, finally, allow a comfortable driving position (a gripe we've had with Mustang since the dawn of the SN95 a decade ago), and are covered, as the door panels are, in an acceptably supple, perforated leather. The optional (,295) Shaker 1000 stereo system is arguably the finest system ever installed from the factory in an under-,000 car, and the general ergonomics of the cabin are light-years ahead of the stylistically overdone outgoing model. That's all fine if you didn't actually need to touch any of it. The plastics and textures inside leave a great deal to be desired: The door panels and dash top feel brittle, sounding not unlike nails on a chalkboard when you run your fingers over it. The vents, with their lovely chromed bezels, feel cheap and have a plastic-on-plastic action; perhaps a drop of petroleum jelly would smooth things out. The turn signal and wiper stalks which, besides the steering wheel, are the places you most often touch, feature sharp mold lines that won't draw blood but certainly distract; would seamless chrome stalks not have worked just as well, and kept with the old-is-new theme? Additionally, our two-thousand-mile test car (serial number 89) developed a squeak in the passenger's side of the dash during our street thrash. We are hoping that these are pre-production foibles, and that production pieces will be considerably nicer. Something that can't be changed for production is the gauges. Oh, the font is lovely and retro, and the much-ballyhooed color-changing option is good fun-but the twin speedo and tach units are so deeply tunneled into the dash that, when you're driving in bright sunlight they're virtually unreadable, particularly with sunglasses on; the eye cannot adjust quickly enough between the brightly lit outside world of LA and the dials' shadowy depths. I blame this squarely for the 9 I donated to the city of Chatsworth, California, a result of the sad combination of topping 62 mph in a 45 zone, and a bored motorcycle cop sitting on a side street. Draw your own conclusions about the new Mustang's styling, but this anecdote is offered: On our prescribed route, journalists were directed up Hollywood Boulevard so that passersby could gawk at us and we could soak in their admiring glances. We got stuck in traffic, we got detoured, we were not moving quickly enough to obscure ourselves in a blur of color and noise. And, whether because it was one p.m. on a weekday afternoon, or because the tourists were taking in Mann's Chinese and the Walk of Fame, or because it looks like an old Mustang in a town where old Mustangs are a dime a dozen, or because everyone walking the streets was too hip for the room, no one noticed. Well, that's not entirely true; we got one thumbs-up from a particularly attentive bus driver at a stoplight, who was equally impressed by the style and the pricetag. We do, however, find ourselves wondering how it's going to be facelifted come 2009, and cringe at the inevitable onslaught of aftermarket ground effects that will no doubt arrive on the market in the coming months. And even if there's not enough here for you to sink your teeth into, and you want more, keep in mind that this is only the beginning. Despite some cheap materials inside, Mustang is still the blank performance canvas it's been for nearly 20 years now. The better news is, there's far more yet to come. Coupes are in showrooms now; come springtime, watch for a convertible. For 2006, the Cobra should spring forth-we're guessing at 400 supercharged horsepower or more, lower-profile tires, and an independent rear suspension. After that, there are bound to be more special versions. Mach 1? Boss? Bullitt? (Dark green is conspicuous by its absence in the available color palette.) Saleen is said to have a 2005 Mustang prepped for SEMA, and Ford has already announced aftermarket parts through the Ford Racing Performance Parts catalog. We've heard on-and-off murmurs about a Mercury version for some time now-2007 would be a nice round 40 years for a Cougar anniversary, no? One might think that the first new Mustang platform in a quarter-century would exhibit a more vast improvement in every direction, but the steps Ford has taken are measured, despite the radically new underpinnings. And really, is it any surprise? Mustang is the Alpha and Omega of the ponycar movement; it started it, and it certainly finished the job. Why isolate a very happy customer group by changing it into something unrecognizable? Certainly the 2005 model is better than the outgoing car in nearly every possible quantifiable way, but at the same time, the improvements feel evolutionary: This still feels and sounds like a Mustang, even without the styling sledgehammer hitting you on the head. No one should walk away disappointed. Specifications Year: 2005
Make: Ford
Model: Mustang GT
Redline: 6,000 rpm Base price: ,995
Options on car profiled:
Shaker 1000 audio system, ,295
Bright 17-inch aluminum wheels, 5
Interior color-enhancement package, 5 ENGINE
Type: SOHC V8, aluminum block and heads
Displacement: 281 cubic inches
Bore x Stroke: 3.55 inches x 3.54 inches
Compression ratio: 9.8:1
Horsepower @ rpm: 300 @ 5,750
Torque @ rpm: 320-ft.lbs. @ 4,500
Valvetrain: 3 valves per cylinder, variable cam timing
Main bearings: 5
Fuel system: Electronic sequential returnless fuel injection
Lubrication system: High-flow gerotor
Electrical system: 12-volt
Exhaust system: Dual 2.5-inch exhaust TRANSMISSION
Type: Tremec 3650 5-speed manual
Ratios 1st: 3.34:1
2nd: 2.00:1
3rd: 1.32:1
4th: 1.00:1
5th: 0.67:1
Reverse: 3.38:1 DIFFERENTIAL
Type: Ford 8.8-inch housing
Ratio: 3.55:1 STEERING
Type: Rack-and-pinion with power assist
Ratio: 15.7:1
Turns, lock-to-lock: 2.8
Turning circle: 38.0 feet BRAKES
Type: 4-wheel disc with electronic anti-lock and traction control
Front: 12.4-inch vented disc, twin-piston 43mm floating aluminum calipers
Rear: 11.4-inch vented disc, single-piston 43mm floating iron calipers CHASSIS & BODY
Construction: Unitized body with subframes, all steel with aluminum hood
Body style: Two-door coupe
Layout: Front engine, rear-wheel drive SUSPENSION
Front Reverse-L independent, MacPherson struts, 34mm tubular stabilizer bar
Rear Three-link solid rear axle with coil springs, Panhard rod WHEELS & TIRES
Wheels: Factory-type aluminum
Front: 17x8
Rear: 17x8
Tires: Pirelli P Zero Nero
Front: 235/55ZR17
Wheelbase: 107.1 inches
Overall length: 188.0 inches
Overall width: 73.9 inches
Overall height: 55.4 inches
Front track: 62.3 inches
Rear track: 62.5 inches
Shipping weight: 3,483 pounds CAPACITIES
Crankcase: 6 quarts
Cooling system: 14.2 quarts
Fuel tank: 16 gallons
Transmission: 12 quarts
Rear axle: 4 pints, with 4 oz. of friction modifier CALCULATED DATA
Bhp per c.i.d.: 1.06
Weight per bhp: 11.63 pounds
Weight per c.i.d.: 12.39 pounds PRODUCTION
Sales projections for the 2005 Mustang are at 140,000 cars, the same sales volume as the outgoing model PERFORMANCE
0-60 mph: 5.2 seconds
1/4 mile ET: 13.8 seconds @ 102 mph
Top speed: 143 mph (limited by tire rating)

This article originally appeared in the January, 2005 issue of Hemmings Muscle Machines.

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