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HORSEPLAY

This article is from our archives and has not been updated and integrated with our "new" site yet... Even so, it's still awesome - so keep reading!

Published on Thu, Sep 30, 2004

By: The LACar Editorial Staff

HORSEPLAY

By JOHN GRAFMAN

The girl in the next lane is giving me the look. She's a nine. To be more precise, an L.A. nine, as Tom Leykis says. She's peering from just a few feet away in her red Eclipse convertible. I distinctly notice the lust in her eyes. However, this has everything to do with the 2005 Mustang, and nothing to do with me. You have two types of people in L.A. The first wouldn't notice if King Kong is walking down the street. The second set can almost intuitively sense the arrival of the new Mustang. Roaming the area, we cover Hollywood, Beverly Hills, up and down Angeles Crest Highway, along the San Gabriel toward Simi Valley, then to Malibu, and arriving in Santa Monica. Covering all variety of terrain and various demographics, we get a general feel for the car and the public's reaction to it.

Southern California loves this car. How can I argue? All the good stuff that that Mustang is known for is embodied in this machine. Key to this latest iteration is the design. While Ford has taken a recent turn at heritage (retro)-styling many of its products, the Mustang has never taken a striking deviation from this course. As a result, the '05 is just a welcomed update without being pretentious. There is no identity crisis here that the 2004 Pontiac GTO suffers from. One look and you know exactly what this is. All of the styling cues on the exterior harken back to prior models that are indelibly etched into everyone's brain, car enthusiast or not. You won't find any extraneous badging labeling this a Mustang, as it simply doesn't need it. How many other cars can make that statement? Carrying the design theme of what a Mustang is into the interior hits a bull's-eye. The big-chromed bezels around the gauges fit the car like a glove. The ergonomics are good and the car isn't overloaded with such non-essential clutter like a GPS (global positioning system). The steering wheel feels good, and buttons are limited to cruise control features. Stereo functions are handled by taking one hand off the wheel and adjusting whatever is needed. (Is this the decline of western civilization or what?) The seats are good. However, the passenger seat (which does not have the vertical adjustment found on the driver's seat) gives the feeling of having fallen into a well. While the panel fit is a high water mark for muscle cars and NVH (noise, vibration and hum) is a virtual non-issue, the material qualities of the plastics are rather depressing. Besides being way too busy and having far too many variations in grain and texture, the overall feel is that of discount ABS plastic and melted-down LPs. While this might also be a Mustang trademark, this is one that can stand a rethink. The optional metal panel used on the dash is no better than the plastic it's meant to hide.

One wonders if they did the research in Southern California, and if locals were involved in the design process. Certainly, anyone who lives in this barrio expects that dozens or even hundreds of hours a year are going to be wasted sitting in unforgiving traffic jams. All the while, the driver is subjected to whatever the interior has to offer. In this case, it can stand to be a more hospitable environment. Maybe "Queer eye for the straight guy" can do a little project with this? While everything is a cost consideration in bringing a product to market, at least give the consumer a choice of an extra cost option to upgrade this plastic door and dash hell. The Mustang has grown by six inches over the '04 model. Now, the back seat can accommodate two adults without the use of a shoehorn. Nonetheless, I can still foresee a fight over riding "shotgun" when the occupants number more than two. Squeezing the pedal on the right makes one forget just about everything, including some lack-luster interior materials. The 4.6-liter eight cylinder churns out some of the throatiest 300 horses I have ever heard. Even at low speeds, the rumble is pure muscle car. Ford gives the public just what it wants. One drive in a GT, and it might be difficult to settle for the six cylinder. Let me be the first to recommend that those involved with the engine development get a promotion, bonus or raise. So much power for so few dollars is a winning combo in any playbook. I predict many an embarrassed owner of some fairly pricey cars. When a car like this comes straight from the factory ready to kick butt, all I can say is stay the hell out of the way!

The five-speed transmission is also built for speed, and finds its way into each gear without drama. The suspension is an improvement over the outgoing model as one would hope. While the suspension isn't the four-wheel independent that would have pleased many, it still manages to get the job done convincingly. Bumps and grooves and the usual roadway undulations never cause any ripples in the driving behavior. On canyon roads that are normally dominated by either motorcycles or more esoteric cars, the Mustang puts up a good front. Only when being pushed well past what qualifies as normal driving does the car feel slightly unsettled. I'm sure the aftermarket will tackle this if the factory doesn't. For a base price of $19,400, you get something that most cars can't offer for any amount - i.e., the wow factor. And for the price of the GT, dominating the neighborhood is a given (until the next-door neighbor gets one). Will this highway star tarnish and lose its luster after a million hit the road? I doubt power ever falls out of fashion - nor will the Mustang. I suspect that girl with the lust-filled eyes will be looking at Mustangs the same way for years to come.

For more information please go to www.ford.com

SPECIFICATIONS Price: GT $24,995, Base $19,410 (V6) Engine type: 4.6L 90-degree V8; Aluminum block and heads, SOHC, 3 valves per cylinder, variable camshaft timing, Coil-on-plug, high-thread-insert spark plugs Horsepower: 300 @ 5,750 rpm Torque: 320 lb-ft @ 4,500 rpm Drive configuration: Front engine / rear-wheel drive Transmission type: 5-speed manual (Tremec 3650). Optional 5-speed automatic (5R55S) Suspension: Front: Reverse-L independent MacPherson strut, 34 mm tubular stabilizer bar Rear: Three-link solid axle with coil springs, Panhard rod, 20 mm solid stabilizer bar Wheels and tires: Front: P235/55ZR17 98W 17 x 8.0-inch wheels Rear: P235/55ZR17 98W 17 x 8.0-inch wheels Brakes: Front: 316 (12.4 in) x 30 mm vented disc, twin-piston 43 mm floating aluminum calipers Rear: 300 (11.8 in) x 19 mm vented disc, single piston 43 mm floating iron calipers Overall length: 188.00" Overall width: 73.9" Overall height: 55.4" Curb weight (lbs) Manual 3,483, Automatic 3,518 EPA mileage estimates City/ Highway: Manual: 17/25 mpg / Automatic: 18/23 mpg (87 octane)

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