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DOES THE NEW MUSTANG PASS COLLECTOR MUSTER?

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 Sun, May 8, 2005

By: The LACar Editorial Staff

DOES THE NEW MUSTANG PASS COLLECTOR MUSTER? By BRIAN KENNEDY

"I wonder if you have time to drive it over the next few days. Tell me what you think. Maybe write something?" My publisher asked it with a smile. He had just showed up at my house on a Sunday afternoon, a 2005 Mustang GT gleaming behind him, and the keys held out for me to take. "But don't write a traditional review. Talk about how it compares to the old ones." He knew that I drive an old Mustang a couple of thousand miles a year. He also recognized that this new one had borrowed heavily from the styling of those 1960s cars, mostly 1967-68 models. He wanted to know if the similarity was more than skin deep. "Sure. I'll give it a go." I pictured myself cruising over the Vincent Thomas Bridge at 100 miles an hour, cops chasing me with their lights forcing their way into the night sky, sirens screeching. I'd be Nick Cage in Gone in 60 Seconds. My license would be gone just as fast. I refocused my attention on Roy (the publisher), hoping he wasn't a mind reader. "I mean, yeah, I'll run a tank of gas through the thing."

I dropped him off at his house, and before I'd made the three-mile trip back to mine, I had recorded one smokey burnout. No doubt, this thing is fast. Not scary fast, but quick, like a rush. The power was just there, all the time, at any rpm. I went down to the freeway, waited until I had room on the ramp, and floored it in first. Shifted to second when the car wasn't even at the top of its lungs. Hit near eighty before I got the thing into third. Backed off. Fast. But is it a '68 Mustang? Or better, if you're young now, and you buy it for a reliable daily driver, can you pretend if you squint your eyes just a little (not while driving, please), that you've bought what Steve McQueen would have bought in 1968? (Think of the already-famous commercial of the car, McQueen, the cornfield, and you have the image.) In some ways it copies that car. In other ways it's ultra-modern. In certain ways it's annoying. But overall, it's pretty nifty.

The gauges have a plastic surround that's supposed to mimic the chrome of the old cars. It looks something like them, but it's cheap. Super cheap. The gauges, too, have a distinctly old-Ford look. Cool. But, senselessly, the tach is on the far left of the pod and the speedo on the right. So most times when you look down, you see the fuel gauge and the temp gauge all that stuff first, because they're in the center. Maybe with some practice your eyes would get used to darting left, then swinging to the other side of the pod. But why should you have to learn to do this? The seats have the pattern of the old car's vinyl, though the ones in the test car were a really nice red leather. Still, they punched the nostalgia button. Plus, they were safe-feeling, with good headrests. But every time I put my briefcase behind the driver's seat, or tipped that seatback forward for any reason, it went back to a straight-up position which nobody could possibly drive in. I would have to sit down and reset it. Every time. I checked the manual, thinking it was just not ratcheted right, that someone had misadjusted it, causing it to return to what was, for me, the wrong position. Nothing. So I assume that this is the way the seat works. I would curse it every single morning if this were my car. The styling, as has been endlessly noted, is quite like the old car. I enjoy the looks. But there's no way you can see out of this thing like a vintage Mustang. (Those slope-windowed 71-73 Sportsroof models being the exception.) Still, there's a feeling of being safe, surrounded by a solid chunk of metal. The feel is old-school American sporty car. Nothing not to like about that. But the body is insulated like a modern car, so instead of feeling the exhaust pounding, you hear it - out there, somewhere. It's isolated away, kind of like a giant blanket of sound that's out beyond your reach instead of a wicked thump that makes you sit up and grip the wheel a little tighter for fear of it getting away from you. That, I suppose, is the compromise you make to have a modern machine.

There are a number of other ways in which this 2005 Mustang has been moderned-up. The radio has a cell phone mute button. The windows go down just a little when the doors are opened, then raise themselves again when the doors are shut. The headlamp switch is a turny thing, not the pull knob which is on everything from my 66 Mustang to my 00 GT. Each of the side windows has auto-down on the switch. There's a really fun message display center which does everything from calculate mileage to show you with a series of bars how you're doing on fuel economy at all times. I tried to keep the thing floored as much as I could so that there was never more than one or two bars showing. I liked all this stuff, found it useful rather than gimmicky, and would enjoy using it on a daily basis. But for all the effort the engineers spent on the stuff just mentioned, they got some of the basics completely wrong. You wonder in cases like this whether these people ever actually drive what they design. I'm sure they do - that is rhetorical. So why didn't they notice that the shifter feels too short? That the parking brake handle is too high to pull without feeling cramped? That the dimmer switch takes a double click to go from brights to dims, needlessly? That the console lid hits you in the elbow about every second time you downshift? Why should the driver have to adjust for the car's design? Is this some sort of oddball nod to the past, a strategy to remind buyers of '60s-type non-ergonomic design? Unlikely, so why not get this stuff perfect, then do fancy stuff like make the windows go down a little bit, like there's a BMW-type vaultness to the car? It is solid, but that's not why people buy Mustangs. They buy them to relive the past, and to drive the crap out of them. Did I like the car? Sure. It's fast, flat in corners, looks good, and seems two generations better than my 2000 model, not just one. But it's not finished. Let's just hope that the quality issues in the mechanicals don't end up being as poorly sorted out as some of the driving dynamics. That, these days, is a sure way to kill any new model, Mustang or not.

Summary Judgment: They could have sweated the details a bit more, but they sure got the big picture right. For LA Car's road test and specs on the GT, go to 2005 Mustang GT road test. For more information on Ford products, go to www.fordvehicles.com.

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