Friday, November 2, 2007

2007 Ford Mustang Expert Review

2007 Ford Mustang
The Mustang remains one of the most widely recognized, respected, and desired nameplates in the automobile business. The Ford Mustang defined the pony-car segment in 1964; Plymouth's Barracuda may have beaten Ford to the showroom by 16 days, but it was the Mustang that set the sales records. The 'Cuda is gone now, and so are the Camaro, Firebird, Cougar, Javelin, Challenger, and every other would-be rival, leaving Ford's pony to prance alone. At least for now.

For 2007, the 210-hp Mustang V6 and 300-hp Mustang GT are joined by the new 500-hp supercharged Shelby GT500, offering its own look, tuning, and equipment.

Available in fastback coupe or convertible body styles, the Mustang V6 models make nice, stylish cruisers. The GT is an absolute hoot to drive, making all the right sounds, hanging onto corners tenaciously, and delivering thrilling acceleration performance. The Shelby GT500 adds to the fun with its near-Corvette performance. It's quite tossable, making for good sport on gymkhanas, race tracks or back roads. Its solid rear axle can get bouncy on bad pavement, and you'll want snow tires (four of them) for Northeastern or Midwestern winters.

It may be retro inspired, but the Mustang is a thoroughly modern car. Redesigned from a clean sheet of paper for 2005, today's Mustang is faster and more agile than ever. It delivers the bold styling, rear-drive performance and affordability that have been Mustang hallmarks for decades, but it's smoother and quieter and better built than older models.

Its interior looks like a throwback from the '60s, but it's functional and well finished. Granted, interior space is limited, especially given its exterior dimensions; and the back seat might better be described as a package shelf.

The Ford Mustang is an American success story. It holds true to an idea that still appeals to people of all ages, decades after the original was launched. Forty-three years after it created an automotive niche all its own, Mustang is both true to its roots and better than ever.

The Mustang comes in two body styles: coupe and convertible. Each is available with a V6 or a V8. A five-speed manual transmission is standard; a five-speed automatic optional ($995). The 2007 Mustangs come in just two trim levels each for the V6 and for the V8-powered GT.

The V6 Deluxe Coupe ($19,250) comes with one-touch power windows, power mirrors and door locks, keyless entry, air conditioning, AM/FM/CD with auxiliary input jack, tilt steering, speed control, rear window defroster, 16-inch wheels, and a split-folding rear seat. Its 4.0-liter overhead-cam V6 generates 210 horsepower.

The V6 Premium Coupe ($20,175) upgrades to 16-inch bright-machined wheels with chrome spinners, plus a six-way power driver's seat, and 500-watt audio system with six-disc CD changer and MP3 capability.

The V6 Deluxe Convertible ($24,075) and V6 Premium Convertible ($25,000) are equipped the same as the coupes, except they delete the split-folding rear seat and add a powered folding top.

The GT Coupe ($25,275) comes with all the same equipment as the V6 Deluxe, plus sport seats, in-grille fog lamps, complex reflector halogen headlamps with integral turn signals, a rear spoiler, performance suspension, and performance tires on 17-inch painted aluminum wheels. Its 4.6-liter overhead-cam V8 produces 300 horsepower.

The GT Premium Coupe ($26,455) adds a 500-watt CD changer and Aberdeen leather-trimmed sport seats.

The GT Convertible ($30,100) and GT Premium Convertible ($31,280), are equipped similarly to the coupe versions.

The Shelby GT500 comes as a coupe ($40,930) or convertible ($45,755). The GT500 is powered by a 5.4-liter supercharged V8 developing 500 horsepower. It incurs a gas-guzzler tax ($1300).

The Pony Package ($750) for V6 models adds a firmer suspension, 17-inch painted aluminum wheels, a custom grille with fog lamps, and other visual upgrades, giving these more economical Mustangs something closer to the look and handling of a GT.

A new California Special package ($1895) spiffs up a Premium GT with 18-inch wheels, side scoops, unique tape stripes, rolled bright exhaust tips, black leather trimmed seats with unique ''Cal Special'' contrasting Dove or Parchment inserts, a larger air intake, a deeper chin spoiler, and unique front and rear fascias. The name refers to a special limited edition offered to California Ford dealers in 1968, but this Cal Special will be available nationwide. The GT Appearance Package ($245) features rolled exhaust tips, an engine cover with a Pony emblem, and a hood scoop.

Options include a new comfort group ($575) that includes an electrochromic mirror with compass, heated front seats, and six-way power for the front passenger seat. Stand-alone options include an active anti-theft system ($328); 1000-watt audio ($1,295); an interior upgrade package with leather-wrapped steering wheel, satin aluminum trim, and other cool-looking goodies ($460); power-adjustable driver's seat for the Deluxe Coupe ($365); heated front seats ($250); and 18-inch wheels ($825). Sirius Satellite Radio ($195) joins the option list for '07, and DVD-based navigation will be available on later 2007 models.

Safety features on all Mustangs include dual-stage front-impact airbags and three-point belts for all seats. Antilock brakes and traction control are standard on GTs and optional on V6 models. Front passenger side-impact airbags ($380) are optional on all models, so be sure to order them as they are designed to offer torso protection in a side impact.

The Mustang improves those things that have appealed to so many different kinds of drivers for more than 40 years, and it nearly eliminates the bad traits of traditional pony cars. In general, the good has gotten better and the bad, less so.

The previous-generation (1994-2004) Mustang was still built around a body shell that dated from 1979, and it was about as stiff as wet rope. Ford claims the current Mustang's body/frame is 31 percent stiffer and it feels it. This Mustang is simply much more rigid and rattle-free than its predecessor. A rigid foundation provides the basis for a host of good things, including improved ride quality, sharper handling, and less interior vibration.

This new-found solidity applies to the convertible as well. By their nature, convertibles don't offer the chassis rigidity of hard tops. Cars that cost five times as much as the Mustang tend to get shakier when the fixed roof is removed to design a convertible version. In the Mustang convertible, you will notice some shimmy in the windshield frame that you'll never see in the coupe. Yet when it comes to overall rigidity, the current Mustang convertible is light-years better than its predecessor.

The convertible's folding top is simple and straightforward to operate. Unhook it from the windshield header and it powers back behind the rear seat with the touch of a button. The ultimate in posing requires that you manually install the optional boot cover, but the folded, exposed top and frame don't look bad without it.

The wheelbase is relatively long, six inches longer than the previous generation (pre-2005), and that makes a difference in terms of ride quality. The ride has smoothed out, and the remaining harshness is of a completely different (and smaller) order.

The rear suspension uses coil springs and a lightweight three-link design with a Panhard bar to keep all motion under constant control. It's about as good as a solid-axle suspension gets, and greatly reduces skipping and bouncing at the back of the car.

The steering is crisp, precise and confidence inspiring.

The brakes work well in high-speed highway driving situations, as we found during a test in Los Angeles. If you want ABS, you automatically get (and pay for) traction control, which has a dash-mounted off switch for special situations. (Drag racing, for instance.)

The 4.0-liter V6 engine is technologically sophisticated and a solid performer for urban, exurban and suburban duties. The ratios in the five-speed automatic transmission seem well matched to the available torque. When the automatic gets into overdrive fifth gear, the engine goes quietly into economy mode until called upon for a lane change, a pass, or an uphill charge. This is a large-displacement V6 and it sounds more muscular at full throttle than any previous Ford V6 engine. Yet it rates 19/25 city/highway mpg with the automatic transmission, and 19/28 mpg with the manual.

Indeed, the V6 Deluxe is the most popular model (about 70 percent of Mustangs sold today are V6s), and we like it. For just around $20,000, it delivers good torque, good acceleration and generally good road manners, with a sportier feel then previous six-cylinder Mustangs. And while it has less power than the V8 and smaller tires, the V6 seems slightly more eager to turn in for coners, a bit more agile than the nose-heavy GT. (The GT weighs about 150 pounds more, and almost all of that is on the front wheels.)

The GT, on the other hand, is a 300-hp, five-speed pavement-ripper for about $25,000. The three-valve-per-cylinder V8 engine features both variable camshaft timing and electronic throttle control. The Mustang GT will run 0-60 mph in about 5.5 seconds; it will out-brake a large number of sporty cars; and it handles better on canyon roads that any previous Mustang GT, with a minimum of body roll and a large portion of tire grip. Expect 17/23 mpg with the automatic, 17/25 with the manual.

The GT looks mean, and it drives mean, with 320 pound-feet of torque, a decent shifter and a brawny, loud exhaust note. It's everything a pony car is supposed to be, without the teeth-rattling stiffness of the muscle cars of another era. The Mustang GT also boasts one of the world's largest aftermarket speed-part networks for those who want even higher performance.

The new Shelby GT500 kicks up yet another notch. Its 5.4-liter V8 is derived from the same modular engine family as the smaller 4.6, but has an iron block for rigidity, and four-valve-per-cylinder aluminum heads topped by a total of four overhead camshafts. A Roots-type positive-displacement supercharger feeds air at 8.5 psi through an air-to-liquid intercooler and dual 60mm throttle bodies. The official output is 500 horsepower at 6000 rpm, and 480 pound-feet of torque at 4500. The only available gearbox is a Tremec close-ratio six-speed manual.

It's relatively easy to control and very predictable. Without any experience in the car, we were able to immediately carry long power-oversteer slides on a wet autocross circuit at Ford's new Dearborn Development Center proving grounds, feeding in opposite lock. Use of the throttle and steering wheel allowed us to wag the tail back and forth through slaloms, quickly and accurately changing directions. Secure footing is provided by 255/45ZR high-performance tires in front and 285/40ZR's in back, on wheels measuring 18 by 9.5 inches.

The Shelby coupe weighs a hefty 3920 pounds (364 pounds more than a GT), but Ford has provided it with 14-inch Brembo vented disc brakes up front squeezed by four-piston calipers. Rear brakes are the standard Mustang 11.8-inch vented discs. The brakes are responsive and easy to modulate in competition type driving.

The Ford Mustang looks and feels like an all-American car, and that's a good thing. It's quick and fun to drive and offers combination of style, performance, and handling that's hard to beat for the money. The V6 Deluxe is a stylish, sporty cruiser. The GT is a serious performance car. And the Shelby GT500 raises it to Corvette performance levels. correspondent Jim McCraw filed this report from Los Angeles; with Mitch McCullough reporting from Dearborn and Los Angeles.

Ford Mustang V6 Coupe Deluxe ($19,250); V6 Coupe Premium ($20,175); V6 Convertible Deluxe ($24,075); V6 Convertible Premium $(25,000); GT Coupe ($25,275); GT Coupe Premium ($26,455); GT Convertible ($30,100); GT Convertible Premium ($31,280); Shelby GT500 Coupe ($40,930); Shelby GT500 Convertible ($45,755).
Source: aol

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