2005 Ford Mustang GT
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Review and photos by Russell Purcell

The Ford Motor Company has finally rolled its new steed into the corral. I must say that I was impressed during my time with the 2005 Mustang GT: the wait was long, but the resulting product is worth it. Ford’s new Mustang GT offers bang-for-the-buck in the performance department and much-improved fit and finish.


Styling

The side profile of the new Mustang reveals the nose slanted slightly downward, while the rear rises up on its sculpted fenders. Integrated flares, creases and folds are so perfect that the car is obviously a 21st century product, but the triple-lens taillights, triangular rear windows, low-rise spoiler, egg-crate grille, round headlights and Shelby-esque driving lamps are worthy of a weekend cruise night or visit to the drive-in. Ford has come up with a wonderful meld of the Mustang’s glorious past with the safety considerations and blemish-free production methods of the present day.

Retro Good Looks

My car was equipped with optional grey leather seating surfaces and the optional interior upgrade package.

2005 Mustang GT

2005 Mustang GT
Click image to enlarge

The latter includes an attractive ribbed cap over the dashboard’s upper face and on the louvres of the chrome-rimmed rotating air vents. The dash takes its shape from the past, with twin eyebrow extensions jutting out over the instrument panel and glove box.

The retro-looking steering wheel features brightwork on its three spokes, as well as an enormous Mustang badge on the centre pad and outboard controls for the audio system.

A pair of large, chrome-rimmed round gauges bookmarks a quad of lesser units – oil temperature, fuel level, battery voltage and temperature – that feature numerals and markings as used in the 1960s and 1970s, with one notable difference. The driver can customize the cluster’s illumination colour by adjusting the red, green and blue lighting; with five settings, there’s a vast selection. When the lights are off the cluster is a simple white on black.

Race on Sunday, sell on Monday.

The Mustang has a long racing heritage and the 2005 model was designed to reflect on glory days past, as well as those yet to come. Mustangs have been successful in all forms of competition, from drag racing to Trans Am road racing, as well as countless club and solo events around the world.

2005 Mustang GT

2005 Mustang GT

2005 Mustang GT

2005 Mustang GT
Click image to enlarge

Mustangs have always been popular with the stoplight drag racer, as big power gains can be had for relatively low bucks. Head to any drag strip and you will see 40 years of Mustang heritage tearing up the track. This will undoubtedly continue, as the 2005 Mustang GT has the go to complement its show. The launch from a standstill to 100 km/hr is a brisk 5.1 seconds, although I have seen a few reports proclaiming numbers as low as 4.9. The nose rises slightly as the car hunkers down on its muscular haunches. The clutch is firm, but this gives it a feeling of confident durability. Unlike the outgoing Mustang, there is virtually no axle tramp or lateral pitch when the car aggressively leaves the line. The ride is smooth and the car tracks true.

While older Mustangs offered straight-line performance, this pony handles the curves with a newfound agility usually reserved for sports cars. This was important to Ford’s R&D department: it was time for Mustang to grow up and rekindle an interest among its old fans. The Ford Racing Mustang competition program is up and running, and will offer customers factory engineering and years of track-bred experience to help get their competition dreams on track. The plan is to offer everything from bolt-on performance parts and appearance items, to complete race-prepared chassis for drag or road race use. A road racing-spec Mustang equipped with Ford Racing’s potent 5.0-litre Cammer V8 engine is already available, and has already proven itself in battle. This past February, a handful of Ford Racing Mustang GT race cars were entered in the Grand-Am Cup Daytona 200 at Daytona International Speedway. Although this was the track debut for the car, Mustangs came in 1st and 2nd in the gruelling race.

Ford Racing is already making “bodies-in-white” – the unfinished shells that many builders use as the basic structure to build race cars – available as well, so expect to see a sudden proliferation of 2005 Mustangs filling out grids across the country this season and next.


On the Road

With its new longer wheelbase and wider track, the new Mustang feels more planted to the pavement than previous generations. An advanced driver-selectable traction control system is standard and can be switched off at the touch of a button (perfect for Autocross or smoky burnouts), but doing so transformed this pony into a nervous Nellie when the roads became wet or slick.

2005 Mustang GT

2005 Mustang GT

2005 Mustang GT
Click image to enlarge

The 4-channel system offers just enough tire slippage to keep things entertaining, but if the sensors detect slippery road conditions or the car’s tires breaking loose, it quickly steps in. You would be well-advised to leave it active (the default setting at start-up) even if you are a skilled driver; the system inspired levels of confidence unheard-of in a Mustang. I spent my final day with my Legend Lime Green GT rocketing from Vancouver to the Coquihalla toll booth and back. The roads were slippery in places and pools of water flooded many of the corners along my route. Not once did I feel the need to lift off or feather the gas pedal as I splashed my way down the highway.

The three-spoke steering wheel is well-balanced and transmits positive road feel to the driver. Power assist feels progressive but not intrusive, and made it easy to manoeuvre the car whether parallel parking or navigating traffic.

The chassis is still rather old-school, but it works a lot better with the new platform. The front axle is a strut design, while the rear rides on a rigid axle. The suspension proved smooth and predictable; the car exhibits slight body roll and mild understeer. Huge improvements were made to both torsional and bending rigidity, making the car feel more poised when it comes to handling. The new unibody is much stiffer (31 per cent) than the outgoing car, which translates to crisp handling and a responsive ride. With weight distributed with a small front-bias (53 per cent front/47 per cent rear) the car pushes slightly as it corners.

Bigger power means bigger brakes. For 2005, the Mustang GT sports 4-wheel disc brakes with performance-enhancing dual-piston front calipers and fade-reducing ventilated rotors on each wheel. My test car also benefited from the optional ABS system, ensuring that the brakes were easy to modulate and ready to haul the car down in arduous conditions. The ABS brakes seemed strong, albeit with a tendency to make the car nose-dive when applied hard. This is the norm for cars fitted with a strut suspension up front. A load of cargo in the 348-litre trunk cut this down, but short of this, I failed to detect any real fade under hard or extended use.


Getting Settled In

The power-adjustable driver’s seat offers an up and down feature to help shorter pilots see over the long aluminum hood, but the steering wheel is only adjustable for rake, so you may find getting comfortable a bit of a task at first.

2005 Mustang GT

2005 Mustang GT

2005 Mustang GT
Click image to enlarge

I was very pleased with the amount of room I had for my legs, hips, shoulders and melon. Even when sporting my favourite baseball cap, I still had several inches of airspace to the headliner. No sunroof is available; it’s a popular option on many cars, but also the number-one culprit for robbing passengers of head room.

All the controls fall readily to hand and eye. The ultra-short-throw five-speed shifter and well-placed pedals make it a pleasure to take this car out of the stall and tear up the pavement. At first I thought the car should have a six-speed, but I soon realized the Tremac five-speed setup has been optimized for this car, and an additional, taller sixth gear would only be used for long freeway hauls. The problem with the GT is you may find yourself staying in fourth gear at highway speeds. It offers instant throttle response for passing manoeuvres, but more importantly, provides a glorious bark of engine noises and exhaust growl. Images of Parnelli Jones cutting apexes and riding curbs in his Boss Mustang Trans-Am car played in my head as I rumbled down the road.

Parnelli didn’t have to worry about transporting any friends in his race-car, but this is a common task for a contemporary passenger car. The larger dimensions of the new platform carry over to the interior compartment. While not huge, there is sufficient room for two adults in the rear as long as they aren’t much taller than five-foot-eight. The sloping roofline and coupe design conspire to hamper both head and leg room, but complaints will be few if you reserve those two spaces for shorter trips. Both front seats slide forward to offer a wide step-in floor, but an exaggerated body twist is required to slip your behind into the deep-well bucket seat. Careful placement of the feet and knees must be orchestrated if taller persons occupy the front seats. Unfortunately the small rear windows do not open, and rear-seat ventilation must come via the dash vents or front windows.

If cargo is to be carried, the 50/50 split rear seat backs can be quickly folded forward to expand the trunk area.


Standard Equipment

The Mustang GT comes to your driveway well-equipped with a host of power and luxury equipment. Power windows and mirrors are joined by remote keyless entry, manual climate control, a high-power AM/FM/CD stereo, cruise control, twin driving lights and a six-way power driver’s seat.

2005 Mustang GT

2005 Mustang GT

2005 Mustang GT
Click image to enlarge

Advanced ABS brakes and traction control, part of the GT package as well, help tame the 300 ponies under the hood. A variety of optional equipment packages are available, including leather seating and a selection of trim and colour options.


Sweet Rumble

The new Mustang GT has been fitted with a free-flowing exhaust that emits a note that usually costs thousands of dollars in aftermarket parts and labour. Passing through a tunnel creates echoes of such force that you will lower your window to take it in. Downshifting for lights and stop signs generates a sound reminiscent of Mark Martin entering the pit lane in his NEXTEL Cup Ford Taurus.


Where the Rubber Meets the Road

The Mustang GT comes equipped with some pretty trick tires as standard equipment. The Pirelli P Zero Nero tires offered good bite and did a commendable job of displacing water from their path. The standard 17×8 Mustang GT alloy wheel is attractive, but I expect that a lot of buyers will move to an aftermarket wheel. Most will probably go up at least a size in diameter and width, to fill the substantial wheel-well gap and offer a bit more contact patch. Rim selection for Mustangs has traditionally been abysmal, and hopefully the wheel manufacturers will embrace this car more than they did the previous model.


Big Sound

The Mustang GT is also available with an array of audio options. My test vehicle came with the upgraded “Shaker 500” system, which incorporates an AM/FM radio with an in-dash, six-disc, MP3-ready CD player. A powerful 400-watt amplifier feeds a carefully selected compliment of six speakers (including a pair of booming sub-woofers hung in the doors). This advanced setup allows you to turn the cozy Mustang cockpit into a listening chamber unmatched at this price. For those individuals who like to feel the bass tones tickle their spines, an upgrade to the “Shaker 1000” system places a pair of 500-watt subs in the trunk and upgrades the amplifier to feed them.

For audiophiles who like to design their own systems, the new Mustang is stereo friendly: the speaker cut-outs in the rear shelf and doors are large enough to accommodate some big guns. The head unit is integrated, so swapping decks is a little more involved, but there will no doubt be installation kits available as soon as the Mustang floodgates are opened.


Behind Door #2

For pony-car fans with a fear of gas stations, Ford also offers a single-overhead-cam 4.0-litre V6 engine sourced from the Explorer. This proven power plant gets a new intake and camshaft that bump power to 202 hp and 235 lb-ft of torques. Shorter gear ratios give the car better pull throughout the power band. An all-new automatic also debuts and will prove a popular choice with buyers as well. Whether you pop for a V6 or V8 powered Mustang, you will benefit from an immediately noticeable increase in power.


Safety

Excellent stopping power is delivered with each pump of the brake pedal, as the Mustang GT comes with the aforementioned ABS-equipped 4-wheel ventilated disc brakes and traction control. However, in the event of a collision, front passengers have second-generation dual-stage airbags, while everyone will benefit from the crashworthiness of the car’s unibody design and side-door intrusion beams. Seat-mounted side airbags are available as an option on both base and GT models for $495.


But will Mustang Fans Like It?

Writing a review of Ford’s latest Mustang proved something of a quandary, as this car has been on the cover of every major car magazine since last spring, and on television shows and commercials. I introduced it to a couple of friends that live, eat and drink all things Mustang, to gauge their interest in the new car.

    Grant

    Grant, a veteran school teacher and dedicated blue oval fan, loved the car. He currently owns a near-mint 1985 Mustang GT, one of the last ones fitted with the big four-barrel carburetor. He has also owned a fleet of Ford products, including a 1966 Mustang Fastback that was lost in a wreck. He recently spent some time at the wheel of one of the few road-going Ford GT40s in existence, courtesy of an affluent relative.

    Grant’s View:

    “This car is a great step forward for Ford. The ride is refined but the power is there when you want to tap it. The styling reminds me of some of the cars of my youth, and those are good memories. If I was looking for a car that would put a smile on my face every day, this would be it.”

    Blake

    My friend Blake is a gold mine of information when it comes to high-performance cars. He owns and operates Killer Customs, a shop dedicated to making people’s automotive dreams come true. Blake has owned a wide array of Mustangs over the years, including rare birds like the turbocharged Mustang SVO, and an all-out 2003 dedicated drag machine. His customer base seems to favour the rumbling steeds and he has worked on countless Mustangs.

    Blake’s View:

    “I would buy one of these as my personal car. I love the way they have taken styling cues from some of the great Mustangs of the past but have still given the car a modern look. At SEMA this year it was evident that the aftermarket was already embracing the new Mustang, as bolt-on products and go-fast equipment was everywhere, as were tricked out show cars. I am going to love to see what Ford’s SVT program comes up with when they bring out a Cobra version of this car.”


Conclusions

This car will no doubt be a resounding success for Ford. Mustang aficionados will flock to put their orders in once they get a chance to take one out for a test drive. I know I was blown away by the fit-and-finish of this car; everything from panel gaps to the quality of the trim and plastics is top-shelf. The new chassis and drive train bless the car with impressive performance, especially when you factor in the relatively low price of admission, but it may be the car’s neck-wrenching good looks that woo most buyers into taking one home.


Technical Data: 2005 Ford Mustang GT

Base price $32,795
Options $1,975 (Leather-trimmed sport seats $895; active anti-theft $295; 17-inch bright machined alloy wheels $250; interior upgrade package $535)
Freight $995
A/C tax $100
Price as tested $35,865
Type 2-door, 4-passenger coupe
Layout Longitudinal front-engine, rear-wheel-drive
Engine 4.6-litre, 24-valve, SOHC V8, aluminum block & heads
Horsepower 300 @ 5,750 rpm
Torque 320 lb-ft @ 4,500 rpm
Transmission 5-speed manual
Wheelbase 2,720 mm (107.1 in.)
Length 4,765 mm (187.6 in.)
Width 1,880 mm (74 in.)
Height 1,384 mm (54.5 in.)
Cargo capacity 348 litres (12.3 cu. ft.)
Fuel consumption City: 14.0 L/100 km (20 mpg Imperial)
  Hwy: 8.8 L/100 km (32 mpg Imperial)
Warranty 3 years/60,000 km
Powertrain warranty 5 years/100,000 km

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