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2005 Ford Mustang Review
by Ann Job
2005 Ford Mustang Review
2005 Ford Mustang Coupe
If anyone would know a really great makeover when they see it, it would be the folks in this well-heeled town. Home to nipped-and-tucked movie stars and other celebrities; Beverly Hills is the epicenter for the best makeovers.

So it was fitting to start my test drive of the newest Ford Mustang here. Every inch of Ford's famous pony car has been changed for 2005. Thanks to some automotive nipping and tucking, the new look is instant retro and instantly recognizable.

The car's round headlamps are back prominently; so are the three-element taillamps of earlier Mustangs. C-scoops are there on the sides, and the galloping pony in the center of the grille looks just as fresh and fun loving as ever.

This being a Hollywood place, the '05 Mustang isn't just another handsome face on the street. The Mustang ranks as the No. 1 car of American film, having had starring roles in more than 500 movies, according to Ford officials. Even John Wayne, who was the leading man in a record 142 movies, can't top that.

As with any celebrity, people taking pictures are a hazard.

No sooner had my driving partner and I exited the Greystone Mansion in Beverly Hills — a large Tudor showpiece that's often used for movie scenes and where we just happened to pick up our Mustang — than we were followed closely by people in another vehicle. They took pictures of our Mustang with their phone.

With a quick turn onto Sunset Boulevard we left the would-be paparazzi behind. The Mustang GT test car cruised the famous boulevard easily, and why not? There's an unheard-of 300 horsepower under the hood of this V8-powered GT. Historically, this level of performance has been reserved for the specialty Mustangs such as the Cobra and Boss models, for example.

Not this time. Ford chose to install a new, 4.6-liter, single overhead cam V8 that delivers all its power on regular, not premium, gasoline. Torque is a hale and healthy 320 lb.-ft. at 4,500 rpm, enough to push me back into the seatback during hard acceleration and squeal the tires at startup.

The ready power came in a responsive surge. Before we knew it, we were above the speed limit, passing cars on Sunset like they were standing still and relishing the oh-so-deep V8 sounds. "These sounds would make Steve McQueen proud," I decided.
(Actor McQueen starred as the hardcore, Mustang-driving police detective in the 1968 film "Bullitt," and his gripping car chase on the streets of San Francisco is among the most memorable in Hollywood.) Brought back to reality by the thought of police, though, my driving partner slowed and we took in more of the car.

2005 Ford Mustang GT

The Mustang GT comes with choice of 5-speed manual or 5-speed automatic transmission. The latter, which is the first 5-speed automatic in a Mustang and will likely be in the vast majority of Mustangs sold, was in the test GT. Also used in the Ford Thunderbird and Lincoln LS, this 5-speed made our travel through the congested Southern California traffic much easier.

The shifts weren't jolting, but were well timed for performance, and kickdown during acceleration was satisfying. Still, there is no manumatic shift here that allows drivers, even with automatics, to shift from gear to gear, sans clutch pedal. This kind of transmission is offered on sporty BMWs and even some Chryslers.

Don't look for great fuel economy. The Mustang GT with automatic is rated at just 18 miles a gallon in city driving and 23 mpg on the highway. The manual transmission doesn't improve things much. I doubt we got 18 mpg as we turned off Sunset onto a Beverly Hills residential street, bought a souvenir map from a roadside vendor, and began a tour of the neighborhoods.

The roads curved and went up and down small hills in this tone part of Beverly Hills, where landscaped grounds and abundant flowers are offset at many homes by large, imposing privacy gates.

One star whose black, wrought iron gate was open, for some reason, was Connie Stevens, a teen idol in the '60s, the same decade the Mustang debuted. Intriguingly, there were three exotic or classic cars parked under car covers in what the star map said was Stevens' front circular driveway. I had no idea whether the blonde who in her heyday co-starred with hunk Troy Donahue in such films as "Palm Springs Weekend" was a car buff.

Stevens, now owner of the Forever Spring cosmetics company that advertises, "changing the over-40 syndrome," might appreciate the looks of the now more than 40 year old Mustang. The 2005 model has more style and heritage than it has had in ages.

At least one Ford official described the '05 Mustang's design effort as starting from a clean sheet of paper, but any casual observer will see plenty of old Mustang memories.

Why, even the fonts used for the numbers on the speedometer and the letters on the PRNDL are a throwback to the '60s. And if retro truly is in, no one — not even high-tech geeks — will complain about this lack of a modern digital display.

This Mustang has the classic fastback profile, something that still evokes a "bad-boy," sporty image - just the reason why we drove over to Hugh Hefner's Playboy mansion in Beverly Hills.

I know it's touristy, but we couldn't help but snap a picture of this classic bad boy car in front of the classic carved statue of a woman at the mansion entrance. However, we resisted the urge to use the intercom to see if the iconic Hef would want to pad out in his jammies and see this newly styled American icon.

The wheels in the '05 Mustang are pushed out farther to the corners than in the previous car, stretching the wheelbase by 6 inches. This helps improve the choppy ride that can be felt in the up level GT, which has larger stabilizer bars, front and rear, and larger, 17-inch, low-profile tires than the base V6 Mustang.

There were plenty of manhole covers and uneven surfaces in the residential streets, and after a while, it seemed as if the GT conveyed each one to passengers. My body flab jiggled, and there was a sense that the GT ride was more than firm, it was stiff.

All 2005 Mustangs have independent MacPherson struts up front and a 3-link solid axle and a Panhard rod at the back. But I found that later in the day, when I switched to a V6 Mustang, the ride is more compliant in the base car, thanks in large part to the 16-inch tires with greater sidewall.

The longer wheelbase, a 0.8-inch expansion in the car's width and a taller, 55.4-inch height make the interior and trunk larger than the predecessor Mustang had. For example, front hip room in the '05 Mustang is increased 1.3 inches, helping to make those of us who haven't kept our '60s youthful figures feel more comfortable inside. And once in the driver's seat with standard height adjustment, I made full use of the additional half inch of front-seat headroom to try to see over the big hood.

2005 Ford Mustang V6

Note that the Mustang coupe's trunk is 13.1 cubic feet in size now vs. 10.9 cubic feet for the 2004 model. This, and the Mustang's status as an affordable - not just aspirational - sports car inspired a look at Lauren Bacall's home.

The longtime love of the darkly handsome Humphrey Bogart, Bacall has been the celebrity featured in Tuesday Morning television ads of late. She touts that there's much to stock up on at this chain of bargain stores, and certainly, the '05 Mustang can carry more "stuff" than the old one could.

Speaking of prices, it's worth noting just how affordable the Mustang remains. Starting manufacturer's suggested retail price, including destination charge, at introduction, was $24,995 for a 2005 V8-powered GT and $19,410 for a V6 model.

Bacall isn't unfamiliar with the Mustang. She appeared in the 1966 Paul Newman film "Harper" where a 1966 Mustang coupe was featured. And she was in the 1990 film "Misery," where a 1965 Mustang coupe goes off a snowy road - the Mustang isn't necessarily known for its winter driving - leading to the main character's saga of pain at the hands of a reclusive, retired nurse.

Bacall's two-story place with red-brick-trimmed driveway didn't have a closed gate. But there was an unoccupied police car in the driveway and a security patrol sign at the curb, deterring anyone who might want to bother the now-80-year-old actress.

So my driving partner and I continued on to what the star map said was Jay Leno's home atop a high hill.

Along the way, we noticed rear hip room and headroom have decreased slightly in the Mustang, and truth be told, even with the additional 0.4 inch of legroom in the back seat, the rear seat isn't avery comfortable ride for adults. There's a closed-in feeling back there because of the sloping roofline, the smallish, triangle-sized rear windows and the thick window pillars at the back.

The hood on the 2005 Mustang is noticeably more prominent than it was in the predecessor car, perhaps because this hood sits so high. Even when I was sitting inside the car, I was aware of how high the hood was, because the top of the dash was high, too.

Indeed, one of the big complaints that Ford officials were receiving as the car was being shown to the media is the fact the front passenger seat, which does not come with height adjustment, is too low for most people.

2005 Ford Mustang Interior

At 5 feet 4, I felt like I sat in a hole in that seat, and after a couple hours, my back hurt from my straining to see. I had a great view of the windshield washer nozzle in front of me, but not much else. My 6-foot driving partner didn't have a backache, but he, too, complained about the low ride in the passenger seat. A Ford official said the company was looking at alleviating this problem.

The car remains rear-drive, though the platform underneath is all new, and its sense of balance on twisty roads and the fine steering manners make driving enjoyable. After many curves, this way and that, we wound up at the sizable wood gate of what was purportedly Leno's home.

We couldn't see a thing, for all the tall, green hedges around the property. Certainly, we couldn't tell if the host of NBC's Tonight Show, a self-described car nut, already has a Mustang or two in his sizable auto collection.But there have been many collectible models over the years, and even regular Mustang owners have helped build more than 250 Mustang clubs around the world. This is the most number of clubs dedicated to a single vehicle, according to Ford.

It was time to let this pony car run, so we headed out on the Los Angeles freeways. Only problem: It was the LA freeways, with the usual crush of cars, so the Mustang GT got up to highway speeds quickly on the entrance ramp to the 405, then promptly had to slow for the backed-up traffic.

Brakes — front and rear vented discs are standard on all Mustangs — did an admirable job to keep us from hitting the back of a Mercedes. The '05 Mustang has the biggest rotors ever seen on a mainstream Mustang. The car also comes with a stiffer body and safety cage construction that aids in crash protection. All-speed traction control is standard on the GT but can be turned off for smoky burnouts when the urge strikes, via a button on the dashboard. Note that side airbags are optional.

It was a typical stop-and-go LA scene until my driving partner and I got to the 101 turnoff and headed toward Ventura. Young guys in several cars chased us down and hovered in nearby lanes, taking in every inch of the '05 Mustang. Judging by their excited rubbernecking and smiles, they liked what they were seeing.

We tired of their interest, so we took the Topanga Canyon Road exit and headed for the wonderful hilly roads that lead to the Pacific Coast. The Mustang GT hummed deeply the entire time and we moved so swiftly along that courteous drivers in other cars moved aside to let us pass. The only time we couldn't hear the engine was when we cranked up the optional Shaker 1000 audio system. The volume got to the point our bodies vibrated from the bass, yet tunes remained crystal clear. All too soon, the ocean shone ahead of us, and we turned onto Pacific Coast Highway.

Later, in a Mustang V6 with 5-speed manual, I enjoyed the shifting as well as the nice, confident sounds of the V6 in the base car. This has to be one of the best-sounding V6 installations that Ford has done. I also appreciated the fabric seats, which held me in place better than the leather seats of the GT's premium package.

I was not as comfortable, however, in positioning myself in the driver's seat of the stick shift Mustang as I was in the Mustang with automatic transmission. In order to get the clutch all the way down to the floor, I had to move the seat up too close to the tilt-only steering column. My knee actually brushed the bottom of the column, which left me feeling cramped. My 6-foot driving partner had a much easier time getting a comfortable driving position.

The dead pedal area in the '05 Mustang that can help a driver brace their left foot during aggressive driving could use improvement. It's a carpeted spot on the floor, but it doesn't have enough of an angle to provide as good of bracing as I'd prefer.

A final note: Early sales of this new-generation Mustang are all coupes. Ford isn't showing the convertible version until early 2005.

For More Information Click: Ford Mustang
For the Ford 2005 Model Guide : Click Here