By: PEDRO ARRAIS on November 17, 2006
Original Article: WINNIPEG FREE PRESS (MB)
In variations from mild to wild, this retro Ford delivers fun, value
The venerable Ford Mustang is an unusual car — a throwback to the simpler ’60s’, when gas prices were low and horsepower high. It has endured, even prospered, virtually unchallenged domestically — arch-rivals Chevrolet and Dodge have nothing that competes with this icon.
You can get it from mild to wild — a 210-h.p V-6 or a ground-pounding 550- h.p supercharged V-8. There is one for every budget, from $24,099 for a base coupe to $83,000 for a Saleen Mustang.
I drove a relatively bare-bones Mustang coupe, to see what sort of value you get when your budget comes up against your desire for fun.
For $24,099, the 2007 Mustang comes equipped with a four-litre V-6 engine that produces 210 h.p and 240 lb-ft of torque. This engine is mated to a five-speed manual transmission. Power steering, keyless entry, air-conditioning, four-wheel disc brakes, power windows and cruise control rounds out the standard equipment you get at this price.
The fun starts when you turn the key. The burble from the engine is music to the ears of anybody who has driven an honest-to-goodness muscle car. Sure, the engine is two cylinders and 100 horsepower shy for most power-hungry drivers, but it makes the most wonderful sounds. It is smooth, too, going up to 5,000 r.p.m without complaint. Drop the clutch and the tires either chirp or squeal — your right foot controls the volume and length of the sound.
Straight-line acceleration is the Mustang’s forte. Cornering should be taken with a bit more thought. The Mustang’s centre of gravity feels higher than most sporty models, imparting greater lean in a corner. The tester was shod with optional 235/55R17 tires and gave good road feel. Still, caution should be exercised as the solid rear end shows its lack of sophistication by losing traction at higher cornering speeds.
The Mustang has traction control, a feature that allows drivers to put the pedal to the metal while the car’s computers work to keep the vehicle going in a straight line. The car detects loss of traction in a wheel and will reduce power, apply brakes or both to keep the rubber rolling.
The benefit is that it will try to keep you from sliding into the weeds. Feeling brave? You can turn the system off — a nice touch for the enthusiast driver who still likes to hear the squealing of tires and feel the back end sliding out under full throttle acceleration. Did I say it was fun?
The anti-lock brakes are up to the task of halting the Mustang, with secure stops and no drama.
The manual transmission is the Achilles heel of the Mustang. It’s the clunkiest manual I have driven in a long time. It takes a hard push to get it into first gear and reverse is no better. Shifts were decent but I can’t see any but the most macho drivers liking it.
The transmission gearing is good for both acceleration and leisurely cruising, with 100 km on the highway seeing the engine loafing at low 1,800 r.p.m.
Driven moderately the Mustang’s fuel economy numbers are decent and comparable with conventional people movers, at 12.3 litres per 100 kilometres in the city and 7.7 on the highway.
Occupants with larger frames will be happy in the Mustang’s power seats. Generous arm room, adjustable seat height and a long seat travel all serve to make happy front occupants — even tall and wide ones. The rear seats are really meant for occasional use by youngsters. A 50/50 fold-down rear seat allows access to the modest trunk. The interior fit and finish is as good as I have seen in a North American car. The imports seem to be able to make a piece of plastic look better but Ford is catching up in this field. The optional leather seats added an up-market feel.
Visibility is very good all round, surprisingly so out the back despite the rear spoiler. The instruments are tucked in twin binnacles. They are dimly lit and made worse when wearing sunglasses. The optional chrome bezels around them and the dash air outlets are attractive in the otherwise matte black dashboard.
Retained accessory power and one-touch power windows are nice items at this price.
Twin airbags are standard but side air-bags are a $500 option. The front seatbelts are a long reach over the shoulder. Rear seat headrests are low.
The new Mustang, going on its 43rd year, shows how a sports car can age gracefully. While the V-6 model might pale in comparison — performance wise — to its more powerful brethren, it more than makes it up by an affordable price, decent fuel mileage and a high fun quotient, especially with the manual transmission.
–CanWest News Service