The recipe for the original Ford Mustang was simple enough: a low price car with a trim, athletic body wearing the same sort of sexy, svelte sheetmetal of a contemporaneous European sports coupe. If you park a ’07 Ford Mustang GT next to its 1960’s counterpart, it’s clear that Ford missed the point by over two hundred pounds. But don't think of this retro-mobile as just another FoMoCo bloated barge; it's slim by Gran Torino standards. Think of the Mustang GT as a portly pastiche of pony cars past, present and yes, future.
For readers who remember life pre-SUV, the automobile business used to concern itself with a little something called aerodynamic design. Like the equally self-conscious Chrysler 300C, the latest Mustang's tall front fascia cheats the wind with all the finesse of a jackhammer cutting a stick of butter. One look at the truck-friendly side mirrors and it’s obvious that Ford didn’t give their Mustang DNA design a reality check.
Nor, for that matter, did Dearborn's darlings put the 'Stang on a much-needed low-carb diet. Sure, the Mustang still has tasty long hood/short deck proportions. But its obese dimensions make the grille-mounted Pony emblem a half-truth; the Budweiser Clydesdales’ harnesses would make a more fitting setting for such noble ornamentation.
Who wants a vehicle that looks like its predecessors yet displays none of their refinement (such as it was) or overall good taste? Plenty of people! And yet I can’t help but find details like the Mustang's plastichrome "gas cap" deeply offensive. Its non-functionality is proof that retro design isn't a warm reminder of past greatness; it’s de-evolution.
Aside from the upper half of the Mustang’s dash, the same desecration lies within. Hard-molded plastics and dull, flat black panels are at every corner, every turn. Options like the [new for ‘07’] stitched vinyl dash top, Technicolor gauge cluster and fake aluminum trimmings are quite dandy by themselves. Slapped on the Mustang's low-rent interior, they’re like a dorky kid dating the head cheerleader.
While the Mustang GT’s seat comfort and ergonomics are respectable, it’s clear from the intrusive center stack, shotgun-sized parking brake handle, steroid-fed speaker grilles and limited rear visibility that Ford's latest Pony Car desperately needs a personal trainer.
Under all that flab, the Mustang GT still delivers the goods. Soak up the Shaker 1000 stereo's clear and competent frequency responses (for those who care) and its prodigious twin-driver subwoofer enclosure (for those who don't). Then again, all necessary aural pleasures come from the Mustang GT’s 4.6-liter, eight-pot underhood boombox. Like the sound of Frank Bullitt's fastback on your home theater? It sounds even better underfoot.
With 320 lb-ft of twist and 300 horses in the corral, effortless acceleration is always on tap. The accurate shifter has longer throws than the buzz-cut handle implies, but it’s up to the task of full throttle power shifting. Drag Racing R Us.
The ‘Stang’s ride is firm but choppy; a genuine disappointment considering the longish 107 inch wheelbase. For a large coupe, the Mustang behaves like a small hatchback. Every disturbance the rear tires encounter (like gravel) ricochets directly into the passenger compartment. It’s an unwelcome throwback to a simpler, stupider time.
True to Pony Car form, the GT's handling places fun over finesse. The chassis serves-up an ideal balance between understeer safety and power-on oversteer hoonery. Ear-to-ear grins are just a mid-corner throttle stomp away. The GT’s live-axle suspension hugs the road better than previous ponies– far better than it ought to– while giving up none of its, um, durability.
While wheel spin is cool, enough is enough; even part throttle application saps momentum. There simply isn't enough tire to go with the modest suspension, powertrain advancements and extra weight. But even the right rubber can’t cure the uninformative turn-in due to the Mustang's extra mass. What’s worse (for the GT’s target market), the 235mm all-seasons look small against the GT’s bulky sheetmetal.
Ford has announced that this self-same chassis will provide the foundation for style-conscious sedans aimed at people who normally avoid Ford products like the plague. So the Mustang is now the official change agent for a lackluster FoMoCo. But its heft makes an upscale, quasi-lux, two portal vehicle (i.e. Mercury Cougar) completely unnecessary. Before it spawns, the Mustang must die(t).
Before the loyalists reach for their guns, let me add that I've always adored the Mustang's charms and shortcomings. Factoring in the modest asking price– $29k for a nicely loaded example– you can’t deny the fact that the Ford Mustang GT is a terrific performance car value. But this generation's extra bulk, blunt force trauma facade, choppy ride, road noise and dulled driving dynamics combine to make a vehicle no better than its 25-year-old, Fairmont-based predecessor. It’s true, and it ain’t pretty. At least not to me.