- Life Style
Mustang Magic: It's new, better - and packed with memories of old
by Mark Maynard
The swoop of the roofline doesn't cramp views that are enabled by the quarter windows in the sail panels. The wide trunk will handle far more than groceries, and with the convertible there's luggage room even when the top is folded inside.
Not bad for the type of car that General Motors said people weren't interested in anymore when it killed off its Camaro and Firebird.
And, Mustang does have a following.
There are enthusiast clubs from coast to coast. And clubs for green Mustangs, electric green Mustangs, blue Mustangs, red Mustangs, black Mustangs, yellow Mustangs, V-8 Mustangs, V-6 Mustangs, SVT (Special Vehicle Team) Mustangs, old Mustangs only, new Mustangs only, or old and new together.
Ford might have its problems, but the Mustang isn't one of them.
I just spent a week in a vista blue metallic Mustang GT convertible. It's a gorgeous bold blue, new for '06, that could have its own club.
The Mustang GT convertible is sold in deluxe and premium trim levels, with starting prices of $30,685 to $31,865.
The deluxe model includes stainless steel dual exhaust, front fog lamps in the grille, halogen headlamps with integrated turn signals, rear spoiler, 17-inch Pirelli performance tires with painted cast aluminum wheels, AM/FM stereo with single CD, cloth sport bucket seats and tilt steering wheel.
The premium adds a Shaker 500 Audio system with six-disc CD player and leather-trimmed sport bucket seats.
As tested, the premium-level car cost $34,940 and came with some notable options, including the 5-speed automatic transmission ($995), interior upgrade package ($450), side air bags ($370) and 18-inch Pirelli performance tires and bright wheels.
The GT is defined by its big, round fog lights in the grille and its 300-horsepower, 4.6-liter V-8 with a rumble sexy enough to be sold as ringtones for a cell phone - and Ford does so at the company Web site.
Twist the ignition key and the sweet sound of American muscle rolling out of dual exhaust tips is lovely, but drivers pay by the gallon. Fuel economy is 17/23 miles per gallon automatic or 17/25 manual, on 87 octane.
The manual transmission makes smooth work of handling such shaggy horsepower. The clutch is no struggle to depress and the gas pedal is placed for competitive heel-toe shifting, which it wasn't in the previous generation.
Steering inputs are precise and the big four-wheel disc brakes have robust stopping power, helped by the substantial Pirelli rubber, which shows off nicely in the classic style mag wheels.
The automatic shifter is heavy-duty to handle the 320 foot-pounds of torque with just occasional activation of the traction control. There is no sport mode or manual shift ability, even though this car deserves that kind of versatility.
Nail the throttle for an evasive move and the transmission grabs a double downshift that whistles up a mighty howl of acceleration, which isn't always necessary.
Being able to cruise in a lower gear in heavy traffic would keep the GT on its toes and ready to move quickly. But pulling the shifter into third gear elevated engines revs to what seemed like second gear. It was either too much or too little.
Inside, it's just about right.
The top powers back quickly and forms its own tonneau cover (Miata style), so you don't have to hassle with the beauty cover unless you want to.
With the top up, there's more headroom than the coupe, just a couple tenths of an inch in front but an inch and a half in back. And there's adult space in back, at least for a short distance, if those in front aren't too tall.
The gauges grabbed me at first glance. The round pods have a typeface similar to that in the '66 Mustang coupe I drove through college. At night the instrumentation has purple backlighting and red needles. The aluminum trim on the instrument panel looks new but timeless.
Even the feel of the leather-wrapped steering wheel inspires happy thoughts when pulling out of the driveway.
The last two generations of Mustang were practice for this one. And it will only get better.
It's just a car, but what a ride for the Mustang enthusiast.
SIDEBAR: V-6 offers Mustang feel for lower price
By Mark Maynard
Copley News Service
For drivers not turned on by the pull and rumble of a V-8, the Mustang V-6 coupe or convertible has the GT's look of power without the price.
Available on the topline premium model at $20,810, the $1,195 Pony Package adds a spoiler, 17-inch aluminum wheels with Pirelli tires, ABS and traction control, black tape stripe and logo floor mats.
And don't leave out the aluminum trim interior upgrade for $460, the leather-trimmed seats at $695 and front seat side air bags for $380.
Eighteen-inch wheels wouldn't add too much more to the deal.
The standard model's starting price of $19,835 includes a 210-horsepower, 4.0-liter V-6 and five-speed manual, or a five-speed automatic for $995 more.
Basic conveniences on all V-6s include one-touch up or down power windows, power mirrors and door locks, keyless entry, air conditioning, CD player, tilt steering wheel, cruise control, rear window defroster, stainless steel exhaust, 16-inch wheels, four-wheel power disc brakes and a split-folding rear seat on the coupe.
The V-6 deluxe coupe, $19,925, adds 16-inch aluminum wheels. The V-6 premium comes with aluminum wheels with a chrome spinner, Shaker 500 audio system with six-disc CD changer and MP3 capability, six-way power adjustable driver seat.
Convertible prices range from $24,660 to $25,635.
All V-6 Mustangs have a $500 incentive, and there's a decent lease deal of $269 a month for three years on a deluxe coupe that also comes with the Shaker 500 Audio System and power driver seat.
The V-6 coupe is more than 100 pounds lighter than the GT and feels a little livelier to drive. The engine has roots in the Ranger pickup and is a little coarse, but it's fast and doesn't have a bad sound.
Ford will bring out a 265-hp, double overhead cam 3.5 liter V-6 in the fall for the Edge crossover and Lincoln MKZ and MKX, which no doubt will find duty in a future Mustang.
Fuel economy with the automatic is 19/25 on 87 octane.
SIDEBAR: Specs box
2006 Ford Mustang GT Convertible
Body style: 4-passenger, rear-wheel-drive convertible; steel body with aluminum hood
Engine: Aluminum, SOHC 4.6 liter V-8 with 3 valves per cylinder and variable camshaft timing
Horsepower: 300 at 5,750 rpm
Torque: 320 foot-pounds at 4,500 rpm
Transmission: Tremec 5-speed manual or optional 5-speed auto
Acceleration: 0 to 60 mph, 5 seconds (source: Car and Driver)
EPA fuel economy estimates: GT - manual, 17/25 mpg; automatic, 17/23 mpg
Fuel capacity: 16 gallons; 87 octane recommended
Trunk space: 9.7 cubic feet
Curb weight: 3,657 pounds (3,612, manual)
Standard equipment: Leather-trimmed seats, Shaker 500 audio system with 6-disc CD player, 1-touch up/down power windows, power mirrors, keyless entry and power locks, heated rear window, interval wipers, air conditioning, cruise control, fog lights
Safety equipment: Dual front air bags, anti-lock brakes, traction control
Brakes: Front, 12.4 inch vented disc with twin-piston floating aluminum calipers; rear, 11.8 inch vented disc, single-piston floating iron calipers (V-6, front, 11.4 inch vented discs with twin-piston floating aluminum calipers; rear, 11.8 inch vented disc, single-piston floating iron calipers)
Steering: Power-assisted rack and pinion
Suspension: 4-wheel independent with front MacPherson struts and stabilizer bar; rear, 3-link solid axle with coil springs, Panhard rod and stabilizer bar
Tires and wheels: P235/55ZR 17-inch on alloy wheels; 18-inch optional
Where assembled: Flat Rock, Mich.
Base: $31,865, including $720 freight charge; price as tested, $34,940
Options on test car: 5-speed automatic, $995; anti-theft system, $295; 60-amp battery and wheel locking kit, $50; interior upgrade kit, $450; front seat side air bags, $370; convertible boot cover, $115; 18-inch machined aluminum wheels, $825
PLUSES: Romping, stomping 300-hp Mustang convertible with excellent air flow when the top's down, and good driver visibility with the top up.
MINUSES: The front valance has two empty horizontal openings for fog lights. Dark charcoal seats will be thigh sizzlers in summer (better to choose the parchment or gray interior color). Peculiar groaning sound coming from the rear end when making low-speed, hard left turns. Gasoline nozzle kept shutting off before tank was full. Automatic transmission deserves a sport mode and manual shift mode.
Mark Maynard is driving in cyberspace at email@example.com.
© Copley News Service