- The Washington Times - Thursday, October 7, 2004

DEARBORN, Mich. — In the new Mustang, Ford combines retro styling with modern design. The result is a modern prairie horse with a lot of spirit that will steal the hearts of Americans, again.

In January, at the Detroit Auto Show, Ford rang in the celebrations of the 40th anniversary of the Mustang with the introduction of the 2005 version. Since the Mustang was first shown at the World Fair in New York in 1964, it has been a roaring success. That first weekend more than 22,000 Mustangs were sold and — after a number of ups and downs — the counter stands now at 8 million.

Ford’s pony car was in trouble once, in the middle of the 1980s when Ford had designed a new version with … front wheel drive. That rumor caused a lot of angst among the fans and fortunately also inside Ford’s headquarters. After ample consideration, Ford decided to bring that car to the market as the Probe, and the Mustang was saved.

In the meantime the fifth generation is ready to trot onto the market.

When the production version of the 2005 model was shown nine months ago, friend and foe agreed: the new Mustang has a very clever design, a mix of retro and contemporary styling. Without too much retro, so that young people who have no ties with the original Mustang may like Ford’s new pony car.

You can give the credit to J. Mays, Ford’s vice president of design, who inspired his team to create the optimal combination. The team did not forget that Mustang has always been a performance icon and the new body does not deny that either. With the long hood, the wheels pushed forward, the short deck, big wheels and the fastback rear, it says “muscle” right away.

The cockpit of the new Mustang has the same combination of retro and modern looks as the exterior. The sport seats, the driving position, the interior space and the comfortable atmosphere will charm sporty characters. The aluminum details in the dual cowl dashboard add some sophistication, while the historic touches are not left out. We see a three-spoke steering wheel and an instrument cluster that is reminiscent of the early Mustangs.

A nice industry first is the color-configurable instrument cluster that can be backlit in no fewer than 125 colors by the touch of a button.

Ford will offer two versions, a V-6 and the GT. The V-6 is a new 4.0-liter version that replaces the 3.8 liter. Not only a bigger bore, but also new aluminum heads with a single overhead cam result in 202 horsepower and a maximum torque of 235 foot-pounds at 3,500 rpm.

The GT is equipped with a new aluminum 4.6-liter V-8 with three valves per cylinder and variable camshaft timing. It has a maximum output of 300 horsepower and generates 315 foot-pounds of torque.

Ford uses liquid-filled engine mounts in an effort to reduce noise, vibration and harshness.

There has been a lot of discussion among Mustang enthusiasts about Ford’s decision to stick with the solid rear axle. The answer is quite simple. Such a construction in combination with a Panhard rod is inexpensive. Another advantage is that the rear wheels remain straight on the road. By applying an upper control arm on top of the differential, axle windup is prevented, which has another advantage: the shock absorbers could be placed behind the rear axle for optimal ride control.

So this Mustang has excellent credentials for use at the drag strip, but also in daily life it behaves in a quite sophisticated manner. The only time you realize the rear axle is solid is when you drive on the freeway and you feel the expansion joints.

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