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A Bullet of a Ride - John Dinkel takes on the new 2005 Ford Mustang

Thereís an expression that goes something like this: "If it walks like a
duck, and it quacks like a duck, and it looks like a duck, it must be a
duck. Well, the person who wrote those words never drove a 2005 Ford
Mustang because the only connection between the new car and its
predecessors, except for the looks, is purely coincidental.

To my eyes that is both the strength and the weakness of the new design.
Frankly, I was tired of retro design the first time I saw one, and the 2005
Mustang does nothing to change my mind. I lived the Sixties, and if I
wanted a Mustang that looked like a 1969 Mustang, Iíd buy a 1969 Mustang. I
donít need a 2005 Mustang to remind me of my misspent youth. Retro tells me
someone in design doesnít have the vision to move a current design theme
into the future. Does that sound a-Mays-ing or what?

That said, there is very little else not to like about the new Ford pony
car. It is new from stem to stern and from ground to roof. It has classic
pony car proportions with a long hood and a short deck . . . the latter a
little too short to my eyes. But the wheelbase has been stretched by six
inches and the wheels have been moved out to the corners, especially up
front, so the overhangs are diminished, providing a much more contemporary
look to the overall package. Can I say it looks less hung over? Iíll drink
to that!

That wheelbase stretch makes for much more breathing room inside. While
occupants wonít be rattling around in their seats, front or rear, all four
occupants will find the friendly confines of the new Mustang much less
confining. More to the point, the H-point of the previous car, which dates
back to the Fairmont and Zephyr (they were the sedans built on the Fox
platform that also sired the Mustang) with all its ergonomic deficiencies,
has yielded to a driving position as good as any in the comfort and
convenience it provides. I spent most of my time behind the wheel of a
couple of GTs which have standard power seats with the controls located on
the outboard side of the cushion where good design dictates they should have
been all along. Seat controls buried under the front cushion were another
of the Band-Aids Mustang drivers had to live with. The tilt and telescoping
steering wheel is also appreciated.

Underneath, hidden from the view of all except those who get off on Panhard
rods and hydraulic control arm bushings is the most sophisticated chassis
setup of any production Mustang. And, yes, Iím also including the previous
Cobra version in that most statement.

Forgive me if I donít pay homage to the twin holy grails of double wishbones
up front and a fully independent suspension at the rear. As an engineer,
Iíll take function over form and formality. Lotís of German cars prove
that cars with front struts can handle. And give me a solid rear axle over
a poorly designed IRS every time. Okay, I will admit that for cornering on
a washboard road, the IRS will probably win out. Is this an example of
airing your dirty laundry in public?

Moving right along . . .. The Mustangís new rear suspension, with a Panhard
rod assisting axle location, is four times stiffer laterally than the í04
car. And the coil springs and rear anti-roll bar are located so that they
have a much more direct action to wheel movements. For those interested
techno-enthusiast readers, the ratio goes to 1:1.

Up front the new íStang has coil-over struts and a unique lower control arm
that is made from two steel stampings welded together in the shape of a I
beam, which makes it not only strong but light. As light and as strong as
cast aluminum but at much less cost. And if you want the bang-for-the-buck
affordability for which Mustangs have long been famous, "smart" engineering
such as this can help get you there.

The lower control arm has a front bushing directly in line with tire loads
so Ford engineers made it stiff to improve handling response. But they
didnít compromise NVH (noise, vibration, harshness) characteristics because
the large rear bushing is a trick hydraulic design to improve ride and
reduce harshness and vibration. The engine mounts are also hydraulic.

Tokico gas pressurized shocks are used at all four corners to improve ride
and handling. And the steering rack is solidly mounted to the chassis (with
the í04 car itís rubber mounted) for more direct steering feel.

Say what you will about the lack of technical sophistication of the
suspension design and I will respond with just two words, "drive it!" Along
with the redesigned suspensions Ford designers have endowed the Mustang
chassis with a 31 percent increase in tensional rigidity and a 49 percent
increase in bending strength. Combine these factors with some excellent
seat-of the-pants tuning by fordís chassis engineers and youíve got the
makings of a Mustang with ride, handling and steering response the likes of
which you have never experienced on any previous Mustang.

Did I mention that because the 300 horsepower V8 GT engine is all aluminum
and weighs around 75 pounds less than its cast iron block í04 counterpart
that the weight on the nose drops from 57 percent to a much more handling
friendly 53 percent?

Did I also mention the brakes are larger discs at both ends? And that
shifting efforts for the 5-speed manual gearbox are quantum leaps better
than last year? And that the lever travel from gear-to-gear is
considerably reduced? Okay, I just did.

When I alluded to affordability previously, I didnít mention price. Would
you be shocked to learn that a Mustang GT with 300 ponies comes in at
$24,995, including destination charges? Thatís more power for less money
than any other performance car on the planet. So smart engineering makes
sense and cents. And while Iím not over the top on the new Mustangís
styling, everything else places it squarely on my 10 Most Wanted list.

John Dinkel
November 2004

just drifting
keyed up
To GT or not to GTJPG
back in the saddle