The current Ford Mustang is simply the best Mustang ever. That includes the iconic original Mustang of 1964.
It easily includes the bloated Mustang muscle cars that followed. It even encompasses the Mustang II, a Pinto clone. This Mustang has it all together.
It's a Pony car like the original. Both came with six-cylinder engines as base power plants, the original a straight 6 and the new one a powerful V-6. Like the Boss Mustangs, the current one comes nicely hotted up with a 4.6L V-8 that outguns the old Mustang V-8, and its 289 cubic inch displacement. It's not even close -- 300 horsepower, 50 percent more than the historic V-8.
But like that first Mustang, the latest makes a vibrant automotive styling statement. Nothing else looks like a Mustang. After some time wandering in the automotive styling desert, Mustang once again looks like a Mustang.
That means a long hood with short trunk deck. C-scoops on the sides. Three-element taillights, the galloping horse in the center of the grille and a shark-like nose.
Of course, there's the running pony emblem on the steering wheel, which has three spokes. The gauges are subtle reminders of the first model's compressed numerals that make them skinnier and higher. For the 2007, Ford added something called the "color configurable instrument panel" that has some 125 color lighting combinations. Resist the urge.
While nostalgia is fine, better left forgotten is the mediocre ride and handling of the early Mustangs. They were first built on the Falcon chassis and used mostly off-the-shelf mechanicals. So they drove and rode like spiffy economy cars.
An ill-kept secret is that the 4L V-6 engine of 210 horsepower is, with a five-speed manual transmission, nearly the equal of the 4.6L V-8 300 horsepower. The V-6 gets to 60 mph in 7 seconds and the V-8 in 5.6 seconds. The manual transmission will get the V-8 there in 5.3 seconds.
The V-6 feels more agile and quick than the V-8 as you go through the gears. It's always more fun to push less power hard than to have to ease off on lots of power.
There's a V-6 Pony Package newly available that picks up a lot of the GT model styling and adds firmer suspension and bigger tires -- the largest, Ford says, ever fitted to a V-6 Mustang. That will stiffen the comfortably sporty ride of the V-6.
All the Mustangs carve through the curves with nigh perfect balance. The nicely bolstered drivers seat is a tad low. The gearshift lever falls easily to hand.
The GT Mustang is where the muscle is. That 4.6L V-8's 300 horses supplies zoom in any gear. There are four-wheel disc brakes with anti-locking and rack-and-pinion steering (more accurate than the Falcon recirculating ball). The tradeoff is a far firmer ride. Both Mustangs are fine for long distance cruising -- for two.
This is not your father's Mustang. It just looks like one.