What's New for 1996
Ford's most potent pony gets a 32-valve, 305-horsepower version of the Mustang's new 4.6-liter V8. The Cobra also receives the subtle styling tweaks, such as the vertically themed taillights, that its stablemates received this year.
Since Ford introduced a redesigned Mustang for the 1994 model year, sales of the popular pony coupe have surpassed the expectations of even the most optimistic bean counters in Dearborn. The Mustang line is selling almost as many copies as the Chevy Camaro and Pontiac Firebird combined, despite mostly weaker engine choices and less sleek styling; dealers are clamoring for more of them.
Smoother and cleaner than the 5.0-liter pushrod engine it replaces, the Cobra's hand-built, 32-valve, DOHC 4.6-liter V8 packs a 305-horsepower punch, but it comes at a steep price premium. The Cobra performs slightly better than the new Ram Air Firebirds released by General Motors this year. However, with production of just 10,000 copies and a cost of $26,000 per car, the Cobra has limited appeal. Most buyers will probably go with the less-expensive GT, which also offers an addicting V8 soundtrack and performance that should be enough for most enthusiasts.
New wheels, taillights and colors liven up the exterior a bit. The taillights pay homage to those of the original Mustang, with three quasi-vertical elements. For those who can't make up their minds which color to choose, there is the new "Mystic" shade that changes hues depending on how the light hits it, ranging from purple, to greenish-blue, to brown.
With the new Cobra, Ford has a Mustang that can go tire-to-tire against the top Camaro and Firebird models, the Z28 and Formula/Trans Am, respectively. But that's not to say that things are exactly equal, as the GM pony cars still offer superior bang-for-the-buck.