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Despite a performance disadvantage, Ford's Mustang will outlive the Chevy Camaro and Pontiac Firebird, which are being euthanized at the end of the year. Even though it's not perfect, the 2002 Ford Mustang embodies raw American style and power, is fun to drive and easily tossed about, and doesn't break the bank in terms of cost of ownership.
Strong V8 power with GT, fun to drive, appealing all-American style, good crash-test scores, ragtop option.
Solid rear axle, excessive gingerbread detailing on GT, poor stereo ergonomics, flaccid seats.
Available Mustang Models
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Lower-line V6 models get standard 16-inch alloy wheels and a new hood while losing the fake side scoops. Premium models can be equipped with a Mach 1000 audio system. Both this system and the Mach 460 get speed-sensitive volume. Later this year, an MP3 player will be available. Performance Red paint is replaced with Torch Red.
Rapidly approaching the big 4-0, Ford's perennially popular Mustang is advancing upon middle age. But if it's going through a mid-life crisis, nobody is noticing. The Mustang is as hot as ever. Ford's sport coupe has outsold GM's Chevrolet Camaro and Pontiac Firebird for years. This is in spite of the fact that the Mustang has suffered a performance disadvantage since its 1994 redesign.
There are four Mustangs from which to choose: the V6 Coupe, the V6 Convertible, the GT Coupe and the GT Convertible. All models can be ordered in either Deluxe or Premium trim. There is also a standard trim available on V6 coupes only. A 3.8-liter pushrod engine that makes 190 horsepower at 5,250 rpm and 220 pound-feet of torque at 2,750 rpm powers the V6 model. Acceleration is acceptable, especially with the standard five-speed manual transmission, though V6 Coupes definitely have a rental-car stigma attached to them.
The GT Coupe and Convertible are more in tune with what pony cars should be. Equipped with a 4.6-liter overhead-cam V8, GT output is listed at 260 horsepower at 5,250 rpm and 302 lb-ft of torque at 4,000 rpm. That's good for a 0-to-60 blast of less than 6 seconds, and plenty of twist for tail-out slides around nearly any corner.
Standard V6 coupes include features like air conditioning, a dual-media stereo with cassette and CD players, alloy wheels, power windows and door locks, rear defroster and an anti-theft system. Add Deluxe trim, and you get a rear spoiler, floor mats, power driver seat and cruise control (Deluxe convertibles also come with an automatic transmission). Options on Deluxe models include a Mach 460 sound system, ABS with traction control (when the automatic transmission is selected) and a special Sport Appearance Group. Premium models include those items and buy access to the Mach 1000 audio system and leather upholstery.
Deluxe GT adds the V8 engine, a traction-lock rear axle, dual exhaust, upgraded suspension, 17-inch wheels shod with performance tires, foglights and cloth sport bucket seats. Leather and a Mach 460 audio system are optional. Step up to a Premium GT, and you'll enjoy those two options as standard, plus a unique set of rims. You'll also be able to select the Mach 1000 audio package. Simple enough, eh?
Mustangs offer drivers and passengers comfortable front chairs that lack any semblance of side bolstering, well-placed controls with the exception of teensy stereo buttons, clear views out the front and side windows and acceptable interior materials presented in a retro dual-cowl design cabin. Though technically a four-seater, Mustang's rear seat passengers, especially those riding in the convertible, had better be short.
One reason the Mustang has enjoyed continued success is its relaxed, easy-going and tossable nature on the road. Predictable during hard cornering, and exhibiting progressive side-to-side weight transfers, Mustang exhibits commendable stability during high-speed driving. The braking and steering have also impressed us during test drives. Rough pavement can make the ride uncomfortable, however, as the rear suspension still uses a solid rear axle. And watch out for lumpy road surfaces in turns, because the Mustang will easily side-step if the live rear axle gets jostled about.
Another Mustang advantage is safety. It offers drivers and front-seat passengers a high level of crash protection as rated by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration. All-speed traction control and antilock brakes are also standard on most trim levels. Ford thoughtfully provides a traction-control defeat switch for those people who like roasting the rear tires on a regular basis.
Mustang is one of the most recognizable nameplates on the road. In fact, the term "pony car" was coined because of this sporty Ford's name. And since the Chevrolet Camaro and Pontiac Firebird are scheduled for termination later this year, the Mustang will once again become the only traditional rear-drive pony car on the market. That seems fitting.
Laura's old car was costing her a small fortune every month for gas and repairs. She didn't even want to drive her kids to the park any more. But buying a new Kia Soul changed all that.