For the 2005 model year, GTs ride on 235/ 55WR-17 Pirelli P Zero Nero radials. While they do a reasonable job of keeping the 3600-pound Mustang in line with cornering limits of 0.87 g to the left and 0.86 g to the right (tuning discrepancies and driver's weight account for the difference), this car wants more rubber. At the grip limit, the front end chatters wide with understeer, and the 174-foot stopping distance we measured from 70 mph verges on truck territory. Eighteen-inch tires are under development for release next year, but early adopters surely will fit plus sizes on the ride home from the dealership.
How the tuners will deal with the new Mustang's tendency to pitch forward onto tiptoes during extreme braking we can't predict so readily. Consider this the Achilles' heel of strut front suspensions. Chassis engineers report that increasing the antidive effect beyond the current 20 percent level deteriorates ride quality. Their concern is understandable, because the new Mustang shows signs of bronco behavior whenever a pothole or an expansion joint looms.
Bucket seats are on the soft side to salve what the suspension sends through. The buckets are sized for big boys and shaped to hang tight in the turns, though we wouldn't mind a little less puffery in the under-thigh bolsters. The bucket motif also plays in the kid-size back seats. Adults who venture this way will find their knees cocked tight, their heads in contact with the backlight, and a longing for a lubricant to grease their escape. Working the seatback re-lease is an acquired skill (hint: grip the lever tightly between thumb and fingers). Left-to-right-side transfers are forbidden by a center console inspired by the Berlin Wall.
Sunglasses are essential gear in the Mustang, less so for profiling than for living with the flashiest dash this side of Broadway. Load in the optional interior upgrade and color accent packages, and you get three metal finishes (matte, ribbed, and blinding chrome), a couple of color contrasts, and a liberal sprinkling of grain textures. Four small gauges live at the deep end of the central chrome-rimmed cavern. Tach and speedometer graphics ratchet you right back to the '60s with tall, thin numerals filling space the half-length needles can't reach. If that doesn't dazzle your date, sweep through the selection of 125 instrument illumination hues, or crank up the rib-reverberating Shaker 1000 (watts!) stereo system.
In spite of smidgens of silliness, this Mustang is bred with sound bones, tight muscles, and strong will. It looks good, runs hard, and doesn't cost a fortune, which is precisely what has kept Ford's horse rocking for more than forty years.