I was initially skeptical of the Mustang. For $36,210, you get a live rear axle - as opposed to the independent setup found on such exotic rides as the Chrysler Sebring - and a 300-hp, 4.6-liter V-8 that is clearly outgunned by the Camaro. The 2002 Camaro.
But all these concerns faded after a one-on-one session. The first thing I noticed was the exhaust: It just sounded right. I spent a half hour driving around downtown Ann Arbor just to hear that sonorous note bouncing off the tall (OK, tall-ish) buildings. That noise, coupled with the live rear axle's ability to lay down the law at stoplights and the manual transmission's habit of lunging you into the next gear (likely enhanced by the optional 3.55 rear end) makes you feel as if you're behind the wheel of something very, very powerful. It's not nearly as athletic as some of the more modern rear-wheel-drive coupes I've driven recently, but then again, the Mustang is much easier to drive.
And drive it I did. During the two nights I had the Mustang, I ran every errand I could think of, once taking the highway three exits past my destination, just because. I peeled out of just about every stoplight, totally wasting the oblivious Corollas and Accords lined up next to me, and unnecessarily revved the engine as I pulled into parking spaces. In other words, I was a stereotypically obnoxious Mustang driver, and I loved every minute of it.
Yes, this car is priced out of its league at $36,210. Even the $29,520 for the premium level GT is pushing it. That's why, if I were buying a Mustang, I'd make sure to get as little optional equipment as possible. With Ford's current employee pricing scheme, you can get into a base GT for less than $25,000. At that price, it's a tempting proposition.
David Zenlea, Assistant Editor