Recently voted America's favorite car of all time, the 37-year-old Ford Mustang just seems to roll along like a runaway freight train, headed for a certain future. Each year brings new surprises and delights to about 200,000 new owners. The latest delight is the 2003 SVT Cobra.
This will be the last year of production for the Mustang's archrivals, the Chevrolet Camaro and the Pontiac Firebird. That means the Mustang, which created the ponycar in the spring of 1964, will once again be alone in this segment in 2003.
With the new Cobra closing in on 400 horsepower and the Camaro and Firebird bowing out, the Mustang's future looks as bright as the sun.
Mustang comes in two body styles, coupe and convertible.
Model year 2002 is characterized by a raft of minor changes for the Mustang and Mustang GT models. The big news is the addition of a brand-new SVT Cobra coupe and convertible with an amazing 70 horsepower and 70 foot-pounds of torque more than the previous Cobra.
Mustang buyers can now choose among the base V6 coupe ($17,305) or V6 convertible ($22,745), the V8 GT coupe ($22,965) or GT convertible ($27,220), the SVT Cobra coupe ($34,995) or SVT Cobra convertible ($36,995).
Mustang base models offer a choice of three packages: Standard, Deluxe ($605), or Premium ($1720). GT and Convertible models are packaged as Deluxe or Premium ($2585). Cobras come with the kitchen sink. In the base, GT and SVT Cobra models, there's quite a bit of new equipment for 2002.
Audiophiles have the option of a new, speed-sensitive, Mach 1000 audio system with a six-disc in-dash CD changer. The Mach 1000 system, an upgrade of the previous Mach 460 stereo in the Mustang, delivers 570 watts RMS (1,140 watts peak power) with a 60-watt parametrically equalized amplifier, six 85-watt subwoofer amplifiers, four subwoofer speakers, four midrange tweeters and two 10-inch, trunk-mounted, acoustic suspension subwoofer enclosures. The 2002 Mustang also is available with an MP3 CD-player.
There's more. The popular V6 Mustang adds standard 16-inch bright aluminum wheels with exposed lugs. There's a new, updated Sport Appearance Group for V6 models, an overhead storage net in the headliner on coupe models, new four-way head restraints, optional Nudo leather seating surfaces, and two new colors added: Satin Silver Clearcoat Metallic, and Torch Red.
Standard equipment on all Mustangs includes air conditioning, power windows and door locks, tilt-steering column, a floor console, remote keyless entry system and interval windshield wipers. Reclining cloth front bucket seats are standard, as are 50/50 split-folding rear seatbacks on coupe models. A six-way power driver's seat is available, as are leather-trimmed bucket seats.
Convertibles feature a power top with a scratch-resistant glass rear window. A black semi-hard boot protects the top and provides a slick top-down appearance.
The design of the Mustang carries over without changes for 2002. The current Mustang design picks up styling cues from the 1964-66 original, but executes them in today's rounder, more organic idiom. The rear fender air intake, for example, has sharp corners and pronounced lines; but the rocker panels curve out, and the fenders have pronounced front and rear wheel well arches. The front end features wraparound complex reflector headlamps with integrated side marker lamps, combined with a square-edged honeycomb grille and a chrome pony. Tricolor front fender badges recall the good old days, as does the prominent but non-functional hood scoop. In back, it's 1965 with vertical, three-element taillamps.
GT models get unique hood and side-scoop treatments, along with fog lights and a rear spoiler.
The Cobra, the newest Mustang in the corral, relies on its horsepower and torque to make an impression on those within and without the car, but it is not without its physical charms. The Cobra features a completely new front and rear appearance package that distinguishes it from the previous model. The biggest difference is in the raised hood required by the addition of the supercharger assembly under it. In addition to the tall bulge, there are two rear-facing vents near the leading edge to exhaust hot air from the engine bay. There's a new grille opening, new front bumper, new driving lamps, new 17-inch 5-spoke alloy wheels that can be had in either brushed or chromed finish, new rocker panels and side scoops, a new rear end treatment with a very discreet and conservative rear spoiler section, and a new Cobra rear valance panel. This time out, there are seven hot exterior colors, none subtle, and two interior colors.
The Mustang has good, reclining bucket seats with plenty of travel. Seatbelts are attached to the seat frames so they move with them.
The coupe interior is cozy, with enough seat-track length to accommodate tall drivers and just enough elbowroom to keep from feeling cramped. The Mustang's back seat is small, with only enough room for small objects or kids. The trunk is small with an even smaller opening. A split fold-down rear seat is standard on all models and handy for hauling cargo. A glow-in-the-dark safety latch has been added inside the trunks of all Mustang models designed to prevent kids getting locked in the trunks.
The Mustang is now rated by the government with its highest five-star rating for front passenger safety. There are only two front air bags available, however.
Leather upholstery is standard in the Premium GT, optional in some other models. Running horses embossed on the upper portions of the seat backrests recall the deluxe pony interior of the mid-Sixties. The instrument panel, center console and headliner are color-keyed. The center console was revised last year with improved cup holders and functionality.
SVT Cobra models offer the poshest accommodations ever seen in a Mustang: new front bucket seats with Nudo leather trim and suede inserts. The driver's seat features six-way power with power-adjustable thigh and side bolsters, and power lumbar support. Clearly, these seats are made for serious, fast driving. Switches are on the right-front corner of the seat.
The SVT instrument cluster has been redesigned to include a boost gauge. The gauges feature titanium-colored faces and electroluminescent lighting.
The Cobra's gearshift knob is leather-wrapped, with a brushed-aluminum insert on the top, inscribed with the six-speed pattern. New metal-trimmed pedals and dead pedal are standard. Additional Cobra standard features include a leather-wrapped steering wheel; leather boots for the shift and parking brake levers; tilt steering wheel; power windows, mirrors, door locks, and trunk release; the SecuriLock passive anti-theft system; remote keyless entry; speed control.
The Cobra's 4.6-liter, dohc modular V8 is equipped with an Eaton supercharger providing 8 pounds of boost, plus an intercooler to keep things cool, and it is tuned very differently from the regular Mustang GT engine. It produces 390 horsepower at 6000 rpm, with 390 pounds-feet of torque at 3500 rpm, while the GT engine is rated at 260 horsepower at 5250 rpm and 302 foot-pounds at 4000. That's a huge difference of 22 percent more power in an already quick and fast car (electronically limited to 155 mph but capable of close to 180 mph). The Cobra's engine uses a cast-iron block for long-term durability, with new pistons and connecting rods to cope with the superchager boost, and uses an aluminum flywheel and driveshaft to offset some of the weight of the iron block.
The Cobra carries a completely retuned suspension system that lets the car handle and corner at even higher limits, with more confidence, than ever before. It carries premium Bilstein shocks absorbers front and rear, stiffer front springs to cope with the added front-end weight, and a stiffer front anti-roll bar. Rear brake material has been upgraded to match the massive front brakes' stopping power, and there's an additional chassis brace at the rear to handle the increased power. All Mustang Cobras will have the new Tremec 6-speed manual transmission and clutch assembly that provides improved shift quality. A new 11-inch flywheel and clutch assembly have been added to increase torque capacity and reduce clutch pedal effort.
Traction control, previously optional, is now standard on the Premium V6 and on all V8 models including the Cobra. The Bosch traction control system works at all speeds: Whenever wheelspin is detected, the system retards ignition timing, cuts fuel flow, and activates the brakes at one or both drive wheels, in that order. The driver can turn the system off with a console switch.
The Cobra offers acceleration on a par with cars costing twice as much, with 0-60 times in less than 5 seconds flat, a maneuver you can do at every stoplight. The new suspension and tires offer incredibly good grip when cornering hard, without side-stepping and chatter. The car completely involves the driver, every day, on every road.
We found in our all-too-brief test drive that the SVT brakes will take all the street punishment a good driver can dish out and keep coming back for more. The Cobra's special braking system was re-engineered, with new aluminum twin-piston front calipers to reduce unsprung weight. The new calipers also contribute to greatly improved brake pedal feel, while the new master cylinder improves not only modulation but also the ratio of brake pedal travel to braking action. Anti-lock braking, like traction control, is standard on the Cobra. It can be ordered with traction control on all other Mustangs except base-level, manual-transmission coupes. These are the best brakes the Mustang has ever had.
Mustang GT offers strong performance with its 4.6-liter overhead-cam modular V8 rated at 260 horsepower at 5250 rpm, with 302 pounds-feet of torque at 4000 rpm. It sounds great, whether cruising or at full throttle.
Mustang's 3.8-liter split-port V6 engine develops 190 horsepower at 5250 rpm, with 220 foot-pounds of torque at 2750 rpm.
The flexibility of both the V8 and V6 engines make them good mates for the transmissions, which have sufficient strength to take high-rpm shifts for the life of the car. Both transmissions shift smoothly. With the manual transmission, it feels like you're shifting a big gearbox in a big car. Clutch travel is a bit long, so you have to be fleet of foot to pull off consistently clean power shifts.
The Mustang offers good grip when cornering hard, and you can really feel what the car is doing. Most of the raw edges and choppiness of the previous generation have been smoothed out.
The Cobra version of the Mustang is fun to drive, fun to be seen in, quick, fast, and pretty loud, with excellent handling considering the age and lack of sophistication of this chassis. It's priced well atop the GT model, and gives the Mustang buyer looking for something slightly different than a run-of-the-mill GT. The Cobra is a viable alternative to the much more expensive Corvette. Only 5,000 Cobras will be built each year.
The Mustang is the car that started a whole new class of cars in 1964. After this year, it will be the lone pony car, the only car in its segment, having bested the Camaro, the Firebird, the Plymouth Barracuda, the Dodge Challenger, and the AMC Javelin year after year until they could no longer compete. If there is a better performance value on this planet, we don't know what it is or where it's made. Having the Cobra along just makes a great product line even better.
|Model Line Overview |
|Model lineup: ||Coupe ($17,305); GT Coupe ($22,965; Convertible ($22,745); GT Convertible ($27,220) Cobra coupe ($34,995) Cobra convertible ($36,995) |
|Engines: ||3.8-liter ohv V6; 4.6-liter sohc 16v V8; 4.6-liter dohc 32v V8 |
|Transmissions: ||6-speed manual; 5-speed manual; 4-speed automatic |
|Safety equipment (standard): ||dual airbags |
|Safety equipment (optional): ||ABS, traction control |
|Basic warranty: ||3 years/36,000 miles |
|Assembled in: ||Dearborn, Michigan |
|Specifications As Tested |
|Model tested (MSRP): ||Mustang Cobra Coupe ($34,995) |
|Standard equipment: ||air conditioning; power steering; power brakes; power mirrors; tinted glass; passive anti-theft system; tilt wheel; cruise control; sport front bucket seats with leather and suede seating surfaces; Cobra suspension package; 275/40ZR7 tires; cast aluminum wheels; Mach 460 AM/FM/cassette/CD sound system; remote keyless entry; rear spoiler; ABS; traction control; electric rear window defroster |
|Options as tested (MSRP): ||N/A |
|Destination charge: ||($600) |
|Gas guzzler tax: ||N/A |
|Price as tested (MSRP): ||$34,995 |
|Layout: ||front engine, rear-wheel drive |
|Engine: ||4.6-liter dohc 32v V8 |
|Horsepower (hp @ rpm): ||390 @ 6000 |
|Torque (lb.-ft. @ rpm): ||390 @ 3500 |
|Transmission: ||6-speed manual |
|EPA fuel economy, city/hwy: ||16/24 mpg |
|Wheelbase: ||101.3 in. |
|Length/width/height: ||183.5/73.1/52.4 in. |
|Track, f/r: ||60.2/60.6 in. |
|Turning circle: ||38.1 ft. |
|Seating capacity: ||4 |
|Head/hip/leg room, f: ||38.1/52.8/41.8 in. |
|Head/hip/leg room, m: ||N/A |
|Head/hip/leg room, r: ||35.5/47.4/29.9 in. |
|Trunk volume: ||10.9 cu. ft. |
|Payload: ||N/A |
|Towing capacity: ||1000 Lbs. |
|Suspension, f: ||Independent |
|Suspension, r: ||live axle |
|Ground clearance: ||N/A |
|Curb weight: ||3500 lbs. |
|Tires: ||P275/40ZR17 |
|Brakes, f/r: ||disc/disc with ABS |
|Fuel capacity: ||15.7 gal. |
Unless otherwise indicated, specifications refer to test vehicle.
All prices are manufacturer's suggested retail prices (MSRP) effective as of March 01, 2002.
Prices do not include manufacturer's destination and delivery charges. N/A: Information not available or not applicable.
Manufacturer Info Sources: 1-800-392-3673 - www.ford.com
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