1998 Ford Mustang Reviews and Ratings

Coupe 2D

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1998 Ford Mustang
Jim McCraw

The Mustang is lucky to have survived Ford's model purge that ousted the Thunderbird, Probe, Aspire and Aerostar last

spring. Lucky, because it has a huge following, an even bigger aftermarket, and a legend that none of those other

now-dead (model) brands can match. The Mustang is an icon that, having escaped the axe in 1988, has lasted another

10 years by following a simple formula: cheap, quick, fast, and cute. The changes made to the car for 1998 are minimal,

including the attractive pricing.

The Mustang has only two true competitors, the Chevrolet Camaro and the Pontiac Firebird - the other two members of

the ponycar segment. Like the two GM ponycars, the Ford Mustang comes in many guises. There are V6 and V8 versions in

both coupe and convertible body styles along with the Cobra, a super-performance model that competes against the Camaro

SS and the Firebird Ram Air. There are Japanese and Korean coupes that compete with the Mustang on price, but certainly

not on performance.

The Mustang offers a 3.8-liter V6 with 150 horsepower and 215 foot-pounds of torque, for $17,020, and a V6 convertible

for $21,520. The GT, powered by a 4.6-liter, single overhead-cam V8 rated at 225 hp and 290 lbs.-ft. for 1998, starts

at $21,020 for the coupe and $25,020 for the convertible. A 32-valve, double overhead-cam 305-hp V8 is exclusive to

the $26,680 Cobra and $29,480 Cobra convertible.

The engines are backed by either a standard 5-speed manual or an optional 4-speed automatic overdrive transmission,

except for the Cobra, which only comes with a manual gearbox. Air conditioning is now standard on GT models. Tires on the

GT now carry an H-speed rating, a step down from the Z-rated tires last year. Another change is the leather interior

package that includes front bucket seats only, a change made in the name of affordability. Walkaround
The $21,000 GT 4.6 V8 with a 5-speed was our test subject. This car and all the V8 Mustangs before it, dating back

to 1965, has the acceleration, the throbbing exhaust pulse, the trim size and weight, and the quick handling that

customers demand in a ponycar.

But competitive moves may have turned the Mustang into a relative punycar. The Chevy Camaro and Pontiac Firebird

for 1998 boast a new aluminum engine that produces 305 hp, with a fresh-air induction option that raises the ante to

320 hp, with torque as high as 335 lbs.-ft., and 6-speed manual transmissions. The GM cars also have traction control,

which is not available on the Mustang.

The Mustang is barely 15 feet long, with a wheelbase just over 100 inches long, with no long overhangs front or rear.

While this design makes it easy to maneuver and easy to park, it also means the Mustang is a sporty platform - relatively

light, quick to change direction - but stable.

With a short and narrow package to work with, Ford's designers have done a good job of masking the car's size with

generous sweeps of front sheetmetal and good design on the sides and rear end. The Mustang is short, but it doesn't

look stumpy or cut off.

Our test car had the standard passive anti-theft system, now called Securilock, in which the key and the car

communicate electronically every time the car is started. It also had the optional perimeter anti-theft system, which

protects it from unauthorized entry through doors, windows, hood or trunk. Yet another option was the remote keyless

entry system, which controls the door locks, interior lamps, decklid and a panic alarm from the key fob. Interior
The interior design of the current Mustang is based on the vertically split instrument panel in the original 1964

car, with individual, rounded coves facing each of the front occupants. A full array of round analog instruments

faces the driver, while the passenger side contains an air bag and a glovebox. Nothing essential is out of reach and

none of the controls requires a long stretch.

For 1998, Ford has revised the console to have two full-time cupholders instead of one, with an ashtray insert for

smokers and a real cigarette lighter (the power point has been moved inside the console storage box). The digital

clock that used to reside atop the dashboard in its own nacelle has been removed and the clock has been reincorporated

into the radio display.

The interior is nice and cozy in the coupe, with just enough seat track length to accommodate tall drivers, and just

enough elbow room to keep one from feeling cramped. The driving position is much higher than in either the Camaro or the

Firebird, and it's much easier to get in and out of the Mustang.

The front bucket seats are thin, and short in every dimension. They aren't comfortable for long distances, but more

than adequate for around-town driving. For those who like to drive on back roads, there isn't much side support built

into the bucket seats, so you have to brace yourself in the car to stay in place. Ford has provided a dead pedal for

bracing with the left foot, which helps.

The Mustang's back seat is vestigial at best, with only enough room for small objects or very small people. The split

fold-down rear seat is handy for hauling large cargo, a good feature because the Mustang trunk is among the smallest in

the industry. Driving Impressions
In this class, horsepower and acceleration at a reasonable price are what matter, and the Mustang 4.6-liter V8 has

plenty of each. While the new modular single overhead-cam V8 engine doesn't have the loud and lumpy idle quality and

ferocious intake roar of the old 5.0-liter overhead-valve V8, it has almost exactly the same power and torque

characteristics and accelerates at almost exactly the same rate, with 0-60 mph times in the low 6-second range. That's


The new V8 will pull happily to 6000 rpm, making the driving experience that much more fun. The 4-speed automatic may be

the better choice for those who have to commute in heavy traffic and there's little loss in performance. But the new

Borg-Warner T-56 5-speed manual is more fun with a 225-hp V8 engine. The gearbox shifts smoothly and mates well to an

engine that features a flexible powerband and sufficient strength to take high-rpm shifts for the life of the car.

The 1998 Mustang chassis is essentially the same as the 1979 Mustang. It has been reinforced to make the car handle more

crisply, steer more accurately, and deal with road shocks more effectively. But it is still a modified 1979 Mustang

unibody chassis with relatively unsophisticated MacPherson strut suspension and a solid rear axle. Given what they had to

work with, the Mustang's engineers have done a good job making the car smoother and quieter.

Most of the raw edges and choppiness of the Mustang's old suspension behavior have been smoothed out. The steering is

more direct and more positive than previous Mustangs, helped by performance tire technology. Summary
The Camaro and Firebird may offer an advantage of 80-95 horsepower over the Mustang GT. But the Mustang GT gets better

gas mileage, it's quieter, it rides better, and it offers better interior ergonomics and quality than the GM pony cars.

Another major factor in its favor is that it is far less expensive than either one of the performance GM cars by several

thousand dollars, a factor that makes the Mustang GT the best all-around car in the class.

Model as tested
Mustang GT Coupe
Basic Warranty
3 years/50,000 miles
Assembled in
Dearborn, MI
Destination charge
Gas guzzler tax
Base Price
Price as tested
Options as tested
ABS, traction-lok axle, GT suspension package, 225/55ZR-16 tires, cast aluminum wheels, dual exhaust, air conditioning, AM/FM cassette stereo, power windows, power locks, remote keyless entry, rear spoiler, rear defrost

Model Line Overview
Model lineup
Safety equipment (standard)
Dual airbags
Safety equipment (optional)
4.6-liter SOHC V8
5-speed overdrive manual

Specifications as Tested
Power steering, power brakes, power mirrors, tinted glass, passive anti-theft system, tilt wheel, aluminum wheels

Engine & Transmission
4.6-liter SOHC V8
Drivetrain type
Horsepower (hp @ rpm)
225 @ 4400
EPA fuel economy, city/hwy
Torque (lb.-ft. @ rpm)

Brakes, front/rear
Suspension, front
Suspension, rear
Live axle

Seating capacity
Head/hip/leg room, middle
Head/hip/leg room, front
Head/hip/leg room, rear

Fuel capacity
Trunk volume
Turning circle
Towing capacity
Track, front/rear
Ground clearance
Curb weight

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