With the latter, there's plenty of torque. The engine sounds great at full song, urging you to keep your foot in it, yet it burbles along when cruising, attracting lots of attention from those around you. Excellent handling response keeps you involved.
But no matter the model, the Mustang boasts distinctive styling. It won't be mistaken for anything else. It makes a statement. The Mustang has only two true competitors, the Chevrolet Camaro and the Pontiac Firebird. There are imported coupes that compete with the Mustang on price, but they don't offer the same V8 pony car experience.
The Mustang V6 is a 3.8-lliter overhead-valve unit producing 190 horsepower. The 4.6-liter overhead-cam V8 produces 260 horsepower, and Mustangs that have it are called GTs. The Cobra, which competes against the Camaro SS and the Firebird Ram Air, is powered by a 32-valve dual overhead-cam V8 making 320 horsepower.
With most of these variants, you have the further choice of a five-speed manual or four-speed automatic transmission. Exceptions are the premium V6 convertible, which comes with the automatic only; and the Cobras, which require the five-speed.
For 2001, GT models get unique hood and side-scoop treatments, along with fog lights and a rear spoiler.
The Mustang's arched roofline is pretty modern, but around back it's 1965 again with vertical, three-element taillamps. Wheels are available in 15-, 16- or 17-inch sizes, depending on model, but each features a flat-spoke design to complement the sharp corners of the body shell.
For 2001, Ford has redesigned the center console, repositioned the front cupholder, made the rear cupholder larger, while adding a tissue holder and a power outlet. An electric rear window defroster, previously optional, is now standard on all Mustangs.
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.
An 80-watt premium sound system with both CD and cassette capability comes standard on all models. Serious sound fans can opt for the 230-watt, 10-speaker Mach 460 system, which comes standard in Premium-trim Mustangs and Mustang GTs, and is a $550 option in Deluxe models. For 2001, it can be ordered with an in-dash, six-CD changer.
Mustang's 3.8-liter split-port V6 engine develops 190 horsepower at 5250 rpm, with 220 foot-pounds of torque at 2750 rpm. All models, regardless of engine or transmission, have a 3.27:1 rear axle ratio.
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. Last year, the four-speed automatic was re-calibrated for smoother upshifts. Both transmissions shift smoothly. With the manual transmissions, 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.
Traction control, previously optional, is now standard on the Premium V6 and on all V8s. The Bosch 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 Mustang offers good grip when cornering hard, and you can really feel what the car is doing. The car involves the driver. Most of the raw edges and choppiness of the previous generation have been smoothed out. The current-generation Mustang was engineered for improved rear-suspension compliance, with longer wheel travel, which reduces ride harshness. A revised boost curve gives the steering a more linear response and better on-center feel than in pre-1999 Mustangs. And the turning circle of this latest Mustang has been reduced by three feet through changes to the steering rack, the lower control arms and front stabilizer bars.
The braking system was re-engineered for 1999, also, with new aluminum twin-piston front calipers to reduce unsprung weight by a significant 10 pounds. The new calipers also contribute to greatly improved brake pedal feel, while the new master cylinder that arrived at the same time improved not only modulation but also the ratio of brake pedal travel to braking action. ABS, like traction control, is standard on Premium V6s and all V8s. It can be ordered as a $730 package with traction control on all other Mustangs except base-level, manual-transmission coupes. ABS helps the driver to maintain steering control under hard braking, a useful, though not necessarily advisable, feat in the Mustang.
Model as tested
Mustang GT Premium ($23,590)
3 years/36,000 miles
Gas guzzler tax:
Price as tested
Options as tested
Model Line Overview
Coupe: Standard ($16,805), Deluxe ($17,370), Premium ($18,600), GT Deluxe ($22,440), GT Premium ($23,590), Cobra (NA)
Convertible: Deluxe ($22,220), Premium ($24,785), GT Deluxe ($26,695), GT Premium ($27,845), Cobra (NA)
Safety equipment (standard)
dual airbags standard; ABS, traction control on some models
Safety equipment (optional)
4.6-liter sohc 16v V8
Specifications as Tested
(GT Premium) air conditioning; power steering; power brakes; power mirrors; tinted glass; passive anti-theft system; tilt wheel; cruise control; sport front bucket seats with leather seating surfaces; GT suspension package; 225/55ZR16 tires; cast aluminum wheels; Mach 460 AM/FM/cassette/CD sound system; remote keyless entry; rear spoiler; ABS; traction control; electric rear window defroster
Engine & Transmission
4.6-liter sohc 16v V8
Horsepower (hp @ rpm)
260 @ 5250
EPA fuel economy, city/hwy
Torque (lb.-ft. @ rpm)
Head/hip/leg room, middle
Head/hip/leg room, front
Head/hip/leg room, rear