May 23, 2013
Written by Steven Macoy
Thursday, 06 September 2012 10:58
Remember when some guys liked Fords, others preferred Chevrolets, and the rest chose MOPAR products? That kind of brand loyalty seems to have diminished since the 1970s. But the Chevrolet Camaro, Dodge Challenger and Ford Mustang have revived those barroom arguments about which one is today’s best retro-styled muscle car.
We’ve driven versions of all three, most recently, a 2012 Mustang. It has the unmistakable, timeless looks of the original 1964 Mustang, the car that launched visionary Lee Iacocca on the road to automotive stardom. It also comes in several flavors, though it wouldn’t be fair to describe them as mild to wild — even the most modestly endowed 2012 Mustang V-6 packs 305 horsepower, almost three times that of the original.
If that’s too mild, you can opt for the V-8-powered GT, 420 horsepower; the Boss 302, 444 horsepower; or the awesome Shelby GT500, 650 horsepower.
We drove a high-mileage (about 30,000 miles) rental Mustang, painted black, around Florida for a week in July. The color was problematical; its heat-absorbent quality taxed the air conditioner to its limits in Florida’s summer sun. But the car felt solid and well-founded despite the abuse it no doubt had endured during its short life. It’s to Ford’s credit that this relatively inexpensive model ($24,300) hadn’t developed squeaks, rattles, loose steering and cracked plastic components under such harsh conditions.
The strengths of the Mustang are, in a way, also its weaknesses. It’s fast, agile and comfortable, and it’s easy on the eyes. In its own way, it’s even functional. The 2+2 seating arrangement is OK for children, small adults and pets in back, and the trunk holds 13.4 cubic feet of cargo. Driven gently at highway speeds, it’ll deliver a little more than 30 mpg. Its styling is retro enough to appeal to older drivers, yet it carries itself with an enduring grace that attracts folks who hadn’t yet been born when the first Mustangs arrived in Ford showrooms in the spring of 1964.
These strengths have translated into strong sales figures since Ford began the arduous process of reviving the Mustang’s clean lines in 1994, with several freshenings and full redesigns since then. Sales have ranged from 66,623 in 2009 to 166,530 in 2006. Ford expects to sell nearly 100,000 Mustangs this year. Chances are, you won’t be the only driver on your block who owns one.
A Mustang we drove several years ago was distinguished by the prevalence of cheap molded plastic parts in the cabin. It detracted from the car’s overall feeling of quality and attention to detail. This problem has been greatly reduced, though not eliminated, in the 2012 model.
The Mustang coupe attained the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety’s top rating of “Good.”
We’ll keep our muscle-car preferences to ourselves for now (yes, we do have one), but the Mustang, Camaro and Challenge prove that American muscle is alive and well.
Engine: 3.7-liter V-6, 305 horsepower, 280 lb.-ft. torque
Transmission: 6-speed automatic
Weight: 3,453 lb.
Suspension: McPherson strut front, solid live axle rear
Wheels: 17x7-inch painted alloy
Tires: P225/60R17 all-season
Seating capacity: 4
Luggage capacity: 13.4 cu. ft.
Fuel capacity: 13.7 gallons
Fuel economy: 19 mpg city, 31 mpg highway
Fuel type: Regular
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