Donald Farr
Former Editor, Mustang Monthly
March 1, 2004
Photos By: Courtesy of Ford Motor Company

When asked about the project goal for the '05 Mustang, Chief Engineer Hau Thai-Tang was quick and precise with his response: "We wanted to build the best Mustang ever."

And we think Thai-Tang and his team may have hit the mark. Now that we've seen the photos and read the press releases and specs, it's clear there will be a lot to like about the next-generation Mustang. The new DEW chassis is much stouter than the previous Fox-body, and thankfully it shouldn't weigh much more than the '04 Mustang. That's good news because both the GT and V-6 will boast more horsepower and torque, with the GT's 300 hp representing the first time a mainstream Mustang has offered that much go-grunt. The styling remains aggressive, with a wider front grille and outboard headlights to resemble the Mustangs from '67-'68. The new Mustang also has a retro-modern interior, optional five-speed automatic transmission, new standard equipment, a color-configurable instrument cluster, optional 18-inch wheels for the GT, bigger brakes, new suspension, and more interior room.

Basically, nearly everything about the '05 is new-and better than the previous Fox-body. Even with the "clean-sheet" design approach, the '05 is modern, yet unmistakably Mustang.

"The new Mustang is pure American muscle," said J Mays, Ford's vice president of design. "But, rest assured, we're not insisting on history at the expense of our future. We weren't just redesigning a car, we were adding another chapter to an epic."

The '05 Mustang debuts this fall as a coupe only, either GT or V-6. The convertible will follow in early 2005. Pricing will be announced later in the year, but look for the V-6 coupe to come in under $20,000 and the GT to fall somewhere around $25,000.

Here's an overview of the major '05 Mustang changes and equipment:

Chassis. For the first time in over a quarter of a century, the Mustang will not be based on the dated Fox platform. Instead, the new-generation Mustang will be built on a modified version of the Lincoln LS and Thunderbird DEW platform. In fact, Thai-Tang goes so far as to call the chassis "all-new," based on the fact that so much was changed to make it work for the Mustang. According to Thai-Tang, many of the '05 Mustang team members came from the Lincoln LS and Thunderbird programs, so they had a working knowledge of the DEW platform.

The "unique, all-purpose" Mustang chassis doubles the torsional stiffness of the Mustang over the previous SN-95 cars, improving handling and eliminating many of the former car's inherent squeaks and rattles. The new chassis should be a huge improvement for the convertible.

With the DEW-based chassis, the wheels are pushed to the corners, gaining 6 inches of wheelbase to better anchor the car, visually and physically, to the road. The wheelbase gain also helps provide more interior room.

One early concern was weight, but Thai-Tang says the new Mustang weighs in "within spitting distance" of the previous Mustang. Listed weight for the 2005 GT is "estimated under 3,450 pounds," compared to 3,347 pounds for last year's GT.

Suspension. Nope, no independent rear suspension for the V-6 or GT models. Thai-Tang says his group listened to core Mustang enthusiasts, who indicated their preference for the solid rear axle due to its reliability, durability, and drag racing prowess. IRS will be standard in the future SVT Cobra model and possibly in some special editions.

The solid rear axle is supported by a unique three-link rear suspension with coil springs, Panhard rod, and stabilizer bar. A central torque control arm fastens to the upper front of the differential, while trailing arms are located near each end of the axle. The tubular Panhard rod, which attaches to the body at one end and the axle at the other, stabilizes the rear-axle side-to-side movement and helps control the axle during hard cornering.

Up front is an independent MacPherson strut suspension with a stabilizer bar and reverse "L" lower control arms. A firm bushing is positioned where the shorter, forward leg of the L-arm connects to the chassis to control side-to-side motion and quicken the steering response. Fore-and-aft movements are directed through a softer bushing at the longer, rear L-arm leg, which damps road shocks.

Exterior. When the Concept GTs were unveiled last year at the North American Auto Show, we were told the prototype show cars were a good indicator of the '05 Mustang's exterior styling. To a point, it was true. It is easy to see the overall design and styling similarities, although the production cars won't have the hoodscoops (possibly reserved for the Cobra?), glass roof, 20-inch wheels, functional side scoops, or full-width taillights.

Thai-Tang says his team studied all of the previous 38 years of Mustangs, and finally settled on the '67-'68 models. "We kept coming back to the '67-'68s," Thai-Tang said, "because they were the models that bridged the Mustang's transition from ponycar to musclecar." The Mustang's signature long hood and short rear deck are retained.

The most obvious change from the previous '99-'04 Mustangs is the more aggressive front-end treatment with a mouthy grille and round outboard headlights, very similar to the '67-'68 Mustangs. While the roofline and fender flares resemble the previous SN-95s, the hood has no sign of a scoop or nostrils, and the side scoops are much less pronounced than before. Rear quarter-windows, which remind us of the '66 Shelby, serve as both a styling touch and visibility enhancement. At the rear, you can visualize the full-width taillights of the Concept GTs (aftermarket, are you listening?), but the production versions get tri-element taillights at each corner. A bit hokey is the fake gas cap on the rear panel; the actual gas filler is on the driver-side rear quarter-panel.

GT models also get the huge, round driving lights in the grille (can you say '67 Shelby?), GT fender emblems, rear wing, GT rear panel emblem, and twin tailpipes exiting beneath the rear valance.

Wheels. We haven't had a chance to see all of the available 2005 wheels. But we do know the V-6 gets a 16-inch wheel standard, with a sportier 16-inch wheel (pictured on previous page) as an option. The GT comes with a base 17-inch wheel along with a more modern 17-incher as an option. An optional 18-inch wheel (pictured) will be available at a later date.

Brakes. The '05 Mustang's braking system will feature the largest rotors and stiffest calipers ever used on a mainstream Mustang. Twin-piston aluminum calipers clamp down on 12.4-inch rotors on the GT-15 percent larger than last year-while the V-6 models get 11.4-inch ventilated rotors. At the rear, the rotors on all models are 11.8 inches in diameter, over 12 percent larger than the previous '04 Mustang. The rear rotors are vented on the GT and solid on the V-6.

ABS is also available, and it will be bundled with an all-speed intelligent traction control that utilizes sensors to monitor road conditions and feed the information to a dedicated computer capable of determining, within milliseconds, whether the car is on dry pavement or a slippery surface. For occasions when traction control isn't desired, such as burnouts at the dragstrip, it can be turned off with a button on the instrument panel

Interior. Big changes inside. The previous SN-95's rounded, dual cockpit is gone, replaced by a flatter, twin-eyebrow dashpad and instrument panel that is certainly reminiscent of the '67-'68 Mustang interior, especially with the aluminum panels. There is plenty of roundness, however, beginning with the twin "Rally-Pac" gauge clusters, large A/C vents, door speaker grilles, and, of course, the center pad on the modern-looking Tri-bar steering wheel. The console is more Lincoln LS style, with a recessed shifter handle and emergency-brake handle moved closer to the driver.

Added as standard equipment are one-touch up/down power windows, power mirrors, keyless entry and power locks, heated rear window, and interval wipers. Audio systems range from the standard CD player to the 1,000-watt Mach powerhouse with subwoofers in the trunk.

Powertrains. The big news for the GT is its three-valve 4.6L modular engine with 300 hp, 40 more than last year's two-valve 4.6. With two intake valves and one exhaust valve per cylinder-24 valves total-to provide more efficient combustion, the GT also has reduced emissions and improved fuel economy. Electronic throttle controls, higher compression, and variable camshaft timing also contribute to the horsepower increase. With all-aluminum construction, the three-valve 4.6 weighs 75 pounds less than a comparable cast-iron design.

For the '05 V-6 model, a 4.0L, 60-degree, single-overhead-cam engine replaces the previous 3.8L, 90-degree, pushrod powerplant. Inherently smoother and more compact, the 4.0 SOHC churns out 200 hp and 235 lb-ft of torque, gains of 7 hp and 10 lb-ft over last year.

Five-speed manual transmissions are standard in both models, with the GT getting the stout Tremec 3650, while the V-6 comes with the Tremec T5. Both benefit from improved shift quality with a new shift linkage that provides quick gear engagement and a solid feel. For the first time, the optional automatic is a five-speed; the 5R55S provides a combination of off-the-line acceleration and good highway fuel mileage, with a new transmission-control computer communicating with the engine electronics 10 times faster than before.

Exhaust. For the first time in the Mustang's 40-year history, the muffler(s) won't be in front of the rear axle. Instead, for 2005, the muffler is behind the rear axle, right in front of the rear valance. According to Thai-Tang, the placement provides a slightly different exhaust tone, but you can still expect a "balance between powerful and sporty" sound from the GT.

Safety. Ford is touting the '05 Mustang as the safest Mustang ever. The "safety cage" has been strengthened, and the car comes with Ford's Personal Safety System with weight-sensing technology for the passenger side (the airbag is turned off if no or low weight is on the seat) and a front structure designed for offset impacts. Side airbags will be available as well.

Availability. The '05 Mustang was officially introduced at the New York Auto Show in January. However, Job 1 for the coupe is scheduled for September 7, with the convertible following in February 2005.

Cobra. Information about the SVT Cobra has not been released. Speculation is that the four-valve Cobra model will take yet another hiatus, returning in either 2005 or 2006. With 390 hp in 2003-'04, we can't wait to see what SVT boss John Coletti has up his sleeve for the next Cobra.

Specialty models. Rumors are flying about a possible Shelby GT350 or perhaps even a Boss model at some point in the future. About the Shelby, Thai-Tang would only say that the recent partnership agreement between Shelby and Ford opens the door to something in the future. Ford's Vice President of Design, J Mays, has stated the Boss name is in litigation, so that could prevent the return of a Boss 302, which would be especially intriguing with Ford Racing's 5.0L (302ci) Cammer engine. According to Thai-Tang, both Saleen and Roush were given early access to the '05 Mustang so they could initiate development of their special Mustangs.

Aftermarket. Performance parts for the '05 Mustang should be available as soon as the car goes on sale in the fall. Thanks to Ford's alliance with the Specialty Equipment Market Association (SEMA), many aftermarket companies were provided specifications, measurements, and even access to prototypes so they could begin developmental work on '05 Mustang components. At the SEMA Show last November, manufacturers were invited to a closed showing and inspection of the '05 Mustang.