1999 Ford Mustang
1999 Ford Mustang Expert Review:New Car Test Drive
New Car Test Drive
More power, better brakes, sharper handling and a new look.
The Mustang -- the original pony car -- is all-new for 1999 with improvements to every single system under its brand-new skin.
The Mustang has only two true competitors, the Chevrolet Camaro and the Pontiac Firebird. Like the two GM pony cars, the Ford Mustang comes in many guises. There are V6 and V8 versions in both coupe and convertible body styles along with the Cobra, the super-performance model that competes against the Camaro SS and the Firebird Ram Air. There are Japanese and Korean coupes that compete with Mustang on price, but they don't offer pony car performance.
New Mustang styling features chiseled lines for a much more muscular appearance. The design was influenced by both the original 1964 Mustang and the recent GT90 concept car. The rear fender air intake is twice as long, fitted with sharp corners and much more pronounced lines. The rocker panels curve out, and the fenders have pronounced front and rear wheel well arches. This gives the car a racier stance than the previous model.
The front end features new wraparound complex reflector headlamps with integrated side marker lamps, and a new, larger grille opening with a honeycomb grille texture and a chrome pony emblem reminiscent of the original 1964 emblem. The hood contains a prominent hood scoop, which is not functional. 1999 marks the 35th anniversary of the Mustang, and all models celebrate this with a front fender tri-bar Mustang badge.
The roof has been changed to a new design with a sharp edge. The rear quarter windows have a new shape, the rear fenders have sharp corners on them, and the three-element tail lamps have sharp corners. The decklid is made of SMC plastic in order to accommodate those sharp corners. All three wheel designs, 15-, 16- and 17-inch are new, with flat spoke designs to complement the sharp corners of the new body shell. The selection of Goodyear, Firestone and BFG tires remains the same as last year. All GT models get twin, three-inch diameter polished stainless steel exhaust tips. The GT gets a rear deck spoiler and front fog lamps as standard equipment.
The Mustang's electrical system has been simplified with the addition of a single module that replaces the functions of a half-dozen single-function modules for wipers, chimes, illuminated entry system, one-touch-down windows, remote entry and the anti-theft system.
Inside the car, there is no change in overall appearance. The seat foam has been improved, seat tracks have been redesigned to add one inch of additional rearward travel to better accommodate taller drivers, and seat belts have been attached to the seats to move with them. There's a new six-way power driver's seat, replacing the four-way, along with new fabrics and sew patterns in cloth and optional leather. Embossed ponies on the upper portions of the seat backrests give the interior a sporty, traditional Mustang look. Medium graphite, medium parchment and midnight black are the new interior colors. The instrument panel, the center console and the headliner will be color keyed in 1999 models, instead of the former black-only.
Audio systems have been upgraded for the second straight year. The 80-watt premium sound system that comes standard on all models is combined with new, better-sounding speakers. An optional CD/radio combination, a CD/cassette system, and the Mach 460 system will continue for 1999.
The interior is nice and cozy in the coupe. Now there's enough seat track length to accommodate tall drivers and just enough elbow room to keep from feeling cramped. 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, however.
Acceleration performance is improved for 1999. Power from the Mustang GT's V8 engine is up 35 horsepower (and 10 foot-pounds of torque) over last year. The GT's revised 4.6-liter sohc modular V8 engine produces 260 horsepower at 5000 rpm, with 302 foot-pounds of torque at 4000 rpm. The engine features new camshafts, new intake manifold runners, and larger valves, for improved air flow above 3000 rpm. A new coil-on-plug ignition system replaces the previous distributorless system for higher energy spark.
Power from the standard 3.8-liter split-port V6 engine is up substantially as well, rising from 150 horsepower to 190 horsepower at 5250 rpm with 225 foot-pounds of torque at 3000 rpm.
The drivetrain has been improved with a recalibrated 4-speed automatic transmission for smoother upshifts. The 5-speed manual transmissions are carried over from 1998, with the V6 using the T-5 and the V8 using the T-45, both now sourced from Tremec. All models, regardless of engine or transmission, get a 3.27 :1 rear axle ratio. Both gearboxes shift smoothly and mate well to an engine that features a flexible powerband and sufficient strength to take high-rpm shifts for the life of the car.
Traction control is a new option for 1999. The Bosch system works at all speeds to reduce wheelspin. 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.
Most of the raw edges and choppiness of the Mustang's old suspension behavior have been smoothed out. Engineers retuned the rear suspension for improved compliance by increasing suspension travel. This reduces ride harshness. The GT now has linear-rate springs, up in front to 450 pounds per inch. At the rear, the old springs were swapped out in favor of 210 pound per inch linear-rate springs. These decrease the Mustang's well known ride stiffness and improve steering feel and response.
The steering is more direct and more positive than previous Mustangs. A revised boost curve gives the steering more linear response and better on-center feel. The turning circle has been reduced by three feet through changes to the steering rack, the lower control arms and front stabilizer bars.
The braking system got a thorough going-over, which it needed badly, with new aluminum twin-piston front calipers that not only whack 10 pounds off the front of the car, but also result in much improved pedal feel. A new master cylinder design offers an improved brake pedal ratio of travel to brake force and improved pedal modulation. ABS is still optional for 1999 and must be ordered to get the traction control system.
The Camaro and Firebird are slightly more powerful than the Mustang GT (by 45-70 horsepower). But the new Mustang GT is quieter, rides better, and offers better interior ergonomics and quality than the Camaro and Firebird. The Mustang GT is also less expensive than either of the GM pony cars by several thousand dollars. Those advantages make the Mustang GT the best all-around car in its class.
Options As Tested
ABS, traction control.
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