I’ve wanted to buy an S197 Ford Mustang for the longest time, particularly the 2005 to 2009 version. I always thought that the S197 Mustang looked good, but it wasn’t until the release of the 2008 Shelby GT500 KR that I decided I’d have to buy one. The problem with the KR is that it was – and still is – a bit pricey for me. But the great thing about Mustangs is that you can get a regular GT and pretty much turn it into the car you want it to be, thanks to an endless supply of affordable aftermarket parts that you can add over the course of time. Basically the Mustang GT’s potential for customization is one of the reasons I decided to buy one. I also got one because Mustangs have always been special cars (safe maybe for the second generation one), being truly desirable yet attainable by the masses. It has been eight months since I bought this 2005 Mustang GT but it still remains unmodified, which means it’s the perfect candidate for a review of a used stock 2005 Mustang GT.
Finding the perfect car
The search for the perfect Mustang started early in 2015, with the original plan being to import one directly from the USA, since this generation of Mustang was never officially sold by Ford in Switzerland. Although prices of these Mustangs were lower in the US in comparison to Swiss ones, the problem rises when you add the cost of shipping, local taxes, and -- most importantly -- the cost of homologation, with total money spent easily surpassing what’s already on sale in Switzerland. This is when I decided that I’d slowly look for a car here, but it had to be a fair price. Fast-forward to February 2016, and I finally found a silver 2005 Mustang GT.
I always wanted a black car, with no stripes and no hood scoop, and it had to be a GT with a manual transmission. I found my car on autoscout24.ch, and it was silver with blue racing stripes. Initially I was adamant in having a black Mustang, but with a mileage of only 46,000km and an asking price of CHF 19,900, the mileage-to-price ratio was simply better than any ’05 to ’09 Mustang I could find. I got in touch with the dealer and went for a test drive the very next day. I didn’t even have to take the car out of the dealer’s lot to realize that I was going to buy it. The sound it made when I started it up was all the convincing I needed – this generation of Ford Modular V8s has one of the best exhaust notes of any muscle car of the 21st century.
The dealer was pretty firm on the asking price, and normally I would insist on haggling but Mustang GTs of the same generation with similar mileage can go for a lot more. The car also seemed to have been well taken care of, although the previous owner had aftermarket wheels on it, and a cold air intake which he removed in order for it to pass its technical inspection. After a test drive and a look through the car, the dealer and I agreed on a sale. I also asked him to have the terrible-looking blue stripes removed.
Some specs and equipment
This car comes with a V8 from Ford’s Modular engine family, a naturally-aspirated 4.6-litre unit with single overhead cams and three valves per cylinder. The engine is rated at 300hp and 320 lb-ft of torque, enabling this five-speed manual equipped car to get from 0-60mph (96km/h) in a claimed 5.1 seconds, reach a limited top speed of 224km/h, and cover the quarter-mile in 13.5 seconds.
In North America, this Mustang can run on 87-octane fuel (91 RON) if needed, with fuel consumption rated at 15.6l/100km in the city, 13l/100km combined, and 10.3l/100km on the highway. The car weighs 1,579kg.
This Deluxe package car has no oil pressure or volt gauge like in Premium package cars. There’s also no option for the instrument binnacle lights, no trunk subwoofer, no aux-in socket, and no metal inserts on the dash and steering wheel. However it does have optional leather seats, power-adjustable driver’s seat, and the lack of a rear subwoofer means more trunk space. Automatic touchdown windows are included, so is air conditioning, and a rather outdated six-CD changer (soon to be replaced).
What it's like to drive
The 2005 Mustang GT has aged well, even after 11 years it still gets some attention when driving around town. The car rides well for the most part, offering a slightly firm ride but never being unbearable. It does however sort of fall to pieces if the road is a bit too rough, with a noticeable dashboard shudder to show its discontent. This car has a standard factory exhaust, but it is quite vocal and sounds amazing – burbling and popping on the overrun. It has a very positive, chunky mechanical shifter feel, which feels great and really makes you feel like you’re in a muscle car.
The handling is not bad for what is a very basic suspension setup, staying nicely composed if you’re driving at, say, seven-tenths. With the weighty steering actually responding reasonably well to your inputs. However the car does start to feel a bit floaty and there is a bit more lateral body movement then I’d like when you really start to push, and it's exacerbated if you hit a bump mid-corner and the rear axle sort of shifts the car out of line. The brakes are adequate for the most part, but bigger brake discs wouldn’t go amiss in, and they do start to squeal after a couple of minutes of enthusiastic driving. The engine has a good spread of torque from lower revs, pulling you out of slow corners with conviction. Give an aggressive stab of the throttle, the limited-slip differential hooks up and it willingly begins to slide. You just have to remember not to be another addition to those popular “Mustang drivers crashing” videos on YouTube.
The pedals are nicely spaced for heel and toe, but for some reason the electronic throttle can be unresponsive sometimes when trying to rev-match between fourth and third gear, so a stronger dab of the right pedal can be needed at times. The traction control on this car can be caught sleeping also, so wheelspin on wet surfaces can occur quite easily despite it being turned on.
The plus side to driving a Mustang
The incredible thing about driving American performance cars in Europe is that they have an almost exotic-like quality to them because they’re rarely seen – although that might change very soon as GM and Ford now officially sell a lot of their North American models in Europe. You also get the thumbs up from other Mustang drivers when driving, I even got a thumbs up from the driver of a black, new-shape Dodge Challenger R/T – there’s not much of a Ford vs. GM vs. Mopar mentality here in Switzerland, and it’s absolutely fantastic.
How practical is it?
The car can seat four average-sized adults in comfort; even a tall person could sit behind me in my driving position. However I doubt a tall driver would be able to comfortably seat an adult behind them. The trunk is big enough for two big suitcases – I never panic when I have to make an airport run. The AC works really well, easily turning the interior into a nicely chilled cabin on a hot summer day. The sound quality through the speakers is also quite good despite not having the premium package subwoofer.
One of the things about buying a dream car is to manage expectations, otherwise you will just be setting yourself up for disappointment. I knew that the Mustang would be a cool car but that it would have flaws that I would have to accept. The interior, for example, has a cool retro-style dash and dished steering wheel, but it has a lot of bits that look and feel very cheap. It’s also fair to assume that at some point you’ll have to take any used car to the garage for a few repairs, luckily with this car I just had to replace the front brake discs since the steering wheel would vibrate under braking. I also had problems with filling the car up with fuel, as it caused fuel pumps to cut out very frequently. The problem seems to have self-healed over time, but it is a common fault with this generation of Mustang where the hose leading to the fuel tank would need replacing.
A dream car or a nightmare?
The S197 Mustang is the last of an old-school breed of muscle cars; thanks to that live rear axle, a deep baritone V8 exhaust note, a look that harks back to Mustangs of the 1960s, and just an overall sense of manliness in the way it drives. Mustang technology has progressed tremendously since 2005; the new EcoBoost Mustang produces more power and the same amount of torque with only four cylinders, and using less fuel in the process. Today’s Mustang GT is also a different animal in comparison to my car; for one it has independent rear suspension and a high-revving V8 with double overhead cams. Also, it’s officially sold by Ford dealers in Europe, although its high popularity means a waiting list of up to a year for a new car.
It’s not all bad news for my car though, I think the 4.6-litre V8 in my car sounds better, and it has a meaner-looking face than the new Mustang. But the biggest thing that drew me to the Mustang, is the fact that you can actually aspire to owning one without needing a six-figure salary. Despite being an affordable car, it still has the level of desirability that even some premium brand sports cars can't match. It’s a definite standout car, and is probably one of the best value-for-money cars you can buy. The fact that it looks cool and just happens to have one of the most iconic names in the automotive industry makes it the ultimate dream car.
Written by Alex Kisiri