Worst and Best Ford Mustangs

Worst and Best Ford Mustangs

Car and driver

As the seventh-generation Mustang appears on the horizon, about to make its Detroit debut, our editors couldn’t resist looking back at 57 years and six generations of Mustangs to pick their favorite and least favorite versions. commemorate. Read on for the worst and best:

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Gen 1 (1965-1973) Worst: Base Model

We don’t like poser cars. Sorry, but the base model of the first generation of the first generation Mustang was one. He looked sporty and yet docile. It wasn’t much more than the Falcon economy car it was based on. The entry-level Mustang walked slowly through life thanks to a sleepy 170-cubic-inch, 101-horsepower inline-six and three-speed manual transmission that lacked the ease of synchronization in first gear—which made for a hair-raising shudder fest when driving in the city. Its plush suspension, slow-and-heavy steering, and weak drum brakes were best suited for driving to the local A&W for burgers who prefer to cut back roads or challenge Pontiac GTOs at stoplights. But at least it looked cool. —Rich porcini mushrooms

It would be easy to say that every first-generation Mustang was the best Mustang, as America fell hard for the original pony car the moment it launched at the New York World’s Fair on April 17, 1964. Over 418,000 Mustangs were sold in the first 12 months of production. However, two versions made their appearance and made their way into the hearts of enthusiasts. The first was the high-performance model equipped with the K-code hi-po 289-cubic-inch V-8, delivering 271 horsepower at a lofty 6000 rpm. It only came with a four-speed manual transmission, a special handling package and 15-inch wheels — which were really cool because they were painted black and had no hubcaps. In addition to the hi-po, there was the other best first-generation Mustang: the GT350 near-race car (pictured), a fastback Stang muscled by Shelby American with stiff suspension, sticky tires, alloy wheels, and a version of the 289 which put out a claimed 306 horsepower.Rich porcini mushrooms

Gen 2 (1974-1978) Worst: Mustang II

I wrote this over the Labor Day weekend, with a group of car-loving friends drinking beer in the room while I worked. When asked, “What’s the worst Mustang II?” some shouted, “All of you.” One said, “What’s a Mustang II?” and when he looked it up, he said, “Oh man, that’s a terrible car.” I’ll try to put up a defense when we get to Best, but worst-case, say, the 1974 four-cylinder coupe, chosen for its combination of poor road presence – really, the coupes look like they’re slumping straight the dealer floor, Ghia designed or not – and shabby 87 horsepower performance. But I usually pick the first year because it introduced a generation of Mustang that, while financially good for Ford, was mentally bad for the pony’s self-esteem. Plus, 1974 was the only year the Mustang was ever offered without a V-8 option, and that was just wrong. —Elana Scherr

Best: Mustang II King Cobra (1978)

Lee Iacocca had a dilemma in 1973: keep growing the Mustang, which was already approaching the mid-sized car at the time, or downsize it again and offer something that satisfies consumer fears about fuel economy and rising costs. of livelihood. The Mustang II is a big disappointment to performance-loving Ford fans, but the Mustang is the only one of the pony cars to create a continuous line from its introduction to the present, which it couldn’t have done had it continued to grow and guzzle gas like the Challenger and the Camaro. The Mustang II is also valuable as a source of easy, lightweight independent front suspension and rack-and-pinion steering for custom car builds, and many a show-winning Deuce or road rod benefited from Ford’s chassis choices. When it comes to the best I go for the 1978 King Cobra Mustang II. It was still slow, took over 10 seconds to get to 60mph, but it came with a V-8, has some of the wildest hood images of any car except the Trans Am, and, perhaps best of all, marked the end of its generation. —Elana Scherr

Gen 3 (1979-1993) Worst: 4.2-liter V-8

It was the best of times, it was the . . . no, it was just the worst. During the second fuel crisis of the 1970s, manufacturers did everything they could to get a liter of gasoline. For the Mustang, this meant a shrunken V-8. For the 1980 model year, Ford reduced the bore diameter of the 4.9-liter V-8 (better known as the 5.0) to create the 4.2-liter. The power delivered was so abhorrent that Ford would not include it in the press material. The 4.2-liter produced 118 horsepower, making it the least powerful V-8 Mustang ever produced. We never had a chance to test one, but rest assured it wouldn’t have been impressive. —David Beard

The last of the Fox bodies and the first car of the Special Vehicle Team (SVT) is arguably the best of the bunch, and with only 107 Vibrant Red hatchbacks built, it’s one of the rarest models ever designed. (The wax shown here offered for auction on Bring a Trailer in 2021.) The 1993 Ford Mustang Cobra R was powered by a 4.9-liter 235-horsepower V-8, and SVT took steps to make it a dedicated track car. The Cobra R did without a radio, air conditioning, a rear seat, and stripped of the carpeting and sound-absorbing material. It also had manual windows, door locks and mirrors. The Mustang LX bucket seats were used in place of the heavier Cobra seats, and when it was all said and done, 450 pounds were reportedly removed. But most of the weight would be added again with strategic hardware such as larger brake discs, strut tower and subframe bracing, stiffer springs, adjustable dampers, a larger radiator and a power steering and engine oil cooler. The Cobra R would spawn again in 1995 and for the last time in 2000.David Beard

Gen 4 (1994-2004) Worst: V-6 Coupe

When we compared the base 1994 Mustang to a modern-day Camaro, we said the engine was “reluctantly drones” and the shifter throws were “long and heavy” and that “you’ll be unhappy to find that the live axis of the car is easily led astray.” And those were some of the nicer feelings. Today a base Mustang is a respectable performance car in its own right, but in 1994 the V-6 Mustang existed mainly for rental fleets and as an upsell on wheels – drive one and you’d definitely know how to get a GT. The engine specs (145 hp at 4000 rpm) read as if they belonged to a small diesel rather than a pony car V-6, and this car sported possibly the saddest three-spoke wheels ever presented to the car-buying public. were pushed. How bad was it? Bad enough to lose a comparison test with a V-6 Camaro. But even that car could have been worse: it could have been an automatic.Ezra Dyer

Ford sent the Fox platform in a supercharged blaze of glory with the 2003 SVT Cobra, which brought a bloated 390-horsepower V-8 and independent rear suspension to the party. While this Mustang still used a 1979 platform, the new hardware was good for 4.5 seconds from zero to 60 mph and a quarter-mile of 12.9 seconds at 111 mph — legit figures even today. The same goes for the 0.90g stick and the ability to handle bumps in the middle of the corner without the rear going to the guardrail. Sure, you hit your knuckles on the dash and shifted into third, but that’s the price of Fox body greatness. So why is the 2004 model better than the 2003? Because you could get it in color shifting Mystichrome paintthe ultimate Mustang flex from the early 2000s. —Ezra Dyer

Gen 5 (2005-2014) Worst: Base Model with V-6

Ford enthusiasts rejoiced with the arrival of the fifth-generation Mustang in 2005. Despite the fourth-generation model, Gen 5 was the first all-new Mustang since 1979. Based on the new D2C platform, with sleek styling that simultaneously looked modern and reminded of the sexy fastbacks of the 1960s, it was a huge success. But Ford spent most of its money on the new platform and body. The engines had pretty much been carried over, most notably the base model’s 4.0-litre V-6, which was borrowed from the Explorer, and traced its heritage to a 1964 2.0-litre German V-6. That base model had 6 It took .6 seconds to get to 60 mph, ambled through the quarter in 15.3 at 93 mph, and could only muster 114 mph even with a manual. This generation got a useful mid-cycle refresh in 2010, so clearly the worst of the bunch are the pre-refresh cars with the gray V-6. —Csaba Csere

Gen 5 Mustang GTs started with a carry-over V-8, a three-valve, 4.6-liter version of Ford’s “modular” V-8. It had 300 horsepower, which we would have killed in Gen 3, but was commonplace in 2005. But in 2011, Mustang got the first “Coyote” V-8. With a displacement of 5.0 liters and profitable use of double overhead camshafts and four valves per cylinder, this engine jewel developed 412 horsepower and immediately increased the performance of the GT. A few years later, Ford took 444 ponies out of the Coyote and put them in a model called the Boss 302, which was a worthy successor to the 1969 original. Combined with the Laguna Seca package, which upgraded the chassis and revved up to 7500, the Boss hit 60 in 4.2 seconds, scorched the quarter in 12.7 at 111 mph and advanced to 161 mph. It also came close at 0.96, stopping from 70 in 150. It is without a doubt the fifth-generation class. —Csaba Csere

Gen 6 (2015-2022) Worst: “Bullitt” Mustang

Because cars are generally so good these days, there are no “worst” Mustangs. Still, I don’t know why anyone would buy a Bullitt (pictured) or basic EcoBoost. Ford wanted nothing to do with the movie bullitt, making the cartoonish badges, retro wheels and two color choices the least interesting form of return at an uninteresting price. As for the EcoBoost, its lowball MSRP can’t excuse its featureless and profound dullness, and adding enough options to escape the boredom like the High Performance package puts one in the money orbit of the V-8 . Everyone should start with that. —Jonathon Ramsey

The best driver cars are created when engineers make the best compromises during development. The most exciting driver’s cars for everyday use on everyday roads require one compromise: manual transmissions. The Mustang Shelby GT350 was the majestic accumulation of such give-and-take. Ford put the screeching diablerie of the 5.2-liter V-8 there in the name: “Voodoo.” That sound! The smoothness of the circuit! That Tremec! Those brakes! Unlike the GT500, the GT350 didn’t look like a threat to family and friends. And when you stepped up to the 350R, Ford’s blacksmiths shod the horse in carbon fiber shoes. Even the legendary horse dealer of the same name, Carroll Shelby, is said to have said, “Well, that will be me.” We certainly did. Several times. —Jonathon Ramsey

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