My latest rental car

Avis was nice enough to give me a 2008 Mustang coupe with less than 3 miles on the odometer. Nice car. My last Mustang was a 1998 V6 5-speed coupe with a few very minor modifications to the intake & exhaust. Ten years later the parts of the car that needed refinement have been refined, and the parts that could use some “de-refining” have been addressed (for the most part) as well.

The interior is comfortable and fits well. The addition of power seats would be good, but for some unfathomable reason rental companies don’t seem to buy them. The sound system is pretty good, and despite my original impression really is up to the standard set by the standard radio in a GM (though I didn’t see a jack where I could plug in an MP3 player).  Still, it’s a beautiful and comfortable interior. The dash takes some styling cues from very early Mustangs as well as later ones, like the ’71-’73 models.

The stock tires are 16″ 65-series BFG Traction T/A s, which stick far, far better than the absolutely abysmal excuses for tires supplied on the ’98 model (Goodyear Eagle GA). They could be a bit wider and some 17″ rims would be better, but this is the bottom end of the line as far as tires & suspension goes – it’s a rental. It does stick fairly well around corners, and gives plenty of warning before it breaks loose predictably (kids, don’t try this at home!!)

The engine is a 4 liter SOHC German-manufactured V6, and they’ve tuned the exhaust for a satisfying growl. Sounds good and there seems to be adequate power. The 5-speed automatic (French made) feels smooth and competent. Overall, this is what the Mustang should be. The window sticker is still in the glove box, and the MSRP is listed at a smidge over $22K.

Unfortunately I won’t be buying one. The EPA estimated gas mileage is rated at horrific 16 MPG city, 24 highway. Even if we take the EPA estimate at face value — never a good idea — it’s only 2 MPG more than the actual measured mileage I get with my pickup WITH a towing package. Quite frankly, it’s unpardonable for a modern V6-powered coupe. My wife’s Cougar gets over 20 MPG in town with an aluminum 3L V6 that moves out almost as smartly as this Mustang. If I’m buying a GT500 I don’t really care about the gas mileage, but the market for the V6 base model is a little more concerned with the cost of ownership. If Ford ever decides to put some modern technology under the hood of the base model Mustangs, they could get equal or better performance with far better gas mileage. I think they’d be able to sell a hell of a lot more Mustangs. Until then, things are only going to get worse for them.