Test Drive: 2008 Ford Mustang GT

It’s a Lot Like the 2007 GT with a Few New Features

2008 Ford Mustang GT. Photo © Jonathan P. Lamas

Long gone are the days of the 5.0 Mustang. The fifth generation's answer to a performance pony is the 4.6L GT Mustang; GT standing for Gran Turismo or Grand Touring. So the question everyone’s asking is, "What's new for 2008?" While there are a few new options such as ambient lighting, optional HID headlamps, and standard-side airbags, the 2008 Mustang GT is very similar to the 2007 model. How so? Read on. $27,020 base, $33,280 as tested, EPA fuel economy 15 MPG city, 23 MPG highway.

First Glance: New Features in 2008

Over the past few years, I’ve driven my fair share of Mustang GTs, and to be honest, I am extremely impressed with the refinements Ford made to the Mustang in its fifth generation incarnation. The car clearly conveys classic Mustang styling through and through. Best of all, Ford is offering more and more options at the factory level for buyers than ever before. For instance, in 2008, Ford is offering a new ambient lighting feature for the Mustang which illuminates the front and rear foot wells and front cup holders in either red, orange, blue, indigo, violet, green and yellow. Kudos to the guys in Detroit for offering options for the Mustang that were previously only available in the aftermarket community. If I had wanted to add similar lighting to my fourth generation Mustang, a purchase of a Street Glow kit would have been required.

In addition, Ford has made the Mustang safer by making side airbags standard on both front and passenger seats. The company also offers optional HID "high-intensity discharge" headlights on the 2008 GT, which make for a brighter bulb at a lower wattage. Although the vehicle I tested used traditional headlights, J.D. Power and Associates says that HID headlights offer additional safety over traditional headlights. According to the company, "With their brighter light output and a more focused beam, high-intensity headlights are an active safety feature because they help you to avoid accidents before they happen."

The 2008 Mustang GT is also available in three new colors: Vapor Silver, Sangria Red, and Silver Metallic, although the Mustang I tested was a Dark Candy Apple Red GT. To be honest, I wasn’t won over on the color. For some reason I always imagined Candy Apple Red looking sharp, as I’d seen the color on many classic Mustangs. When I first saw it on the 2008 GT, I felt it was a bit much. For some reason the color just didn’t seem to mesh with the car. Maybe it just needed some white racing stripes.

In the Driver's Seat: Love the Creature Comforts, Especially in Heavy Traffic

Being behind the wheel of the Mustang GT is a powerful experience. The hum of engine and the flow of power through the car’s dual exhaust had me wishing it was race day. As for steering, the wheel's grip felt comfortable and provided plenty of performance while I navigated through tight turns and the occasional fast moving rush hour traffic. The optional 6-way power driver’s seat allowed me to stretch out, with plenty of room to relax, while keeping my feet positioned close enough to the vehicle’s pedals. True, I grew tired of up shifting and down shifting on the 405, but that’s the nature of the beast. A manual transmission in Los Angeles is a lot of work. As for the gear shifter itself, I found it shifted smoothly through the gears, although there was a bit of an unnatural feel when shifting from third to fourth and visa versa. This could be due to my positioning or simply a personal preference.

As for creature comforts, the optional DVD-based Navigation System for the 2008 GT is nice. I can’t tell you how many times the system helped me find my way out of bumper-to-bumper traffic here in L.A. Unfortunately, the system adds $1,995 to the price of the vehicle. Here in L.A., I found it well worth the price. In other parts of the country, small towns and the likes, the feature is probably an unneeded additional cost.

I also found the built-in Sirius radio feature to be a blessing in disguise. Yes, it adds $195 to the price, but it’s well worth the cost. I tuned into Hair Nation and listened to "I Can’t Drive 55" by Sammy Hagar more than a few times while cruising down the 101 Freeway. Best of all it was commercial free.

Of course, my favorite feature was the instrument alert system which informed me I had 40 miles to go before I ran out of gas. This feature takes the guess work out of riding on empty. It can also save the day if you’re not paying attention to your instrument gauges.

Other options on the GT included heated seats. Maybe I’m just old school, but isn’t that what your back end is for, to warm the seats? I tried the feature out and it worked perfectly fine. I just wasn’t that interested in using the device. Maybe another winter back in Jersey would change my mind.

On the Road: Plenty of Power but the Live-Rear Axle Needs to Go

Bottom line, the 2008 Mustang GT has power. If you’re not careful, you can easily find yourself fishtailing between lanes. This is old news for owners of most Mustangs. With 300 hp and 320 lb-ft of torque at its disposal (50 percent more power than the small-block 289-cubic-inch V-8 found in the classic 1964 1/2 Mustang) the GT is a true muscle car by today’s standards. On the open road, the rumble of the car’s exhaust makes for a confident driver. Best of all, the car really can pull through at a moments notice. I had one close call when an old lady pulled into my lane on the freeway, forcing me to complete an “evasive maneuver”. At 55 MPH, I shifted from fifth gear to fourth and put the pedal down. The wheels chirped and the old lady’s car appeared to be standing still, behind me of course. There’s no doubt about it. If it’s power you need, the GT has it covered.

Unfortunately, the Mustang GT also has a live-real axle. My colleague, Aaron Gold, commented on this feature last year in his review of the 2007 California Special GT Mustang. Aaron said, “The Mustang has a solid (or "live") rear axle, so a bump on one side affects the wheel on the other.” Well, some things never change. I found that the live-rear axle did impact the Mustang’s handling performance as well. Looking back, it also impacted the performance on my old 2001 GT. I’m not the first to mention this, so hopefully Ford will work this out in the next Mustang incarnation. With so much power beneath its wheels, it’s a bummer the car can’t handle as well as some other sports cars on the market.

Journey's End: Yes Lloyd Christmas, I Like it a Lot

Okay, maybe I’m biased, but I truly liked the 2008 Mustang GT. The car still has power, it still has appeal, and it’s still fun to drive. Best of all, there are a ton of options you can buy to make it even better. My only complaints are the continued use of a live-rear axle and the price of the car. Let’s face it; $33,280 (the price of my test car) is not cheap by any standard. Then again, it does provide a viable option for enthusiasts who want a performance Mustang but aren’t able to pay more than $40,000 for a Shelby GT500.

What really impacts the value of the GT Mustang, in my opinion, is the performance we now have in the 4.0L V6 Mustang. With 210 hp at its disposal, it has power, it has looks, and it’s cheaper in price. In addition, it’s cheaper to insure, gets slightly better gas mileage (I managed to get two extra days of driving time out of a V6 Mustang's tank before having to fill up), and you can get plenty of add-on options at the dealer level while still keeping within a reasonable spending budget. That said, the V6 is not a GT. Enthusiasts, such as myself, know the two cars were created with different purposes. The V6 is designed to be more economical and consumer friendly. The GT is designed to be a performance machine. If it’s performance and power you seek, look to the Mustang GT. If power is nice, but you’re looking for an overall ride, consider the V6.

What I Liked About the Mustang GT

  • It’s fast
  • Exhaust note is amazing
  • It looks great
  • Strangers immediately assume you have a fast car
  • Add-on accessories are readily available
  • You don’t have to worry about how you’re going to upgrade it to make it look like a GT

What I Didn’t Like

  • The live-rear axle has a negative impact on the overall ride
  • I got about 14 MPG and gas isn’t cheap
  • There’s no easy way to connect an Ipod unless you buy an additional accessory
  • The backseat is still cramped, for both kids and adults
  • Very Little Trunk Space

Who should and shouldn't buy the 2008 Mustang GT

Details and Specs

  • Body style: Coupe-Passenger Sports Car
  • Seating capacity: 4
  • Base Price: $25,840 Deluxe Coupe GT/$27,020 Premium Coupe GT/$30,665 Deluxe Convertible GT/$31,845 Premium Convertible GT
  • Model tested/price: 2008 Premium GT Coupe/ $33,280
  • Base engine: 4.6L 3V OHC V8 Engine
  • Optional engine: None
  • Premium fuel required? No
  • Transmission: 5-speed manual/automatic
  • Driveline: Front engine, rear-wheel-drive
  • EPA fuel economy estimates: 15 MPG city/23 MPG highway
  • Where built: United States
  • Standard safety equipment: Front airbags, side-air bags, ABS traction control, Securilock, remote keyless entry, Anti-lock brakes
  • Optional safety equipment: Active Anti-Theft System
  • Major standard features: 17-inch aluminum wheels, front fog lamps, stainless
    steel dual exhaust, split fold rear seat
  • Major options: 18-inch premium aluminum wheels, DVD-based navigation system, Power seats/windows/mirrors, heated seats, ambient lighting, interior upgrade package, California Special package
  • Warranty: 3 years/36,000 miles bumper-to-bumper, 5 years/60,000 miles powertrain
  • Roadside assistance/free maintenance: 5 years/60,000 miles roadside assistance

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