On the wet pavement, we got a chance to test the Traction Control on a number of occasions. At first, we thought something was wrong with the system on our yellow GT because it didn't seem to be working. Later, at the press briefing, we learned that Team Mustang engineers purposely programmed the Mustang's Traction Control to allow more tire slippage to better fit the driving characteristics of the typical Mustang driver, who, as we all know, tends to like spinning the tires. Of course, the Traction Control can be completely deactivated with a button under the radio.
For the first time, the Mustang gas pedal isn't connected directly to the throttle by rod or cable, so we were anxious to see if we could feel the difference. Electronic throttle control is a "drive-by-wire" system that senses pedal position and relays it through the engine control module to the electronic throttle body. For normal, everyday, around-town driving, you'd never be able to tell the difference. However, during spirited or full-throttle shifts, you can feel a momentary hesitation in the power delivery. We hear the aftermarket tuners are already working on a way around it, mainly for supercharged and racing applications.
For the drive back to Ann Arbor, we switched to a silver GT with the new 5R55S five-speed automatic. If you're strictly a shift-it-yourself kind of driver, you might want to take a testdrive in the automatic. It's a hoot. In fact, it's so much fun that it's tough to keep your foot out of the throttle. The five-speed auto actually feels quicker than the manual five-speed, probably because of the torque that's generated through the first couple of gears. The shifts are quick, but not hard, with none of the lurching associated with the previous four-speed automatic. I'm surprised we didn't get a speeding or reckless-driving ticket during our stint in the five-speed auto GT.
By the way, we've learned the five-speed manual GTs get 3.55 gears, while all others, including V-6s and GT automatics, are equipped with 3.31s.
On The TrackInitially, with rain still falling when we arrived at Gingerman Raceway, we were told the track portion of our '05 Mustang drive had been cancelled. But shortly after most of the journalists headed back to the airport to catch earlier flights home, the rain ended and the emerging sun quickly dried the track surface. Although only two GTs and just 30 minutes were available for track time, we managed to squeeze in a few laps.
On the track, the '05 is an amazingly well-balanced car, thanks in part to the stretched wheelbase that provides an improved front/rear weight balance. According to Team Mustang, the '05 was designed to handle well, yet at the same time prevent inexperienced drivers from getting into trouble. I am by no means a seasoned or even remotely talented road-course driver, so the '05 is set up for people like me. I proceeded to prove it when I dove into Gingerman's Turn 2 way too hot and probably on the wrong line as well. Thankfully, the '05 GT hung in there with me until I could slow it down for the burst down the straightaway. There was more body roll than expected, but I never felt the front end was going to push off the track or the rear end was coming around.
Unfortunately, the wet weather washed out our opportunity to get some seat time in a V-6 Mustang with its new 202hp (210 on some spec sheets) 4.0L engine. One of the two available V-6 cars went back with a couple of early departing journalists, while the other was kidnapped by writers from one of the larger general-interest automotive magazines. They appeared more smitten by the V-6 than the GT, which should probably tell us something.
Now we can sit back and wait for the convertible, due out in February, followed by the SVT Cobra and whatever specialty models come out of Team Mustang. We've heard rumors about Shelby and Boss variations, and maybe even another Bullitt. In between, we'll be seeing the Saleen, Steeda, Kenny Brown, and other performance variations on the '05 Mustang theme.