-- a gorgeous bronze on the test car in particular -- is deep with a flawless clear coat, and the leather interior seats and trim are well executed. The 4.6-liter, single overhead camshaft V-8 is smooth and quiet -- except for the nice throaty rumble from the tailpipes. Its 215-horsepower rating is dwarfed by the 285-horsepower 5.7-liter V-8 in the Camaro Z28, but in everyday driving the V-8 Mustang seems more balanced, more like a sports car. The suspension also has been tuned more to the sports car side of the equation than the muscle car. It is taut without being rough -- though if you go from a Taurus to a Mustang you'll notice that the Mustang constantly tells you about what's happening between the tires and the pavement. Purists will note that the Mustang still rides on much the same platform as did the 1980 model, with the same live rear-axle setup as did the 1965 version. Having owned Mustangs from those two eras, I can conclusively say that the parts may be similar, but the result is very different. On the outside, the 1997 Mustang -- which has changed little since this new version appeared in 1994 -- comes close to the classic '65 design, from the floating chrome horse logo in the grille, to the side scoops on the body, to the three-segment vertical tail lights. It is a nice blend of old and new that wears well. The interior carries on the old-new theme, as well. The dash has two pod areas -- one in front of the driver, the other in front of the passenger, much like the original Mustang. But while the original Mustang had a dash with rectangular shapes, the new one has more of a semicircle theme, which makes it look more like a 1965 Corvette in spots than a '65 Mustang. Nonetheless, the interior has all the right stuff -- full gauges, a floor console, bucket seats and the optional Mach 460 sound system, which is the best stereo available a convertible. There is even enough room in the back seat to haul two adults for medium distances without risking muscle cramps. Enough of the raves. There are a few rants -- well, not rants, really. More like areas where improvements could be made. The first is the seats. They are much better than past Mustang seats, but they could be improved, particularly in the lower and middle back region. Also, the seat adjustment track should be lengthened. It will cut down on room behind the driver's seat, but long-legged drivers now tend to feel cramped with the seat all the way back. Then there are the radio buttons. The stereo controls are confusing and you often have to take your eyes off the road to make adjustments. Please, guys, can we go back to good old knobs? Lastly, there is the price. I know we can never go back to the days when a new V-8 Mustang convertible cost less than $2,600, but the sticker price on this admittedly loaded 1997 Mustang GT convertible was just under $30,000. That's creeping into BMW territory. So, better seats, retro stereo knobs, and take about $5,000 out of the price. That would make the Mustang just about perfect. Even without those changes, I was sorely tempted to make the GT convertible my 10th Mustang. 1997 FORD MUSTANG GT CONVERTIBLE Base list price: $23,985 Price as tested: $29,535 Major options: Preferred equipment package, $2,185; Mach 460 sound system, $395; 17-inch wheels, $500; leather seats, $500; compact disc player, $295 Engine: 4.6-liter single overhead camshaft V-8 Horsepower: 215 Transmission: Four-speed automatic Weight: 3,380 pounds 0-to-60 mph: 6.8 seconds Mileage: 17-24 mpg Safety: Dual front air bags, side-impact beams Competitors: Chevrolet Camaro Z28, Pontiac Firebird Formula
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