Car Corner
Test Drive 2000 Mustang GT Convertible (Almost)

March 1, 2000
By Scott Lewis

I hate the times when I don’t have anything to write about when it comes to cars. This month I really wanted to test drive a 2000 Mustang GT Convertible. A friend of mine bought one around the first week of February. Alas I have not gotten a chance to drive it.

Even if I did get a chance to drive it, I am not sure I could give it a fair "review." My friend is one of those control freak types that normally won’t let anyone drive their car. I remember when he got his Chevy pickup. He never let me drive it. He says he did. But I don’t count driving it on and off a boat ramp, complete with trailer, much of a drive. Besides, he had no choice except letting me drive the boat on and off the trailer. The latter being more of a problem for him.

Yet this same person would practically (one time did) force me to let him drive my 93 Z28 when it was new. The "force" was when I gassed it up while he was with me. While I was in the station paying for the gas he got in the driver’s seat and wouldn’t get out until I let him drive it.

I almost never have a problem letting someone drive my car. After all, it is unlikely they will do something I wouldn’t, except crash it. Assuming for a moment they won’t crash it in a quick 10 - 20 minute drive, I doubt anyone could put that much abuse on a car with the owner sitting next to them.

Classically, people baby a new car when they test drive it at a dealer. You don’t want to piss off the salesman and end the drive. God forbid you should blow a clutch doing a burn out or something, and they make you responsible for the car. But when you are driving a car that someone already owns, you have the warrantee to fall back on.

I have let many people drive my car. I always tell them to push it as hard as they want. Not one person has pushed the car nearly as hard as I do on a regular basis. One friend, Tom, pushed it pretty good but was still a little apprehensive because he was not familiar with the car. When I let Tom’s best friend, John, drive it Tom told him to hammer it. John did not, and Tom gave him a hard time for it. Tom said, "Come on. You have the perfect opportunity to beat on a really fast car."

Tom thought of it like a once in a lifetime opportunity. For many people it is. Most people won’t bother taking a fast sports car for a drive knowing they will never buy it. Tom understood the chance I was offering.

One of my brother-in-laws drove my Z28 like Steve McQueen drove that Trans Am in The Hunter. Jab the gas - get off the gas - jab the gas - get off the gas. He asked where’s the "soft" gas pedal. He just wasn’t used to driving a V-8 powered car. He got the hang it after a couple of miles and was able to drive it smoothly.

The point is none of these people would ever do any damage to the car that I couldn’t do driving it every day. And if they did, the warrantee would have covered it.

I have had one other friend that would not let anyone drive his car. Back when I was in New York, I was supposed to buy a Datsun (remember when they were called that) 280 Z. Two days before I was to look at the car I got in a little fender bender with my mother’s car. She made me pay for the damage, and I no longer had enough money to buy that Z.

The car was a bargain at $2500. At the time the car was selling for between $3500-4000. The price was so low because it was someone that I worked with, and his wife was making him sell it because they were having a baby. I told my friend, Kevin, about it and he snapped the car up. But he had the car for about 3 years before he ever let me drive it, and even then he told me everywhere to steer, and when to get on the gas and not. Not a fun drive. He even directed me around potholes.

Kevin later traded the Z in on a Toyota MR2. The first year they came out. And you guessed it… since it was a new car he never let me drive it. Even though he would drop the clutch at 6000 RPM coming around a corner taking me for a drive. More abuse than even I would do to a car. Kevin later traded in the MR2 on the newer model when they redesigned them to look like mini Ferraris. Once again he never let me drive it.

But Kevin was a bit foolish. I could understand it if he kept the car really well. He only did on the surface. He washed and waxed his cars meticulously. He kept them super clean inside and out. But he had 3 accidents with each of the Toyotas if I count correctly, and he had to get new wheels for the Z because he hit a curb so bad it bent one of the wheels. It was not like they were pristine cars anymore and I could hurt them more than he already had.

Back to the Mustang. When my friend told me he was getting it I asked when I could take it for a drive. He said, "not for a long time." Then I reminded him about letting him drive my Z within the first couple of months. I think he will let me drive it, but only because I am pressuring him, and he doesn’t want to be a blatant hypocrite. Oh, he is a hypocrite, but just not a blatant one. He will never let me push his precious Mustang as hard as he pushed my Camaro. Of that I am sure.

So when I do get to "test" drive the Mustang I don’t expect it to be any better than a drive a dealer would give me. In fact, I bet I could get a better drive from a dealer.

Addendum: As luck would have it I did get a chance to drive my friend’s Mustang. As expected he was very controlling of the drive. When I got in the driver’s seat he told me to keep it under 5000 RPM. I said no problem. After all it redlined at 5800. But after a couple of blocks in traffic he told me to keep it under 4000 RPM. This was just before we got to the highway where I would be able to open its legs a little on the on ramp.

I fudged, and made the 1-2 shift at 4200 RPM. He noticed I went over 4000. At that point I just took a leisurely drive on the highway for a few exists and headed back to his house.

So what was I able to determine from this "test drive." The steering on the Mustang is less precise than my Camaro’s. It is also very numb and lacks good feedback. The ride is better than a Camaro, but not by a lot. Handling goes to the Camaro even in such a short drive.

Since I couldn’t push the Mustang I really can’t tell you if it is faster than my Camaro. This was one thing I was really curious about. The 2000 Mustang has 260 hp compared to my Z28’s 275. But my car needs a tune up and has an automatic. The Mustang was equipped with a 5 speed. Mustangs tend to be lighter than Camaros. The Camaro has a 5.7 lt. Engine vs. the Mustang’s 4.6. It would be an interesting comparison. Unfortunately, I will have to wait until my friend gets over his compulsion about "breaking in" his car, and races me.

This I can say... if you want a sporty car the Mustang is a nice, reasonably comfortable car. It has more than enough power for most people. It was solid and pleasant to drive. If you are serious about power then move up to the Cobra version of the Mustang or check out the latest Camaro/Firebird options. This Mustang is definitely slower than a Z28 or Formula Firebird. (Personally I think the Trans Am has gotten too ugly in the nose.)

If you plan to carry rear seat passengers I would skip this car. We took kids with us in our drive and it required me to have the seat farther forward than I would if the rear seat were empty. Obviously this car is not for adult rear seat passengers. This same complaint exists for the Camaro/Firebird twins. Even with small children it makes the interior seam cramped (more than usual).

Bottom line... I have no doubt I could get a better test drive from a dealer.