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Ford brings back the power pony with new Cobra SVT

The muscle-bound Mustang convertible comes with a supercharged V-8 engine capable of delivering 390 horsepower.

June 04, 2003|Duncan Haimerl | Hartford Courant

The 2003 Ford Mustang Cobra SVT brings back a lot of good memories. It's a rear-wheel-drive convertible that knows what it wants to do and does it quickly enough to get you into trouble unless you are careful.

I had thought that cruise control was hardly suited to a muscle-bound Cobra. But then again, setting it at 40 mph enables you to drive without attracting too much attention from the police. Perhaps that also was because the subdued Redfire Clearcoat paint job didn't holler "chase me." Or maybe they were busy stopping some real speeders.

Although this pony has an aura of rugged brute power and rough riding, I drove to northern New Jersey one day and north of Boston a week later and found the ride exceedingly comfortable, much better than I expected. The Cobra's six-way power seat had adjustable lumbar support that must have helped.

Mind you, it rained almost every day I was test-driving it, so I didn't get to put the top down and muss up my hair. But the traction control made the car behave in that rain.

The Cobra SVT comes with a supercharged V-8 that delivers 390 horsepower at 6,000 revolutions per minute and 390 pound-feet of torque at a very usable engine speed of 3,500 rpm to put the six-speed manual transmission to work.

Even the shifter mechanism is special, tilted slightly toward the driver's side. Each gear was at my fingertips, so I didn't have to stretch my arm.

At 183.5 inches long, 73.1 inches wide and 3,780 pounds, this is by no means a small car. I did find it a little awkward to get out of the car in a parking lot when I didn't have enough room to swing the wide door completely open. The Cobra swung wide as well, with a 41.7-foot turning radius on its 17-inch tires.

Rear passengers get a bench seat, but up front there are bucket seats. And the sound system accepts six CDs and pushes out 460 watts of stereo power through its eight speakers. Come on, eight speakers in a muscle car?

Rev up the engine in the parking lot, and you don't get much dazzle, but step on the accelerator out on the highway and you can hear the magnificent rumble accompanied by very little supercharger lag.

This much fun must have an effect on the bottom line.

The plain Mustang can boast a base price of $18,000-plus, but by the time you get to the Cobra that Ford's Special Vehicle Team put together, the manufacturer's suggested retail price is $33,440. Add the freight and some fancy wheels (about the only option) and the price goes up to $34,760.

The average selling price is $34,250, so dealers are getting almost what they want for this special beast.

The EPA fuel mileage is a surprising 22 miles per gallon on the highway, so the 15.7-gallon tank can give you a cruising range of 345 miles. City mileage is a little low at 16 mpg, but that's from keeping it in a lower gear to give fellow drivers a Cobra roar now and then.

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