The Mustang has been Ford's flagship sports car ever since over 417,000 Mustangs were released to a receptive crowd of buyers when Ford first opened the corral gates back in 1964. The high-performance 2002 Mustang was number nine in the fourth generation of these iconic pony cars. The fourth generation of Mustangs, produced from 1994 through 2004, offered proven power performance V-6 or V-8 engines. The 2002 line's notable contribution to performance was the introduction of new wheels.
The 2002 Mustang was a two-door compact sports car available in nine different trim packages. From least expensive to most expensive, they were the Base Coupe, Deluxe Coupe, Premium Coupe, Deluxe Convertible, GT Deluxe Coupe, GT Premium Coupe, Premium Convertible, GT Deluxe Convertible And GT Premium Convertible. These cars continued to deliver the power that enthusiasts expected with V-6 engines in the standard models and throaty V-8 engines in the GTs. They were the ninth production lot to incorporate the aerodynamic SN-95 platform, which incorporated a stiffer chassis than previous platforms and upgraded suspension for improved handling. The line also featured a smooth aerodynamic exterior that decreased wind resistance and thereby improved speed.
The 2002 Mustang had a height of 53 inches, a wheel base of 101.3 inches, a total length of 183.2 inches, and a width of 73.1 inches. The Base Coupe had a curb weight of 3,066 pounds. The GT Coupe had a curb weight of 3,241 pounds, but it was still more than 80 pounds lighter than either the 2002 Chevrolet Camaro or the 2002 Pontiac Firebird -- the two last long-term competitors of the Mustang. They had curb weights of 3,323 pounds and 3,327 pounds, respectively. With the baseline Mustang's lighter weight and its 190-horsepower V-6 engine, it performed on par with the baseline Camaro and Firebird, with their 200-horsepower V-6 engines. The Camaros and Firebirds with V-8 engines had at least 50 more horsepower than the Mustang GT V-8 engine's 260 horsepower output, but despite their superior power outputs, both competitors were discontinued after 2002.
The five baseline 2002 coupe and convertible models had 3.8-liter single-overhead-cam V-6 engines. They delivered 193 horsepower at 5,250 rpm and 220 foot-pounds of torque at 2,750 rpm. The four 2002 GT models had 3.8-liter single-overhead-cam V-8 engines that delivered a 260 horsepower at 5,250 rpm and 302 foot-pounds of torque at 4,000 rpm. Both engines were available with either four-speed automatic or five-speed manual transmissions, but the experts who reviewed the car for Cars.com did not like the five-speed manual transmission's abrupt and lurching transition between gears at speed.
Drivetrain and Chassis
The SN-95 was a stiff, rear-wheel-drive chassis with front-wheel independent suspension for improved handling at speed. The GT model chassis also had limited-slip differential capability to improve traction. The GT models were equipped with traction control and antilock disc brakes in both the front and rear. The five baseline coupes and convertible came with an automatic transmission, while the GT models came with a manual transmission. The 2002 production lot was the first to be equipped with wider wheels and tires -- Pirelli 225/55R16 tires on the V-6 engine models and Pirelli 245/45ZR17 tires on the V-8 engine models. These wider wheels improved performance by offering improved traction control at speed.
The 2002 Mustangs provided the ride and feel of traditional muscle cars. The V-6 models had plenty of muscle car power, but they did not announce themselves upon arrival like the throaty V-8 GTs did. The stiff chassis delivered good handling capability even though the driver could feel every bump in the road. The five-speed manual transmissions were noticeably jerky at high-speed transitions, regardless of engine type. The new wheel design and wider stock Pirellis enhanced the car's stylish look and performance. They helped give a controlled, straight ride at high speeds. The Base Coupe had a fuel efficiency of 20 mpg in the city and 29 mpg on the highway. The hungrier GT Deluxe Coupe had a fuel efficiency of 18 mpg in the city and 26 mpg on the highway. The 2002 Camaro and Firebird both had larger 16.8-gallon fuel tanks, and they were able to get better fuel economy ratings than the Mustangs. The Mustang GT got to 60 mph in about 5.7 seconds, and the Cobra about a second faster. The Cobra rand about 13.7 seconds in the quarter-mile, maintaining its 1-second lead over the GT, but falling behind Chevrolet's Camaro SS by 0.3-second.
The 2002 Mustang Base Coupe had a manufacturer's suggested retail price of $17,475. The MSRP of the GT Deluxe Coupe was $23,220. The other three models in the high-performance GT line-up -- the GT Premium Coupe, GT Deluxe Convertible and GT Premium Convertible -- had MSRP's of $24,390, $27,475, and $28,645, respectively. Not surprisingly, these Mustangs received high consumer reviews for performance, value and reliability. Performance car enthusiasts looking to corral a 2002 Mustang should know that they retailed between $5,650 and $8,000 in 2013. By comparison, the baseline 2013 Mustang coupe has a 3.7-liter, 305-horsepower V-6 engine. It has a fuel efficiency of 19 mpg in the city and 29 mpg on the highway. It has a MSRP of $22,200 to 22,995 and comes with the same basic warranty -- three years or 36,000 miles -- as the 2002 Mustangs.
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