I have always owned performance cars, and from a young age have liked Ford's Mustang. I never got around to owning one until about 3 years ago, when I sold my '96 Thunderbird LX. I was looking at Nissan's 350Z and Infiniti's G35, but decided on the Mustang GT in the end. I got a great deal on a 2007 GT with lower mileage.
I have always liked the Mustang's looks, but this generation was really when Ford started putting major quality into the platform. These are some of the best looking muscle cars in recent history, with a modern throwback to the Mustangs of the 60's. The exterior really grew on me over time. Mine was painted in the somewhat rare Windevil Blue, a sparkly shade of light blue. I hated the color at first, but it grew on me, and the quality of the paint was exquisite.
Using their venerable 4.6L V8, they boosted the power to 300HP/320lbft of torque (the last generation had 260HP). With a curb weight of around 3300 to 3500lbs and aggressive gearing, these cars accelerate impressively. My car was equipped with the 3.55 gears, which I highly recommend - they really do make a difference in acceleration. These S197 GTs (2005 to 2010) will do 0 to 60 in 5 flat to 5.3 secs and the 1/4 mile in 13.6 to 13.8 seconds all day long with a top speed of around 150 mph. The acceleration will push you into your seat, and the car's gearing pulls hard all the way up through 4th. With a firm clutch and slick shifter with short throws, it's extremely enjoyable and easy to drive. I have to add that heat soak is a huge enemy of the 4.6L V8 - in hot or humid weather, the car will feel 20 horses lighter, which is very annoying. As this is a Mustang, the aftermarket is HUGE. Throw on a cold air intake, tune, and upgraded gears, and it's easy to see high 12's in the 1/4 mile.
Cornering and handling has never been a standout of the Mustang (although the new models are amazing in this department) and the S197 is no exception. Steering is loose, and road feel could be better. The platform is really too heavy to be thrown around tight bends, but it's great on high speed sweepers. I did take it canyon carving a couple times, and while fun, I wouldn't say it was extremely competent. Aftermarket support can change this aspect.
My Mustang was a base model GT (to save weight, which I appreciated), so it had cloth seats with the basic options besides the 3.55 gears. The seats are OK for the first hour or so, and then become painful - not near enough lower back support. This was very disappointing for long drives - the driver's seat is power operated, but I couldn't find a setting that really felt comfortable. Passengers in the front felt the same way, but surprisingly, rear passengers raved about the comfort and support of the seats, even though room was extremely limited. Air conditioning was good, nice and cold, and the base radio worked very well and includes an in dash CD system. Controls fall easily to the driver's hand.
In all my years of driving I have never had a more reliable vehicle. I really beat on this car, frequent hard shifting and aggressive off the line starts and banging through the gears. Never once did anything go wrong - nothing! Ford did an excellent job creating the car to withstand aggressive driving. The only thing that ever happened was a window rattle at 90k due to the door slamming too hard over the years. Gas mileage wasn't amazing around town, aggressive driving got me around 12 to 15 MPG, but highway driving was more impressive for a V8 at 23 to 25 MPG.
All in all, this car was an amazingly reliable muscle car. Fun to drive and own. Build quality was excellent. The only complaints I had were the uncomfortable seats and the horrible heat soak that saps the power. I did get bored of the stock 300 HP and planned to upgrade it, but the car was totaled in an accident - in a 40 to 60 mph accident I sustained no injury at all - these are very safe cars. Resale value is decently high - I actually made more from the insurance settlement than I paid to buy it. I was sad to see it totaled, but replaced it with a car I had always dreamed of owning, a 1996 Mitsubishi 3000GT VR4 (twin turbo 3.0L V6). I would recommend all car enthusiasts to own a Mustang GT at some point in time, they are a true American legend.