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2003 Ford Mustang SVT Cobra Sporty Compact Performance Coupe and Convertible

Base MSRP Range: $33,000 to $38,000 (Add $1,000 gas guzzler tax.)

Base Invoice Range: $30,500 to $35,000(Add $1,000 gas guzzler tax.)
Price Quote

MSRP As Tested: $37,780

Versions: Coupe or Convertible

Vehicle Category: Sporty Coupe

Engine Location: Front Engine

Drive Wheels: Rear-Wheel Drive Rear-Wheel Drive

Engine As Tested: 4.6-liter, Supercharged, Dual Overhead Cam, V-8 cylinder, 390-horsepower at 6,000 rpm and 390 lb-ft torque at 3,500 rpm

Transmission As Tested: 6-Speed Manual

Fuel Economy (city/hwy): 16/22

Standard Safety Features: Driver and front passenger, front airbags, 4-wheel disc brakes, "> Antilock Braking System, Traction Control, In-Trunk Emergency Trunk Release, Remote Keyless Entry, Upgraded Brakes.

Competition: Acura RSX, Audi TT, BMW 3 Series, BMW Z4, Chevrolet Corvette, Honda S2000, Mazda RX-8, Mercedes-Benz C-Class, Nissan 350Z, Toyota Celica GTS5, Volkswagen New Turbo Beetle

And then there was one. Only one pony car left from the days of yore when every major manufacturer had one and every male child lusted to buy one. GM has shelved the Camaro and Firebird, and only the car that started it all is left standing. Unlike the others, the Mustang has kept true to its roots and continues to sell in healthy numbers.

While the bulk of the Mustangs sold over the years were base models, there has almost always been a high performance version available to keep the halo polished. And surprisingly, in a year when there is no competition, the Special Vehicle Team (SVT) introduces the hottest Mustangs of all time: the 2003 SVT Cobra.

The last Mustang Cobra delivered 320-horsepower from it's technically sophisticated V8 and introduced an independent rear suspension (IRS) for improved ride and handling. They could have rested on their laurels and kept producing that great car. But no, the SVT folks refused to leave well enough alone and have produced the ne plus ultra of pony cars; a real "super car" Mustang.

The SVT Cobra can put up performance numbers that will stand your hair on end, yet it delivers those numbers at an incredibly modest price. Available in coupe or convertible form, both versions build on the strengths of the last SVT Cobra with a large power enhancement to boot.

The heart of this massive power increase is a "Roots" type supercharger, not unlike those found on top fuel dragsters. Producing a maximum pressure of 7.5 to 8 pounds per square inch, the supercharger delivers a dense wallop of air into the combustion process. To help deal with the stress of that additional power, the bottom end of the engine has been reinforced. The crankshaft is forged, tough H-beam connecting rods are used and specialty connector hardware is used.

The SVT Cobra 4.6L Supercharged V8 is rated at 390-hp and 390 lb.-ft. of torque. John Coletti, SVT's chief engineer, has vowed that they won't have the problem they faced a few years ago with published horsepower numbers not being quite up to what customers found when they dyno-tested their Cobras. Coletti said, "When they test the '03 Cobra, we're confident that they'll see at least 390-hp," And his grin seemed to widen when he added, "at least!"

Transferring that incredible power to the tires is a 6-speed manual transmission (sorry, no automatic is available), an aluminum drive shaft, and 3.55:1 limited slip rear end. The tires are beefy 275/40ZR-17 Goodyear Eagle F1s. These tires offer superb grip, yet provide docile ride and noise characteristics.

This isn't a car for the faint-hearted. With all that power on tap it can be VERY tail happy! Thank goodness for traction control because without it, coming out of a low speed corner and getting on the throttle too early can produce lots of drama. However, turning off the traction control prior to a launch from a light can produce an awesome display of tire smoke! (And you can bet that replacing those meaty rubber donuts won't be cheap!)

The icing on the cake is the great sounds this car makes. The throaty rumble of the V8 plus the muted whine of the supercharger (quieter than in previous SVT offerings) all stir the enthusiast's soul. SVT pays a great deal of attention to how their cars sound and the aural experience is a symphony to gear heads.

It's hard to put into words the ecstatic feeling that comes from exploring this car's capabilities. The SVT Cobra will put a smile on you face when nothing else will. Driven hard, this car responds with confidence inspiring grip, incredible amounts of power and positive feedback through steering wheel and pedals. The clutch feels stiff and the gearbox notchy, but when it's time to hustle this car, these components come across as solid and precise.

Powerful four-wheel disc brakes, with ABS help bring this beast down from speed. The front brakes are Brembo twin piston calipers on 13" rotors; and they look great peeking out from behind the five spoke cast aluminum wheels!

Pros: Power, power and more power. Good value for a performance vehicle.

Cons: Build quality. Front headrests.

Ratings (1-10)

  • Style: 5
  • Performance: 8
  • Price: 8
  • Handling: 7
  • Ride: 6
  • Comfort: 6
  • Quality: 5
  • Overall: 6.4


Where Built: USA

Major Options: Upgraded interior package, Centennial Package, Cobra 10th Anniversary Package, Leather, Upgraded Sound System,

Seating: 4

Number of Rows: 2

Crash Test Ratings: 2-Door Coupe

  • NHTSA Frontal Impact/Driver Crash Test Rating: *****
  • NHTSA Frontal Impact/Passenger Crash Test Rating: *****
  • NHTSA Side Impact/Front Seat Crash Test Rating: ***
  • NHTSA Side Impact/Rear Seat Crash Test Rating: ***
  • NHTSA Rollover Resistance Rating: To Be Determined

  • IIHS Frontal Offset Crash Test: Untested

Crash Test Ratings: 2-Door Convertible

  • NHTSA Frontal Impact/Driver Crash Test Rating: Not Tested
  • NHTSA Frontal Impact/Passenger Crash Test Rating: Not Tested
  • NHTSA Side Impact/Front Seat Crash Test Rating: ***
  • NHTSA Side Impact/Rear Seat Crash Test Rating: ***
  • NHTSA Rollover Resistance Rating: To Be Rated

  • IIHS Frontal Offset Crash Test: Untested

Length in Inches: 183.2

Warranties: 3 years/36,000 miles bumper-to-bumper, 5 years/unlimited miles corrosion, 5 years/100,000 mile powertrain, 3 years/36,000 free Roadside Assistance.

Weight in Pounds: Coupe - 3,066. Convertible - 3,208.

Towing Capacity in Pounds: Not Applicable

Gas Tank Capacity in Gallons: 15.7

Destination Charge: $625