It’s 1:00 AM, you’re itching to buy yourself a Mustang, and you’re surfing the web learning as much as you can. You’re torn: do you get the Mustang GT, or spend an extra few thousand and get a Cobra? While we think the answer is obvious (go for the Cobra, you won’t regret it!), you should buy the car that best meets your needs.
Both the GT and Cobra come with a mean V8 and plenty of modding potential. Where the Cobra differs, however, is in the details.
1. Cobras typically come with more horsepower
Sometimes, a lot more. The 2003 Mustang GT made 260 horsepower from a 4.6L V8, and the 2003 Mustang Cobra made 390 horsepower from a supercharged 4.6L V8. This isn’t exactly a small increase in horsepower, and when you mash the gas, the difference becomes glaringly obvious.
Examples of the horsepower disparity extend to beyond the 2003 model year: the 1993 Mustang GT produced 225 horsepower and the 1993 SVT Cobra made 235 horsepower (the increase was a result of improved cylinder heads, exhaust system, intake manifold, and camshafts).
2. Cobras are designed to race whereas GTs are designed to place
Don’t think this means Mustang GTs can’t handle themselves at the track. Do think this means that a Cobra can handle itself at a track better.
As far back as 1993, Ford has placed emphasis on the suspension and braking components of the Cobra. In 1993 the Mustang Cobra came with Tokico shocks and struts, offering improved handling and cornering when compared to a “vanilla” GT. Combined with increased horsepower, the 1993 Mustang Cobra was able to roll through the quarter mile in 14.4 seconds, taking 5.9 seconds to reach 60 mph (compared to the GT at 14.6 seconds and 6.1 seconds, respectively).
3. The 1999-2004 Cobras have independent rear suspension
This may not seem like a big deal, but considering that as of 2014 the Mustang still doesn’t have independent rear suspension… well, think about it.
Independent rear suspension (IRS for short) provides better handling and ride quality. The only way to get it on a Mustang (as of right now) is to buy a 1999 – 2004 Cobra. The 2015+ Mustangs are coming with IRS, but if you’re looking to buy a Cobra, that doesn’t really do you any good.
4. Rarity. It matters. Seriously.
While there are literally millions of GTs on the road, Cobra production was always intentionally limited. If nothing else, there’s no better feeling in cruising down the highway in a rare commodity. Think of it this way: there are more Lamborghini Gallardos on the road than there are 2003 Cobras.