In 1996, Mustang fans were expecting the 5.8 L V8 used in the 1995 Cobra R to make its return to the regular production. However, this is not what they got. The 5.0 GT engine was replaced by a 215 hp 4.6 L SOHC “Modular” V8 engine. This engine had been introduced in Lincoln models, and was part of Ford’s plan to “modernize” its engine lineup. The engine has two valves per cylinders, one for intake and one for exhaust. Despite being SOHC, it was not much of a revver, and while torquay, didn’t make much power past 5000 rpm.
It had a chain driven single overhead camshaft operating two valves per-cylinder located in aluminum cylinder heads. The valves were actuated by hydraulic roller finger followers, eliminating the need for valve adjustments. Ford used very long bolts to clamp the cylinder head to the block. These special bolts reduced distortion of the cylinder bores therefore providing improved sealing.
The main reasons for changing the engines were the tougher federal fuel-economy standards and onboard diagnostic system (OBD-II) requirements that both kick in for 1996. Ford knew the aged 4.9-liter was not going to make the cut anymore. Most of the real improvements brought about by the mod V-8 powerplant are aimed not at performance, but rather at refinement. That goes a long way in explaining why Mustang old-timers were not super impressed when they first experienced the new V8 in the 1996 Mustang GT.
The 4.6-liter produced 215 horsepower at 4400 rpm and 285 pound-feet of torque at 3500.
While hauling through the manual at wide-open throttle, though, we found the OHC engine breathes only a little bit better than the OHV motor. Both tend to breathlessness at about 5000 rpm; the 4.9-liter is breathless there, but the 4.6-liter is just beginning to reach for the Primatene. The new eight will soldier on through 5500 to 5700 rpm before the sustained revving starts to sound and feel like a bad idea. Shifting there is what the car seems to like for best times, but “best times” is a relative term… Though it was entertaining enough in street driving, the new GT failed to impress in testing.