Has the ’03 Terminator Cobra Lost its Edge?

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It’s been a long 15 years since the super Mustang’s launch, but time couldn’t have dulled the car that much, right?

Ah, youth. The halcyon days that we look back on as the benchmark for the rest of our lives. Things were just better then, weren’t they? The answer, of course, is usually no. Few things are as good as we remember them, and sometimes we have to face ourselves and ask the tough question: What if the good times actually sucked?

That’s exactly what we want to explore today. To a generation of Mustang fans, the 2003 Mustang Cobra is a hero car. Supercharged and set up with an independent rear suspension straight from Ford, it made 390 horsepower and 390 pound-feet of torque. It was so bonkers that it was dubbed The Terminator. It’s been a long 15 years since The Terminator’s launch, but time couldn’t have dulled the car that much, right?

2003 Ford Mustang Cobra

Decade-and-a-half of hindsight

According to YouTuber ThatDudeInBlue, aka David Patterson, it’s complicated. At the outset, it’s clear he’s a fan. “In my opinion, one of the best American cars ever made,” he says. He’s driven plenty of Terminators before, but all of them have been heavily modified. This car is has a pulley upgrade and has just 15,900 miles. With that modification alone, this car makes 460 horsepower, an insane number for 2003.

He lists the shortcomings of the New Edge Mustang, but then points out that The Terminator avoids many of them. But it does come up short. To put it in perspective, he compares it with another legend of the era: The Toyota Supra “If you think about it, both interiors are not that great. They’re both made of plastic, they’re both outdated cars in many ways that use older technology. They’re both not as good as more modern cars. But they have this street cred over modern cars because of their reputation.”

2003 Ford Mustang Cobra interior

“This car has the reputation of being wild, crazy, and untamed,” he says. And for the most part, it does. He praises the car’s stock suspension, its acceleration, and its good looks. His biggest criticism lies with the brakes. “It does not have very good braking,” he says, adding that upgraded pads, rotors, and fluids would make it feel entirely different.

In the end, the stock Cobra wins him over. “It’s theatrical,” he says. “It makes cool noises. It accelerates hard. It never stops pulling. I thought this thing would feel like a turd in comparison[to modified cars], but no.” The Cobra is clearly the pick of the litter when it comes to New Edge cars. So would TheDudeInBlue ever own one himself? “I’d love to have a Terminator,” he says, “but at the same time, it’s hard to argue with the new Coyote cars.”

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James Derek Sapienza has worked as a writer and editor in the world of automotive journalism since 2015.

He has a BS in History at SUNY Brockport, with a focus on American popular culture. A fan of the classics with a special interest in German cars, he is a proud owner of a 1991 W124 Mercedes. He is a frequent contributor to Mustang Forums, MBWorld, 5Series, Rennlist, and more.

Sapienza can be reached at [email protected]

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