That's a nice looking car and in good condition! It looks like you got a good deal on it too. For the new edge vs S197 look, I always liked the S197 look better, but that is personal preference. I liked that the styling somewhat resembles the classic 60s Mustangs in a modern and affordable daily driver.
For the shifter, I have a Hurst shifter and love it. It came with my car so I can't say how the stock shifter was, but compared to my 2000 manual Mustang stock shifter, it is much better! From what I've seen shifters aren't too expensive compared to other things you could get the car, so if that is a real issue, you may want to look into one.
It's not just the look of the car. I don't dislike the looks of the S197s, there's just just something more, i don't know.... 'hot rod' about the New Edges imo. Seeing a nice New Edge with a custom power plant, whether its FI, engine swap, or what have you, is just alot more interesting to me than an S197 with the equivalent. I don't know why.
Stock for stock, the 4V and 3V are almost identical in HP but the 3V produces a good amount more torque, particularly at lower rpm. A CAI & tune should really wake it up. If yours feels slow, the problem could be the BAMA tune.
A short throw shifter will make a world of difference to the quality of the shifts with the MGW, Barton, and Steeda Tri-Ax being the best on the market.
As for the stripes, I'd go with black. They'd look subtle but badass on Vista blue paintwork especially if you're going for smoked lights.
This car doesn't feel slow, I just know I'm taking a hit in hp since my 4v dyno'd 302rwhp with a weak fuel pump. I doubt this is doing much better than stock with just the CAI and Bama tune. I do need some mufflers though. Sounds nice when you stomp on it, but pretty tame otherwise. I guess I'll also need to add a shifter to the list. Maybe see if I can find someone around here with one that'd let me try it out.
Also, forgot this has 4.10s. So does my 01 GT. For some reason in both cars I have to set the gear ratio on the tuner to 4.30s, even with the correct tire RPMs selected, in order to match the speedo up with my GPS speed. Obviously not specific to this platform since I had to do it in the '01 as well, and it's not an issue with the device since both cars have their own, anybody know why this is? My tuner confirmed the gearing was 4.10 when he tuned the '01.