Who’d have thought that a lifelong worshipper at the temple of do-it-yourself shifting would ever say such a thing? But here it is: I wish this Mustang had been an automatic.
Back in the day, all sports cars were convertibles. But not all convertibles are sports cars. Lopping the top off a car has two effects that are anathema to speed and agility: weight goes up and body rigidity goes down. That may not matter much in a car designed from the ground up as a two-seat roadster. But at a certain point of size and seating capacity, even the Mustang crosses over from intense performance machine to laid-back cruiser.
And that altered identity works best – just like in all those airport rental convertibles – with automatic transmission.
At least we had made-to-measure weather. My mid-April booking triggered Southern Ontario’s first warm spell of the year, and the ’Stang’s top made it easy to enjoy. It takes just 11 seconds to drop the top and that includes first manually releasing the catch on the windshield. Ford has also reduced the height of the folded top a whopping 17 centimetre, to the benefit of both rearward visibility and aesthetic purity.
Unlike some modern convertibles, the Mustang doesn’t let you operate the top on the move (at least, not above 5 km/h). And although the side windows go down automatically as part of the process, it’s up to you to power them back up (three switches) if you want them raised while driving.
Keeping the windows up reduces air turbulence in the cockpit to a modest breeze, even at highway velocity. Leave the top up and you hear the whoosh of air over the fabric ceiling, but there’s none of the bluster or flutter you might expect.
The V-8 whooffle that we found a little subdued on the coupe is much better enjoyed when there’s no metal between your ears and the tailpipes. And in Mustang’s case the soft-top weight penalty is barely five per cent, so you don’t lose too much of the coupe’s straight-line speed. Figure on a plenty-quick 0-100-km/h time around five seconds if you make full and skilled use of the chunky, metallic six-on-a-stick shifter.
Said shifter was perfectly at home in the Performance Pack GT we tested last fall: not exactly an effortless no-brainer to handle when you’re just pottering around, but the harder you worked it, the better it felt. However, the softer-sprung, looser-bodied convertible with its surprisingly compliant ride would be better matched with the optional six-speed automatic (especially since, according to Car and Driver magazine’s tests, there’s absolutely no “slushbox” performance penalty).
A degree of body quiver is endemic to convertibles, all the more so those with a structural
“hole” big enough to accommodate an extra pair of seats and, while the Mustang’s not bad, there’s enough underlying softness to say, “let’s all take a deep breath and relax.” And much as we love the sturm und drang of the V-8, the convertible’s laid-back persona would be well served by the base V-6 engine.
As a convertible, the Mustang’s only direct rival is the Chevrolet Camaro. I haven’t driven a drop-top Camaro recently enough to compare, but does it matter? Given the epic half-century rivalry between the two, I don’t see a lot of cross-shopping here. Both deliver a style of al fresco automobility that is unique in their price range, and if you liked the Mustang Convertible before, you’ll like it even better now.
You’ll like this car if. You could use a traditional all-American muscle convertible with room for up to three passengers and two golf bags.
- Base price: $30,349; $54,949 as tested (GT Premium)
- Engine: 5.0-litre DOHC, 32V V-8
- Drive: Six-speed manual, rear-wheel drive
- Fuel economy (litres/100 km): 15.2 city; 9.3 highway
- Alternatives: Chevrolet Camaro Convertible
- Looks: It looks good, in a tough, purposeful way, even with the top up. Differences from the coupe go beyond just the roof; a revised “muscle line” on the rear body-side, and recontoured trunk lid, give it a more linear appearance than the tin-top.
- Interior: The range of at-the-wheel adjustment is less than optimal, and the cockpit design favours form over function, yet without appearing especially rich in fit finish. But it can accommodate four mid-size adults.
- Technology: Mechanically, it’s the most sophisticated Mustang, yet still preserves that traditional pony-car persona. Adaptive speed control is a pricey $1,600 option on the test car, likewise the $2,000 for a package that includes an audio upgrade, memory seats and blind-spot monitoring. On-board IT includes most features and capabilities you’d expect, interfaced through the little-loved SYNC with MyFord Touch.
- Performance: One of the smaller V-8s among its peers, the 5.0 is more a revver than a torque-monster so you need to row the gears to extract the best from it. Handling is on the fun side of competent, but lacks the taut balance and precision of the coupe. It’s no coincidence that the hard-core Performance Pack chassis set-up is not even available on the squishier-bodied convertible.
- Cargo: The trunk is 19 per cent
- roomier than on the old car and Ford claims its 323-litre volume (12 per cent more than Camaro convertible) can accommodate two large golf bags, even with the available premium audio subwoofer. Unlike in some European convertibles, cargo volume is unaffected by whether the top is up or down.
A modern rendition of a uniquely American motoring tradition.