Ford Mustang GT I’m very fond of the hardtop Mustang, I’ll admit. Like spontaneous flatulence and video footage of extreme sportspeople pole-axing themselves, it’s not very sophisticated but it is highly amusing. The Mustang appeals to the big child in me, with its Tonka-toy good looks, growling engine and tail-happy handling. So naturally, I’m a little worried what effect sawing the roof off will have on one of my favourite cars.
You’d expect the looks would still be there when you consider so much of the Mustang Convertible is carried over from the Coupé. The two derivatives were developed side by side and they share as much metal as possible to keep the costs down. Apart from the gaping hole where the roof used to be, only the rear wings and glass are noticeably different, with the rear-end, the doors and everything ahead of the steeper windscreen pillar the same as you’ll find in the Coupé. This is clever on Ford’s part and it helps to explain why at $24,500 for the 210 bhp V6 and $30,000 for the 300 bhp V8, they are amongst the cheapest convertibles on the market. Cheap is good.
But cheap is also bad because that means corners have been cut to keep costs down. Observe: The lowered roof doesn’t quite fold flush into the bodywork which make it look unfinished in profile and there are ugly gaps where interior, exterior and roof intersect, which, I presume, are meant to be disguised by the pointless tonneau cover that no one will ever use.(It’s still in its plastic wrapping in the boot, actually.) Roof-up, the Mustang convertible’s proportions are odd, as if someone stood on a Coupé and squashed the roof down, and not helped by the Mustang’s elongated backside. And when you open a window in the rain, water streams in off the canvas roof unabated, dowsing elbow, electric window switches and door pocket contents in a deluge of rainwater.
There’s no guttering whatsoever which means if it rains, you will get very wet. These cost-cutting measures come in addition to those already applied to the Coupé, so you have the same cheapy plastics in the interior, the same live-axle rear suspension resulting in the same jittery ride and the same cramped rear seats. So it seems like there’s not much to recommend the Mustang convertible at all then, doesn’t it? Well, not so fast. While the cynical car critic in me is shaking his head and scoffing at the Mustang’s sorry packaging, the kid in me is delighted to be behind the wheel. Dropping the roof affords you afford me the opportunity to take in the wonderful sound of that simple, 4.6-litre V8 engine. On throttle it emits a throaty roar that’s more distinctive than any V8 in the world, and when you lift off it gurgles and burbles so there’s almost always something to listen to.
The Mustang is also pretty civilized with the roof down – there’s little wind roar or buffeting and you can even roll down the side windows as you drive along and not take too much of a beating. Roof up, it’s so snug that you soon forget you’re in a convertible and there’s a proper glass rear screen and decent roof lining too. Not too shabby, I have to admit. Another advantage to the convertible is the fact you can actually access the rear seat, though I did feel like a bit of a show off lowering the standard electric roof just to get the baby into the car seat. There’s still no legroom for adults (and when I say no legroom, I mean there’s actually nowhere to put the lower half of your legs) but at least you can get in and out without putting your arse cleavage on show. Unless it’s raining, that is, in which case you stand no hope of getting in or out. Going topless hasn’t added too much weight to the Mustang, itself no flyweight to begin with.
The extra 60kg or so do little to blunt the performance, with 0-100 km/h taking around 5.2 seconds, just 0.1 or so more than the hardtop. Ford in America doesn’t quote a top speed, but we’d have to, er, guess that at least 230 km/h is possible before the bluff shape knocks the puff out of the V8.The 4.0-litre V6 manages the benchmark sprint in 7.9 seconds and tops out at a little more than 200 km/h though the ancient V6 makes such an aural objection to being wrung out it’s not something you’d ever enjoy or often repeat. The ride and handling is no better or no worse than the coupé, which is either a compliment to how rigid the convertible is or a criticism of how iffy the coupe’s dynamics are. Both have wonderfully sharp steering that might offer a lot of feedback were the tyres not so balloon-like, and both roll way too much in corners.
They don’t have much in the way of grip at either end either, which means it’s not really a car to throw down your favourite country lane with confidence. Yeah, you can still hang the backside out in the convertible but without the security of a roof or any kind of rollover protection apart from a re-enforced header rail and side airbags, you’re not as willing to throw it around as you are the coupe. To compound matters, our test-car was a five-speed automatic with no proper manual mode, so while it worked well for nudging through traffic or ambling along the highway, it wasn’t much use when the roads got more interesting.
The slow take-up of the torque converter meant it took real determination to get the back end to step out, which is a large part of the coupe’s appeal. So all-in-all my time with Mustang Convertible was spent in frustration. The power, the sound, the steering, the view over the ‘hood’ were all there, but without a roof for protection and a clutch for control, it became little more than something to pose in. Yes, yes, I know that’s the entire point of convertibles and, yes, I concede that from a giving-the-customer-what-they want standpoint Ford has hit the bulls-eye again, but to my mind they’ve made too many compromises to an already compromised car. I have no proper explanation as to why I like the Mustang Coupé so much. I just do. And by that logic I should love the convertible every bit as much but for some reason I don’t. I actually think it’s kind of silly.
Ford Mustang GT Convertible
Engine 4,601 V8,24-valve, SOHC, 300 bhp, 434 NM torque
Boot Capacity 247 litres
Acceleration 0-100km/h 5.3 seconds (0-60 mph 5.2)
Top Speed 230 km/h Price $30,000
Transmission 5-Speed Tremec Manual (5Speed Auto Optional)
Economy 17 mpg City/25 mpg Highway EPA
Weight 1639 kg