You could really form a bond with Ford's latest Mustang in Convertible form. Jonathan Crouch reports.
Ten Second Review
Ford's Mustang has proved to be quite a success in Europe, especially in Convertible guise. The idea here is to provide sports car performance and 50 years of heritage for the same sort of money as a humdrum executive drop-top. Under the bonnet, there's a glorious 5.0-litre V8.
Almost a decade back, Ford announced it was going to make the Mustang in right-hand drive and offer it for sale in the UK, which meant that the same dealer selling Fiestas could also, rather incredibly, offer you a 5.0-litre V8 Mustang. Suddenly American sports cars didn't seem so stupid any longer. Sales since have been strong, so much so that Ford has moved to further 'Europeanise' this car. But will that dilute it's appeal? Let's see.
Just because it's an American trying to blend in abroad though, don't imagine that it is trying to be a stereotypical European sports car. This is still very much a tyre-smoking muscle car. Particularly in Convertible form.
The roof is fabric and must cover 4.7-metres of car. To start its retraction process, you have to twist a roof-mounted handle though from then on, the process is electric. Another potential irritation is that this process can only work when the car is at a standstill. Nor is there the option of a wind deflector.
As with the Mustang Fastback, the Mustang Convertible is now only available with Ford's classic 5.0-litre V8 petrol powerplant and conformity is something it doesn't hold with. In the modern era, almost any other engine of this size would be turbocharged and it certainly wouldn't be available with manual transmission. Here, the normally aspirated stick shift formula feels deliciously old-school, though does require a fair bit of effort on your part if rapid progress is to be maintained.
Not a lot happens below 3,500rpm and if you prod the throttle in too high a gear, there's no low-end turbo torque to help you out, so you'll have to click back through the 'box and find a smaller cog to spin. Fortunately, that's something you might want to do anyway, thanks to a solidly slick gearshift improved by a redesigned two-part flywheel. And embellished with rev-matching technology that delivers smoother, faster downshifts accompanied by an emotive 'blip' of the powerful engine. There's an automatic gearbox option of course - and a much better one using the 10-speed auto that Ford uses in its gigantic F-150 Raptor US-market monster truck. This transmission hasn't got its head around modern dual-clutch technology but it works reasonably well, happy to quickly drop down a couple of ratios when prompted to by the steering wheel paddleshifters for easier overtaking.
Ah yes, overtaking - you'll enjoy that. Keep the revs buoyant and power builds instantly in company with a crescendo of noise, hurling you towards the horizon and a top speed artificially limited to 155mph. Activate the standard Launch Control system and powering away from rest is as quick as you'd manage in a Porsche 911 Carrera costing twice as much: 62mph flashes by in 4.6s in a manual Fastback V8 - or 4.8s in an auto, the latter aided by a 'Drag Strip mode' which irons out the torque and power drop-off you'd normally get between gear shifts so it's just one seamless burst of acceleration. Even better though - and most brilliant of all if you're of a 'Max Power' mind set - there's what Ford calls 'Line Lock', there to help you do burn-outs and developed out of US Mustang owners' love of drag racing. 'Line Out' uses electronics that'll let you jam on the front brakes and spin the rear wheels at the same time, shredding your tyres for up to 15 seconds, as you would do if you were warming them for ultimate grip on a drag strip. It's probably best not to try that on the high street..
Design and Build
The Mustang may not have changed drastically, but it's still a head-turner. The imposing front end makes it look more elegant than muscular, and the sheer bulk gives it presence. More than anything else, though, it's still likely to be a novelty on British roads, and with the canvas hood of this Convertible version up or down, it'll draw attention.
The bonnet profile is low with integrated air vents, combined with a a prominent lower grille design to give the Mustang a sharp, aggressive face, while improving aerodynamics. The headlamps and tail lights look smart too and at the rear, there's a sleek bumper and an aggressive diffuser. There's an old school style latching mechanism for the roof, which can be erected or retracted in about 10 seconds. Out back, there's a 332 litre boot.
Inside, Ford has tried to give the cabin more of the premium feel you get in notable German rivals. Soft touch materials feature for the door linings and the door handles are finished in aluminium. The centre console features a smart hand-stitched, soft-touch wrap, finished with stitching in a contrast colour for a more dynamic and upscale feel. Leather-trimmed, heated and cooled seats, and a heated steering wheel are also offered across the line-up for ultimate comfort. There's also a customisable, all-digital, 12-inch LCD instrument cluster and the centre-dash infotainment system of 'SYNC 3' status, which includes 'Apple CarPlay'/'Android Auto' smartphone mirroring functionalty.
Market and Model
You'll pay a £3,500 premium to own this Convertible Mustang over the Coupe version. Another £2,000 premium buys you automatic transmission. That all means prices starting at around £53,500 for the GT manual variant, rising to £55,500 for the automatic 5.0 V8 GT variant. There's also a 'GT California Special' version priced from around £55,000.
Equipment-wise, all models get 19-inch alloys, leather seats, two-zone climate control, an 8in colour infotainment touchscreen, a reversing camera and automatic lights and wipers. The GT spec you get with the V8 further adds Brembo brakes, a fussier alloy wheel design, a very slightly different grille, launch control and a couple of 'GT' badges.
Safety's been improved in recent times, this model featuring autonomous braking - Ford calls it 'Pre-Collision Assist with Pedestrian Detection'. The Mustang is also offered with Adaptive Cruise Control and Distance Alert technologies that help drivers maintain an appropriate distance to the vehicle ahead, as well as Lane Departure Warning that can warn when drivers unintentionally drift out of lane, plus a Lane Keeping Aid that can apply torque to the steering wheel to steer the vehicle back into lane.
Cost of Ownership
If you hold great store in miles per gallon figures, don't ever, ever take a test drive in the 5.0-litre V8 Mustang. For this model's heavy hitting V8, the official emissions stats say that you'll chug out 274g/km. The official WLTP combined consumption figure for the manual Convertible model is 23.5mpg, but if you can get the fuel meter to average into the twenties, you have more restraint than we could manage. It's 263g/km and 24.6mpg for the auto Convertible version.
There's also the annoyance of frequent fuel station visits too; the 5.0-litre model's 61-litre fuel tank gives you a driving range of no more than about 270 miles between fill-ups. On to residual values. You might expect a big, expensive V8-engined Ford-badged sportscar to shed its value like autumn falling leaves. Not a bit of it. Thanks to buoyant demand and relative rarity value, independent industry experts expect a 5.0-litre V8 Fastback model to still be worth 45% of its original asking price after the usual three year / 60,000 mile ownership period. To offer some perspective, a comparable rival like an Audi TTS would retain just 36% of its value. Didn't expect that did you?
This Mustang Convertible has a surprisingly classy feel, both inside and out - and the various driving modes, the extra safety features and the 10-speed auto gearbox have all been welcome additions to this model in recent times. None of this though, has diluted this Ford sportscar's essential charm. A Mustang is all about the noise it makes, hence the appeal of this Convertible version and its charismatic 5.0-litre V8 engine.
With a folding roof, you can hear that powerplant all the better. And there aren't many ways of getting this much heritage and this much drama onto your driveway for this kind of budget. Go on: try one.