New car review: Ford Mustang GT Convertible
Ford’s Mustang GT Convertible might just be the best Sunday cruiser this side of a Harley-Davidson.
The USA’s notoriously litigious culture has led its car makers to adopt the practice of placing prominent warning labels on various parts of their vehicles, advising consumers about all manner of operational risks.
Given this, it strikes us that the Ford Mustang GT convertible should come with a warning that it’s “Not suitable for shy retiring types”, lest the attention it generates prompts an anxiety attack.
With its bodacious V8 soundtrack, head-turning looks and range of eye-popping colours – including such garish hues as Twister orange and Grabber lime – this modern manifestation of Ford’s legendary Pony Car is no place for shrinking violets.
Given the enduring design legacy of the ’65 original, it would be easy to assume that Mustangs have always looked this good. But trust us when we tell you there have been some serious aberrations over the years; Google the 1974 Ford Mustang II if you don’t believe us.
But with its trademark shark-like snout, short deck lid, coke-bottle hips, and muscular guards that only just manage to house its big black-gloss 19-inch alloy wheels, this sixth-generation Mustang is a wonderful return to form.
It has also provided a wonderful fillip to Ford Australia’s passenger car line-up, following the demise of locally manufactured performance Falcons.
Performance is of course at the heart of the Mustang mystique, along with styling, and with its distinctive woofling V8 note, the Mustang’s potent 5.0-litre V8 is every bit as audacious as the car’s instantly recognisable exterior design.
Of course, the exhaust note is the same whether you choose a V8 coupe or convertible, but what better way to drink in one of the best-sounding naturally aspirated bent eight warbles on the planet than to swiftly drop the electric ragtop and get some wind in your toupee.
You can also have your Mustang with a turbocharged 2.3-litre four-cylinder but, well, seriously folks?
Aside from its seductive note the V8’s barrel-chested performance (339kW/556Nm) is accessible virtually from idle and channeled seamlessly to the rear limited slip differential and wide rear hoops by an excellent 10-speed automatic gearbox.
The latter slurs up and down the ratios with effortless efficiency but can sometimes seem a little too busy in its attempts to always be carrying the tallest gear for optimal fuel efficiency.
That’s less of a problem in Sport mode, of course, and if manual control is more your thing there are paddle shifts tucked away behind the leather-bound multi-function steering wheel.
A series of toggle switches mounted below the central 8.0-inch colour touchscreen provide a wide range of other driver-selectable features that suggest the Mustang is much more than a show pony.
They include four selectable modes for the active exhaust system (yes, you can make it even louder), three modes for the electrically assisted steering and a five-mode performance switch with the ability to choose race and drag-strip settings.
Even without the assistance of the latter, full-throttle acceleration is attention-grabbing, the Mustang hooking up from rest with just a modicum of rear type slip and galloping through the gears to reach 100km/h in a keen 4.5 seconds.
With such big wheels and low-profile rubber it’s inevitable larger bumps will send a jolt through the vehicle but over small to middling road imperfections the fully independent suspension does an impressive job of blotting out bumps.
Of course, that’s with the optional Magneride shock absorbers fitted to our test car, so we can’t say how it rides on the standard setup.
The latter are special shock absorbers that effectively “read the road” and automatically adapt their damping stiffness to the conditions.
The ride and handling combination is generally pretty good but the Mustang is a big vehicle – almost as long and slightly wider than the last generation Ford Falcon sedan – and decently heavy at 1840kg, so it’s never going to react to the tiller like a Mazda MX-5 does.
There’s also that wonderful but reasonably heavy V8 slung out the front, which has a noticeable effect on the way it gets in and out of corners. But the handling is generally flat and pleasingly predictable, provided you don’t forget how much weight and speed you’re carrying into bends or get too eager with the loud pedal mid corner.
On more ragged roads that old bugbear of convertibles being less structurally sound than hardtops also rears its head with some scuttle-shake evident through the structure.
It’s not obviously detrimental to the car’s ride and handling unless you are seriously pressing on, or on a racetrack, in which cases we’d recommend the coupe.
The driving position is good with a wide range of electrically operated seat adjustment and plenty of room for bigger adults to get comfortable.
The two rear seats are snug but useable for small to medium-sized folk, provided the front-seat occupants compromise a little.
Getting in and out of the rear pews isn’t super easy though as the seats flip but don’t automatically slide forward.
The latch on the seatbacks to drop the seats isn’t especially nice to use either and it’s in areas like this, plus the relatively cheap look and feel of the interior plastics that the Mustang shows its mass market origins.
Audi, BMW, and Mercedes convertibles all feature much nicer materials, though they can’t touch the Mustang on bang for buck.
At 322 litres the boot is smaller than that of the coupe but still usefully large enough to carry a couple of sets of golf clubs or enough luggage for an extended trip away.
Ahead of the driver is a customisable 12-inch colour digital instrument display that changes like a chameleon via a mode switch, altering not just colour but also screen layout and prominence of the speedo and tachometer.
It’s a sophisticated touch that nicely complements the GT’s old-school soundtrack and progressively retro styling.
There’s nothing at all retro about the generous list of standard features, which stretches to dual-zone climate control, heated and cooled leather sports seats, smart keyless entry and push-button start, auto headlamps, satellite navigation with traffic message channel, ambient lighting with personalisable colours, Bluetooth with Apple CarPlay and Android Auto integration and Ford’s Sync 3 connectivity system with voice control.
The safety array is likewise up-to-the-minute and includes stout four-wheel anti-lock disc brakes, eight airbags, adaptive cruise control, dynamic stability control, lane-departure warning with lane-keep assist, autonomous emergency braking, rear parking sensors and a rear-view camera.
While that lot looks good on paper, Australia’s safety watchdog ANCAP awarded the Mustang only a three-star rating when last tested in 2018 which places a question mark over this otherwise impressive package.
The GT Convertible isn’t the fastest or the sharpest handling Mustang in the range, that honour rests with the locally assembled Mustang R-spec which tops the range at a giddy $99,616 and packs a 500kW/827Nm supercharged version of the V8.
But there are few other cars on the market that can match the GT’s combination of performance, street presence and value for money.
It’s a wonderful Sunday cruiser and with the top down and that gorgeous V8 note filling the cabin, it’s easy to see how it has become Australia’s favourite sports car.
ENGINE: 5.0-litre V8 petrol.
ANCAP CRASH RATING: Three stars (2018).
FUEL CONSUMPTION (combined cycle, litres/100km): 12.7L/100km (290g/km CO₂).
FOR: Great looks; raucous V8 note; strong acceleration and all-round performance; smooth transmission; sharp handling.
AGAINST: Poor crash safety; relatively thirsty when driven hard; disappointing interior plastics quality; large blindspot when roof is up.