It’s 24 degrees Celsius. There’s hardly a cloud in the sky. You’re driving a bright yellow 2016 Ford Mustang GT Convertible. Life doesn’t get much better.
It’s just another beautiful spring day, ideal conditions for one of the most iconic drop-tops in existence. The 5.0L V8 reverberates off downtown shop windows, the car’s reflection making almost as much visual noise. It pulls eyeballs as easily as any Ferrari, Lamborghini or McLaren in my town, and turns heads a lot quicker than most Porsches and BMWs. No wonder Ford sells so many Mustangs.
Two-door sport models are at the very best niche players within most brands’ product portfolios, but the Mustang remains a critical component to overall Blue Oval success. Last year Ford’s pony car outsold the subcompact Fiesta hatchback and sedan combined, as well as the Taurus and two of the brand’s SUVs, with a total of 6,933 sales in Canada alone ― and a staggering 122,349 in the U.S.
Of course, that wasn’t even close to the half-million-plus per year Ford sold in the mid-‘60s, but it nudges up against early ‘70s and ‘80s Mustang numbers and it dumps all over early ‘90s sales, while downright crushing the post-Fox-bodied fifth-gen cars once they’d been out for a few years. If anyone’s still wondering how the sharp-edged styling and independent rear suspension of this new sixth-generation model are being accepted by the usual Mustang masses as well as converts, I think it’s safe to say it’s a smashing success.
Ford Mustang vs. the competition
As for direct competitors, it’s as if the others forgot to submit totals for the second half of last year, with the Chevy Camaro’s numbers a paltry 2,668 in Canada and still disappointing 77,502 in the U.S., despite its complete sixth-gen redesign that arrived in May. While new Mustang popularity was surging by an impressive 23% here in Canada and an outrageous 48% in the U.S., the redesigned Camaro was slip-and-sliding away in the other direction. It didn’t lose all that much here with 2015 sales going south by just 7.3% compared to 2014, but the bowtie brand’s muscle car nosedived by 10.2% in the States where it actually led Mustang sales the year prior.
Making matters worse, FCA Canada’s Dodge Challenger outsold the languishing Camaro by a single model during the same 12 months, although it came up 11,137 units short in the U.S. market despite having its best year ever. They’re hardly crying the blues in Auburn Hills, mind you, or at least they’re not gettin’ down to John Lee Hooker’s It Serves Me Right to Suffer with the same self-loathing shuffle as the Atwater, Renaissance and Beaubien headquartered Motown brand, but then again over in Dearborn it’s Shake it Baby, Boogie Chillen time.
Good times in the Mustang Convertible
I would’ve loved to hear JLH’s rippin’ live cover of Buster Brown’s Fanny Mae on the 2016 Ford Mustang GT Convertible’s optional 12-speaker Shaker Pro audio upgrade, but Rihanna and Drake’s Work sounded pretty sweet on Sirius XM satellite radio. True, the new GT is plenty fine behind closed doors, where the powered soft top provided coupe-like silence, SPF 50 protection, and dual-zone climate comfort during peak heat hours, and quickly retracted to hair blowing in the wind, freedom from the cares of the world status when the sun wasn’t directly overhead.
I’ve long said Ford should upgrade the Mustang’s interior to near-premium levels so it could attract those offended by bargain-basement cheapness, and the powers that be responded by producing a GT cabin that’s up to snuff with the luxury crowd. It’s not exactly a 4 Series, but most of its switchgear is better than a 911’s, while it’s finished with more pliable plastic surfaces than previous pony cars, particularly over the two protruding dashtop segments and some of the instrument panel, not to mention the top of each door. The padded door inserts are covered in contrast-stitched, perforated leatherette to match the sport seats, although the latter are made of real leather and their perforations aid in breathability as well as 3-way forced ventilation.
There was some additional wow factor in my tester with optional dark aluminum dash inlays, the centre portion filled with fabulous-looking, chrome-rimmed ancillary meters, while more chrome encircled the larger dials in the primary cluster and highlighted the shifter, cup holders, door detailing, and much of the switchgear. Satin silver is even more prevalent, from the steering wheel spokes to the shifter knob and centre stack controls. Speaking of which, there’s a superb row of retro toggles ― including two for selectable steering and drive modes (Sport preferred) ― next to an even more enticing red-on-white “ENGINE / START-STOP” button.
That button is really what the Ford Mustang GT is all about, or at least it ignites the passion from within both car and driver. The 5.0L V8’s loping gurgle makes the GT’s presence immediately known, just like a big Harley roaring to life on a quiet Sunday morning. While its guttural tone might be more death metal than uptown funk, it’s strapped into a car that crosses otherwise impassable genre boundaries as if it were the Chilis covering Stevie Wonder’s Higher Ground (which sounds brilliant on the Shaker system, BTW).
Stab the rightmost aluminum pedal, and thoughts of misters Kiedis and Morris will be out of mind as all 435 horsepower and 400 lb-ft of torque immediately catapult this drop-top’s 1,756kg (3,863lb) mass forward. The 6-speed manual transmission shifts ideally, with a nice purposeful heft that’s complemented by a similarly weighty clutch pedal. It’s not as if you’ll need to put in extra time at the gym, as overall operation remains easy enough, but there’s a substantive feel to swapping cogs in a Mustang that most imports couldn’t emulate even if they were trying.
Just the same its mechanical prowess equals and in some cases surpasses those imports. The Getrag-sourced MT-82 transmission, introduced for 2011, has been improved for feel and reliability since then, while the sixth-gen Mustang’s move to an independent rear suspension (IRS) caused Ford to strengthen its 8.8:1 rear differential to levels of a 9.75:1, which is why they now call it a “Super 8.8”.
The result is instant joy, a car that locks up its big 19” Pirelli P-Zeros and hurls itself forward with a mind-numbing rush of thrust, noise, and blurred peripheral visuals. Meanwhile, the new integral-link IRS keeps the Mustang GT Convertible flat during fast corners and minimizes the effects of bumps and potholes, this not only eliminating untimely bunny hops from the car’s rear end, but also improving overall ride comfort. Additionally, aluminum knuckles and H-arms were fitted at the back to lower unsprung mass, while Ford engineers claim twice as much anti-squat capability and nearly 10 times the amount of anti-lift for improved pitch control when getting hard on the throttle or deep into the Brembo brakes.
I could go on at length about how it drives or jabber on more about the GT’s unique features (its under-hood strut-tower brace is a personal favourite), but anything non-performance related will be about as important to its target market as its claimed 15.8L/100km city, 9.3L/100km highway fuel economy. Suffice to say it misses nothing most premium-branded sport coupes offer in their top-line trims, except maybe a few electronic nannies to force you back into your lane if you start wandering, although you can opt for blindspot warning with rear cross-traffic alert. Alternatively, if you tend to drift off and forget to stop while chilling to Moonbootica, Ford offers forward collision warning to bring you back from bliss.
As it is, Premium is standard trim with the 2016 Ford Mustang GT Convertible. The soft-touch door uppers, aluminum pedals, dual-zone auto HVAC, heated/cooled leather seats, and selectable steering/drive modes mentioned earlier are all included. So too are HID headlights, LED daytime running lights, sequential LED taillights, Pony projection lights under the side mirrors, illuminated sill plates, ambient lighting, powered seats, enhanced security, and of course SYNC 3 infotainment ― this year’s big upgrade that single-handedly restores Ford as an electronics leader thanks in part to Apple CarPlay, Android Auto, loads of downloadable apps, and super-stylish, quick-responding graphics.
A $2,000 upgrade adds blind spot monitoring, seat and mirror position memory, plus the Shaker stereo, while the $3,700 GT Performance package is responsible for those stunning gloss black mesh rims with 255/40R19 front and 275/40R19 rear summer performance tires, Brembo brakes, strut-tower brace, engine-turned aluminum appliques, oil pressure and vacuum gauges. That’s not to mention a number of items that go unseen such as a larger radiator, a 3.73:1 TORSEN limited-slip rear axle, some special suspension tuning including heavy-duty front springs, upsized front and rear sway bars and K-braces in back, additional tweaks to the power steering and ABS, reworked stability control, and deletion of the rear spoiler.
As you may have guessed, forward collision warning was also part of my test car’s upgrades, but it’s the rain-sensing wipers and adaptive cruise control that make this $1,600 package worthwhile for me. Furthermore, $800 for navigation is money well spent because the new SYNC 3 system works so well. Considerably more could’ve been added, but the 2016 Ford Mustang GT Convertible I tested already cost $58,098 ― or $8,650 more than the base price of $49,448.
A lot for a Mustang? Hardly. Factor in you’ll need to pay about $15,000 more for a BMW capable of keeping up, and that car doesn’t include many of the features just mentioned and arguably won’t garner as many enthusiastic thumbs up from passersby. The M4 is an excellent coupe that I happen to really like, but it doesn’t embody 50+ years of rolling legend.
Still, if you’ve got your mind dead set on spending upwards of $80,000, there’s always the new 529-horsepower Shelby GT350R. Now that’s some forward thrust I’d like to experience, although the 2.3L EcoBoost Fastback I drove earlier this year was an altogether different kind of performance revelation. Ford has all of its Mustang bases covered, which means there’s a pony car ideally suited to your personal priorities and budget. No matter which one you choose, I commend your good taste.