You could really form a bond with Ford's latest Mustang in Convertible form. Jonathan Crouch reports.
Ten Second Review
With a 2.3-litre turbocharged engine offering the option of better fuel economy than the traditional V8, as well as a lower price point, this improved Ford Mustang should continue 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.
A few years 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.
We've yet to drive this improved model but on paper, the prospects look quite promising. The roof is fabric and must cover 4.7-metres of car. To start the roof 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.
While there will be many who don't see the point in choosing anything other than the 5.0-litre V8, Ford predicts a good take-up of the 2.3-litre Ecoboost turbo four. With UK pump prices being what they are, you can see the logic. It's not exactly limp-wristed either. With 290PS to call upon, it'll get to 62mph in around 6 seconds in six-speed manual guise. As an option, Ford now offers an auto transmission wth no fewer than ten speeds. The brand claims that this new auto 'box offers greater fuel efficiency and improved acceleration. The gearbox's electronic control system enables settings that optimise performance for the car's various Drive Modes, plus there's real-time adaptive shift-scheduling that allows the transmission to adapt to changing conditions and select the right gear in any situation - from coast-road cruising to the drag-strip.
In short, for the right buyer, the 2.3-litre EcoBoost Mustang variant could now be quite a tempting proposition. Look at the ballistic V8 version though and your resolve might weaken. Its output has now been increased to 450PS, plus there's more low-end torque than there was before.
As for driving dynamics, well Ford claims to have improved these for European buyers with this enhanced model. Recalibrated shock absorbers should improve stability through corners, while the rear suspension has been stiffened with a cross-axis joint that reduces unwanted movement at each corner that can lead to body flex. Thicker anti-roll bars also better control body-roll for sharper handling. A new optional MagneRide Damping System can deliver a lightning-quick response to changing road conditions. Plus there are two new Drive Modes in addition to the usual 'Normal', 'Sport', 'Track' and 'Snow/Wet' settings. 'Drag Strip Mode' optimises performance for maximum acceleration from standing starts. And 'My Mode' enables drivers to select their own preferred settings for performance, dynamics and exhaust sound.
In addition, the car also has a 'Good Neighbour Mode' that can be programmed to automatically limit the exhaust's noise output at pre-programmed times of the day to avoid disturbing your neighbours, not least when firing up the legendary 5.0-litre V8 early in the morning.
Design and Build
The Mustang may not have changed drastically, but it's still a head-turner. The new 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.
Let's talk you through the changes made to this revised model. The bonnet profile is now lower with integrated air vents, combined with a revised lower grille design to give the Mustang a sharper, more aggressive face, while improving aerodynamics. The headlamps and tail lights have been re-styled too and at the rear, there's a sleeer bumper and a more aggressive diffuser.
Inside, Ford has tried to give the cabin more of the premium feel you get in notable German rivals. Soft touch materials now feature for the door linings and the door handles are finished in aluminium. The centre console features a smarter 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 the first time for ultimate comfort. There's also now a customisable, all-digital, 12-inch LCD instrument cluster and the centre-dash infotainment system has been upgraded to 'SYNC 3' status, which includes 'Apple CarPlay'/'Android Auto' smartphone mirroring functionalty.
Market and Model
You'll pay a £1,500 premium to own this Convertible Mustang over the Coupe version. Another £1,500 premium buys you automatic transmission. That all means prices starting at around £40,000 for the 2.3-litre variant, rising to £47,000 for the full-fat automatic 5.0 V8 GT drop-top variant.
Equipment-wise, all models get 19in 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, this enhanced model now featuring autonomous braking - Ford calls it 'Pre-Collision Assist with Pedestrian Detection'. The Mustang is also now 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. It'll ruin you for the Ecoboost model. In Convertible form, the 2.3-litre car returns an economy reading that is actually quite impressive for such a big, powerful, petrol-engined car, getting 31mpg on the combined cycle in manual guise and around 30mpg if you choose the automatic. Choose that heavy hitting V8 instead though, and you'll emit 285g/km, while the combined fuel figure with the auto is 22.6mpg. If you can get the fuel meter to average anything into the twenties, you have more restraint than we could manage.
The 2.3-litre EcoBoost engine uses direct injection, variable cam timing and turbocharging to deliver its efficiency. A unique intake manifold and turbocharger housing enable it to make good on the performance Mustang drivers expect. The automatic transmission versions feature steering wheel-mounted shift paddles, which isn't really very 'Mustang'. Ford says that the extra ratios of the new 10-speed auto gearbox will improve efficiency. Perhaps so, but don't expect the gains to be spectacular.
This revised model has a classier feel, both inside and out - and the extra driving modes, additional safety features and 10-speed auto gearbox are all welcome additions. 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. Without a roof, the 5.0-litre V8 should sound just great but Ford says it's tuned the alternative 2.3-litre EcoBoost engine to make nearly as potent a noise.
What that smaller engine will do is make the option of Mustang ownership available to more people. With a folding roof, a 5.8-second sprint to 62mph and almost acceptable fuel economy, this variant might be empting. After all, 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.