By Jim Bray
It wasn't exactly a mid-life crisis, but it sure may have looked like it to people not inside the car.
I'm referring to my recent week in the 2016 Ford Mustang GT convertible, which just happened to coincide with my 64th birthday and came at a time when the weather cried out for a ragtop.
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Mustang has always been my favourite muscle car, sometimes called Pony car - but only because the Mustang is the original pony car, appearing first in 1964 and changing the fun car market ever since then. Well, mostly. There were some Mustangs during the 1970's that weren't fit to carry the horse logo and, I have to admit, none of the Mustangs really turned my crank between 1970 and the car's reboot in the early 2000's.
But that's just me. The Mustang has cantered on all through those years regardless of what I thought of it and now the car exists with its most attractive styling ever; it's also full of modern electronics and gewgaws, yet it retains its pony car demeanour and heart - an interesting balancing act Ford seems to have pulled off with aplomb.
New for 2016, the Mustang GT comes with little secondary signal lights facing back toward the driver from their location atop the hood, a nod to days gone by. They don't add much in the way of functionality, though they're very cool. Also not particularly functional, but a way to gather a crowd in a parking lot at night, is the horse logos that shine onto the road from below the outside rear view mirrors.
Form over substance? Indubitably, but it's great form! And if you want substance, crack the hood, where you'll find the GT still offers a delicious five litre V8 that fires up with a wonderfully guttural fart guaranteed to wake, if not impress, the neighbours.
Lesser Mustangs can be had with a 3.7 litre V6 or a 2.3 litre turbo EcoBoost, but why pussyfoot around when the fact of having a Mustang be"hooves" a V8. Want to save gas? Buy a hybrid. Want to bomb around in a modern take on an automotive icon? Get the V8.
Ford also offers new colour options for 2016, including racing stripes and a black roof. Ford Canada's sample GT convertible had a black roof, but that's more because of the cloth ragtop with which it came. The sample also had an outrageous, $550 additional cost "Triple Yellow" paint job that was so bright you could probably duct tape over the head and taillights and other vehicles would still see you at night. It was great!
If you don't go for the convertible (and I have to admit I wouldn't, just 'cause I don't like the sun beating down on my ever-expanding pate), the only other body choice is the fastback, but that's hardly a step backwards. As I said above, I think this generation of the Mustang is the best looking ever - my previous benchmark being the 1967-68 version - and the fastback is the better looking of the two models, though both are fantastic blends of classic and modern.
That five litre V8 doesn't only sound great, it also moves the pony car with muscle. Rated at 435 "horses" and 400 torquey-like thingies (using regular gas - and quite a bit of it!), it moves the 3705 pound car forward as it should - pushing you back into the seat and practically lifting off the ground as it rockets away from a stop.
Power goes to the rear wheels only, as it should, via either a six speed manual or a six speed automatic transmission with paddles. Ford's sample's V8 was attached to the manual transmission and it works well, with a nice light clutch - though it took me a few days before I learned to shift it smoothly.
Mustangs' suspension is independent all around, fixing a decades only problem and dragging the car into the 21st - well, late 20th - century. This helps the car perform well on more than drag strips or freeways and was long overdue.
Steering, which is electrically power-assisted rack and pinion, feels great and the four wheel disc brakes do their jobs well, though with a touch of grabbiness.
The horse's, well, rump, features very cool sequential signal lights lifted from Ford's back catalogue as well, though not from the Mustang. I remember seeing such lights on mid 1960's Thunderbirds and the original Mercury Cougar, and they're really nifty.
Inside is a modern cabin that still looks like a Mustang. The rear seat is perhaps a bit more useful than that in a Porsche 911 (which means it still isn't, very), and getting back there - even to toss a gym bag or backpack - is, shall we say, interesting - but the Mustang is about the front seats, especially the one on the left. And it's fine!
What's also fine is the new Sync 3 interface, which gets rid of the confusing stuff from previous generations and offers you a single big LCD on the centre stack that not only works well as a touch screen but which also works well via voice recognition. It's a real game changer for Ford interiors and, thankfully, is being rolled out across more of the company's lineup as well.
As with a smartphone, you can swipe and zoom the display, though that's something best done when the vehicle is stopped.
Speaking of stopped, the vehicle has to be stopped before you can raise and/or lower the roof, and unlike some other convertibles there's no visual or audible warning to tell you when the job is finished. Not a huge deal, but it would have been nice to hear a little "ping" or something, or a light on the instrument panel, when the roof was finished moving.
Mustangs start at just over $27,000 CAD, but the GT starts at $34,845. Ford's sample GT convertible Premium kicks off the Monroney at $49,448, which is getting up there. And of course Ford's sample came with options, which took it up to an as-driven price of $59,198, which is nothing if not dear.
That price included the upgraded audio system with single disc CD player and 12 speakers. The GT performance package added $3,700 and brought stuff like a limited slip differential and great-looking painted aluminum 19 wheels. Add $900 for the navigation system, $1,600 for adaptive cruise control, $500 for upgraded interior trim, $150 for an engine block heater, and $350 for rear parking assistance and you get the idea.
If this were my Mustang, I'd have all this stuff. And, undoubtedly, a divorce.
I've never really been a Pony car kind of guy, but if I were I'd happily drop the cash needed for this Mustang (though I'd save a couple of loonies by opting for the fastback). It's a lot of fun, a real attention getter, and a perfect midlife crisis machine.
And, as I said earlier, it's the best-looking Mustang ever.
Copyright 2016 Jim Bray
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