Is there a better way to spend a sunny afternoon than cruising in a Mustang convertible – top down, of course – on a deserted stretch of country road?
Obviously, the Mustang GT that I was testing, with a healthy 420 horsepower under its hood, was more than capable of whizzing along at the limit on any six-lane superhighway, but why waste an opportunity to shun the fast pace? Life doesn’t get any better than this.
Don’t think this car can’t get downright snarly when you want to let it loose, but sometimes it’s just as satisfying to ease back and savour the drive.
I guess that’s one of the great aspects of the Mustang – it can play hard when you want, but it’s just as driveable at a leisurely trot. In fact, on this day just cruising, I was able to coax that muscular 5.0-litre V-8 to rumble along close to its official fuel consumption rating, registering 8.2 litres/100 kilometres.
With so much torque on tap (390 lb-ft), stirring the six-speed manual gearbox was an infrequent requirement. In town, especially, all that grunt takes the pain out of driving a manual, relieving the need to work up and down through the gears so often.
You can also short shift, helping save fuel. Not that working the gearbox and clutch on this car is onerous – it has to be one of the smoothest six-speeds I’ve driven, with the lever slipping from cog to cog effortlessly.
The clutch isn’t heavy, either, despite it having to deal with so much power. It engages and disengages at just the right point, enabling silky smooth transitions from gear to gear. I loved it.
Of course, the driving experience, especially when topless, is enhanced by the rumble emanating from the twin exhaust pipes. It’s just loud enough when cruising to remind you there’s a powerful instrument playing up front, and certainly attention-grabbing when the loud pedal is punched.
It’s sweet music no high-revving, turbocharged four-cylinder can match.
Five decades perfecting
Ford has been perfecting the Mustang for nearly five decades, so one shouldn’t be surprised that this iteration handles so well.
The ride is firm, but not bone jarring. Toss it into a corner and it hunkers down and charges out the other end without a fuss.
The only time I experienced any handling issue was while cornering hard on a bumpy road – the rear end tended to dance a bit over the uneven surface.
Still, the car remained stable, with never a hint things were getting out of hand, thanks to Ford’s AdvanceTrac electronic stability control system, which was specially tuned on my tester as part of its GT brake performance package.
This $1,700 optional upgrade also includes special front and rear calipers and P255/40R19 summer-only performance tires. (A GT Brembo brake racing package is also offered if you plan to expose your Mustang to track-day use.)
The 2013 Mustang is fitted with a selectable-effort electric power-assist steering system that allows the driver to choose between comfort, normal and sport settings. Unlike some selectable systems, there is a noticeable difference in the effort and feedback with this Ford setup.
I preferred the sport setting, which rewarded the modest increase in effort with more definitive feedback from the front wheels.
The interior of my tester was finished in a two-tone décor, with saddle leather-trimmed seats and door panel inserts contrasting with the black instrument panel, centre console and door trim.
Brushed metal accents helped brighten up the instrument panel. It was a very pleasing package, especially with the "ticket-me red" exterior and eye-catching, 19-inch premium stainless-painted aluminum wheels. If you like being noticed, this car certainly fits the bill.
The (heated) front seats wrap around you, providing good support and comfort. (An optional Recaro sport seat is available, but only on the Mustang coupe.)
The driver’s seat has six-way power adjustment, as well as a power lumbar support, making it easy to find a comfortable driving position.
The steering column, however, only tilts – there is no telescopic function. Ford product planners have acknowledged this shortcoming, but tell me it’s a feature that can’t be added until the next-generation Mustang, due next year.
The rear seats, as in any previous Mustang, are best used for additional storage space – adults have been known to survive back there, but don’t plan to keep them there long. Rear leg room hardly exists unless the front seats are moved forward to their limit.
The top is easy to operate – unlatch two levers on the windshield header and push the button. The top stows itself behind the back seat. However, there’s no tonneau cover or body panel over the folded top, so it sticks up slightly above the seatback, catching air as you drive along.
The fact the roof doesn’t collapse into the trunk has an up side – it doesn’t infringe on available cargo space. There’s a decent (for a convertible) 272 litres of space to stow stuff.
Driving the Mustang GT at night is an experience that shouldn’t be missed. The ambient lighting in the cabin is gorgeous and the MyColor system enables the driver to select a range of colours to personalize the cockpit.
Lighted sill plates greet the occupants and, on my tester, there was also a neat feature – a puddle light mounted in the side mirror that projected the Mustang pony emblem on the ground. Very cool.
The Mustang has been a hit since it was introduced in 1964. The tweaks and changes made since since have continued to raise the bar in the pony car segment – and this 2013 Mustang is the best of the herd.