Having children changes your priorities and perspectives. It makes you reevaluate certain things in life: your health, habits, even your job. It also prompts some people to go out and buy the biggest car they can find in the name of safety, putting down vast sums of money on a Chevy Suburban or similar to carry around all the baby addendum you ‘need’. I’m not most people.
On a recent holiday to California, I decided to soak in the joys of fatherhood by driving a vehicle that the entire family could enjoy. My wife and I have two children, but the idea of driving around in a big lumbering SUV was less than appealing. So I called some friends over at Ford. What they provided me with was far more than I could have hoped for: the new Ford Mustang GT convertible, finished in – very appropriate – searing Competition Orange paint.
Few cars are as immediately recognizable as the Ford Mustang. The vehicle is the embodiment of freedom, whether parked in a quaint rural town or hurtling down the open road. It’s a model whose history and lineage span more than 50 years; it’s a symbol of America. With a few days before my family was set to arrive, I ventured up the coast from LA to Malibu, soaking up rays while getting a feel for the car and its revised design.
I was a fan of the Mustang already; its ‘retro’ makeover in 2004 under the direction of J Mays had nothing on the original 1965 and incredible ’67 models, but it had a certain appeal. With the 2015 Mustang, designers really went far into perfecting a nameplate that’s steeped in heritage, creating design elements that harked back to the ’67 whilst remaining thoroughly modern in execution.
The shark nosed front end has just the right amount of aggression. Details such as the 3D quality of its sculpted hood, the tri-bar ‘gills’ in the slim headlamps, the chamfer over the front fender and the forward canted trapezoidal shaped grille all work to give the face a demeanor that’s very much in tune with its muscle car heritage.
This is carried over to the profile, which is clean and cohesive. From the lower beltline and sculptured surfaces to the straightened muscle line on the rear haunches, the Mustang has a more linear quality whether the roof is up or down. The convertible roof system was designed to prevent unsightly folds or ‘ears’ at the rear corners of the roof when the top is up and the rear quarter windows drop completely out of sight when it’s down, adding to the sense of refinement and giving the car its own distinct presence on the road.
The rear end’s three bar taillamps — nestled beneath the contoured trunklid — are an immediately recognizable Mustang design trait, but their aesthetic treatment is wholly contemporary. The sculptural, 3D taillamps house indirect firing LEDs and feature sequential turn signal indicators, which is a nice touch (yes, some Audis have that too, but the Mustang was first). The two-tone rear diffuser treatment is well done as well, with the upper edge integrating with the element on the side rocker and the front splitter.
The Mustang coupe combines performance with the ability to bring friends and family along for the ride, and the new convertible adds the thrill of open air driving to the mix. The wider rear of the new car and the new top design contribute to more shoulder and hip room for rear-seat passengers, and the seats have Isofix points for the win (and the kids). I had no problem fitting a baby seat and a booster seat in the back, roof up or down.
The interior is functional as well as symmetrical. Identical on both the driver and passenger side, the IP features Mustang’s defining double brow and is covered by leather and stitched in contrasting colors. Large rotary knobs and toggle switches at the base of the center stack are ergonomically placed so you can control what you need to whilst keeping your eyes on the road.
Materials like leather and heavy-duty grained plastic are hard wearing, yet communicate a sense of occasion — a feeling that’s emphasized by the ambient lighting, which can be changed to taste. At first I thought that this was a gimmick, but it’s actually useful when driving in different environments. It alters the aura of the cabin significantly.
Every Mustang convertible roof is covered in a fabric outer layer but also includes an inner headliner to enclose the five-bow structure. Sandwiched in between these layers is a 10mm thick insulation pad that makes the convertible nearly as quiet inside with the top up as the fastback version. That’s a remarkable achievement.
The process of lowering the roof has been simplified. All you need to do is twist the center-mounted handle and push a button on the center console. More compact than the previous electro-hydraulic mechanism, a new electromechanical drive system lowers the roof quickly and quietly, storing it 6.7 inches lower than the previous generation Mustang. This not only creates a sleeker profile, but also improves rearward visibility.
The Mustang convertible’s compact roof and flat load floor combine to offer trunk space — a class-leading 11.4 cu ft. — that was more than ample for a stroller and beach toys, even with the available premium audio subwoofer fitted into our test car. The only issue I had was on the final day when I tried to load all our luggage into the car on the way to the airport. Thankfully a friend with a 5 Series took the one bag I couldn’t fit.
On many occasions the decision to create a convertible from an existing coupe is an afterthought. Marketing gets behind the idea as a means of spurring sales, but all too often the vehicle’s structural rigidity, handling and aesthetic quality is compromised. This wasn’t the case with the Ford Mustang convertible, and this is immediately apparent from behind the wheel.
Hit the start button on the center stack and the 5.0-liter engine comes to life, emitting the aurally satisfying throaty rumble you’d expect of an eight-cylinder in V formation. Beckoning the right foot with each open stretch of road, the only real drawback from the 435hp powerplant is its inherent need to stop for a drink. I averaged 14mpg whilst driving around mixed traffic situations in LA for a week.
That aside, the benefits of the 2016 Mustang convertible’s new platform are obvious in the car’s torsional stiffness and fully independent suspension. The result is more refined ride quality and significantly improved handling when pressed into the curves. This is a car that, big and practical though it is, handles as well as a BMW 3 Series and far better than any Mustang before it.
Conceived as an all-new model and built from the ground up in tandem with the Mustang coupe design development program, the convertible has adopted a few bespoke additions to the coupe as well as a host of improvements over its predecessor. As the only open-top car in the entire Ford lineup, the Mustang has a reputation to uphold, and it moves the muscle car game on considerably.
Though most people probably won’t cross shop a Mustang when looking for their next family car, there’s no reason not to. The Mustang GT proved a very practical hauler during our week-long stay in California, and was a far better drive than I expected. The kids loved ‘the orange car’ and, at the end of the day, that’s my priority.
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