Anyone looking for a nostalgic, but contemporary American ride at a reasonable price
Comparable models in this class:
Chrysler PT Cruiser Convt., Mitsubishi Eclipse Spyder, Toyota Camry Solara, VW Beetle Convt.
To all the people in the northeast, I apologize. The rain and subsequent flooding that hit in early October was my fault. You see, I scheduled the Ford Mustang GT convertible for that time frame, and as my regular readers will remember, almost every time I have a convertible scheduled, it rains. Since this is a special convertible, we had special rain.
I had been looking for the Mustang convertible almost from the day the coupe version was announced. We were promised a rag top at that time; it just took longer for me to get behind the wheel of one than I expected. We were supposed to have the car in the summer, but it had to go back for repairs or something, and the car was pulled. So I was glad to get it, even though October weather is often iffy. Little did I know. There were other scheduling problems that limited seat time, but I had enough time behind the wheel to know this was a special car. (even with the top up)
The GT is powered by a 4.6-liter, three-vales-per-cylinder V8 that delivers a healthy 300 horsepower. Granted, a V8 engine of this size could be expected to generate more power than this, but I think it's enough power for a car that weighs a tick under 3,500 pounds. There was plenty of power to move the Mustang to illegal speeds very quickly. And the roar from the V8 made all the teenage home hot rod builders with their Japanese minicars (the ones that make noises like angry bees) green with envy. This was a real roar.
Engine power reaches the rear wheels through either a five-speed manual or a five-speed automatic transmission. I have to confess that I was slightly nervous about the manual. I drove last year's GT and the year before's Cobra, each with 5-speed sticks, and didn't like them because of the gearbox. I thought the gearboxes used in those cars were notchy and hard to shift. The 2006 5-speed, however, is a pleasure to use. It is still a serious gearbox that requires the driver to shift it properly (and not get sloppy choosing the gears), but there's far less of a chance that you'll find first instead of third when you're downshifting, and that's a comfort in a car like this.
Transferring the power to the road in wet weather, or on wet roads, sometimes became a problem. There were times when I had to feather the clutch before tromping down on the accelerator pedal.
The GT is equipped with four-wheel power disc brakes that are significantly larger than the 4-wheel discs used in the standard Mustang. They do a great job of stopping the car, and give the driver the confidence necessary with all the power under the hood.
Ford is doing a fine job of comparing this generation Mustang with the shark-nose 1968 pony. I owned a 1965 fastback with a 289 cubic inch engine. I forget the power ratings, but the car was quick. Couldn't say the same for the brakes however, and handling wasn't great either.
Handling of the 2006 Mustang is fabulous. If I drove into a corner at a sensible, but high speed, I had the confidence that I was going to emerge out the other side of the corner intact. The ride was flat, even under hard cornering, but wasn't so firm that your kidneys suffered on long rides.
Fuel economy wasn't that good, at 12.9 mpg during our test. Still, I did drive the car hard, and one might expect better numbers for normal day-to-day driving.
This was the convertible, so I was interested in how well the top raised and lowered. I was able to get the power top down quickly the first two days I had the car, but then Hurricane Tammy hit and it stayed up. With the top down there was little or no backdraft that could mess up what's left of my hair. It could be that I was hunkered down below the high headrest of the car, but in any case the backdraft wasn't a problem. The car was also relatively quiet with the top up, which it was most of the time.
Ford did a great job of redesigning the dash and instrument panel. On the right side of the dash you face "striped" aluminum panels, with a center slit that opens when the air bag deploys (we didn't' check). The air vents close flush with the dash when they're shut, making a neat package.
The instruments are set in deep nacelles that remind you of earlier Mustangs. In between the huge speed and tach gauges are two smaller fuel level and water temperature gauges. The gauges were backlit blue at night, but I found that I could make them any color I wanted with a touch of a button on the dash.
The audio and HVAC systems are fairly standard, but that's not the charm. What I liked was the classic pony logo with a red, white, and blue stripe behind it that was located in the center of the steering wheel.
Seats were very comfortable, but could use more side support for hard cornering. I'd like to see ford install something like Recaro seats on the GT version. Sure, they'd cost more, but I think they'd attract more buyers.
Speaking of cost, the GT convertible comes with a base price of $30,550. Our tester had a bunch of sensible options that raised the bottom line to $32,365, still sensible.