A Ford Mustang soft top is high on many people’s wish list, but with the 5.0-litre V8 GT rag-top being the most expensive Pony Car in the stable at just under $75,000, it is an unachievable dream for most.
Enter the Mustang EcoBoost Convertible, which lacks the legendary grunt and theatrics of the V8 version, but is still enjoyable to drive and be seen in … if not heard.
And for just under $60,000, it’s one of the more affordable open-topped sports cars on the market and guaranteed to turn more heads than pricier rivals including the Audi A5 Cabriolet, BMW 4 Series Convertible and Mercedes-Benz C-Class Convertible.
The Ford Mustang EcoBoost Convertible – it really should be called the Turbo Mustang – kicks off at $59,490. Unfortunately neither this nor the V8 Mustang Convertible is available with a manual transmission, which would bring the starting price down by $3000.
Having less roof means paying $7000 more than the Mustang EcoBoost Fastback with the same 10-speed automatic transmission. But the smaller 2.3-litre four-cylinder turbocharged engine does bring you plenty of change compared to the auto V8 GT versions, which cost $65,990 and $74,339 for the Fastback and Convertible respectively.
The $15,000 difference between the turbo and V8 Mustang Convertible is all due to what’s under the bonnet, with the two sharing the virtually same equipment levels. That said, many would argue the V8 rumble is worth every cent.
Our test car featured Magnetic (dark metallic grey) premium paint ($550) but was otherwise stock standard.
The Mustang EcoBoost lacks the reverence the V8 GT enjoys, but on the plus side you’re not lumbered with its hefty fuel bill. The V8 Mustangs have an official combined fuel consumption rating of 12.7L/100km though real-world driving will easily see you nudge 20-litres of 98 RON per 100km.
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The 2.3-litre turbo on the other hand happily drinks cheaper 91 RON and even E10 at a more respectable 9.4L/100, which makes a far more practical daily driver.
The Ford Mustang is covered by Ford’s five-year unlimited kilometre warranty.
You’re not lacking for much in any Mustang; with LED headlights with active high-beam, LED tail-lights, rain-sensing wipers, colour adjustable LED ambient lighting, a four-mode digital dashboard with performance gauges and lap timers, leather-bound heated steering wheel, leather seats with heating and cooling, and dual-zone climate control.
You’re well entertained too, with an 8.0-inch touchscreen displaying Ford’s Sync3 multimedia system with satellite navigation and Apple CarPlay/Android Auto, and a 390-watt 12-speaker sound system that sounds great even when travelling at highway speeds with the roof down.
The Ford Mustang feels big to drive mainly because of its 1.93m girth that’s widest over the rear wheels. Its 4.79m length is a little less than most large sedans though, which makes it easy to fit into parallel parking spaces.
A lot of that length is in front of the windscreen, which leaves just enough room for a compact interior with most of the space benefitting the front seats.
With the roof in place it can be a bit of a chore to climb into if you’re on the tall side, but once inside you’ll be met with plenty of leg and elbow room.
The rear seats on the other hand are token at best and require the front occupants to sacrifice their own legroom in order to accommodate two more bodies. Two children would be pretty happy back there though, especially with the lid down, however you might have second thoughts about putting them after reading the safety section.
The boot space is bigger than expected, considering the roof folds down behind the back seats. We managed to fit a standard suitcase, carry-on sized case and small car fridge.
The one thorn in the Ford Mustang’s side is its three-star ANCAP safety rating.
The Mustang has all the necessary gear to help prevent accidents, such as autonomous emergency braking, lane keeping assist, adaptive cruise control and rear-cross traffic alert, and it’s equipped with eight airbags. However, it still has the previous model’s structural problems that produced poor results during crash testing for rear seat occupants, particularly children.
The Mustang is a grand tourer and, for front occupants at least, very comfortable on long trips.
The standard leather seats feel plush, but have narrow cushions, which is surprising considering the size of the average American derriere.
The front seats have six power settings including lumbar support, with backrest pitch operated with a manual lever. It’s very easy to find a great driving position.
There are seat heaters and coolers, which help when being exposed to the elements with the roof down. The air flows well over the top and putting the windows up helps contain heating or cooling when needed while bocking out excessive road noise.
If you do need to drive with the roof up, the Mustang doesn’t feel claustrophobic, with headroom and all-round vision on a par with the Fastback. Wind noise is surprisingly low, though you do get road noise seeping through the canvass which sounds like you a window partially opened.
While it’s not as bombastic as the V8, you can set the EcoBoost’s exhaust note to sport for a brash throaty din that’s loud enough disturb your neighbours. The good news for them is you can actually set a timer so the engine starts at a quieter setting within selected times.
The Mustang’s dashboard is an improvement on the previous model, though you still can only toggle through the drive mode buttons in one direction, which can be a pain should you skip past your preferred setting.
The digital dashboard has three display settings, which you can colour customise. It’s vibrant under normal lighting conditions, however it’s very susceptible to sun glare when the roof is down.
ON THE ROAD
The 2.3-litre turbocharged engine does take some getting used to for anyone familiar with the sound and grunt of the 339kW/500Nm V8. However, while having 50 percent of the GT’s cylinders, the EcoBoost isn’t exactly a half-arsed effort with 224kW/441Nm on tap that, in Sport mode, lurches into action with minimal turbo lag.
Our test car
Sadly the EcoBoost Convertible isn’t available with the six-speed manual gearbox, but Ford’s 10-speed automatic transmission is great for touring and there are paddle shifters should you desire some hands-on driving.
In the normal drive setting the auto tends to gear down a bit too soon at lower speeds as though it’s obliged to use all 10 gears. Pulling the gear lever back a peg to S does the opposite, making the engine feel like it’s chomping at the bit with abrupt gear shifts that are jarring at low speeds, but almost flawless when accelerating up to 100km/h.
The standard suspension feels comfortable, and the lighter engine actually improves the Mustang’s already compliant handling. Steering can be a little loose in comfort mode, but there is a Sport setting that stiffens things up for bends.
All that said, you don’t have to be a keen driver to really enjoy driving this once that top comes down.
The Mustang Convertible is the best fit for the 2.3-litre turbocharged/10-speed auto powertrain.
You might have to put up with so-called friends saying it’s not a real Mustang (Ford first released a 2.3-litre turbo Mustang in 1979), but the enjoyment you’ll get from driving top-down does well to compensate for the lack of V8 muscle and acoustic exhilaration.
And while it will always live in the shadow of the more powerful car, it’s not without its advantages; including the $15K lower purchase price, cheaper insurance premiums and significantly lower fuel bill.
And it still has the same head-turning looks.