Call me a traitor, but I adore the Ford Mustang GT Convertible
For my day trip to L.A. earlier this week, I rented a Mercedes SLK. That wasn’t so bad, it had some power and most importantly a convertible top. The plan was to bomb down some California back roads for a few hours later that afternoon.
However, as I was walking towards the Hertz rental car place by LAX all I could think of was don't leave in a Mustang. Because, I had heard horror stories of rental car agencies up-selling people to $20,000 slush-matic 4-cylinder Mustangs. No, I didn't want that I was dead set on the Merc.
Because to me Mustangs have always seemed like poorly-engineered tin cans with a volcano set to explode under the hood. I had heard tales of terrifying high-speed stability, and cornering which rivaled that of the Titanic.
However, as I walked up to the smog-filled parking lot with all the rental cars I saw a sea of Mustangs. I groaned thinking of how I'll defer the pushy rental-car salesmen. We walked up to the rental-desk gave the details of our reservation and were met with this, "I see that you have rented the Mercedes-Benz, would you care to upgrade to the Ford Mustang for just $30?" Now, mind you the Mustang is a cheaper and in my mind worse car, so obviously I said no. He then proceeds to tell us that the car we reserved is "currently unavailable", however, if we waited about an hour or so they would be able to get it to us.
So we sat down in the dreary waiting area, until about 10 minutes later the guy we were just talking to said, "Unfortunately we couldn't get you the SLK you had reserved, however, you're in luck!" he proclaimed. "We have upgraded you free of charge to a convertible Ford Mustang GT!".
Begrudgingly we walked towards the car, expressed our disappointment and hopped in. We were first met by the pulsating red start button. A deep rumble emerged from the back of the car and I let out a little giggle, maybe this won't be so bad.
We headed out, and the Mustang's 460 BHP and mahoosive torque immediately reared its mangly head. Pulling out of the car-park the might V8 let out a deep rumble as it effortlessly pulled away in third gear. This was evidently a muscle car. We cruised through LA traffic with ease and surprising comfort.
This car is very well-equipped. The gauge cluster is legible and quite well-put together, the sat-nav system is simply brilliant, and the seats are incredibly comfortable.
Amazingly, however, the car appears to have been designed by a rather brilliant 10 year-old. Because, it puts form and pure WOW factor above all else, and this is a good thing. Because although the hood has two massive ridges which reflect the glare of the sun directly into the driver’s eyes. Ford’s engineers must have noticed this when they tested the car in the vast, unending blueness of the Arizona desert. And they must have told the 10 year-old that "We can’t see where we are going because of those ridges.”
To which the glorified toddler likely replied, "I see your point, but those ridges look cool, so they’re staying.” You see more of this in the speeding-pony symbols that are projected by down lighting onto the ground under the door mirrors. It’s as though Ford only employed designers who were 10. Which is as it should be. Ground speed. I love that. I’m only amazed it doesn’t have space lasers.
That being said, the ride is decent, and the gearbox is well-suited to the car. With 10 gears it manages to make the V8 Mustang drivable at low speeds, and supposedly increases range. I say supposedly, because in the 100 or so miles that we drove the car, we went through roughly 180 miles of rated range, this thing gulps fuel.
Amazingly, however, it starts at just $35,630 for the V8 coupe, it costs less than half what Jaguar makes you pay for a superficially similar F-type. More incredibly, this 460bhp, 180mph American icon costs less than you you'd pay for a Volkswagen Golf GTI. I do not know of any car that appears to offer such good value for money.
It’s not as if you just get an engine and four seats either. Because it comes as standard with a limited-slip differential (yeah), selectable driving modes, dual-zone air-conditioning, and even a rear-view camera.
Confused by the price tag and the sheer amount of stuff you get free, I plunged into the cabin with a raised eyebrow, looking for where Ford had cut corners. It doesn’t take long to find them For example, if the sun is even moderately visible you cannot see the gauge cluster, the convertible top puts me in mind of a shoddy tent, and the plastics in this car make a Lada Niva seem like a Rolls Royce Phantom.
However, as we roared our way onto the Angeles Crest Highway all became apparent. This Mustang is a truly brilliant car.
There's no getting round the fact that the Mustang is a heavy car, with its steel construction and big V8 it feel nothing like a nimble Lotus or mx-5. However, it has its own brutish charm. It charges into corners at an astonishing speed, and then sort of just goes round them. Maybe it was just the immensity of the roads and scenery around me, but the GT flew round the mountain canyons.
Maybe, it's down to the simply brilliant limited slip-diff, or the newly revised suspension. I don't know, but what I do know is that I loved the damn thing. Even at over 100 MPH it sat rock solid with the thirsty V8 gulping away at its fuel thimble. Not to mention that the roads we were on were simply breathtaking; Angeles Crest Highway is a 48 mile ribbon of perfection, with beautiful tarmac, lovely curves, and some incredible straights.
After about 10 minutes on Angeles Crest I realized why all Mustang owners drive with the traction control off, in normal mode it just cuts power in any mildly intense scenario. As a result of all this you constantly see Mustangs launching into walls when met with a corner. What this car needs is a middle mode, some fun but without any poo coming out.
Do I love it?
Here's the thing, as I said earlier the Mustang is a truly brilliant car. But would I have one?
See, the answer to that one is rather unfortunately no. Because to be honest it's quite embarrassing. I saw someone earlier in the exact same car as ours and he looked like a bit of a twat. The loud exhaust, and general Mustang stigma is too damn embarssing for me to want to live with. Perhaps, I would buy one if I were the last person alive, then nobody would see me in my big American muscle car.
However, with the top down and the Mustang's V8 thumping away I was glad that the Mercedes hadn't been available, because if it had been I'm pretty sure I would've missed out on one of the best days of my life.