Yes, you do need a ragtop. And you deserve to have fun.
Ahhh, Mustang. You’ve had our hearts on fire for so long. But you make picking among your different versions a tough choice. Do I go for the amply-powered EcoBoost or the completely over the top 5.0? Hard top or convertible? And, how big of a difference is there?
Not long ago I was able to get into both models and test them back to back. It was no less than stunning how completely capable and satisfying the EcoBoost, which has a smaller engine, only 310 horsepower, was compared to the Mustang GT 5.0’s 460 horsepower. It was a simple choice: unless performance track driving is a regular pastime, the EcoBoost is the way to go.
Then I was invited to come to Monticello Motor Club to test drive the 5.0 on the track for the day. Unfortunately, bad weather cut our drive short and I was only able to take the 5.0 around the track a couple of times, and despite the wet weather, it was a blast, sticking to the corners and taking off like a rocket on the straightaways. It was only a little fun.
I left the event feeling like I needed to give the 5.0 another look. So, I took a week long test drive and as a bonus, also got to test out life with the Mustang convertible. This, too, was really eyeopening. I discovered a lot about the Mustang that I hadn’t anticipated.
Who This Car is For
- Fans of powerful sports cars and their natural attributes (a loud engine, curious strangers, a less ‘relaxed’ drive experience)
- Drivers who are comfortable with getting in and out of a low-to-the-ground car
- Buyers who want a sporty drive experience
- Buyers who love a convertible
- Buyers who only occasionally have back seat passengers
- Drivers who love track driving and performance driving; this is a great car for track-driving fans
- Drivers who often drive alone; the 5.0 engine is more fun for you that it is for your passengers
What This Car Costs
- Base price, which includes heated and cooled seats, V8 6-speed manual transmission, drive modes and ambient lighting, $44,855
- Add automatic 10-speed engine, $1,595
- 12” LCD customizable driver information screen, ambient lighting, touch screen navigation and heated steering wheel, $2,200
- Safety package, which includes adaptive cruise control, blind spot monitor, lane keep assist, adaptive headlights, rain sensing wipers, pre-crash detection and pedestrian detection, $1,000
- Performance exhaust valves, $895
- GT performance package with a rear spoiler and enhanced performance features, add $3995 (this was not on the model we tested)
- Price of the model we drove including delivery, about $49,995
First, That Engine! The GT 5.0 Delivers Giggles and a Few Thrills
The 5.0 introduces itself with a low rumble that gives you an idea of what’s in store. But then, the Mustang GT 5.0 has several drive modes that let you amp up the power from simply great to over the top.
The default mode is comfort mode and it can be set to ‘quiet.’ This means you can pull out of your driveway and out of the neighborhood without people complaining about your car. But once out of earshot of complainers, you can pop the car into sport+, track or drag strip mode. Each adds a bit more growl and muscle to the experience.
During my test drive I couldn’t resist popping the car into sport or track mode almost every time I got behind the wheel. I loved the sound of the engine and listening to it do its work as I shifted through the gears. The model I drove was a 6 speed manual which I found to be completely easy to manage and fun to drive.
The 5.0 Manual Experience: How Driving a Sports Car Should Be
There’s something about a manual: you’re closer to the road and to the car; you are in charge of the stages of engine power as well as how that power propels the car through curves and over hills. And, it’s physical: you put your whole mind and body into driving.
But drivers around the globe are getting away from the love of a stick shift (and we get it; automatic is easier and more accommodating). There are even quite a few sports cars that don’t offer a manual option. Thankfully the Mustang GT is not one of them. This car is one that demands to be driven in manual.
The clutch has an easy springiness to it and the gear shift feels great in your hand. The knob on the shifter is inspired by the original, a miniature cue-ball that fits right into your palm, easy to grab for shifting and a pleasant place to rest your hand between shifts. And, being in a manual means there isn’t a moment that you don’t forget that you’re driving a sports car.
Customization is King in the Mustang GT— You Can Make this Car Truly Your own
It’s pretty clear that Mustang’s designers and engineers had fun designing this car. Just press the Mustang button and you can assemble the engine, suspension and steering experiences you like best.
As you select different power modes, the drivers information screen changes, too; the default mode displays two round gauges showing speedometer and tachometer, which measures engine speed. But shift into sport mode and the tachometer becomes a hook-shaped gauge along the top of the cluster with the speedometer still displayed in a round gauge on the right. Shift into track or drag strip mode and the tachometer is displayed as a linear gauge across the top of the screen; the speed is displayed as a digital number on the right side of the screen. In both these modes also have a shift indicator that lights up as the engine speed increases. It starts off as a green line above the tachometer and as you get closer to the shift point, yellow lights are added, then orange (and then, I’d assume, red, but I never let it go that high).
This idea extends to the interior’s look too: you can set the color palette of the instrument panel and ambient lighting to make the entire experience exactly what you want. Just click the Mustang button and on the center driver’s information screen you can set the colors you want, or make your own by selecting the color wheel and picking the hues you want see. I chose pink and orange; my gauges displayed pink, orange and white, an the interior lights in the door handles, foot wells and cup holders were all pink, too. This made the car really feel like it was mine.
OK, Enough About the Engine. This is a Convertible After all!
When the weather is great, putting the top down is irresistible. But the weather isn’t always great. And, a convertible isn’t always convenient. I owned a convertible for years and rarely put the top down. The top took a bit of work to get up and down. The black upholstery heated up and made me sweat. It was loud and could make conversation difficult. And the wind tangled my hair. Even with a hat and pony tail my hair could get tangled and, then, I’d have hat hair and a pony tail ridge in my hair, not always a great look.
I’m not sure if Ford’s engineers took all this into consideration, but they solved most of these problems and more.
First, the top was easy to put up or down. Really easy. Pull the handle and twist it, then push the button and it opens and stows in one easy motion (and does not eat up the trunk space!). And takes only a few seconds. Put the top up the same way: push the button and it extends back in place; just turn the handle to lock it down. Here’s a video that shows how it works.
A Quiet Ride With the Top Down? Yes!
Then, when driving with the top down, the cabin was relatively quiet. That was a shocker. I spent a morning cruising around the Catskills with my friend Mary and we caught up on everything, having a great conversation and enjoying the summer morning. The wind wasn’t overly hair-tangling or loud. Keeping the wind at bay is a bulkhead at the top of the windshield where the convertible latch, the convertible top retractor button, the interior lights and the rear view mirror are housed.
Heated and Cooled Seats: A Must, and Thankfully, Standard Equipment
One feature I really loved was the Mustang GT’s we drove had heated and cooled seats. We used both of them on our drive: it was cool when we first set out so we turned on the seat heaters; later when the sun heated things up we turned on the coolers. I used the coolers a lot during my test drive and appreciated not sweating even on black leather seats. I think heated and cooled seats are a must in a convertible.
Minimal Hair Tangling. YAY
Last, I found that driving in town at speeds under 40 MPH that the hair-whipping was minimal. I still had a hair elastic at the ready, but it was nice to not need it. On the highway I put my hair in a pony tail and it was just fine. I didn’t even feel I needed a hat, though I wore one to keep the sun off my face.
The Perfect Place to Put My Purse, Plus a Bonus
This is a brilliant detail: On the back of each seat is a tab that lets you tilt the seat forward. I could reach it from the drivers seat and push the passenger seat forward to put my handbag on the floor behind it. This was great when riding with the top down; I didn’t have to risk a stranger walking by and reaching in and grabbing my bag. On the floor behind the seat it was perfectly safe.
Also on the back of the seat is a hook for a bag or a coat. We LOVE this feature! This means your handbag is never far away and always accessible.
Rear Seats Are Roomier Than You Think—And Fun for Toddlers in Car Seats!
This was good news to my daughter. She’s 5’9 and reluctantly hopped into the back seat. She was surprised at how comfortable the seat was, largely due to the bucket shape of the seats. She settled in and was comfortable on a short ride on the highway.
Later that day we installed two toddler car seats for a ride through the neighborhood. With the top down the seats were easy to install using the Mustang’s seatbelts; I pushed the driver and passenger seats forward and had plenty of room to maneuver the car seat and seat belt. [If I were driving a toddler regularly in this car I’d always put the top down to install the seat; that made it easier than installation in many other cars.] We first tried to install the seats using the LATCH system, but the car seat latches were hard to find under the rear seat’s upholstery, so we gave up and used the seat belts (either are fine and perfectly safe). And then we went for a ride. The look of exhilaration on the kids faces was priceless. They didn’t want to get out of the car (would you?).
Get Ready for Conversations with Strangers. Everyone Loves to Talk About This Car!
I think maybe the most flattering thing about driving the GT for the week was the head-nods, thumbs-ups and ‘niiiiiice’ comments I got all week. People commented on the color, a Royal Crimson that reminds me of Cherry Coke, their memory of having a Mustang, their love of a stick shift. Every where I went it was a conversation starter. I imagine the EcoBoost model would be the same, though I think I got a few more head-nods from the rumble of the 5.0. And maybe a few more grins of my own.
What We Loved
- The easy-peasy retractable top
- Not overly noisy even with the top down, so it was easy to have a conversation
- Not overly windy with the top down
- That engine! Holy wow
- The back seat was roomier than you’d think
- A large trunk that isn’t taken up by the top
- Heated and cooled seats – and they are standard!
- The fun to drive manual transmission
- Drive modes that really change the personality of the car
- Customizable lighting schemes
- Meeting new friends and bonding over this car
What You Need to Know
- MPG: don’t ask if you don’t really want to know (17 MPG city/24 highway)
- This is a sports car and it can take some getting used to getting in and out of it
- Premium fuel recommended for best performance
- Seating for 4 but more comfortable for 2
- Ford will not pay for your speeding tickets, so be careful!
Yes, It Has a Radio and Yes, We Listened to It!
Truthfully, most buyers of this car don’t think about the radio as a premium feature; they prefer to listen to the engine. If you know us, you know we think differently. We did crank up the Tunes and this is what we listened to!
Disclosure: Ford provided the Mustang GT for this test drive. All opinions, and the giveaway, are our own.