On The Road Review: 2010 Ford Mustang GT Convertible

Since April 1964 the Ford Mustang has represented a unique driving philosophy based on power, style and fun. The latest version of America’s favorite ‘pony car’ pushes the envelope further ahead with revised retro-inspired styling, increased horsepower and an enhanced interior.


Initially based on Ford’s compact Falcon, the Mustang’s “long hood, short rear deck” design inspired a whole new segment, represented by names such as Camaro, Firebird, Barracuda, Javelin and Challenger. Dubbed “pony cars,” these coupes were integral to the horsepower battles of the 1960s and early 1970s, a period nicknamed the ‘Muscle Car Era.’

With an initial list price of only $2,368, the first Mustangs sold like hotcakes. Over 400,000 were sold in the first year, making the Mustang Ford’s largest new model debut since the Model A.

For 2010, the fifth-generation Mustang has a revised body that sports a more prominent front grille with wider fenders, plus a rounded rear fascia that includes sequential turn-signal lamps reminiscent of earlier T-birds.

The Mustang also has three new competitors that have taken a big bite out of the perennial best-seller’s market share.

Hot on the heels of the latest Mustang is Chevy’s all-new Camaro, which will apparently come close (this is written in mid-December) to beating the Mustang in total year sales — a strong effort considering that the Camaro didn’t go on sale until March. Behind these two warriors are Dodge’s effervescent Challenger, plus the new pony car from Hyundai, the Genesis coupe.

While the calendar might indicate that this is not necessarily the best time of year to review a Mustang convertible, I spent the whole first day with the power soft-top lowered, motoring about in perfect comfort. The Mustang is unique among 2+2 coupes in its ability to deflect much of the buffeting winds that might otherwise render a cooling effect on your top-down motoring. Even at highway speeds, and greater, the Mustang convertible was relatively serene and temperature comfortable on a December day when the sun had the effect of summer.

Ford has taken some steps to improve the convertible’s look with the top lowered. Still not as finished appearing as smaller sports cars such as Mazda’s Miata or Nissan’s 370Z, cars that present a nicely detailed appearance without accessory covers, the Mustang’s power top reclines into its well without odd pieces of hardware still protruding to the public. There are some soft tonneau pieces stored in the reasonably spacious trunk that you can stretch over the opening to seal its appearance, yet you rarely see owners make this effort.

With its rivals not yet offering convertible versions of their pony cars, the Mustang remains virtuous in a segment that was based on open-air individuality. The body feels strong, there are no squeaks or rattles over broken pavement, and the chassis doesn’t seem to be overly burdened by the added weight of the motors for the roof.

The Mustang GT’s chassis, however, still has some notable shortcomings over its more modern independently suspended rivals. The rear-drive Ford still uses a solid, live-axle in the back, a setup that forces the suspension to kick and rebound over some of the less than perfect stretches of road that abound in the Snowbelt. On newer pavement, the Mustang is a model of civility with accurate, smooth steering feel, commendable cornering prowess and a composed ride — even with the larger, low-profile 19-inch Pirelli sport radials outfitted to the GT.

Those Pirellis produce admirable dry-road grip for the GT’s increased output — now up to 315 hp and 325 pound/feet of peak torque, as well as surprising traction when the inevitable winter precipitation fell. While I wouldn’t want to make the Mustang my primary winter vehicle, the inclusion of standard traction and stability control — plus a good set of winter tires — could make the Mustang a usable 365-day car even here in the throes of winter.

Teamed with the five-speed automatic — a six-speed Tremec manual transmission is standard with the GT — the Mustang proved to be every bit as energetic as recent samples of the Camaro SS and the Challenger. The Mustang’s 4.6-liter V-8 races to redline with ease while the automatic snaps off seamless shifts that are only perceptible by the change in engine note — you never feel them. The car feels strong and willingly runs hard, traits of previous Mustangs.

Best of all, the Mustang sounds the part of a true V-8-powered pony car. Ford has tuned the Mustang GT’s exhaust note to meet EPA standards, yet the car has a throaty note at idle, a serious rumble at mid-throttle, plus a bellowing thunder when you fully depress the right pedal. While the Challenger and the Camaro make good sounds, the Mustang GT beats them both in the aural excitement department.

Inside, the Mustang has a handsome dash layout with multiple gauges that can be customized with your own personal lighting preferences. Ford’s Sync is optional, plus a new navigation system linked to Sirius’s real-time traffic updates. Shaker 500 or Shaker 1000 audio systems can match the power from the engine room.

The Mustang’s heated power leather sport seat offers decent comfort, yet enthusiast drivers might prefer some additional side bolstering. I also found it hard to get the perfect relationship between the pedals, the right-sized three-spoke steering wheel and the seat, as the GT’s steering column only tilts, not telescopes. The climate controls are somewhat obstructed by the shift lever, too, plus the Ford’s automatic does not encourage manual manipulation. There is no manual shift gate to the side and no paddle shifters on the steering wheel. Even pulling the lever out of drive only finds third gear — there is no detent for fourth. If you want to engage the manual shift process here, you’ll need to select the stout manual transmission — a choice that many GT buyers prefer anyway.

If you missed out on the early high-performance Mustangs, don’t fear. The latest Mustangs render greater performance value while delivering more comfort and day-in, day-out livability. It’s not too late to put a little Mustang cheer around your Christmas tree.

Ford also plans to add its new Eco-boost V-6 power to the base model Mustangs this spring. These 3.7-liter 305-hp engines — a 95-hp increase over the existing 4.0-liter engines, while weighing less — will only enhance the car’s image among buyers who don’t quite need the GT’s outsized personality.

To watch some fun videos of 2010 Mustang owners enjoying their cars visit www.fordmustang.com.


Just the Facts: 2010 Ford Mustang GT Convertible

The rear-drive Mustang comes in five trim levels. Base Mustang Deluxe coupes start at $20,995 with V-6 engine and manual transmission, base GT Deluxe coupes with six-speed manual begin at $27,995, while GT500 coupe starts at $46,325. Add $2,875 for the convertible version.

Mustang measures 187.6 inches long on a 107.1-inch wheelbase. Base coupes weigh 3,352 pounds. Both the Camaro and the Challenger are longer, wider, heavier and ride on larger wheelbases.

Standard equipment includes: tilt steering, height adjustable driver’s seat, split folding rear seat (coupe only) remote entry, A/C, digital media connection, power mirrors and windows. GT adds power driver’s seat, 4.6-liter V-8, upgraded sound system, anti-lock disc brakes, fog lamps, rear spoiler, 17-inch alloy wheels. Tested GT Premium Convertible with automatic, heated leather seats and 19-inch wheels. Destination fee listed for $39,525.

Base car’s EPA mileage ratings with V-6 engine are 17/26-mpg. GT fuel rating with automatic transmission is 17/23-mpg. I averaged 22.7 mpg for a wintry week. Regular fuel is recommended for all but the supercharged V-8 in the GT500.

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