What is more American than tooling around coastal Maine on a brilliant Fourth of July in a Grabber Blue Mustang GT Convertible, listening to No Shoes Radio celebrating iconic summer musicians. Sorry, Dinah Shore, for a week we savored our time seeing the USA in the most popular pony car on the market — the Ford Mustang.
Fifty-two years young, the Mustang remains the best-selling pony car here, while Ford has pushed to make this two-door starlet a larger seller in Europe and other markets by emphasizing the pure American styling, the new independent suspension, as well as an Ecoboost turbo-four engine that makes more power than the base V-6 engine. In fact, Ford will drop the 300-hp V-6 this fall, keeping the 2.3-liter Ecoboost (310 hp) as the “base-line” engine.
The GT model remains the Mustang that has the most appeal. There is the visceral power and feel of the Coyote 5.0-liter V-8 — 435 hp now — that is more user-friendly, and user-practical, than the 5.2-liter cross-plane V-8 found in the hyper GT350. In drop-top form, my preferred body, the GT, provides an open-air experience unmatched by its rivals. With comfortable rear seats (the in-laws approved during our sunset ice cream cruise) aided by a composed chassis that is supple when necessary, taut (enough) when you want to explore the right pedal travel, the Mustang GT is just fun to drive.
Coupled with the precise and direct shifting of the six-speed manual gearbox, hill-holder clutch and smooth pedal operation included, the Mustang GT is an easy driving performance car that offers sports car fun and every day comfort from a cabin that affords good visibility and almost chair-like comfort. Not as roomy as the larger Challenger (no soft top there either) but much more airy feeling than the similarly sized Camaro, the Mustang is easily adaptable as a commuter machine or weekend getaway car.
Ford has refined the Mustang’s control panels to appease consumer demands; the latest Sync 3 touchscreen is much more user-friendly, while conventional knobs are still applied for audio and climate. A bank of toggle switches at the bottom of the dash includes the stop/start button plus selectable modes for steering and chassis settings. Steering wheel feel as well as positioning fits various drivers well with a tilt/telescoping range that accommodates all sized drivers. All combined, buyers will find this an excellent helm from which to exploit the GT’s virtues.
Lacking both the peak horsepower and tire-shredding torque output of the larger Camaro SS or Challenger SRT V-8s, the Coyote 5.0-liter revs to a 7,000-rpm redline without reservation as it works to satisfy your acceleration commands. Sixty mph is reached at the top of second gear, while redline at third reveals 90 mph.
Also absent, the Mustang GT’s exhaust note is quite mellow. There is a nice rumble at low revs, yet as the tachometer needle swings across the dial, the engine note is lost in the road noise. What’s a pony car without a distinctive exhaust note? Ford has several changes in store for 2018 Mustangs, including a new quad-exhaust pipe arrangement with the dual-mode performance sound similar to Camaro and Challenger. Ford also promises a bump in the small-block Coyote’s power, plus a line-lock feature for enhanced track performance.
Mustang coupe pricing starts at $25,185 for a V-6 fastback with EPA ratings of 18/27-mpg. A thousand more renders the Ecoboost turbo model. A V-6 convertible starts at just over $30,600, while the GT coupe (EPA 14/23 mpg) begins at $33,195. Our GT Premium Convertible listed for $48,860 with options such as 12-speaker Shaker Audio, blind-spot and cross-traffic detection, 19-inch Ebony wheels with Pirelli P-Zero performance tires, 3.73-rear axle ratio, Ebony Over-the-Top racing stripe and heated and cooled leather seating. Pony projector lamps, rear camera, sequential turn signals, dual-zone climate, power top, Sirius radio, Track Apps, plus active hood vents are included with the GT. Buyers can choose from 10 exterior paint options as well as 12 different wheel packages.
The Mustang, Camaro and Challenger outsell the entire rest of the sports car market by a wide margin. These three pure-American pony cars are large, somewhat heavy sportsters that provide excitement, power and persona in an age when seemingly only older drivers still revel in this driving experience. The price points are also climbing — as evidenced by our mildly optioned GT — making these lust machines somewhat out of reach for a greater number of potential buyers.
Without reservation however, the Mustang GT and its two Motown rivals are the best pony cars ever offered for sale. Don’t deny yourself any longer.