by Roger Biermann
The Mustang is the iconic pony car – the segment is named after the 'Stang after all. But the current generation does things no other Mustang has done before – it's refined, and it features independent rear suspension, finally making the Mustang the sports car it always wanted to be. But the convertible compromises this – trading outright dynamics for extra style. For 2018 the Mustang has been heavily revised, including changes to the suspension, and more power in the range-topping GT model. An all-new automatic gearbox features, too, with more ratios than ever before – hoping to add more refinement than ever to the pony-car package.
Pony cars provide an affordable way of getting into a muscle car – but affordable often means cheap. For the most part, the Mustang's interior isn't – though some faux metal toggles feel tacky and flimsy. The dual-cowl dashboard adds elements of symmetry and class, whilst not impeding visibility which is overall rather good. Though the front seats don't drop as low as would be ideal, front occupants are treated to plenty of cabin space with ample shoulder and hip room. The rear occupants don't quite have the same luxury. Leg room is cramped, and with the roof up, headroom is too. At least there is some reprieve with the power retractable soft-top open. But housing for the roof and its mechanism eats into trunk volume, dropping the figure from 13.5 cubic feet in the fastback to 11.4 in convertible guise.
Though developed for mass-market appeal, the convertible wasn't developed to be the driver's tool the fastback is. With the roof chopped off, body rigidity is severely compromised, and under heavy cornering the chassis flexes and bends alarmingly with all the structure and strength of a cooked piece of spaghetti. The GT with its heavy V8 doesn't help matters – the weight up front blunts handling compared to the EcoBoost motor, which offers better balance in a weaker chassis.
For 2018, retuned suspension improves the ride quality, making it less bouncy and unsettled on rougher roads – but in standard format there's still a level of comfort and refinement missing. The independent rear suspension helps settle the chassis over larger bumps that would otherwise un-stick the rear. Also new for 2018, there's the option of adaptive dampers – a much-needed upgrade that should iron out smaller imperfections and improve secondary ride comfort exponentially
A V6 is no longer an option when buying a Mustang Convertible – with the 2.3-liter EcoBoost turbo inline-4 providing entry level outputs of 310 horsepower and 350 lb-ft of torque – 20 lb-ft more than last year's model. The range-topper remains the GT model, complete with 5.0-liter Coyote V8 under the hood. Revisions for 2018 allow outputs of 460hp and 420 lb-ft. Both models are offered exclusively with rear-wheel drive, with a 6-speed manual gearbox as standard. A new 10-speed automatic gearbox is available optionally – a 'box co-developed with General Motors.
Four trims are available for the Mustang Convertible; EcoBoost, EcoBoost Premium, GT, and GT Premium. The base model features cloth seats, keyless entry, and a 4.2-inch infotainment display. The EcoBoost Premium adds leather upholstery, powered front seats, dual-zone climate, and an 8-inch SYNC 3 infotainment system with full Smartphone connectivity. The GT models feature the same specification, but utilize the V8 engine and accordingly revised suspension. The available Ford Safe & Smart Package adds safety features like pre-collision assist, pedestrian detection, lane keep assist, adaptive cruise control, and blind spot monitoring. The convertible scored best possible Good scores in IIHS testing.
With an open top, the Ford Mustang Convertible loses the driver's edge independent rear suspension gives the Fastback. But it opens the brand up to a style-focused audience. Though the V8 GT makes all the right noises, it's the EcoBoost Premium model that offers the best all-round package.