For this test, we count the car as a success. Sure, the heating and sound quality could have been better. However, the style of the car made up for a lot, and we can't deny the power of the views afforded to us of cliffs leading down to a wild ocean unimpeded by the car's top.
In the cabin
With the top up, rear visibility looks compromised in the 2008 Ford Mustang Convertible, with a narrow window in back. Our Mustang featured a black interior with leather seats, the driver's seat having had power adjustment fore and aft, and up and down, with a manual recline. We like the three=spoke steering wheel with split, metal-like spokes, a theme continued on the shifter. Nice luxury touches such as the automatic switches for the power windows are something you don't always see on American cars.
Our Mustang came with the navigation option, a system we've seen in many other Ford cars. This touch-screen system has ugly graphics, and we could ask for a few more retail stores in the points of interest, but otherwise it works very well. The address entry interface is straightforward, giving you options including finding the nearest freeway, searching for an intersection, or making a choice directly from the map. The system also makes it easy to put in multiple waypoints and will optimize the route.
Route guidance offers plenty of warning for upcoming turns, and as an advanced feature, it has text-to-speech, where it reads out the name of the next street. This feature can be particularly fun if you're driving streets with difficult names. This system also offers the most settings we've seen, such as even letting you enter the average speed it should expect for different types of streets. For example, it defaults to 60 mph for freeways, but if you live in a particularly congested area, you could set it lower so the system will provide estimates that are more accurate for time of arrival.
The Shaker stereo head unit is part of the navigation system and has satellite radio capability along with an in-dash six-disc changer. The changer can play MP3 CDs and is easy to use. Our big gripe is that the interface can't display a list of all folders on an MP3 CD--instead of choosing from a list, you have to push the Tune button to go through your folders sequentially. The display shows the artist name and title of the track, but won't show other ID3 tag information, such as album or genre.
There is a button labeled Phone to the side of the LCD, but it merely mutes the audio. Ford mentions iPod integration as an option, but we didn't have it on our car. We expect that Ford will eventually offer Sync in the Mustang, which would greatly improve MP3 player integration and add Bluetooth hands-free calling.
Under the hood
The 2008 Ford Mustang Convertible can be had in four trim levels, which encompass two engine choices. The Deluxe and Premium (our review car was a Premium) come with a 4-liter V-6 making 210 horsepower and 240 foot-pounds of torque, while the GT Deluxe and GT Premium Mustangs get a 4.6-liter V-8. Our V-6 didn't feel particularly powerful, although the exhaust system gave it a nice, throaty sound.
Some of what held our V-6 back was the optional five-speed automatic that came with our car. As with many automatics these days, it is calibrated for gas savings, upshifting as soon as the revs are high enough, leading to leisurely acceleration. In a seeming nod to the 1960s, the transmission's fifth gear is referred to as Overdrive, and you can turn it off with a button on the side of the shifter. There is no manual mode, but in lieu of that you get three low ranges. We speculated that, with the Overdrive button and the three low ranges, you can pretty much choose your gears, just by limiting the top gear it will go into. As with most cars, we would save the money and get the standard five-speed manual.
The Mustang's suspension is fairly rigid, leading to a bumpy ride over rough pavement. While the car has an independent front suspension, the rear wheels are connected to a solid axle. Its responsive steering makes the Mustang easy to control at reasonable speeds; however, we found that moderately hard cornering gave the rear an unsettling feeling of coming loose. We were thankful for the optional traction control included on our test car as we snapped it around one quick corner--the rear tires felt on the verge of breaking loose from the asphalt. Another option on our car was antilock brakes, which with traction control should be standard.
The EPA rates the V-6-powered Mustang with 16 mpg in the city and 24 mpg on the highway. During our mixed city and highway driving, we stuck at 18.5 mpg, with a run up to 19 mpg during a long highway drive. Although the fuel economy isn't wonderful, it does earn a ULEV II emissions rating from the California Air Resources Board.
The car we tested was a 2008 Ford Mustang Convertible Premium, which goes for a base price of $25,305. Its major options were the automatic transmission ($995), the safety package ($995) that included traction control and antilock brakes, Sirius satellite radio ($195), high-intensity headlights ($525), and the navigation system ($1,995). Other, mostly cosmetic, options and the $745 delivery charge brought our total up to $33,920.
Although the Mustang was easy to drive, we can only give it an average rating for performance tech. Nothing about its performance really blew us away, and its only high points were the steering response, which felt good, and the emissions rating. Cabin tech, despite some faults, was above average. We like many of the navigation system's features and the pure power of the audio system, if not the overall audio quality. Optional iPod integration is a good thing, but it gets docked for lack of phone support. We hope that will be fixed with the addition of Sync. As for the design, we're very taken with the Mustang's looks , and appreciate that the trunk offers a reasonable amount of storage even when the top is down.