10.04.2015

Improving The Breed: 2015 Ford Mustang Convertible

Front view of 2015 Ford Mustang Convertible
The 2015 Ford Mustang Convertible.
There were a million ways the first clean-sheet redesign of the Ford Mustang in a decade could have gone wrong.  I thought I'd spotted a few where it did.  And then I drove it.




Rear 3/4 view of 2015 Ford Mustang
2015 Ford Mustang Convertible.
As someone old enough to remember the introduction of the 1964 1/2 Mustang, my personal experience and view of the car has pretty much covered the spectrum.  My dad, a Ford man, was buying a new car the month the first Mustang hit showroom floors.  8-year-old me strongly counseled him to buy one.  We went home in an icebox white Falcon station wagon.  Eight years later, newly-minted California driver's license in my hand, I went to buy my first car.  The local dealer had a used '66 Mustang notchback with an automatic and a 2-barrel 289. 80,000 miles and $895. I had $695.  I went home in an icebox white '66 Falcon sedan with 60,000 miles on the clock.

By the time I finally had the money to go Mustang, I went new.  And that was a mistake, because the year was 1975, and I went home in a Mustang II...a car so bad, so utterly awful, so prone to anything breaking or failing at any moment, that I traded it after three and a half years for a 1978 Toyota Corolla SR5 Liftback and didn't buy American again for 15 years.

The past 18 years as an automotive journalist have exposed me to the Mustangs from 1998 on, and in fact, one of TireKicker's first reviews was of the 2009 Bullitt edition.  I loved it, as I loved the 2011 Mustang V6 convertible (the first of the 305-horsepower sixes), the 2011 Shelby GT500 and the refreshed and refined 2013 V6 coupe.

But a full redesign carries with it a lot of risks.  And Ford shied away from none of them.  As the '15 began showing up on the street, I wondered:  Did they blow it on the styling (the tail seemed too tapered, too slanted, the nose too heavy)?  And could the 2.3-liter EcoBoost four really be the right choice?

And then the Competiton Orange Mustang Convertible...with the 2.3-liter EcoBoost four...landed in my parking space at the office.  Top up or down, the lines of the car seem to work better in convertible form than in coupe.  To my eye, there's a disconnect with the roofline of the coupe as it meets the tail that simply vanishes when that space is replaced with a trunk.  And that makes the front appear less bulbous.

Interior view of 2015 Ford Mustang
2015 Ford Mustang interior.
Behind the wheel, the redesign brings bigger, clearer gauges, higher-quality materials and positive-feeling switchgear.  The view out the windshield and over the hood evokes some nostalgia.  There's nothing outright retro here, but your brain instantly says "I'm driving a Mustang convertible".  And it's the best-built Mustang convertible ever.  Supremely solid, free of shakes and rattles.

The EcoBoost engine?  You'd be hard pressed to tell it from the six, except with the four you have 10 more horsepower and and extra 20 pounds per foot of torque.  And the gas gauge goes down a bit more slowly....the four's EPA estimate is 20 city/30 highway, compared to 19/28 for the six.  We averaged 26.8 in a 60/40 mix of urban freeways and city streets.

Let's face it.  For most of us, 310 horsepower is plenty...verging on a lot.  It may not seem like it in an era of 707-horsepower Challenger Hellcats, but it is.  60 miles per hour comes up in less than six seconds. At no time did I ever wish for more power.  If you do, there's always the GT convertible with the 435-horsepower 5.0 V8.

Our tester was the Premium model. Base price was $34,800, and that buys not only a top that goes down, but 18-inch machined alumnium wheels, automatic HID projector headlamps, LED fog lamps, leather-trimmed seats (heated and cooled 6-way power seats up front), dual-zone electronic climate control, cruise control, Sync with MyFordTouch, intelligent access and pushbutton start, selectable drive modes, track apps, and a full complement of active and passive safety features.

Ours also came with an additional $5,600 worth of options:  The 12-speaker Shaker Pro audio system ($1,795), automatic transmission ($1,195), adaptive cruise control ($1,195), premier trim with color accent group ($395), reverse park assist ($295) and voice-activated navigation ($795).  With $825 destination and delivery, the bottom line was $40,470.

There was literally only one letdown...and that was MyFordTouch, a system we've had repeated issues with over the years.  On three occasions in the week we had this car, the audio system would simply freeze. We couldn't change stations, change audio sources, adjust the volume or turn the power off.  The only cure was to pull over, shut the car off and then start it back up.  And on one of those three occasions, that didn't work.  The audio system continued to play after the car was shut off, after I got out of the car and locked it.  I gave up, got back in, drove for a few minutes, wondering if I was going to drain the battery while I was at work.  Five minutes later, the system shut itself down.  Just went black, screen and all.  A few minutes after that, it read "software update in progress", and then another five minutes later, the system came back to life.

Given that this kind of failure impacts nav and phone use (and thus could prevent emergency communication), Ford needs to fix it right away.  This has been going on too long.

Is it enough to prevent me from buying a Mustang convertible?  No.  But it would be the one thing marring an otherwise perfect experience.

That aside, from someone who's seen every Mustang of the last 50 years....this is the best one yet and the one that's put Mustang back on my "someday" list for the first time in 40 years.

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