It’s a one-way ticket to midlife-crisis town in the car immortalised by Vanilla Ice lyrics – the one and only 5.0-litre V8 Ford Mustang Convertible.
If we could apply a Peter and the Wolf style approach to cars, where the characters are described only by music, then the 2020 Ford Mustang GT Convertible would surely be ‘voiced’ by the opening salvo of Bon Jovi’s Raise Your Hands.
The combination of Sambora’s catchy, big-hair metal riff, balanced with JBJ’s almost doppler-effect scream, is the perfect metaphor to suit the soundtrack of the perpetual midlife-crisis-encouragement machine.
Too much analysis there you think?
Well, this is the key to both my writing and the Mustang, as neither are designed to be taken too seriously. And, in fact, are both best enjoyed with a generous slice of frivolity, while listening to your favourite tunes from the decade of decadence as loud as you like.
We are, after all, talking specifically about rolling in the 5.0 with the ragtop down so your hair can blow.
|2020 Ford Mustang GT Convertible|
|Engine configuration||V8 petrol|
|Power||339kW @ 7000rpm|
|Torque||556Nm @ 4600rpm|
|Drive type||Rear-wheel drive|
|0–60mph (0–97km/h) claim||4.2sec|
|Fuel consumption (combined-cycle claim)||12.7L/100km|
|Fuel consumption (combined cycle on test)||12.6L/100km|
|Fuel tank size||61L|
|Key competitors||A classic Mustang|
Priced from $74,890 before options and on-road costs, the V8 soft-top commands a hefty $8200 over its fixed-roof coupe sibling, and a significant $14,600 on top of the turbocharged four-cylinder ‘High Performance’ Mustang Convertible.
The jump from the ‘lesser’ engine car can be explained (because V8), but the gap to the coupe is a bit of a stretch for what amounts to a relatively simple black cloth roof that you still need to manually unclip each time you open it, while the car is stationary.
What you do get, though, is a 5.0-litre Coyote V8 with 339kW and 556Nm paired exclusively to a 10-speed automatic transmission. There are 19-inch wheels, LED head and tail-lamps, power-adjustable heated and ventilated leather seats, and an 8.0-inch SYNC 3 touchscreen with support for Apple CarPlay and Android Auto.
Throw in adaptive cruise control, a lane-departure warning system, and AEB to help with driver convenience, but the Mustang still only scores a three-star ANCAP safety rating (from 2017, and technically only applicable to the coupe). Ownership isn’t too hefty, though, with three years of capped-price servicing running to $897 and five to $1596.
There are 10 colour choices available, and our car is finished in the lovely Rapid Red metallic ($650), which works brilliantly with the contrasting roof and wheels. And yes, it’s basically the same as Mazda’s Soul Red Crystal, which isn’t a bad hue to mimic.
It’s an undeniably handsome car, roof up or down, oozing that squared-jaw charm the Americans manage to pull off so well. The interior design, too, with the majority of components unique to the Mustang, has improved over the years and continues to balance the modern human interface design with the retro-inspired toggle switches and rolling temperature dials.
While it may be a four-seater, the rear pair are pretty cramped for anyone over 10 years of age, but the front seats are low and comfortable, and it is easy to slide in and out as you embark on a wannabe Route 66 road trip to the supermarket.
As if to understand that no two midlife crises are the same, the Mustang offers a huge range of personalisation and customisation of the driving modes, including throttle response and exhaust note, as well as the display in the 12.0-inch fully digital instrument cluster.
You can change the lighting colours, the steering feel, even the amount of information and how it is displayed in front of you.
It’s a cool feature, but the downside of the implementation is that the mode-selection toggle switch only goes one way. So when you are looking for the full-personalised ‘MyMode’, you’ve got to go through all the regular modes including Track and Drag Race to get there.
If you’re anything like me, you’ll miss your desired selection the first time around and have to cycle through it all again. Not ideal for paying attention to what you are doing, so I’d suggest that you make this part of your pre-drive process.
|2020 Ford Mustang GT Convertible|
|Wheels/tyres||19-inch – 255/40R19 front, 275/40R19 rear, Michelin|
As with all Fords that run the SYNC 3 system, the infotainment works well enough and has native navigation, DAB radio and voice control, as well as plug-and-play support for mobile device projection. It’s a good unit and works very reliably, but the interface is pretty basic and can be hard to navigate in parts.
Importantly, you can use the voice commands to simply ‘Play some Van Halen’ and be on your way.
Push the starter to fire up the Coyote, and the big V8 turns lazily then fires, emitting a hollow baseline from the quad pipes. At this point, naturally, with the top down, it is very easy to see why people consider a convertible Mustang such a bucket-list car!
The naturally aspirated V8 was updated in 2018 to feature direct-injection along with the existing port-injection to aid not only in performance (up 33kW from 306kW) but also economy. That said, the claimed fuel consumption hasn’t changed from the second-generation engine to the current one, with a rather thirsty 12.7L/100km combined cycle on the cards. Arguably, there is a grand total of zero people who are listing ‘low fuel consumption’ as the top reason for buying a V8 Mustang, so let us move on.
Worth noting, too, that I drove around like a grinning idiot for much of my time with the Mustang and averaged 12.6L/100km, so I’d say you could achieve less, assuming you even wanted to.
It’s a cracking engine, which in concert with the new exhaust system has just the right amount of raucous antisocial behaviour to shave years off your life perception, and not interrupt the In the Air Tonight drum solo.
Think old-school brute force performance, with the top of the 339kW power envelope taking until 7000rpm to arrive. It’s a fun ride, too, fast and loud, and despite the V8’s modernisation, a bit of a throwback to days gone by, where there was simply no replacement for naturally aspirated displacement. Want a reminder? Look under the bonnet, and there’s no attempt to hide the chassis rails, weld points or wiring loom. Classic move, ’Murica.
Substantially more modern, though, is the 10-speed automatic transmission. The Malvern-Star level of ratios does help to keep the consumption in check, and it is smooth to shift between numbers, but hooley dooley is it a busy little box.
It never seems to know what gear it wants to be in. It’s not hunting or holding, just forever changing its mind. You accelerate from the lights, first becomes third and then fifth, but as you start to lift off the throttle it jumps to seven and to six, then with a slight tap of the gas jumps quickly to four, then back to five and up to eight.
Pop the car in the Sport Plus mode (I basically lived in this setting) and you’ll see no higher than sixth around town, but it never seems to be where you want it when you want it. Things are helped by all 556Nm being available at 4600rpm, though, which means great response from gears one-through-five at moderate speeds.
It’s a pity there’s no manual option for the drop-top, as I have to say it would be preferable.
However, put your Pony hat on (I’m speaking figuratively, as please don’t be the person who drives a convertible Mustang wearing a literal Mustang hat), embrace the cosseting warmth of your midlife crisis, and gearbox quibbles soon pass.
|2020 Ford Mustang GT Convertible|
|Colour||Rapid Red Metallic|
|Options as tested||$650|
|ANCAP safety rating||3-star|
|Warranty||5 years / unlimited km|
The big Ford dishes up a smile a minute provided you keep things simple. As, really, the Mustang is a one-task-at-a-time car.
It is properly quick in a straight line, with Ford claiming a 4.2-second run to 60mph (or 97km/h), which is enough to outpace the $120,400 Audi S5 convertible. It grips well through the bends, too, when running at posted speeds.
Mix these together, though, and try to push fast through a corner, and things start to disconnect somewhat. It’s not terrible by any stretch, especially for a convertible, but perhaps not as communicative as it should be. It’s an easy problem to solve, though, just dial things back and revert to a cruising pace until the road straightens out again.
You can improve the body control with the $2750 MagneRide suspension option, which enables variable viscosity damping, but I’d argue it’s not really worth it on a car that rides well enough out of the box, and performs better as a cruiser anyway.
As I said earlier, to get the most out of your ’Stang, don’t take it too seriously.
This is not a modern sports car passing off a retro vibe, it’s a 1970s muscle car with Apple CarPlay. Go in knowing that, and you’ll ignore the ergonomic challenges and questionable material choices, and instead focus on the heavy-metal soundtrack and midlife-crisis appeal of what remains an icon of the road.
The 2020 Ford Mustang GT Convertible is fast, loud and fun – just like the hair-metal playlist you know you want to crank up to 11. As somehow, despite all its flaws, the ragtop Pony manages to be greater than the sum of its parts, and is able to deliver way more smiles than it has any engineering right to.