I was never planning on writing anything about this rental car, and as such I didn’t pack my SLR camera as I left for vacation to North America. But such was the driving experience that I had to make do with my smartphone, and at least write a little something. Also, the fifth-generation Mustang recently went out of production after nearly ten years of service. So in short, this is my goodbye to the best generation of Mustangs yet.
When this generation of Mustang was launched back in late 2004, it came right at the peak of when designing retro-looking cars was cool. It was a hit. And the GT version came with a 4.6-litre V8 producing 300hp, which doesn’t sound like much in a world of 707hp Dodge Challenger Hellcats. Move forward to 2014, and the fifth-generation Stang has retired, having received a few facelifts and several new motors along the way – including this car's 5.0-litre V8 with 420hp .
The interior is an improvement over the first iteration of this fifth-generation Mustang. While the design was okay, some of the quality of materials used was less than desirable and some of the equipment used was just pulled straight out of the Ford parts bin. This last iteration of the current Mustang seems to rely less on the parts bin, but there are a few small switches here and there that you might recognize from other Ford models. The three-spoke, dished steering wheel is my favourite item of the interior. As for space, there’s adequate legroom for four average-sized adults, but taller rear occupants might struggle to make themselves comfortable.
The Mustang GT's 5.0-litre "Coyote" V8 engine has been with us for four years now, and has proven to be one of the best engines to have ever powered a Mustang. It’s got 390 lb-ft of torque at 4,250rpm, giving it very good pick-up when you decide to up the pace from a crawl. When you ask for full-on acceleration, it pins you to the seat as well, and it feels every bit as fast as you would want a Mustang to be. Official acceleration times for this Mustang GT convertible with the automatic transmission is 4.7 seconds from 0-60mph, with a quarter-mile time of 13.3 seconds at 109mph.
So the plan was to pick up a Mustang GT Convertible from Montreal’s Pierre Elliott Trudeau International Airport and drive down to Keene, close to Lake Placid. But, as I got in a bit late and was feeling a bit tired, any enthusiastic driving would have to wait until the next day – only the few bits of acceleration bursts on the highway providing driving entertainment for the two-hour drive.
With daylight out, I could truly appreciate the scenery around Lake Placid, as well as appreciate what the Mustang GT Convertible had to offer. I chose to drive from the mountain cabin I was staying to Lake Placid, which was about 18 miles or so of twisty, scenic American national roads. The variety was great too, ranging from narrow mountain roads to wide and open curvy highways.
The drive pretty much shattered all the old stereotypes of American roads and muscle cars – that all American roads are dead straight and boring, and that muscle cars are only good for going in a straight line. While I’m sure the Mustang GT Convertible wont be able to match a Lotus Elise or Porsche Boxster on the handling front, it still handles some twisty roads competently. Point it through a bend and the open-top Mustang stays nice and planted, while the weighty steering guides it through a corner with decent levels of accuracy. This car had Brembo brakes too, so stopping power and brake pedal feel was pretty good too.
The Mustang GT’s 5.0-litre V8 makes all the sounds I look for from a high-performance engine, and with the top down, you get to enjoy it even more. First there’s the noise it makes on start-up – a few turns of the engine before it barks into life with an angry growl that only a well-tuned V8 can make. Then there’s the induction note. Thanks to a cold air intake, there’s a nice growl that comes in from the engine compartment when you pass 4,000rpm, and makes a note very similar to high-revving V8s found in some of Europe’s high-performance machines – like the ones found in the Audi RS5 or E92 BMW M3. And finally, there’s the exhaust note, complete with crackles and pops when you rev it. The rumble from the exhaust, even at low cruising speeds, puts a smile on your face.
This particular car is equipped with a six-speed automatic gearbox. While I would personally prefer a manual version, the auto does a good job at making the Mustang feel like an easy-going cruiser, shifting gears very smoothly. However it can also be driven in “S” mode, which makes it kickdown a bit earlier and holds on to gears a bit longer than in the normal “D” position. You can also change gears manually via + and – buttons on the side of the gear selector.
The Mustang GT convertible rides with the firmness that’s associated with many performance vehicles, but manages to soak up most bumps without resulting in an uncomfortable groan from occupants. However, if you were to ride on some really broken and battered bits of road – like parts of Canada’s Autoroute 20 leading from Pont Mercier to Montreal International Airport – then that’s when you wish for smoother tarmac and softer suspension.
Practicality and equipment
Being a convertible, the roof storage cuts in on trunk space, so it’s only big enough to swallow one big suitcase – rather than two – and a few smaller bags. It was perfect for me, but if you have a partner who simply doesn’t understand the term travelling light, then he/she will have to throw some of the luggage on the rear seat. As options this car had: a touchscreen interface; dual-zone climate control; GPS; Bluetooth; AUX and USB sockets; and a sound system that would satisfy any driver that likes to play their music loud and with plenty of bass.
The last words
As someone who’s looking in to buying a Mustang GT coupe in the near future, saying I was looking forward to driving this car would be an understatement. The drive was every bit as thrilling as I hoped it would be, and I am so glad that the Mustang has become not only a decent-handling muscle car, but also one of the best-looking Mustangs since the first generation Mustang.
Written by Alex Kisiri