I drove a $43,000 Ford Mustang convertible that a lot of fans overlook -- and it's now my new favourite 'Stang

Matthew DeBord/BI
  • The “entry level” Ford Mustang is often overlooked in favour of big V8-engined versions or derided as a rental-car special.
  • But for most people, the least powerful Mustang is exactly the right amount of icon.
  • I drove a convertible version that cost about $US33,000 ($AU$43,000), and it was terrific.

Anybody who has ever been on vacation in a sunny place knows the sight: a bunch of droptop Ford Mustangs in the parking lot of the winery or the beachfront hotspot.

These ‘Stangs are typically not packing V8 power under the hood. In days of yore, they rocked perfectly capable V6 motors, but now Ford has dropped that option from the lineup. So your rental pony car is going to come with an EcoBoost turbocharged four-banger.

It’s the entry-level convertible Mustang, so get used to it.

This genre of vehicle catches flak from true believers mainly because anything that ruled fleet sales for decades as effectively as the ragtop Mustang is going to be a fun lover’s cliché for those precious two paid weeks off each year. Who in their right mind would actually want to own one?

Of course, those same true believers sort of overlook the commitment required to deal with V8 ‘Stangs: the higher sticker price, the thirst for petrol, the sweet noise from that big engine that can get a little sour if the neighbours hear it too often.

I’ve got nothing against the Mustang GT or the Shelby 350. But I recently checked out the turbo Mustang – and I was more than pleasantly surprised by its charms.

Have a gander at the 2018 Ford Mustang convertible. As-tested, my car was about $US33,000.

Matthew DeBord/BI

The ‘Stang is a true icon. It was first rolled out in 1965 and has been in continuous production ever since.

Matthew DeBord/BI

I took the Mustang and its “Race Red” interior, up to the Monticello Motor Club in New York’s Catskills, to test out the new GT 5.0 ‘Stang in a track.

Matthew DeBord/BI

Read all about the Mustang GT with the Performance Pack Level 2.

The Mustang has always translated well into ragtop trim. The top can be retracted in a swift ten seconds.

Matthew DeBord/BI

The ‘Stang’s design was tweaked for 2018. The fascia is now sleeker, losing the snoutiness of the 2015 redesign. No mistaking that charging chrome pony on the grille.

Matthew DeBord/BI

I’ve never been a huge fan of the Mustang’s tail lights, but they are distinctive. And they strobe when turn signals are activated.

Matthew DeBord/BI

The EcoBoost Mustang combines all the expected Mustang elements into a whole that isn’t as aggressive as its stablemates, but that should be Mustang enough for just about anybody. I could do without the timid fake hood scoops, of course.

Matthew DeBord/BI

The car is also handsome with the top up.

Matthew DeBord/BI

Inside, you have a no-nonsense, slightly throwback vibe, with classic analogue gauges and a leather-wrapped steering wheel. Buttons galore, but that’s what consumers expect these days.

Matthew DeBord/BI

The seats are fairly well bolstered for spirited driving, but nothing too racy. Ford has the best seats in the business, and the EcoBoost Mustang’s are no exception.

The infotainment system runs Ford’s SYNC 3 on an eight-inch touchscreen. GPS navigation was faultless, and you can easily pair devices with Bluetooth or use the USB/AUX ports. Apple CarPlay and Android Auto are also available.

All in all, a thoroughly modern pony car, when it comes to in-vehicle tech.

We sampled a 10-speed automatic version, with a manual-shift mode. There are paddles behind the steering wheel.

Matthew DeBord/BI

That’s a 2.3-litre, four-cylinder EcoBoost turbocharged motor, making 310 horsepower with 350 pound-feet of torque, piped through the 10-speed automatic to the rear wheels.

Matthew DeBord/BI

OK, I’ll be the first to admit that it doesn’t look as cool or as big as a V8.

So what’s the verdict?

Matthew DeBord/BI

The ‘Stang recently won a battle of the turbocharged sort-of-but-not-really all-American muscle cars. It smoked the Chevy Camaro.

I wrote that I “enjoyed the Mustang as a sort of tool-around-slowly ride, a weekend chariot that can supply a zero-60 mph sprint in about six seconds if needed,” adding that “my colleague Ben Zhang thought the front end was unstable and that it made the back end seem more jittery.”

That’s not a bad thing in my book, and overall the EcoBoost Mustang comes off as less of a muscle car – which it can’t really be, given that it has those V8-powered brethren – than a roadster with a back seat.

Getting this much horsepower, performance, and style for under $US40,000 makes the EcoBoost ‘Stang an obviously good deal. Sure, you might feel weird getting the rental-car special, but so what? A good car is a good car is a good car, regardless of whether Hertz has it on the lot.

For summertime weekend drives past lakes and through canyons, on winding roads and reasonable speeds, the turbo Mustang is darn near ideal. It put plenty of smiles on my face. And I could also use it to fetch groceries and drive my kids to school.

So I dare you: Try to talk me out of my belief that this is my new favourite ‘Stang.

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