We weren't in the 2011 Ford Mustang GT Convertible for more than a few miles before we were bubbling with enthusiasm. Of course, since the 2011 Mustang is packing an all-new, all-mighty 5.0 liter V8, you would expect this. But it would be a mistake to dismiss the newest Mustang GT as a one-trick pony. This high-performance Mustang is not only more entertaining but also easier to live with. And to prove it, it is even a good ride as a convertible.
We could wax poetic all day long about laying rubber, grabbing gears and shutting down smug yuppies in their pricey German machines, all the while enjoying the sun on our face and the wind in our hair. If you're overcome by the need to relive high school, the GT convertible is ready. Yet this Mustang also excels at being the kind of comfortable daily driver that a grown-up can appreciate, even with its manual transmission. The roof line isn't so low, nor are the seats so heavily bolstered that getting in and out requires you to bob and weave like Manny Pacquiao. And the sight lines across the fenders don't seem as restricted as those of a Brinks armored truck (looking at you, Camaro).
If what you want is a brawny American V8 in a poised chassis, all wrapped up in cool retro styling with a fold-away top, then it really comes down to just two cars — the Mustang GT and the Camaro SS. And though both have their own merits, we'd take the Ford. The Mustang feels more nimble and has better outward visibility, plus it sports a cabin with ambience and ergonomics to put the Chevy to shame. In terms of both fun per mile and everyday livability, the 2011 Ford Mustang GT Convertible is virtually untouchable.
The low, guttural rumble from the GT's dual exhausts at idle leaves no doubt that this pony is packing some serious hardware. Run it up to 5,000 rpm or so through the first few gears and just try not to grin like a teenager. This 412-horsepower, 5.0-liter V8 makes the kind of intoxicating engine and exhaust sounds that some of us mimicked as car-crazed kids. Power delivery is crisp and linear, generating a nice strong pull from off idle to redline. Although an automatic transmission is optional, we highly recommend the six-speed manual. The meaty lever moves precisely through the shift gates and overall shift action feels solid yet sophisticated. It's among the best shifters out there.
The hard numbers back up the V8's vocal character, as acceleration to 60 mph from a standstill takes just 5.3 seconds and the quarter-mile whizzes by in 13.5 seconds at 105.4 mph. So if your buddy with his 428 Cobra Jet-powered Mach 1 wants to challenge you, tell him politely that you value your friendship and don't want to embarrass him.
When equipped with the optional Brembo brake package, the GT stops as well as it goes. A stopping distance from 60 mph of 120 feet or less is excellent; this 3,726-pound GT convertible does the deed in just 116 feet. We would like a firmer pedal feel for the powerful binders, but otherwise have no complaints for the linear, smooth braking they provide.
Confident handling is part of this pony car's package, as the car feels hunkered down when pushing through a winding road, with only the nastiest midcorner bumps able to upset the car's rear end with its heavy solid-axle suspension. Cowl shake is minimal over broken pavement and the car feels solid and tight. The steering is well-weighted, crisp and spot-on accurate, if a bit lacking in road feel. All in all, the 2011 Ford Mustang GT Convertible is like its coupe brother — a well-balanced performance machine.
Sliding behind the wheel and fiddling with the power seat and tilt steering wheel, we find that getting an ideal seating position is fairly easy. Even so, we noted the lack of a telescoping wheel adjustment and we'd like to see Ford add this feature to the well-equipped Mustang GT. The firm, supportive front seats have bolsters that are enough to hold you in place while cornering without making it a hassle to get in and out of the car.
Helping to mitigate the daily slog are the GT's compliant ride and Ford's Sync system. The latter responds well to voice commands and makes hands-free phone use a snap. When the weather or traffic dictates raising the roof, the Mustang's power-operated soft top provides impressive insulation from both the elements and outside noise.
Even with the top in place, the 2011 Ford Mustang GT Convertible's outward visibility isn't too bad, thanks to a fairly large rear window, unobstructive seat headrests and outside mirrors with convex elements to help mitigate blind spots. The instruments are legible instead of retro these days, even though the speedometer and tach have vintage-style numerals. Most of the controls are intuitive to use and feel good in the process. The audio system has much-appreciated old-school volume/tuning knobs. Said system provides clean sound with ample punch when you're rocking out, though going crazy with the volume knob will result in muddled bass. Hooking up an iPod is easy and the Sync system allows you to control it via voice commands.
Not all in the cabin is aces, however, as there's not much storage space. The covered console bin is on the small side and there are no open cubbies except for the shallow door pockets. As such, the cupholders do double duty for phones, key cards and power bars. At 9.6 cubic feet, however, the trunk capacity is decent for a convertible. And just as important, it is easily accessed via a low, fairly wide opening. A Camaro convertible offers a bit more capacity, but its portal looks like something you'd drop an envelope or small parcel into.
Design/Fit and Finish
Last year's design refresh to the exterior styling brought a few more nostalgic touches that have given the Mustang a more muscular look. The rear quarters now recall the haunches of Mustangs from the 1960s, while the iconic three-element taillights have sequential "point the way" blinkers, just like an old Ford Thunderbird or Mercury Cougar.
The cabin is downright plush compared to older Mustangs. High-quality soft-touch material is found on the dash, door panels and console. And rather than silver-painted plastic, the Mustang features real metal trim on the steering wheel and dash that furthers the feeling of quality. The Premier trim option brightens things up by adding contrasting stripes and stitching on the upholstery as well as chrome pony badges on the door panels.
Who should consider this vehicle
Anybody who can appreciate classic styling and strong, engaging performance should take a 2011 Ford Mustang GT Convertible for a spin. Whether young or old, performance enthusiasts will also appreciate the many qualities that make for a fine daily driver, including comfortable seats, a relatively quiet ride and the convenience of the Sync system.
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