Ford Mustang convertible
"The Ford Mustang Convertible has lots of character, but its handling and interior are weak points"
- Cheaper than European rivals
- Unmatchable heritage
- Loads of character
- V8 is costly to run
- Cheap interior feel
- Not as sharp to drive as coupe
For the first time ever, the Ford Mustang Convertible is available to buy officially in the UK. Previous models stayed in the US and were imported to the UK privately in small numbers by avid Mustang fans, but the latest version represents the first time that Brits can buy a right-hand-drive model from a Ford dealer.
Mustang buyers have a choice between a 286bhp 2.3-litre EcoBoost petrol engine and a more traditional 5.0-litre V8 – with 410bhp to call upon, this is exactly the kind of engine you’d expect to find under the bonnet of what is an iconic American muscle car.
Despite the plentiful power on offer, one of the Mustang’s strongest selling points is its price. While the convertible is a similar size to the Audi A5 Cabriolet and Mercedes E-Class Cabriolet, it actually costs the same as cars from the class below such as the Audi A3 Cabriolet.
The Mustang Convertible is fast in a straight line but not so quick in corners, where its soft suspension and lack of structural stiffness affect its performance. This can be partially offset by a remarkably effective optional Magnaride adaptive damping system, which introduces a far more poised feel when cornering quickly, but it's still best to think of the Mustang as a relaxed cruiser, rather than a razor-sharp sports car. It feels at home on the wide open roads that characterise its homeland – Britain's narrow, twisty country lanes serve to emphasise just how big the Mustang is.
The interior of the car is full of retro touches and classic Mustang styling, which Ford will be hoping helps you to look past some of the cheaper materials and switchgear, as well as the exposed mechanism for the roof.
With a car as iconic as the Mustang, it’s hard not to recommend the big V8 petrol engine. The bigger engine really suits the car’s character and the classic V8 burble is even more enjoyable in the convertible model. The EcoBoost engine is appealing in its own right, and costs less to buy and run, but the V8 feels like an intrinsic part of the Mustang Convertible's character.
MPG, running costs & CO2
There are two engines in the Ford Mustang Convertible line-up. For the traditionalists, there’s a 5.0-litre petrol V8 that manages 20.8mpg economy and emits a whopping 306g/km of CO2. Buyers should remember that V8 engines are never cheap to run, and while Mustangs only cost £140 a year to tax, the Convertible tips over the £40,000 mark, so there’s a £310 surcharge from years two to six, increasing tax to £450 during this period.
For those who want more manageable bills, Ford offers a 2.3-litre EcoBoost petrol. This engine is also used in the Ford Focus RS hot hatchback and offers better fuel economy to boot. With the EcoBoost, the drop-top Mustang manages a more wallet-friendly 29.7mpg economy and road tax is pegged at £140, as long as you don’t take the price over £40,000 with options.
The similarly sized Mercedes C-Class Cabriolet, is capable of up to 47mpg economy.
Servicing will be pricey, but you can extend the standard three-year/60,000-mile warranty for added peace of mind.
Engines, drive & performance
Both of the Mustang Convertible’s engine options have loads of character to go with the car’s iconic styling and miles of headroom. Mustang purists have shunned the four-cylinder EcoBoost engine in America, but the smaller option makes a lot of sense on this side of the pond.
A 2018 update actually decreased the EcoBoost's power from 313 to 286bhp, in pursuit of greater fuel economy and reduced exhaust emissions. Despite that, the 2.3-litre engine can still blast the Mustang from 0-62mph in just 5.7 seconds. A top speed of 145mph is possible if you go somewhere safe and legal to reach it.
The sound of the EcoBoost engine is much less evocative next to the V8; it’s more of a characterful rasp than the 5.0-litre car's full-blooded roar. The soundtrack doesn’t get much more arresting when you play with the car's driving modes either, with none of the Normal, Sport, Track, Snow/Wet, Drag and driver-configurable My Mode settings doing much to improve the character or volume of the exhaust note.
My Mode also offers control of the optional adaptive dampers, and those really do make a difference. Named Magnaride, the system brings big improvements in body control and all but eliminates the convertible's tendency to lean in corners. While it can't totally disguise the convertible's lack of structural rigidity, Magnaride certainly brings it closer to the Coupe in terms of cornering agility – and it does so without affecting the Mustang's comfortable ride quality. For an extra £1,600, it's worth every penny.
Updated models also benefit from a 10-speed automatic in place of the original six-speed gearbox. Whether you choose the V8 or the four-cylinder (both use the same gearbox with the same 10 ratios), it's a marked improvement and offers fast, smooth upshifts, and allows you to make seamless manual gear changes using the steering wheel-mounted paddles. It's a shame manual downshifts are a little lag-prone – there's a brief delay between shifting into a lower gear and it engaging. The dual-clutch automatic 'boxes from Porsche and BMW are better in this regard.
The V8 produces a lot more power and has that classic American muscle-car soundtrack, which suits both the Mustang name and the character of the latest model. If it's 410bhp isn't enough, Mustang owners can also order go-faster parts from Ford Performance to make their drop-top Mustang even more hair-raising. Most exciting of all is a Roush supercharger that increases power of the V8 to around 600bhp.
There's also a stainless steel Borla exhaust system that produces a more engaging soundtrack, and a short-shift gear-linkage to reduce the travel between gears by 20%. None of the modifications offered will affect the car’s warranty.
Interior & comfort
The Mustang Convertible’s interior is suitably retro. That’s not to say it’s old-fashioned or full of gimmicks, but it retains many design elements from previous Mustangs while incorporating 21st-century technology, too, This includes a 12-inch TFT screen in place of conventional instruments. It's easy to read, and packed with information.
Stylish touches include a hefty slab of aluminium that covers the dashboard and metal toggle switches to control the air-conditioning. Ford’s SYNC 3 infotainment dominates the centre of the dashboard and is controlled by the large touchscreen. It's easy to use, since it's already found in the Ford Focus and Mondeo.
Fit and finish isn’t up to scratch with rivals from European brands. For example, the plastics and other materials used don’t feel quite as robust as those in rivals from Audi or BMW and it's doubtful they'll last long over repetitive use – but then the Mustang doesn’t cost anywhere near as much to buy.
A common theme with coupes or sports cars that are made into convertibles is that they become softer and less rigid when the roof is down. This is true of the Mustang Convertible – it’s more of a comfortable cruiser than a true performance car. For that, we'd opt for the Fastback Coupe.
The car’s American origins are clear, too – it’s awfully wide. So much so that it doesn’t matter if you’re on a small country road or a four-lane motorway, you’ll always be conscious of the Mustang’s size.
On a more image conscious note, we'd avoid the grey paint finish seen in our test car - it drags down the brash styling. Mustangs are by no means understated, so we'd opt for a brighter colour – particularly the no-cost Race Red or the triple coated Tri-Yellow.
Practicality & boot space
As it’s technically a four-seater, the Mustang Convertible is more practical than you might think. Those rear seats aren’t just for show either – they can fit adults at a pinch. They’re more suitable for children, or adult passengers on short journeys.
There's a few beneficial storage spaces inside, including a large central cubbyhole in the centre console and door bins that can swallow up all but the largest of bottles. However, the glovebox is a little on the small side.
The boot is a pretty decent size, offering a total of around 320 litres of luggage space. That’s more than Mustang Convertibles of old, but it’s not enough to beat the 360-litres boot in an Audi A5 Cabriolet. Still, it’s sufficient for a couple of golf bags or two large suitcases. That space can't be expanded by lowering the rear seats, however, because of the convertible's construction and the boot lip is pronounced, so heavy objects will be awkward to get in.
Reliability & safety
The Ford Mustang has long been considered a pretty simple and straightforward machine and in its native America, it has a good reputation for reliability. It should prove pretty safe in the event of a crash, too.
The latest Ford Mustang is almost as new to American buyers as it is to us Brits, so it’s hard to say for sure how durable it’ll be. However, as mentioned, it has a decent record in this regard in its homeland.
Ford’s 5.0-litre V8 engine has been around for many years, but the version in this Mustang has been specially developed. Even so, we’d expect most problems to have been ironed out by now. The 2.3-litre EcoBoost petrol engine is much more modern, having previously appeared in a single model from Ford’s American sister brand, Lincoln. Whether the interior stands up to abuse is more open to debate.
There’s a raft of standard equipment, including high-performance brakes (they’re even more powerful if you choose the GT Performance Package) and a wide range of airbags. There’s also a world first: Ford’s Active Glovebox is a glovebox door that expands into an airbag to protect the passenger’s knees.
Price, value for money & options
When you consider convertible offerings from Mercedes, Audi and BMW, the Mustang looks like very good value for money. The Mustang Convertible is priced in line with the likes of the Audi TT Roadster, but is closer in size to a BMW 4 Series or Mercedes E-Class Cabriolet.
There’s also plenty of standard kit on offer, such as 19-inch alloy wheels, lots of leather and Ford’s SYNC 2 infotainment system. We don’t think the V8 engine is worth the higher purchase price and extremely steep running costs, though.
Unlike most models, you can even choose from a range of Ford Performance Parts, modifying your Mustang’s suspension, exhaust or engine without needing to worry about the warranty.