March 24, 2006

Ford Mustang Convertible comes with a power folding soft top

By Bob Plunkett

A marine layer of fog on summer mornings along California’s coast fades by noon to glorious sunshine in blue-sky heaven tempered by cool ocean breezes. That warm sunlight shining down on Laguna Beach is the only cue we need to pop the electrified top on Mustang, Ford’s classic pony car, for some al fresco motoring down the PCH — Pacific Coast Highway. And it’s a push-button snap to lower the insulated cloth lid on a luxurious new convertible edition of Mustang. Rising from a rigid rear-wheel-drive (RWD) chassis with open-roof body, the Mustang Convertible comes with a five-bow z-fold soft top fitted with a broad rear window plus pillar-less quarter windows on flanks of the sleek and linear sheetmetal shell.

Electric motors spur Mustang’s top to fold up or down in seconds for a quick convertible conversion. Ford constructs this convertible off the new hardtop coupe version of Mustang, which represents the first tire-to-top re-make of Ford’s classic pony car since 1979. The design of the body appears unmistakably like a classic Mustang with that stretched hood and stubby tail, yet it’s a sleek contemporary treatment with muscular body bulges and big wheels. Exterior styling looks fresh and clean although familiar Mustang signatures have been retained — the C-scoops on flanks, tri-part lamps on the tail and a shark’s pointed nose with round head-lamps.

That galloping chrome pony, traditional symbol of Mustang, mounts on a honeycomb grille. And note the innovations of a modern design with round fender flares plus the chiseled fascia up front blending to the body color. Mustang’s platform is new with the wheelbase stretched six inches longer than on previous Mustang iterations. The RWD chassis carries an independent front suspension with MacPherson struts and a three-link live axle in back with Panhard rod. It measures more than 30 percent stiffer than Mustang’s prior platform and forges a new standard for nimble handling by a made-in-America car.

And the convertible conversion scores extra bracing in the structure to counter the effect of loping off the roof. Mus-tang’s cockpit expands due to the wheelbase stretch. Layout is classic to Mustang with dual seat positions marked by symmetrical instrument panels on a horizontal dashboard with square-arching brows. There are two form-fitting buckets up front and a jump seat in back with sculptured space for two more riders.

Designers trimmed the cockpit in vintage Mustang style with chrome gauge rings and aluminum dash panels, while an optional color-configured instrument cluster brings 125 color choices for backlighting of dashboard instruments as a way-cool personal statement. A padded armrest mounts atop the front con-sole’s storage container, marking just the spot to park your elbow between shifting chores. Side pockets in sculptured door panels add additional storage spaces up front. With Mustang’s convertible lid lowered, the driver has excellent visibility in all directions, as expected from an open-top vehicle.

Equipment promoting active safety includes a fast rack and pinion steering mechanism and four-wheel disc brakes tied to an optional anti-lock brake system (ABS) with traction control system (TCS). Ford builds the Mustang Convertible in two versions which vary by powertrain. Mustang V6, the price leader and volume model, stocks a V6 engine while Mustang GT pulls from a powerful V8. The V6 edition totes a single-cam aluminum-block V6 displacing 4.0 liters and pumping 210 hp at 5250 rpm with torque of 240 lb-ft at 3500 rpm.

Mustang GT carries a 4.6-liter aluminum V8 with electronic throttle control and variable camshaft. It roars to 300 hp at 5750 rpm and stretches the torque to 320 lb-ft at 4500 rpm. The V8 links to a Tremec 3650 five-speed manual gearbox, while the V6 uses a Tremec T5. Optional for either plant is a five-speed automatic using Ford’s 5R55S transmission, which shifts cleanly and quietly as directed from a console-mounted stick. Model designations for Mustang divide further by trim packages — Deluxe and Premium.

Mustang GT Deluxe upgrades to the V8 with standard ABS and TCS, twin exhausts, dual foglamps and a rear spoiler, 17-inch painted cast aluminum wheels with Z-rated performance tires and cloth seat upholstery with a leather-wrapped steering wheel. Mustang GT Premium gets the Shaker 500 audio with a six-disc CD deck and sport bucket seats covered in leather.

The MSRP for Mustang Convertible dips as low as $23,940 for a V6 Deluxe or $29,565 on the GT Deluxe.

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