published Saturday, May 10th, 2014

Test Drive: Mustang convertible lifts spirits

The Mustang GT convertible features a powerful 5.0 liter, V-8 engine.
The Mustang GT convertible features a powerful 5.0 liter, V-8 engine.
Photo by Mark Kennedy.

FAST FACTS

* Model: 2014 Ford Mustang GT convertible

* Exterior color: Silver Metallic

* Interior color: Black

* Engine: 5.0 liter, V-8

* Horsepower: 420

* Transmission: six-speed automatic

* Fuel economy: 25 mpg highway, 18 mpg city

* Dealer: Mountain View Ford

* Price (as tested): $46,615

The Ford Mustang GT convertible with its snarling 420-horsepower V-8 motor gets my vote for the most mood-altering car on American highways.

Maybe it's just my age and gender (read: old man), but there's something about being in the saddle of a drop-top Mustang with your right foot controlling the big, 5.0-liter engine that triggers a dopamine party in your brain. Dopamine, if you don't know, is a potent human hormone that sends signals to your nerve cells when it's time to do the Cabbage Patch dance.

Earlier this week, under a crystal clear blue sky, Mountain View Ford sales manager Doug Cawood handed me the keys to a 2014 Silver Metallic Mustang GT convertible for a downtown test drive. The Mustang GT convertible bases for $36,210, and our highly optioned tester has an MSRP of $46,615.

STYLING AND FEATURES

Ford plans to release a new 50th anniversary Mustang later this year. In the meantime the current Mustang GT in convertible trim is still nearly irresistible -- and still selling briskly, according to Cawood. Two of the three units that have arrived in recent days have already been sold, he said.

Our tester came with racing stripes on the "power dome" hood and door-panels. A $1,995 "California special package" adds the stripes, side scoops and a pedestal rear spoiler.

And what Mustang convertible would be complete without a thumping sound system, for those days when the music of the big V-8 is not exciting enough. Our tester had an optional, $1,295 Shaker Pro sound system which includes two sub-woofers in the doors and another in the trunk. The Shaker system is powered by the 550-watt amp that spreads power through nine speakers.

Of course, the Mustang GT comes with Ford's Sync telematics system, which easily makes friends with your iPhone or other smart phone for seamless voice commands.

If the Mustang GT were a person, it would be an mixed martial arts fighter. When you pull up to a red light it intimidates other cars through sheer sheet-metal prowess. Drivers seems to sense that challenging a sports car that can sprint to 60 mph in 4.7 seconds is a losing proposition.

The leather-clad bucket seats are well-bolstered, although short drivers (say under about 5-feet-6-inches tall) might find it a challenge to get a comfortable view of the road. For a panoramic view, though, you won't ever want to miss the chance to drop the top; a quick operation that involves releasing two latches and pressing a power button.

Wind buffeting is minimal with the top down, and the lush engine noises from the 420-horse powerplant get amplified in convertible mode. The Mustang GT convertible is so structurally solid that there are no squeaks and rattles, which are the bane of many lesser convertibles. Back seat space is modest, but I can't imagine that this would be anyone's family vehicle -- although I know some men who might like to make the case to their wives.

DRIVING IMPRESSIONS

Ford notes the Mustang GT engine throws off 390 pound-feet of torque and features twin independent variable camshaft timing, an aluminum engine block and cold-air induction to boost power output. As a driver, all you need to know is that when you mash the gas it will go as fast as you want it to. The six-speed transmission is up to the task of transferring all this power smoothly to the wheels.

Steering is a bit heavy, which fits the character of the car, and straight line acceleration is a blast. Brakes are sufficiently firm to correct most any mischief you might get yourself into.

I especially like the big "5.0" badges on the door panels just behind the front wheels. To a whole generation of America drivers this number is code for fun.

Expect fuel economy in combined city and highway driving to average about 20 miles per gallon. But, really, who cares?

"How'd you like it?" a salesman asked me as I returned the Mustang GT to the Mountain View store.

"I'd like to take it home," I said. "Will you talk to my wife?"

"No, that's your job, but I can put a mail box on it (so you can live in the car)," he said.

For an instant it actually sounded plausible.

Contact Mark Kennedy at mkennedy@timesfreepress.com or 423-757-6645. Follow him on Twitter @TFPCOLUMNIST. Subscribe to his Facebook updates at www.facebook.com/mkennedycolumnist.

about Mark Kennedy...

Mark Kennedy is a Times Free Press columnist and editor. He writes the "LIfe Stories" human interest column for the City section and the "Family Life" column for the Life section. He also writes an automotive column, “Test Drive,” for the Business section. For 13 years, Kennedy was features editor of the newspaper, and before that he was the newspaper’s first Sunday editor. The Times Free Press Life section won the state press award for ...

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