The American Dream. A famous notion that’s been written about, sung about and has been strived for by millions of people for decades past. It’s the idea that, false or not, if you’re American and work hard enough, one day you too can have it all. If you just save that little bit more, you’ll soon be eating hotdogs at baseball games and you will have driven there in your new Ford Mustang.
The only saving grace of most American V6 convertibles, cars like the Chrysler Sebring and Mitsubishi Eclipse, is that the top goes down. Mechanically they are no different to the family sedans they’re based on with as much sporting ability as your average shopping trolley.
Maybe it’s just the famous nameplate or the way it’s been intertwined with American pop culture of the 60’s and 70’s, but to me the Mustang has always been a little bit different. The red, white and blue stripes on the badge are exactly the same as they were when the first Mustang revolutionized an excited post war market in 1964, and this 2013 model is the latest iteration of that dream. Back then you could spec a Mustang any way you wanted, and build it for any purpose. People who just liked the lines could spec a six cylinder automatic, enthusiasts could order the fast Mustang GT fitted with a V8, and you could even order a fire breathing Shelby that came factory prepared for drag racing. They were all fit for purpose, and they were priced to be attainable.
And here we are, 48 years later, and nothing has changed. Shelby has just launched a 1000hp Mustang for less than half the price of a 911, and you can order a V8 Mustang GT with 420hp for under $35,000. And the car we are driving, the base model V6 2013 Mustang Convertible, can be driven out of any of Ford’s 3,000 American showrooms for under $30,000.
So what do you get for your 30,000 hard earned greenbacks? Well, you get a car that has an incredible initial perception of quality, especially given its price. Our vehicle, in metallic burgundy with beige trim, looked decidedly premium, a feeling enhanced by the piano black finish on the rear fascia, daytime running lights and the excellent HID headlights. The quality perception falls over if you look closely, particularly at the dash, but none of this is obvious to the casual observer, especially at night. The way the mood lighting fades out as you close the door, the track display on the digital radio and the funky electro blue and red instrument lighting all contribute to an air of prestige. You can actually park the Mustang next to a BMW 325 Convertible without feeling too much like the poor cousin. An attainable dream, indeed.
Unlike the BMW, however, the Mustang isn’t as accomplished on the road. Ford’s V6 motor isn’t particularly special and sounds a little thrashy at low rpm, but it revs out okay and has an acceptable soundtrack at higher rpms. The car is really let down by the five speed automatic gearbox which is unresponsive and lethargic. Ford have gone to the trouble of fitting manual shift buttons on the auto shifter which can be used in sports mode, but they’re so small an unintuitive that they’re difficult to use around town, let alone on a twisty road. And the less that’s said about the bodyroll and vague steering the better.
But strangely enough, the Mustang’s less than athletic nature doesn’t really dampen its appeal. It’s a car that’s caused me to re-evaluate my own values, posing the question that since when has a convertible also had to be a sports car to be considered good? These days we accept four wheel drives with little off-road ability because they bring a lot of other attributes to the table, and the Mustang is no different.
Using the car in the context it’s built for, it’s brilliant. It’s comfortable, the air conditioning is icy cool, the cockpit is unbelievably quiet and secure with the soft top up and it folds away quickly. The boot is big, the styling nicely references the famous Boss Mustang’s of the 70’s, the sound quality from the stereo is acceptable and fuel consumption is low.
This entry level convertible is a lot like those hotdogs at the baseball. It’s good value, it doesn’t pretend to be anything it’s not and it leaves you satisfied, often with a guilty smile on your face. If that’s not the attainable American dream, then I don’t know what is.
‘But it’s not 2013 yet!’ I hear you cry. For some obscure (probably marketing related) reason, this latest update of the Mustang is officially designated as the ‘2013 Mustang’, even though its been on sale for the better part of 2012. Even the service manual is titled ‘2013 Mustang’, allowing you to flip the next page and view an April 2012 date of manufacture stamp. Crazy Americans.
In the United States cars aren’t required to have orange indicators, allowing their designers to do cool things like this with the red brake/taillights. The indicators flash 1, 2 and 3 in an arrow formation when turning, which is especially cool when braking given that these are also the brake lights. I’m sure Kubrick would have imagined such a future.
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