Ford Mustang GT Convertible — Get saddled up!

By Al Vinikour

Is there no end to where Ford Motor Company will go that allows so many to find the Fountain of Youth that eluded Ponce de Leon? The latest example is the 2012 Mustang Convertible.

Those of us of a “certain age” vividly recall the original debut of the 1964 Mustang at the New York World’s Fair. It begat generations of personalized sporty-type cars and Ford hasn’t let off any in developing new head-turners.

Mustang got a new 5.0-liter V-8 in 2011 and it lives happily in the 2012 Mustang GT as well. It’s a true 5.0-liter — 302 cubic inches in layman’s terms. Its four-valve V8 with twin independent variable camshaft timing (Ti-VCT) adjusts the valve train in microseconds depending on driver input and combines with a carefully-tuned intake and exhaust system to ensure free breathing at all engine speeds.

Most any good V8 can somehow produce in excess of 300 horsepower. The 2012 GT, however, doles out 412. (If you still feel slighted you can bump yourself up to a Boss 302, which will give you 444. Happy now?) Yes, you can hook all this brute power up to a six-speed automatic transmission. You can also get somebody to cart you around in a rickshaw. Personally, I’d rather be the master of my own destiny and give this speedster a sporting chance by ordering a short-throw, smooth-shifting six-speed manual.

I’ve always said a vehicle the likes of a Mustang GT, Corvette or any kind of muscle car with an automatic transmission is a waste. I’m here to tell you my test vehicle was anything but. In keeping with its performance orientation the rear-end ratio of the GT is 3.31:1.

The V8 produces 390 pound-feet of torque at 4,250 rpm and has a compression ratio of 11.0:1 and a redline of 7,000 rpm, reminiscent of the famed 289 cubic inch/271 horsepower small-block V8 that first appeared in the early-Shelby GTs.

You could hear the distinctive sound of its high-revving, solid-lifter powerplant in the middle of rush hour on a Los Angeles freeway. The 2012 model produces its own satisfying power noises with the help of an impressive dual exhaust system that creates little blockage as all those horses’ power passes out the rear pipes.

What do you suppose you’re looking at for fuel economy when you factor in all this power? 12, maybe 14 mpg city and 20 (if you’re lucky) on the highway? Sit down and crack open a few bottles of RC Cola. EPA estimates with a manual transmission are 17 mpg city/26 mph highway. If you break my heart and buy an automatic the figures are slightly different — 18/25.

Mustangs with manual transmissions have always seemed to me to wind up too fast in first gear and the GT continued that belief. However, hit second gear and for the next two or three shifts you’re in hot rod heaven.

Letting the torque build up and then at peak power stepping on the gas pedal equals a Dairy Queen chocolate cone (large) in my mind as one of life’s great pleasures. There are few occasions more thrilling than to have some punk with his beater ride sitting next to you at a stop light, just itching the “blow the wheels” off that “old man with his mid-life crisis ride” alongside him.

When the light turns he’ll inevitably get on it and stay there until he sees that I haven’t taken the bait. However, by this time I’m in second, or even third gear and have my torque itching to be used. As soon as I notice him letting off in the slightest…the rest of the hundreds of available horsepower get a job and as I go roaring by I’ve not only taken his dignity…but proved the moral of the “Tortoise and Hare” fable.

The ride of the new GT is exactly as one would expect. Front suspension consists of reverse-L independent MacPherson struts and 34.6-mm stabilizer bar. At the rear is a three-link solid, limited slip axle with coil springs and Panhard rod and 44.0-mm solid stabilizer bar.

Driving on rougher pavement and railroad crossings is noticeable but not drastic enough to claim your fillings. Electric power-assisted steering with rack-and-pinion year is also standard. Braking is achieved via four-wheel power disc brakes with four-sensor, four-channel anti-lock brakes with 336 x 36-mm vented discs, twin-
piston 43-mm floating aluminum calipers in the front and 300 x 19-mm vented discs single-piston 43-mm floating iron calipers in the rear.

Standard wheels are 18-inch x 8.0-inch wide spoke painted aluminum. Optional are 19”s with several wheel choices, including a 19-inch x 9.0-inch dark-stainless premium painted aluminums that comes with the Brembo Brake Package.

A word to the wise: it helps if you’re not on the team that’s found the cure for anorexia. I have spent years as a board member of that august group and found ingress and egress a bit of a grunt. I’m not to the point that I could steer the vehicle without benefit of hands but a few more trips to the IHOP and I will be. It’s fun to drive for people of…er…some of your age group but demographics are definitely for those who still need regular haircuts.

Other than the “squeezing” sensation for larger folk in the driver’s seat the interior is great. The instrument cluster and gauges were well-designed and legible. The various electronic technology and audio packages are well-positioned in the center stack. There’s a fair amount of interior storage space. Plus, there’s a back seat you only want to use for passengers when you’re really mad at them or for kids who ask too many times if “we’re there yet.”

The seat makes an excellent storage container. Even though the vehicle is a convertible there’s adequate room in the trunk for luggage – 9.6 cubic feet of cargo space.

My test vehicle was painted a unique color; Yellow Blaze Metallic Tri-Coat. It should be unique for a premium of $495. I thought only Europeans got away with what has always struck me as  nickeling and diming of the customer. This car has an MSRP of $38,145. Would it scare a potential buyer away if the MSRP was $38,640 and the $495 charge for paint wasn’t listed separately to give it that “bend over” appearance? You’re already going to pay $850 extra for destination and delivery (from Flat Rock, Michigan?) See what I mean?

Speaking of costs, the bottom line of my press vehicle, including options (Comfort Package, HID/Security Package, paint and a few other packages and stand-alone options) was $42,545 plus the aforementioned destination and delivery charges of $850 (from Flat Rock, Michigan?)

I’m sure if the 2012 Mustang GT had been around during the days of Ponce de Leon he would probably be on his way to a South Floridian Ford dealer to place his order and prolong his youth. I just hope the misguided sole doesn’t take a step backward and order one with an automatic transmission. He’s better off buying it with the Manual Transmission/Anti-Aging package.