2012 Ford Mustang GT Convertible

This week, we’re driving the 2012 Ford Mustang GT, still the “King of the Pony Cars,” fun to drive and affordable to own. Always a four passenger, rear drive, two-door sporty vehicle, Mustang for 2012 is perhaps the best it’s ever been, especially in the handling and horsepower departments. (The 2011 model is identical).

With prices starting at just $22,310 for the 2012 V6 305 horsepower model, Mustang’s roots date back to 1964 as Ford’s all-original Pony Car idea. With long hoods and short decks, the Pony Car took off like wildfire, and spawned numerous competitors along the way. Through its history, Mustang never ceased operation in any manner, and its followers and enthusiasts have been rewarded with more novel models to choose from, rave reviews and important citations.

The nucleus of the latest GT is a new in 2011 “302” V8 engine that separates this GT from any past 5.0 Mustangs. Specifically, Ford’s latest 5.0 V8 pumps out an amazing 412 horsepower at 6,500 rpm from it’s “smaller than Camaro SS” engine. The cylinder heads on this all-aluminum powerplant are huge, and at first glance resemble the width and length of the Hemi engines that made MOPARS so successful along the way. According to tests we’ve reviewed, the GT Coupe is capable of 12-second quarter miles at 108 right off the showroom floor.

Ford engineers are clearly massaging its double overhead cam 32 valve design V8 to the point of spectacular power, much to the chagrin of the competition. The multi port fuel injection, cold air induction engine features a compression ratio of 11 to 1 and twin independent variable camshaft timing. This combination not only delivers the goods in spades when it comes to acceleration, it also provides a most respectable 17 city and 26 highway EPA numbers, making ownership much easier on the wallet than those now “collector only” 1969 Mustang Cobra Jets and Boss 302s, which delivered perhaps 10-mpg overall if you were lucky.

Looking for more? How about a new “Boss 302” that delivers 444 horses at a whooping “valve train ready” 7,400 rpm or a 510 horse Shelby GT with supercharged 5.4 V8 (330 inches). Regardless of flavor, the Camaro SS is in big trouble and the Pony Car superiority clearly stays in Mustang’s camp.

In the handling department, Mustang still comes with rear-drive solid “live” rear axle, with Camaro going the independent route with its recent new models. Live rear axles aren’t known for traction and handling attributes on the highway 2012 Ford Mustang GT, but whatever Ford did with its new Mustang GT’s suspension puts it way ahead of the competition. Up front are MacPherson struts, while the rear is a constant-rate coil spring, 3-link design with panhard rod stabilizer. This setup usually results in unwelcome characteristics like wheel-hop under heavy acceleration and lack of grip in corners and straights with road abnormalities. However, our test GT did very well in some quicker speed cornering, and the car didn’t wheel hop at full throttle even with the traction control off and tires spinning a bit from a start. Well done Ford.

The 6-speed manual transmission also shifts better and more precise than Camaro SS, and when the comfort factor is weighed in, the Mustang is way out front. It used to be that Camaro SS could outrun the Ford GT, but with what’s available at your Ford dealer today, this is no longer the norm.

We’ve spent a lot of time this week on mechanicals, performance and engine, but rest assured Mustang GT is loaded with all the necessities. Our ragtop tester also came with $5,495 worth of options, so buyers who want a lighter and quicker Mustang GT Coupe without every bell and whistle can do so for $29,310. This is a great price for one amazing supercar.

In summary, what I expected from the world’s top Pony Car builder, i.e.: performance, drivability, comfort, handling and power, came through in top class form. Notable also is that a 6-speed automatic is available for those who don’t want to shift with the GT, with a loss of just one mpg highway. Puzzling is the unavailability of that 6-speed automatic in the Boss 302 and Shelby GT, which I feel will hurt sales.

All safety items are in place, and the interior is retro nice, including gauges, CD/Sirius stereo system, a great shifter and much more.

Important numbers include a wheelbase of 107.1, 13.4 cu. ft. of luggage space, 16 gallon fuel tank and a turning radius of 33.4 feet and a curb weight of 3,754 lbs. for the convertible (GT Coupe weighs 3,605).

Likes: 412 horsepower 302 V8, handling, comfort, looks, legend.

Dislikes: No automatic in the Boss or Shelby models could sway “non-shift” buyer to Camaro, Challenger or Corvette.