Ford Mustang GT Convertible’s Value, Fuel Economy Hard To Beat

The beautiful and powerful * * * 2012 Ford Mustang GT convertible is a confounding juxtaposition of advanced new features and ergonomic oversights.

Despite a number of frustrating omissions — the steering column doesn’t telescope, limited seat adjustments, no memory for the driver’s settings — the Mustang GT is a fun, affordable car. The sporty convertible’s value and fuel economy make it hard to beat.

The Mustang convertible blends the near-perfect styling of Ford’s latest pony car with the company’s brilliant 5.0-liter V8 and appealing features like Sync’s spoken control of phones and audio systems.

The Mustang’s bouncy ride is considerably less comfortable and stable than the car’s competitors. The car’s price, fuel economy, looks and performance offset its faults, however.
Mustang GT convertible has right looks, power, value

The 2012 Mustang GT convertible combines the best of Ford’s history — a grand name, evocative looks, an affordable price — with the electronics and engine savvy that are becoming hallmarks of the modern Ford.

A cramped rear seat and the lack of some comfort and convenience features create room for improvement, but the long, low convertible is a rolling invitation to call in sick and go for a drive.

Prices for the 2012 Mustang convertible start at $31,310 for a base model with a 305-horsepower V6 and six-speed manual transmission. A six-speed automatic raises the tab to $32,505.

Prices for the GT, which features Ford’s wonderful new 412-horsepower 5.0-liter V8, start at $38,310 with a six-speed manual. A six-speed automatic raises the price to $39,505.

I tested a well-equipped Mustang GT Premium with a manual transmission and a $42,545 sticker. All prices exclude destination charges.

While the Mustang’s solid-axle rear suspension can’t match the comfort and road-holding of other modern convertibles, the Ford’s power, features and timeless appeal put it in a class with pricey models like the Audi S5, BMW 335is, Infiniti G37 and Lexus IS C 350.

The Mustang’s traditional nemesis, the Chevrolet Camaro convertible, remains its first and most direct competitor. The Mustang and Camaro created the affordable American performance convertible, and they remain the ultimate expressions of the breed.

The Mustang and Camaro have evolved from their genesis as powerful but unsophisticated cars in the ’60s. The current models have the sophistication to compete with luxury convertibles that cost thousands of dollars more.

The cars’ feature content hasn’t completely kept pace with their technical progress, though. That leads to frustrating oversights, like the lack of memory seats and a telescoping steering column in the Mustang I tested.

The old Detroit formula of more horsepower per dollar isn’t enough to offset the lack of basic amenities in cars priced north of $40,000. I ran into similar oversights in a Camaro SS convertible I tested.

The Mustang compensates for its shortcomings with Sync, which provides spoken control of phones, iPods and other functions.

Ford’s brilliant 5.0-liter V8 is also a major selling point. The engine revs fast and easy. Its menacing growl belies a very tractable nature, thanks to a broad torque curve that provides powerful acceleration in all gears and at all engine speeds.

That’s one of the Mustang GT’s biggest advantages over the heavier Camaro SS, which uses very tall fifth and sixth gears that maximize fuel economy at the expense of highway acceleration.

The shifter has a tight, sporty pattern and precise movements. The clutch is light and easy. You can adjust the electric power steering for a lighter effort or sportier feel.

The Mustang’s solid rear axle lends itself to smoking burnouts, but not to a compliant ride. The GT bounces over rough surfaces. The rear has a tendency to step out when pushed hard on bumpy curves and highway ramps.

The GT’s EPA fuel economy of 20 m.p.g. in combined city and highway driving beats the Camaro SS and G37. It matches the Audi S5, which uses costlier premium fuel. The 335is and Lexus IS C 350 get better fuel economy and cost less to run, despite using premium fuel. They have about 100 fewer horsepower than the Mustang GT.

The interior is attractive. The armrests and dash are wrapped in soft materials, but the door tops have a hard surface.

The power seats could use a wider range of adjustments, particularly since the steering wheel doesn’t telescope. The front seat provides plenty of space. More and bigger storage cubbies would be welcome. Rear leg and head room are minimal.

The Mustang’s long, low profile is accentuated by a crisp horizontal line above the wheel wells. Chrome “5.0” badges behind the front wheels proclaim the return of a beloved engine displacement Mustang owners longed for during the reign of Ford’s disappointing 4.6-liter V8.

The trunk makes the most of its 9.6 cubic feet thanks to a low lift-over and wide opening that make it easy to load cargo.

The 2012 Ford Mustang GT is an amalgam of the fun and value that made the Mustang an icon with Ford’s new aim-high approach to technology. It’s a winning combination.