You’ll never see another one of these on the street.” This was the declaration of several Automobile staff members after they laid eyes on this peculiar 2019 Ford Mustang convertible test car.
An exaggeration, perhaps, but the point was there: With jolting “Need for Green” paint, a soft top, Ford’s 2.3-liter turbocharged EcoBoost four-cylinder engine, the optional Performance Package, and a six-speed manual gearbox, the odds of seeing yourself coming in the other direction seem about as likely as Ford reversing course on its decision to all but abandon the passenger-car market.
The Mustang, of course, will live on. And while it wasn’t obvious anywhere near immediately after putting key to ignition in this example, there’s something comfortable within that knowledge.
The first few days behind the wheel, spent mostly commuting in Los Angeles traffic, made it easy to focus on the car’s shortcomings. The mash-up of faux carbon fiber (or is that faux diamond plating?), leather, and metallic/chrome-finished interior pieces lacked cohesiveness. The 310-hp turbocharged engine felt more suited to a hot hatch than a pony car. And the six-speed felt balky, notchy, and absolutely opposed to fast shifts, unless you enjoy cringing as though you’ll potentially gnash the synchros on every other gear change.
Finally, after muttering about this strange creation throughout the weeklong slogs, the weekend arrived, and with it a break from a spate of unusually consistent rain showers that hit L.A. None of the driving experience to that point indicated the Mustang begged to be hustled through the Malibu canyons, but it deserved a fair shake. Into the mountains it drove.
What’s Very Right
Maybe it was the crisp morning air, or the sunshine, or the views of the Pacific shimmering in the distance, but after 30 minutes of arcing through tight curves and switchbacks, and pulling into scenic overlooks to soak in the Ford and its surroundings, the first hint of a smile crept in. The Need for Green ceased appearing obnoxious, and the car overall suddenly appeared rather sharp, handsome, even. The 19-inch, satin-black tuning-fork wheels drew eyes and lent the Mustang a hint of aggression. The front splitter design delivered more of the same. Dropping and raising the top is a cinch and takes a quick eight seconds, so there was no concern about soaking the cabin should the rain return. And with the roof open, it was pleasing to discover that you actually hear some turbine whine and whistle, some compressor noise; you get none of these when you drive the Mustang EcoBoost coupe, or when you have the convertible’s top closed.
Pulling back onto the road and picking up the pace, this Mustang definitely delivered more of a GT experience rather than one of a razor-sharp asphalt-shredder, but there is a fair amount of fun to be had. At 3,676 pounds, you have to twist the front end into corners, as understeer is unsurprisingly the natural order. But thanks to the $2,495 Performance Pack, which includes uprated springs and anti-roll bars, and the $1,695 magnetorheological active dampers, there was negligible pitch and roll without sacrificing comfort. It all felt well sorted, especially for the average buyer—however many there might be—who most likely just wants a refreshing, sporty experience in a car like this as opposed to exploring the most extreme slip angles imaginable.
The Engine Room
Pushing the throttle hard, the EcoBoost is not best described as razor sharp, but calling it sluggish goes too far in the other direction. With 350 lb-ft of torque at 3,000 rpm, engine response is solid, though the overall power-to-weight ratio means acceleration is not snappy or lightning quick. There’s accessibility to the whole affair, a reassuring, purposeful feeling of stability that reinforces the impression this is exactly what such a Mustang was made to do. And should you desire to manhandle the chassis some on a ribbon of asphalt, the car responds to your commands without any sketchy handling traits that give you serious pause. It even seems to enjoy the cajoling.
As the morning wore on and each corner disappeared out of sight, this Mustang convertible made more and more sense and it came more alive—far more than it did either while bumbling around in traffic. It’s comfortable even in Track mode, which comes with the fun gimmick of switching the digital rev counter to a horizontal, race-car-like bar-graph orientation. This car’s $895 Performance exhaust is a must-get option; the baritone EcoBoost is not overly loud or ostentatious even with it. But the engine shines some at altitude up in the mountains, with good pull once the revs spin past 2,000. Even the glitchy shifter became far less of an annoyance and produced smooth shifts once this driver processed what it did and did not like. This linkage wouldn’t have made it past the first beta test at Honda, but you can still have some fun in short order by being deliberate with your inputs.
“Deliberate” might be the best descriptor for the type of drivers who would order a Mustang to this spec: They know exactly what they want and why, without concern for acquiring the biggest adrenaline rush possible—no matter if there are five or 500 identical cars out there.
2019 Ford Mustang EcoBoost Convertible Specifications
|BASE PRICE||$37,355/$45,115 (base/as tested)|
|ENGINE||2.3L turbocharged DOHC 16-valve I-4; 310 hp @ 5,500 rpm, 350 lb-ft @ 3,000 rpm|
|LAYOUT||2-door, 4-passenger, front-engine, RWD convertible|
|EPA MILEAGE||20/28 mpg (city/hwy)|
|L x W x H||188.5 x 81.9 x 54.3 in|
|WEIGHT||3,676 lb (est)|
|0–60 MPH||5.5 sec (est)|
|TOP SPEED||123 mph|