One second after opening the Velocity Blue driver’s door of the 2019 Mustang GT Convertible that showed up on my doorstep, I knew very good things were in store. There, atop a stubby stalk in the center console, sat the fat ball of a six-speed manual shifter. A brand-new, rear-drive car with a bona-fide manual transmission—coupled to a throaty, muscle-rippled naturally aspirated V-8! Talk about rare … I almost felt like I’d just bagged a unicorn.
The Mustang GT harks back to the glory days of the muscle-car era all right, but it’s better in ways that the rubber-burners of yore could only dream about—friendlier, safer, better-handling, and, yes, faster. The 5.0-liter V-8 is a glorious motor, good for 460 horsepower, 420 pound-feet of torque, and a booming, howling exhaust note that’ll rock you straight into the chase scene in “Bullitt.” Mash down on the gas and this comfortable, conveniences-laden two-door will romp to 60 mph in just a blink over four seconds with nary a blip of wheelspin—unless you like intentionally wrecking your rear tires (launch control is standard, by the way). The V-8 redlines at 7,500 rpm but feels like it could spin past 10,000 with ease. It’s unfailingly smooth, eager, and bursting with character. And that sound! Especially when blaring out of the optional active-valve performance dual exhausts with quad tips ($895)—which allow the driver to select the amount of exhaust volume—it’ll keep your heart rate racing in the triple digits for as long as you’re behind the wheel.
For me, the best part was getting to row all that brawn through Ford’s superb manual six-speed. Honestly, I can’t remember the last time I got to drive a high-powered car without an automatic or a dual-clutch paddle-shifter. Ford’s optional 10-speed SelectShift automatic ($1,595) is available for slushbox fans, but if you’re an enthusiast don’t even think about paying extra for it. The standard six-shooter is a jewel, quick on the draw, light on the clutch effort, nothing but hoots and grins as you row up and down through the cogs. I was looking forward to some old-fashioned heel-and-toe downshifting, but the 2019 Mustang GT is now equipped with a rev-match feature. Keep your right foot on the brake while depressing the clutch with your left and simply pull the gear lever down to your desired lower gear—the system automatically blips the throttle for a perfect downshift every time. The rev matching works so well, in fact, that after a few miles I almost didn’t mind not getting to heel and toe for myself. Almost. Fortunately, with a few taps of the central touchscreen you can disable the feature entirely, leaving you free to heel-and-toe downshift as you please—no rev-matching on duty. The pedals and shifter are so good you’ll no doubt want to go “full manual” at least some of the time. But if you don’t, the rev matching makes downshifts totally effortless.
My GT tester was a convertible, of course, and that only adds to the immersive experience. Dropping the top is a cinch: just unlock the latch on the top of the windshield, press a button center console, and in a few seconds the fully lined soft top folds away behind the rear seats—leaving more than enough room for a golf bag in the trunk underneath. With the top tucked away, wind roar is minimal in the cockpit; driver and front-seat passenger are well-shielded from the passing breeze. The structure is impressively taut—perhaps a few more shimmies than you’d find in the fixed hardtop but nothing objectionable—and provides a solid platform for the athletic suspension. The GT is a gas to gun across wriggling asphalt. A choice of drive modes are available—Normal, Snow/Wet, Sport, Track, and Drag Strip—each of which alters vehicle dynamics and handling response. Mostly I left the GT in Sport, which delivered gobs of lateral grip (I’m certain well over 1.0 g) yet a ride that remained pliable enough for daily cruising. A standard limited-slip helps put the power down where it belongs.
The Premium edition is one loaded ‘Stang. Included on my tester were such features as automatic climate control, excellent power leather seats with memory (heated and cooled in front), keyless entry with pushbutton start, aluminum pedals, a rear-view camera with parking sensors, a 9-speaker premium audio system (an upgraded B&O Play system is also available), and Ford’s latest Sync 3 voice-activated infotainment system. My test car also wore 235/50R-18 tires on 18-inch machined-faced high-gloss black-painted alloy wheels (rims up to 20” are optional).
The GT Premium is a deceptive machine. At a quick glance, you might not guess it’s that fast or that comfortable or that loaded with tech or that outstanding a blend of weekend-romping performance and daily-commuting civility. But the GT is all of those things and more—especially in alluring ragtop trim. This Ford can pamper you silly and flatten your cerebellum onto the back of your skull, and it looks great doing both (the triple-slat LEDs at each front headlight are a rakish touch).
Just a quick reality check for any would-be Mustang buyers itching for a breath of old-time muscle-car nostalgia: The good-ol’ days were never as good as this.
2019 Ford Mustang GT Convertible Premium Specifications
|ENGINE||5.0L 32-valve V-8/460 hp @ 7,000 rpm, 420 lb-ft @ 4,600 rpm|
|LAYOUT||2-door, 4-passenger, front-engine, RWD convertible|
|EPA MILEAGE||15/25 mpg (city/hwy)|
|L x W x H||188.5 x 75.4 x 54.9 in|
|0-60 MPH||4.1 sec (est)|
|TOP SPEED||155 mph|