By GORDON HALL
Ask any woman: a car is just a car, but a Mustang is a ride! And if it’s a droptop, that’s a bonus.
There are two engine sizes; five-litre, naturally aspirated V8 and 2.3-litre, inline four with turbocharger. Both are coupled to 10-speed automatics and come in two body styles, coupé and soft-top convertible.
Although some maintain the V8 is the only engine worth having, that “itty-bitty” 2.3 turbo makes mean power – 213 kilowatts and 441 Newton-metres, enough to metaphorically blow the doors of Magnum’s Ferrari 308 GTS. It’s two seconds quicker to 100 km/h and seven clicks faster at the top end. And the must-have V8 accelerates only a second quicker.
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Having established the turbocar’s street and track cred, let’s move on to those things that, apart from the roof, separate convertibles from coupés:
Convertibles weigh 45kg more because the multilayer, waterproofed roof fabric isn’t exactly light and the droptop body needs extra reinforcement to prevent flexing;
Boot volume is 60 litres less because of the hidden compartment the roof tucks away into;
Its integral-link, independent rear suspension is fitted with twin-tube dampers rather than monotube and it uses a standard anti-sway bar;
Five airbags rather than seven; you can’t fit curtain bags into a convertible;
The backrests of those “plus-what? you must be kidding!” rear seats don’t split and fold because of security concerns when the car is left unattended with the roof retracted;
The front brakes are 30mm smaller and utilise four-piston, rather than six-piston calipers; and,
Extra security kit for when it’s left open.
But all the good stuff is common to both body styles; bags of handling and safety kit, dual-zone automatic airconditioning, one-touch electric windows, 10-speaker B&O sound system, Sync®3 with 8” touchscreen, voice-activated satnav, partial leather upholstery with powered adjusters and temperature control, tyre-pressure monitoring and the same 3.55:1 limited-slip diff, wheels and tyres.
And if semi-matt, all-black wheels make you choke in your feedbag, you can specify lustrous nickel-plated, forged aluminium rims as a no-cost option.
So how does it go?
Suspension is firm and steering is weighted a little heavier than one might expect. Of three selectable settings, Comfort, Normal and Sport, Normal feels like most other cars’ Sport, for example. And set up to handle well, it was great, with just a hint of carefree attitude displayed by a wicked little twitch from the back end when provoked.
The 10-speed automatic shifts almost imperceptibly and kicks down readily when needed. Picture this: ambling gently, at 100km/h in 10th, moderate pressure on the accelerator caused almost immediate bump-down to fifth and blasted us deep into ticket territory split-seconds later.
As a matter of interest, 120km/h cruising uses only 2000rpm in top, so there’s always plenty of surge in hand considering maximum torque only arrives at 3000rpm. The overriding impression is of easy and almost endless power. So, we ask, who the Sam Hill really needs the V8?
Comfort-wise, some might feel the seats a bit, hard although they hold you well when the going gets interesting and, unlike some convertibles, grownups enjoy a fist-width of headroom in the front chairs when the top is up.
Further, open-air driving doesn’t require wind deflectors or air shields to keep freeway cruising acceptably quiet and relatively breeze-free. It’s in the original design; Mustang has been doing convertibles since model year 1965, so the engineers know what they’re doing by now.
And it’s true that Mustangs appeal to women. Chicago schoolteacher Gail Wise was first in line to buy one, making a down-payment from her initial pay cheque on April 15 1964, a third of all female sportscar buyers choose Mustangs and South African Jeanette Kok-Kritzinger set a women’s world land speed record in a heavily modified six-litre on July 29 1999. Then there’s Mustang Sally; she’s a legend.
But lots of men love them too. Other motorists, teenagers, gate guards and traffic-light vendors whipped out phones or cheered enthusiastically. Some facetiously asked to borrow it – just for the weekend, you understand.
What can we take from this? Two things: Mustang is possibly the most unisex sportscar on the planet. And ultimate power isn’t everything.
Test unit from Ford SA press fleet.
Base price: R928 800
Engine: 2261 cc, DOHC 16-valve, inline four-cylinder, turbopetrol
Power: 213 kW at 5400 rpm
Torque: 441 Nm at 3000 rpm
Zero to 100 km/h: 5.8 seconds
Top speed: 233 km/h
Real-life fuel consumption: About 11.1 l/100 km
Tank: 59 litres
Luggage: 322 litres
Turning circle: 12.2 metres
Standard tyre: 255/40R19
Puncture fix: Pump kit
Warranty: Four years / 120 000 km, with three years’ roadside assistance
Service plan: Six years / 90 000 km at 15 000 km intervals END