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CAR OF THE MONTH: JULY 2006

2006 Ford Mustang GT Convertible Review

All-American Classic

In short: A fast, stylish drop top.

If you’re looking for something fresh and modern, forget the Mustang GT—take a trip to Ikea in a Toyota Prius. Ford’s reborn muscle car is a trip down memory lane, embodying a fundamental attraction that is burned into the American psyche like weekend barbecues and summer baseball. The Mustang GT Convertible is wildly powerful, reasonably affordable and its design harks back to the good ol’ days of Route 66 and drive-in movies. If it wasn’t built for actual driving, it could be placed next to Mister Rogers’ sweater at the Smithsonian.

Nostalgia aside, the Mustang GT Convertible is a rare breed offering fun in the sun, 300 horsepower and room for four at a starting price around $30,000. Not exactly cheap, but keep in mind the next such vehicle in terms of price is the $62,000 Mercedes-Benz CLK500. If power isn’t that important to you, a 210-horsepower V6 is also available for a few thousand less. Most people opt for that model, but it’s the GT’s mystique that attracted them in the first place. Its big V8 is smoking fast and—even with our test car’s 5-speed automatic—manages to get from 0 to 60 mph in the mid five-second range. It pulls hard early leaving just about everything else in your dust, while overtaking on the highway is so easy a caveman could do it (no offense).


One of the biggest complaints about the last generation Mustang was its ancient live axle rear suspension left over from the 1970s, which made the back end quiver and shake like lime Jell-o placed on the head of Carmen Miranda. Although the live axle remains, the caboose feels firm, and repeated attempts to make it squirm proved uneventful. There is very little cowl shake and only when the top was in place did a few rattles appear, but that goes with the convertible territory. The steering is superb, with a weighty direct feel that lends confidence in corners and on long straightaways.

The retro theme so effectively displayed on the outside carries over inside, with a double cowl dashboard design reminiscent of the original 1960s Mustangs. It looks very nice, but looks can be deceiving. Touch almost any surface or rap on the dash with your knuckles and the hollow, rock-hard plastic feels remarkably similar to a Coleman cooler. The parking brake is covered in some sort of rubbery material and requires a Popeye-level of forearm strength to put in place—pity the folks with a 6-speed manual. Meanwhile, the retro gauges are hard to see (deep down in their circular coverings) during the day and beg to be replaced with electroluminescent dials. Suffice it to say, the interior is disappointing and the new Fusion proves Ford is capable of doing much better.

In convertible form, the Mustang embodies even more of that elusive charm that has made it an American icon. Its power-operated vinyl top stacks neatly behind the rear seats and provides its own cover. A dedicated tonneau cover came with our tester, but it’s a pain to install and there are only a few unsightly exposed spots that need to be covered for appearance and wind noise. Luckily, you won’t need to raise the top too often, because driving a Mustang with the wind in your hair and guttural V8 exhaust note humming in your ears is one heck of a way to spend a weekend afternoon.

While there is certainly room for improvement, the Mustang GT Convertible is still a special all-American automotive icon. Its seductive power will put a grin on any driver’s face, and its retro looks will put one on everyone else’s. Ford has already sold more than 100,000 new Mustangs, and its popularity has spurred the Chevy Camaro and Dodge Challenger concepts. If and when those two classics are resurrected, it’ll certainly go to show that the more things change, the more they stay the same.

Read a review of the 2010 Ford Mustang GT Coupe

Warranty/Service: Three-year/36,000-mile basic warranty; three-year/36,000-mile powertrain warranty.

QUICK SHEET
Base Price: $31,145 / As tested: $34,940

Technical Specifications

Vehicle type: front-engine, rear-wheel-drive, 4-passenger, 2-door convertible

Engine: 4.6-liter V8
Horsepower: 300 bhp @ 5,750 rpm
Torque: 320 lb-ft @ 4,500 rpm
Transmission: 5-speed automatic

Curb weight: 3,673 lbs
Wheelbase: 107.1 in
Length/Width/Height: 187.6/74/54.5 in
Turning circle: 38 ft

Brakes: 4-wheel disc with ABS
Suspension:
independent front, live axle rear
Traction:
traction control

Safety: front airbags, optional front side airbags

0-60 mph:
5.6 seconds (est.)
Top Speed: 147 mph

EPA City: 17 mpg
EPA Highway: 23 mpg

Likes: all-American charm; V8 power; great steering and handling

Dislikes: interior filled with cheap, rock-hard plastics; gets pricey when loaded with options

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Photography: AlphaMedia

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(Updated 02/26/09 SV))

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