2008 Ford Mustang V6 Convertible Review

Samir Syed
by Samir Syed

July's Car and Driver pits a new Ford Mustang against a new Dodge Challenger and joyfully proclaims "it's 1970 again!" Wrong. It's 1973 again, the year of the Arab Oil Embargo. This time there's plenty of gas at the pumps, but its price has thrown the U.S. car market into the same chaos/doldrums that afflicted it the year FedEx was born. Back then, the Mustang's pony car competition rolled over and died. Today, the Mustang faces new challengers with a convertible that gets 17/26 mpg. How great is that?

Aesthetically, not so much. The Mustang is the best looking 2+2 convertible you can buy at its price-which tells you more about the competition's eye appeal (New Beetle, G6, Eclipse, Eos, Solara and Sebring drop-tops) than the ‘Stang's. OK, the MINI. Both cars work depend on their retro-vibe to pull in the punters, and do so with clever updates on yesteryear detailing.

The base ‘Stang's bulging hood, concave grill and menacing headlights are irresistible styling cues. From the side, aggressive fenders and a high waistline accentuate the Mustang's muscularity. The rear's three-headed lights and squared-off tail also project the requisite machismo. Top up or down, from any angle, the '05-era Mustang is so not a secretary's car it Hertz.

The Mustang Convertible's interior materials are a massive upgrade from the previous "New Edge" Mustang; which is like saying a new McDonald's is a classier place to dine than the building it replaced. The smell of cheap plastics infusing the Mustang's cabin is worse than burger fat. The olfactory assault is so persistently noxious that leaving the top down to air out the cabin is futile.

The Mustang's seats, especially the head rests, aren't particularly comfortable or well positioned. I found my entire arm hurting after leaning on the window sill's Klingon plastics. While the power vinyl top is easy enough to operate, the driver's side windshield latch on our tester didn't line up exactly with the roof. Oops. Top down, at any speed above 45 mph, the wind roar is deafening. On the positive side, the Mustang's rear seat offers a suitable space for a second golf bag or a brace of Ewoks.

The Mustang's interior is a success, though. It extends the exterior's retro-ness. The long hood ahead is pure nostalgia (I know, it's technically not the interior, but you're still inside the car). The three-prong steering wheel and the dude-ranch font on the speedometer are great touches. It's a lesson in coherence that was evidently lost on the designers of the 2009 Dodge Challenger.

This Mustang packs a 4.0-liter 210hp V6. The engine combines all the power of a Japanese I4 with all the fuel consumption of a German V8. To make up for this incoherent compromise, the Mustang's throttle tip-in is ferocious. Whatever meager output the mill can summon is unleashed at the first press of the pedal, making wheel-spin both ridiculous and ridiculously easy.

The Mustang's exhaust note is surprisingly, delightfully virile. Dropping the car's auto into third gear at 70mph, the pedal-related noises became fierce. But in the end, the V6 Mustang Convertible is all mouth and no trousers. It was easily defeated by ascents in the hilly Austin neighborhoods of Spicewood and Jasper. And yes, it got spanked by anything with a Nissan badge and a 3.5. Still, weak as she was, the Mustang never felt dead or unenthusiastic under the hood.

Dynamically, the Mustang drives like a lowered pick-up truck. At almost any respectable speed, every turn unleashes a cacophony of tire squeals, suspension creaks and near-instant-incontinence. Front-heavy and sprung too softly for anything remotely resembling sporty driving, the Mustang's ancient underpinnings are instantly obvious.

That said, it's a boulevardier. And like all 70's-era Detroit iron, a properly-executed apex down a mountain road requires the kind of skill and courage that Miata drivers will never, ever know. Performance tires inflated to (at least) 35 PSI alleviated much– but not all– of the "YOU friggin' turn" stubbornness of my personal 2002 model Mustang Convertible. (Note: that is not as much of a recommendation as it may seem.)

The V6 Mustang ‘vert is not the best-in-class at anything save, perhaps, looks. But it's not the worst, either. If you want rear wheel-drive performance, it's got some. If you want interior space, it's got some. Reliability? Some. Let's face it: the MINI's the only standout in this field, and it's way too small and far too dopey for most folk.

The V6 Challenger and Camaro drop-tops will be the Mustang Convertible's first competition in a long time. But they're not here, and neither is the new car market. If Ford can refine this model ahead of the economic recovery, they'll ensure that the Mustang can, once again, outlast the bastards. What are the odds?

Samir Syed
Samir Syed

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  • Z4eva Z4eva on Aug 03, 2009

    Here in Southern California, the V6 Mustang is Hertz's bitch. Literally 85-90% of the Mustangs I see on the street have that little rental car barcode sticker on the left rear window. It's absolutely destroyed the brand, IMO. I'm considering a V8 Mustang as my next car, but the profusion of stripper V6s driven by sunburned tourists makes me cringe... Wonder if Ford has any concerns about this or if they're happy with any sale they can get. PS, love how it says "Mustang" on the side in case you forget what kind of car you're driving...

  • Joeaverage Joeaverage on Aug 03, 2009

    Stripper Mustangs? The Mustang lineup has always had strippers built into it. They started out with a 170 C.I. six in addition to the 260 C.I. V-8. Even once they started producing the GTs with four speeds, 289 Hi-Po engines, limited slip rear-ends and a/c you could still get 200 C.I. six cylinders with 3-speed manual trannies and no options (my first car was a '66 six/3 spd with no options). No, I like the stripper Mustangs. I'd make them two in only two versions though. Some MPG getting Mustang combo with manual and auto tranny. Coupe, convertible and 2+2 coupe. They also need some sort of Hi-Po arrangement as well. A variation of the Honda EX and LX model divide. Limited options in each category. Let the dealer do the accessory installations. At least Ford didn't didn't make a four-door version like Chrysler did with the Charger. VBG!

  • Ted Lulis Head gaskets and Toyota putting my kids through college👍️
  • Leonard Ostrander Plants don't unionize. People do, and yes, of course the workers should organize.
  • Jalop1991 Here's something EVangelists don't want to talk about, and why range is important: battery warranties, by industry standard, specify that nothing's wrong with the battery, and they won't replace it, as long as it is able to carry 70% or more of its specified capacity.So you need a lot of day 1 capacity so that down the road, when you're at 70% capacity with a "fully functioning, no problem" car, you're not stuck in used Nissan Leaf territory."Nothing to see here, move along."There's also the question of whether any factory battery warranty survives past the original new car owner. So it's prudent of any second owner to ask that question specifically, and absent any direct written warranty, assume that the second and subsequent owners own any battery problems that may arise.And given that the batteries are a HUGE expense, much more so than an ICE, such exposure is equally huge."Nothing to see here, move along."
  • Roger hopkins The car is in Poland??? It does look good tho...
  • Kwik_Shift_Pro4X The push for EV's is part of the increase in our premiums. Any damage near the battery pack and the car is a total loss.