Bark's Bites: Oh, No, I Think I Might Have Bought the Wrong Mustang

Mark "Bark M." Baruth
by Mark "Bark M." Baruth
bark s bites oh no i think i might have bought the wrong mustang

According to my most recent e-mail from my rental car company of choice, I have rented exactly thirty-one cars this year. Thirty-one flavors of cars, everything from Altima to Yukon (Sorry, I haven’t rented any Lincoln Zephyrs this year). Up until this week, I hadn’t rented one of the more popular choices on any lot, and doubly so on the lots of South Florida: the V6 Mustang convertible.

Call me crazy, but I like to experience new things when I travel. I never eat at chain restaurants. I try to stay in boutique hotels when possible. I make it a point to hear local musicians. So when selecting rental cars, I prefer to drive something new to me, a preference which actually directly led to my own Ford Flex purchase last year after renting one in Grand Rapids, Michigan.

But when I arrived at Palm Beach International airport this week after a four and a half hour delay that had been caused by a faulty light bulb, I was in a particularly foul mood, as I suspect you might be if you had been expecting to arrive in Palm Beach at 3:50 PM and actually didn’t arrive until well after 9:00. After grabbing my bags and enduring a cramped shuttle ride over to the rental car lot, I was tired and cranky and I must have subconsciously wanted something that felt like home. And there she was, a brilliant 2014 Black V6 Mustang convertible, brand new with less than two thousand miles on the clock. It was almost like my Boss 302 had called ahead and lined it up for me.

“Why the hell not?” I thought. “I am in South Florida, after all.” I jumped in, grabbed the keys, and took off toward my destination, the Marriott Singer Island Resort and Spa.

This particular V6 pony was of the Premium variety. Full leather interior, leather wrapped wheel, Shaker stereo system, Sirius Satellite, SYNC, and even the optional illuminated door sills that said “MUSTANG” in bright blue lighting. My first thought upon entering the cockpit was, “Man, this is way more comfortable to drive than my Boss 302 is.” The Boss’ Recaro seats, while very supportive and great for high-speed driving, don’t necessarily inspire one to take a highway cruise. The leather-wrapped steering wheel was much softer to the touch than the alcantara of the Boss. I’ve gotten so used to seeing the “NO SATELLITE RADIO” message come up on my Boss’ radio display that I was pleasantly shocked to find that the Sirius subscription had not yet elapsed on my rental. Channel 67, Real Jazz, Freddie Hubbard. Fantastic.

And then there’s the convertible top. The glorious, easy to use, smooth operating, convertible top. Palm Beach (at least the nice parts of it) was designed to be enjoyed with the top down. Despite the relatively chilly seventy-four degrees of the night air, I couldn’t resist the lure of the droptop button. Down it went at the first stoplight, and the entire Florida night sky opened up above me.

However, I was about to enter I-85 North from that same stoplight, and I knew that the car was about to disappoint.

You see, I’m used to having four hundred forty-four horsepower and three hundred eight foot pounds of torque at the ready. When one is behind the wheel of a Boss 302, there’s a nearly regal feeling that comes with knowing that you can merge at will, that virtually no car that you will ever encounter on the road will have the advantage on you at a stop light. It’s a nice feeling to have. Surely the 3.7 Cyclone wouldn’t measure up. Oh well-everything else about the car was nice enough.

Wrong. In terms of useable power and speed, the Cyclone did just fine. Sure, I can drop the clutch, smoke my tires, and attract the attention of local law enforcement in my Boss and post a four seconds flat zero-to sixty time and a mid-twelve second quarter mile. However, when I put my foot to the floor to enter the highway, the Little Engine That Could…Did. Only the hesitance of the automatic transmission to launch presented any appreciable difference in real-world acceleration between my Boss and the V6 ‘vert.

Once on the highway, the Mustang proved to be a stable chariot, even with intense coastal winds coming in from the Atlantic shore. Upon exiting the highway, it made for a remarkable side cruiser, attracting looks from all the pedestrians as it rolled slow and smooth down the street toward my hotel.

In the twelve miles between Palm Beach International and the front door of the Marriott Palm Beach Singer Island Resort, a distance not much greater than the test drive that your average Ford dealer will grant you, I made a stunning realization. There wasn’t anything that my Boss 302 does better in day-to-day driving than the V6 Convertible, and there were many things that, quite frankly, it does worse.

Now, before you accuse me of having lost my damned mind, allow me to retort…to myself. Of course I know that the Boss is much, much, much faster in any sort of motorsports scenario, whether it be the drag strip, the autocross, the road course…anywhere. Of course the suspension is better. Of course the motor is fifty percent stronger. The grip is better. The brakes are better. I know all of that.

But what about just driving back and forth to the airport? What about your daily commute to the office? What about cruising by the beach? I have to admit, there are days I’d rather have the comfortable seats, the satellite radio, the much improved fuel economy. And yes, the glorious droptop. Hell, the valets were even able to put my 27” suitcase in the trunk (with considerable effort, but it CAN be done). “You can no do this with the Chevy Ca-mahr-o,” my valet laughed.

Oh, yeah, let’s not forget one other huge thing-the price. I went to Ford’s website and optioned out a 2014 V6 Premium Convertible identically to my rental. The sticker? $33,497. The sticker on my Boss in 2012? $45.495. That’s a twelve thousand dollar difference. With Ford’s current cash on the hood and financing offers, that’s about three hundred and fifty dollars per month over 72 months, and that doesn’t take into account the savings on fuel economy and 87 octane gasoline.

In other words: if, by some chance, you still think the V6 Mustang is a secretary’s car, take it directly from the mouth of a guy who pony-ed up the cash for a Boss 302; it isn’t. It’s legit. I wouldn’t trade my Boss for one, but would I trade my Boss for one and twelve large in cash? Please don’t tempt me.

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2 of 68 comments
  • Compaq Deskpro Compaq Deskpro on Nov 08, 2013

    "Despite the relatively chilly seventy-four degrees of the night air" Errrgh

  • Mdensch Mdensch on Nov 09, 2013

    As much as you liked that rag top I think you'd like mine even more: a '13 V-6 Performance Pkg with the 6-spd manual. And it stickered at $4000 less than the convertibel.

  • Inside Looking Out The next 4Runner will be BEV.
  • The Oracle This is a proper Italian red sauce turd.
  • Carson D This isn't a notice of a wait time for 4Runner fans. This is a deadline for the opportunity to buy one new before they're gone. Whatever comes next, there is no possible way that it will be as good at doing 4Runner things as what is available today.
  • Bkojote There's a lot "just right" with the current 4Runner, and having spent time in more contemporary equivalents for road trips, I completely understand why they sell a ton of these.Here's some topics that aren't super common among 4runner owners - excessive carbon buildup in the engine after 40,000 miles (Audi/VW), bent valves (Bronco) , failed oil coolers (Jeep), cracked engine blocks (Jeep), dead vehicles from OTA updates (Chevy Colorado), being stranded due to opening the door too many times (Defender), malfunctioning engine sensors (Defender, VW), dead batteries due to electrical system malfunctions (Jeep), unusable defoggers (Jeep), waiting for seat heaters to boot up (Subaru), randomly catching fire (Kia/Hyundai), crappy build quality (Ford, Tesla).The interior feels solid and rattle free, and everything feels substantial in the way a Jeep Grand Cherokee or Kia Telluride does not. 14 year run means accessories are plentiful and well sorted. The control inputs from the radio to heated seats to climate control work better than 99% of the cars you can buy new at this point and are dead simple and ergonomically satisfying. Even dynamically (I drove a model with the KDSS system to be fair) it is a surprisingly composed vehicle on mountain roads- it's far more civilized than a Bronco or Wrangler, and hell, it was far more pleasant than the past two peastant-grade Benz crapmobiles I've been in.So I get it- car journalist rags whine about how overly complicated and tech-heavy modern vehicles are while their substance is cost cut, but here's the literal definition of 'don't fix it if it aint broken.' . It's a trusty Ford Econoline in a world of craptastic Ram ProMasters.
  • Frank Sounds like they dont want to debut it at the same time as the new Land Cruiser, which is probably smart. The new 'runner is ready to go I am told, so there's a reason for this delay.