washingtonpost.com  > Business > Columnists > On Wheels

Add Sunshine, Be Stirred

2005 Ford Mustang Convertible

By Warren Brown
Washington Post Staff Writer
Sunday, January 16, 2005; Page G01


It's hard to love a convertible in wind and rain, hard to enjoy it in a land of sodden hills ready to tumble with the next downpour.

Mudslides offer no incentive to lower the roof, not even the clever Z-fold top of the 2005 Ford Mustang GT.

2005 Ford Mustang Convertible. (Ford)

Nuts & Bolts

Downside: Convertibles inherently are fair-weather friends. Ultimately, it matters not that they have leak-resistant tops, or that their roofs provide shelter from cold winds. Convertibles exist to let the outside in, to make the travel environment an intimate part of the drive. When they can't do that, they are meaningless.

Ride, acceleration and handling: Excellent in all three categories, based on driving responsibly on wet, muddy roads.

Head-turning quotient: Beautiful. I think they're the best-looking, best-made Mustangs ever. But it must have been disconcerting to soaked Southern Californians to see a parade of pretty Mustang convertibles gliding by. Then again, maybe it gave them hope that the area's monsoon season would end soon.

Body style/layout: Front-engine, rear-wheel-drive, four-seat convertible with a unitized steel body, aluminum hood and an automatically folding top that collapses quickly and neatly.

Engines/transmissions: The Mustang GT convertible comes with a 4.6-liter V-8 that develops 300 horsepower at 5,750 revolutions per minute and 320 foot-pounds of torque at 4,500 rpm. The 4-liter V-6 version develops 210 horsepower at 5,250 rpm and 240 foot-pounds of torque at 3,500 rpm. A five-speed manual transmission is standard for both models. A five-speed automatic is optional.

Cargo and fuel capacities: Both the Mustang GT and V-6 have seating for four people. Maximum cargo volume is 9.7 cubic feet. Fuel capacity is 16 gallons of gasoline. Regular unleaded is recommended for both models.

Mileage: Based on Environmental Protection Agency estimates, the Mustang GT gets 18 miles per gallon in the city and 23 on the highway with the five-speed automatic; 17 mpg city and 25 highway with the five-speed manual. The V-6, however, appears to get better mileage with the automatic transmission than it does with the manual -- 19 mpg city and 25 highway with the automatic, compared with 19 city and 23 highway with the manual.

Safety: Seat-mounted side air bags are optional for the driver and front-seat passenger on both models. Anti-lock brakes and traction control are standard on the Mustang GT and optional on the V-6.

Price: Base price on the 2005 Mustang V-6 convertible is $23,870. Dealer invoice price on that model is $21,858. Price as tested is $24,495, including a $625 destination charge. Dealer price as tested is $22,483. Base price on the 2005 Mustang GT convertible is $29,370. Dealer invoice price is $26,808. GT price as tested is $29,995. GT dealer's price as tested is $27,433. Prices here are from Ford and Cars.com, an affiliate of The Washington Post.

Purse-string notes: The Mustang is one of the best convertible buys available. Compare with the 2005 Chrysler Sebring and the 2005 Mitsubishi Eclipse Spyder GTS, which are regarded as direct competitors.

We kept the top up, which was reasonable under the circumstances, although we knew its vinyl and cloth composition provided little protection against anything except chilled raindrops. That was enough.

Unexpected bad weather had beaten down expectations of fun. The convertible was hot. The climate was not. We compromised -- settled for a leak-proof roof, a heating system that worked efficiently, tires that gripped muddy roads and brakes that worked well.

We got all of those things and more in the new Mustang GT convertible -- a rear-wheel-drive car equipped with a 300-horsepower V-8 engine. A brief run in a 210-horsepower V-6 version of the car also demonstrated its foul-weather competence.

But who buys a convertible to be used as a raincoat? There is nothing romantic or wind-in-your-hair about that. That is why there are relatively few convertibles in wintry states such as Maine, Minnesota and Nebraska.

For opposite reasons, that is why we, automotive journalists in pursuit of the next best thing, came to Southern California to take a spin in Ford Motor Co.'s latest offering of the Mustang, which has been around in one form or another since April 1964. We came in pursuit of sun, balmy breezes and sinuous curves.

But we were greeted by frigid, wet reality -- reminded beyond forgetting, by tragic reports in the cases of some area residents whose lives and homes were buried beneath rain-laden earth, that convertibles are motorized acts of faith, four-wheeled odes to optimism.

You've got to believe good times are ahead when you buy a convertible. You've got to hope the sun will shine, that clouds will be few.

CONTINUED    1 2    Next >

© 2005 The Washington Post Company