Modern retro fun
The latest generation of the Mustang is, in my view, a fabulous piece of retro modernity. The vehicle really captures the spirit and excitement of the muscle car era; an era that is fondly remembered by many—myself included.
|The latest generation of the Mustang is, in my view, a fabulous piece of retro modernity. (Photo: Rob Rothwell/Auto123.com)|
Although my right to drive didn’t arrive until 1974, I was exposed to the muscle car era by older brothers who owned such classics as a 1970 Dodge Challenger R/T and a 1966 Plymouth Satellite. Both of these Mopar sleds were powered by Chrysler’s 383-cu-inch V8 backed by 4-speed sticks—the Challenger flaunting its “pistol grip” stick shift.
My point in reminiscing is to set the stage for driving the 2012 Mustang GT Convertible. It’s a fine rendition of all that made the early muscle car era so special. Despite its constellation of airbags and modern vehicle stability/safety accoutrements, my tester’s retro-spirit wasn’t dampened with the presence of a modern navigation system or other in-car tech toys.
Except for Ford’s discreet SYNC system, the 2012 GT ragtop I drove this week fulfilled my desires with simplicity, such as its knobs to control audio and climate functions. The presence of conventional switchgear and full instrumentation was a refreshing find, and frankly, I wouldn’t want it any other way in this sort of car.
I also wouldn’t want to change what’s under the hood.
5.0 litres of fun
The GT’s 5.0-litre, 32-valve V8 powerplant produces its height of 412 horsepower @ 6,500 rpm. This huge herd of hooves is complemented by 390 pound-feet of torque @ 4,250 rpm, the sum of which flows through a six-speed gearbox—automatic or manual. In my case, manual, thank you.
|The presence of conventional switchgear and full instrumentation was a refreshing find. (Photo: Rob Rothwell/Auto123.com)|
The GT’s horsepower was boosted to 412 in 2011, so the beast of an engine enters 2012 just the same, which is to say with plenty-o-power and matching auditory punch. The Mustang GT isn’t a discreet Ford, lets be clear about that.
|The GT’s 5.0-litre, 32-valve V8 powerplant produces its height of 412 horsepower @ 6,500 rpm. (Photo: Rob Rothwell/Auto123.com)|
If the Grabber Blue paint doesn’t scream loud enough for attention, the twin pipes will. Ford hasn’t stumbled upon the Mustang GT’s aggressive exhaust note by accident—there’s been research and experimentation to get it “just right”. And it’s that distinctive V8 popping, burbling and growling that makes this car such a delight to drive, especially with its roof lowered so that the full cacophony can be appreciated in an unfiltered state.
Of course, if you’re gonna talk the talk, you’d better be capable of walking the walk—and the GT certainly is. The power underfoot is immense and ferocious, especially once the big 8 crests 4,000 rpm on its rapid rise to a 7,000-rpm redline.
Adding to the exhilarating experience behind the wheel is the availability of a short-throw, notchy six-speed stick that’s topped with a steel cue ball. It doesn’t get much sweeter than this for dyed-in-the-wool motoring fans. There are no shift paddles and there’s no lightening fast dual-clutch shifting; there’s also no rev matching or any of the latest tech gadgets that remove the driver from the physical role of making things happen.
What the driver doesn’t have control over is the suspension’s calibration. Unlike some sports cars, the Mustang GT doesn’t come with driver-selectable settings for the underpinnings. What Ford provides is what you get—but that’s not necessarily disappointing, in fact, I found it to be quite the opposite.
Flat, controlled cornering along with reasonable ride quality
Some critics have bemoaned the absence of an independent rear suspension setup, and “yes”, such an arrangement may be superior to the Mustang’s solid rear axle. In reality though, the GT’s setup is highly effective and easy to live with.
My tester had little problem remaining flat and totally composed when cornered aggressively on smooth pavement. It may not have performed as admirably had the road surface been less favorable, but for what it’s worth, I was suitably impressed with my tester’s agility and prowess. I also found its ride quality to be quite agreeable regardless of road conditions.
|My tester had little problem remaining flat and totally composed when cornered aggressively on smooth pavement. (Photo: Ford)|
Daily around-town sojourns never left me in need of chiropractic care or feeling beat up, which is not always the case with performance cars. As such, I didn’t want to give this one back.
Wrapping the convertible GT
There’s something deep inside me that this car touches in a visceral way, making me want to do a milk run at 11 pm for no other reason than to experience its simplicity and raw performance. Over the years, I’ve had some pricey hardware in my garage, none of which have come close to evoking the emotion and excitement of the 2012 Mustang GT Convertible.
|It’s not a quiet steed, nor is it docile, but it’s a tremendously rewarding pony for those with a lust for performance and a heart for nostalgia. (Photo: Rob Rothwell/Auto123.com)|
And I wasn’t alone in that sense. Neighbours and others—including my ‘performance car’ disdaining wife—wanted to cruise top down at sunset. It’s that sort of response that tells me Ford got it right with the Mustang, despite what some anal-minded critics have to say about its underpinnings.
This truly is one of those cars that I have difficulty parting with. The beautiful weather in Vancouver this week certainly didn’t ease my separation anxiety.