MONTAGU, Western Cape – According to the Pythagoreans, the number 10 symbolised a new beginning. Ten can also represent a poisoned chalice – just ask the newest resident of 10 Downing Street... In the facelifted Ford Mustang, however, that number signifies a positive turn, as I recently found out at the muscle car's local launch.
Somewhat forced opening analogy aside, the new 10-speed transmission, which we've experienced in the Ranger Raptor and tweaked Everest, makes the most of Ford's 2,3-litre EcoBoost engine, which has seen a reduction in power output of 20 kW (blame revised European emissions testing procedures going into effect since this generation of the iconic Pony Car was first unveiled in 2014). Crucially, though, it gains 11 N.m. Coupled with the clever auto ‘box and an overboost function, Ford says there's been no discernible harm to performance. It's been a few years since I last drove a 2,3 EcoBoost but in terms of mid-range punch, that claim seems believable, even in the heavier Convertible version my driving partner and I exercised on the Little Karoo's fantastic roads.
What else is new?
I mention the transmission and engine up front because not much has changed elsewhere from pre- to post-facelift Mustang. It’s not that much needed to change, anyway. Externally, the main clues are sleeker LED-equipped headlamps, a lower bonnet profile with venting and tri-bar taillamps sitting above a revised bumper and diffuser-like insert. The 19-inch alloys are new, too, plus buyers have the option of three additional paint colours: Kona Blue, Orange Fury and Velocity Blue. It's still a fantastic-looking car, especially in Fastback guise with a lick of bright paint.
Inside, fit and finish were never the Mustang's main selling points (certainly nowhere close to the elevated levels of an Audi A5, a natural rival at the price), and that remains the case, but additional soft-touch materials on the doors do help, as does extended brightwork.
Elevating the cockpit more than squidgy plastics or shiny metal-aping surfaces is a new 12-inch LCD instrumentation display, which changes its look depending on the drive mode selected (the retro tachometer bar is especially cool) and can be set through seven colours. The facia houses an eight-inch touchscreen equipped with Ford's excellent Sync3 system, which has native navigation as standard.
New safety systems have been adopted, including pre-collision assist with pedestrian detection, adaptive cruise control and distance alert, plus lane-departure and -keeping aids.
And how does it drive?
While the stodgier Convertible is not the Mustang I would recommend, even in mellifluous 5,0 V8 guise, there's surprisingly little scuttle shake considering the enormous hole in the middle of the bodywork (there's just about enough legroom for two average-sized adults aft). Road roar is amplified by the cloth roof but still acceptable at cruising speeds, although the cockpit isn't the calmest environment with the top stowed (which happens with some manual unclipping assistance before the motor takes over duties).
Ford says it's fiddled with the dampers to enhance stability through corners, plus stiffened the rear suspension and thickened the anti-roll bars. Again, without a pre-facelift car present to compare, I'd have to take the engineers' word for it, but the Mustang has always been a fun car to hustle and that remains the case. The ride, too, feels nicely controlled without really threatening the Germans' level of sophistication in this discipline.
The best Mustang is unquestionably the Fastback 5,0 V8 GT. At R915 800 – and assuming you can afford the fuel bill – it represents a compelling alternative to European options with four-cylinder turbopetrol engines, or their pricier six-cylinder range mates. However, I was once again pleasantly surprised by how eagerly the 2,3-litre turbopetrol shifts the heavy Convertible body, and it even sounds decent while doing so (although, of course, heavily synthesised). Thanks to the safety-system additions, plus that sophisticated new 10-speed automatic transmission keeping the engine on the boil, even in V8-less guise the iconic Mustang is as appealing as ever, and a far more interesting option than the more accomplished – but somewhat staid – Germans.
FAST FACTSModel: Ford Mustang Convertible 2,3 EcoBoost 10AT
Price: R831 000
Engine: 2,3-litre, 4-cylinder, turbopetrol
Power: 213 kW @ 5 400 r/min
Torque: 441 N.m @ 3 000 r/min
0-100 km/h: 5,8 seconds
Top speed: 233 km/h
Fuel consumption: 10,0 L/100 km
CO2: 225 g/km
Transmission: 10-speed automatic
Service plan: Six-year/90 000 km
See Full Ford Mustang Convertible price and specs here