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2006 Ford Mustang GT Convertible Test Drive

Ford ponies up

About.com Rating 4.5 Star Rating
User Rating 5 Star Rating (1 Review)

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2006 Ford Mustang GT Convertible front view

2006 Ford Mustang GT Convertible

© Jason Fogelson
Lightning really can strike twice in the same spot. It struck the Ford lineup in 1964 when the original Mustang made its debut. And it has struck again with the 2006 Ford Mustang GT Convertible. With a base price of $31,145 ($34,940 as tested), the 2006 Ford Mustang GT Convertible carries a 3 year/36,000 mi. warranty and gets 17 mpg city/23 mpg highway with its 300 hp 4.6 liter V8. For the first time since the early 70s, Mustang is a must-have vehicle, great fun to drive and great to look at.

First Glance: Dares all comers

If the Mustang Coupe is hot, the Mustang Convertible is sizzling. Ford did a tremendous job of capturing the spirit of the original pony car in a totally modern fashion. The Mustang's design is an example of Retrofuturism at its best, bringing back the shark shape of the second generation Mustang and the recessed headlights and elegant trim details of the first generation. A rising beltline reaches to the Mustang's muscular haunches, adding to the sense of forward momentum and speed. The big flared wheel wells look like sneers, as the car dares all comers to test its mettle.

Top up, the ‘Stang has a nice roofline, similar to the coupe but with a slightly lower profile. The thick, well-constructed top should last a long time with proper care. With the top down, the Mustang really looks its best. A simple convertible cover (a $115 option) hides the mechanism and gives the back seat parade quality. The windshield and A-pillars (the columns that frame the windshield) are substantial and steeply raked. I could do without the rear decklid-mounted spoiler, but at least it's relatively subtle, and conforms to the lines of the car.

The Mustang GT Convertible already has the air of a classic. It's a great design.

Continued below...

In the Driver's Seat: Outstanding attention to retro detail

2006 Ford Mustang GT Convertible dashboard

Mustang's dashboard combines retro styling with modern functionality

© Jason Fogelson
I love the Mustang interior, especially the dashboard and instrument panel. I know it's just styling, but the dash takes me back to the first time I ever sat behind the wheel of a Mustang back in the 1960s. Somehow the polished trim on the steering wheel manages to evoke the look and spirit of the original three-spoke wheel, while delivering totally modern functionality like a center-mounted airbag and cruise control buttons. The instrument cluster is a testament to the importance of attention to detail -- the chrome bezel rings and retro font choices accentuate the smart, ergonomic layout of the gauges.

My test car was equipped with an automatic transmission, which is controlled by a fighter pilot thruster-like shifter mounted between the front bucket seats. The seats are leather trimmed, supportive and highly adjustable. There's plenty of legroom up front, and adequate legroom in the back for two adults (on a short trip).

A few small complaints -- some of the plastics on the dash and doors is not the highest quality, and detracts slightly from the overall look. And my girlfriend has informed me that any convertible that doesn't come with standard heated seats is sorely lacking. A telescoping steering wheel would be nice, too.

On the Road: More than just fast

300 hp, 320 lb-ft of torque. I could just stop there. With this kind of power motivating the rear wheels of this 3600 lb convertible, the Mustang is fast and uproarious. Driven through the optional ($995) five-speed automatic transmission, the power is easily controllable and instantly accessible. If the Mustang was just about power, it would be excellent, but it's also surprisingly nimble and well-connected to the road. The handling is confidence inspiring, hardly the buckboard ride of the late ‘60s musclecar era. Four wheel disc brakes are equipped with anti-lock technology, and power rack-and-pinion steering is tight and responsive -- I never thought I'd say that about a Mustang.

Driving with the top up is almost as quiet as driving in a hardtop. Top down, the wind noise levels are reasonable, as wind rushes over the steep windshield and across the high trunk lid with a minimum of turbulence. And, oh, the glory of driving around with the top down in a Mustang! Knowing that you're driving a car that's cool, affordable and powerful adds a jolt to the experience -- you can look good and smart at the same time, a rarity in my experience. The Mustang Convertible is the kind of car that will make you drive for the sake of driving.

Journey's End: "Best convertible under $35,000"

2006 Mustang GT Convertibie rear view

Muscle car power, modern sports car handling: A great package

© Jason Fogelson
I've never been much of a Mustang guy -- my dad drives a 1991 Mustang 5.0 GT Convertible that he treasures. In the Musclecar Wars, I was always on the side of the General -- General Motors, that is. Camaros, 442s and GTOs (at least in my dreams). Today's Mustang Convertible could change my allegiances, though.

There are other affordable convertibles on the market that you should take a look at if you're considering a Mustang. If you only need two seats, you can save a few bucks and pick up a Mazda MX-5 Miata, a Pontiac Solstice or Saturn Sky. You won't get the brute force of the 'Stang, but you'll get even better performance around the curves. For a few dollars more, the Nissan 350Z Roadster is a hoot.

Pontiac's G6 Convertible, Chrysler's Sebring Convertible and Toyota's Solara Convertible all add practicality to the convertible package, but lack the performance edge and are a little boring compared to Mustang. Mitsubishi's Eclipse Convertible has some rough edges, but great style. Chrysler's PT Cruiser Convertible and the Mini Cooper Convertible compete with Retrofuturist appeal, and both deliver excellent driving experiences.

For my money, though -- the Mustang GT Convertible is the hands-down best convertible under $35,000.

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