First Glance: Dares all comers
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.
In the Driver's Seat: Outstanding attention to retro detail
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
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"
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.