by Jared Rosenholtz
Fans of the Ford Mustang will often tell you the beloved pony has to have a V8 engine to be fun and in the past, they weren't exactly wrong. Ford's V6 engines didn't start to be entertaining until 2011 when the 3.7-liter Cyclone arrived and even then, the 5.0-liter Coyote V8 was still the far more impressive power plant. But Ford is slowly moving away from normally aspirated engines and the Mustang no longer has a V6 option. Instead, all base Mustangs are now powered by a 2.3-liter EcoBoost four-cylinder similar to the one used in the discontinued Focus RS.
In the Focus, this EcoBoost engine was heralded for its impressive power output but in the Mustang, it is picked on for "not being a V8." But if you stripped away the Mustang nameplate and just looked at the car for what it is - an affordable, rear-wheel-drive sports car with over 300 horsepower - it would be a guaranteed winner. Ford sent us a 2019 Mustang Convertible to review and after a week of driving, we aren't so sure the V8 model is the only one you should buy.
Most alterations for 2019 pertain to the options and packages that are available for the Mustang Convertible. An active valve quad-tip performance exhaust system has been added to the options cache along with a premium Bang & Olufsen audio system, which replaces the previous years' optional Pro audio setup. Three new over-the-top vintage-inspired tape stripes have been added to the exterior customization catalog along with two new exterior paint options; Velocity Blue and Need for Green. It is otherwise business as usual for the EcoBoost Mustang Convertible.
Ford has incorporated contemporary design and styling details into the Mustang's beloved retro pony-car aesthetic. Aggressively contoured LED headlights with integrated signature LED daytime running lights flank the Mustang's easily recognizable black mesh grille, underscored by slim LED indicators and a molded chin skirting, which, along with dual hood vents, make up the Mustang's face. LED sequential taillights and dual-rolled polished bright exhaust tips adorn the rear end. 17-inch Sparkle Silver aluminum wheels fill the arches of the base EcoBoost Convertible, while fuller, 18-inch machined-face aluminum wheels are equipped on the EcoBoost Premium Convertible. A fully-lined cloth soft-top discerns the Convertible variant from the Coupe.
Our tester was an EcoBoost Premium Convertible finished in an exciting shade called Ruby Red Metallic. The color was certainly attractive but we aren't fans of the Premium model's two-tone 18-inch wheels and would prefer the more aggressive wheels found with the Performance Package.
With its classic long and muscled hood, two-plus-two layout, and short stubby trunk, the Mustang isn't a very compact pony car. However, at 107.1 inches, it possesses a shorter wheelbase than either of its core rivals. Its bodywork rides 5.7 inches from the asphalt and measures 188.5 inches in length, 54.9 inches in height, and 75.4 inches in width. With the manual gearbox equipped, the Mustang Convertible weighs in at 3,642 lbs in its lightest guise and 3,712 lbs with the automatic on the heaviest Premium trim; that slots the Mustang Convertible neatly in line with the Chevrolet Camaro, which starts at 3,647 lbs.
A total of ten exterior hues are available for the Mustang Convertible, including two new additions for 2019 in Velocity Blue and Need For Green - the former carrying giving the 'Stang a distinct GT350 vibe. Other staples include the regular Oxford White, Ingot Silver, and Shadow Black hues, but we're partial to the more exciting shades of Race Red, Ruby Red, Kona Blue, or Orange Fury. To avoid looking like you just rented the Mustang Convertible for a long weekend, we highly suggest going for a brash color.
As far as Mustangs go, the EcoBoost Convertible 'Stang occupies the lowliest of rankings when it comes to performance. Not only does it get a turbocharged four-cylinder developing only 310 horsepower (compared to 460 in the GT), but it adds weight and sacrifices rigidity by chopping the roof off. Still, the 2.3-liter mill isn't bad, and driving the rear wheels, it's more than capable of burning rubber in 'line-lock' mode, or sending the Mustang from 0-60 mph in 5.5 seconds on an ideal surface. Those figures may seem like hot-hatch territory, but those would've humiliated V8 'stangs of old. Some of the performance sparkle is lost with the roof being removed, though, and in losing its top, the Mustang has become more of a GT car than a true sports car.
Compared to the V8, the base model seems almost underwhelming with a 2.3-liter turbocharged four-cylinder developing 310 hp and 350 lb-ft of torque. Many may cry foul at the decision to use a four-cylinder, but Fox-body Mustangs made use of a similarly sized unit, so this isn't the first time the Mustang has gone for a diminutive four-banger. The choice exists between either a standard six-speed manual gearbox or if you prefer to let the Mustang do its own thing, a ten-speed automatic co-developed with General Motors.
Our tester had the optional 10-speed automatic, which shifts like aggressively no matter which drive mode you put it into. Place the car into its Race setting and the transmission really tries to shake you out of the seat with some jerky changes. As for the engine, no one will lie to you saying the EcoBoost sounds nearly as good as the V8 but if you like the sound of a turbo-four, you might enjoy the boosty noises it makes under throttle - we certainly did.
The last Mustang we tested was a GT with the Performance Package and we definitely missed the larger brakes and more aggressive tires included on it. But when driving the EcoBoost, it became clear this is the Mustang to buy if you prefer a more nimble sports car. Having a four-cylinder up front makes the entire car feel lighter and more responsive when you chuck it into a corner. It still doesn't feel Miata-like but the EcoBoost certainly tickled our fancy through the bends.
Ditto with the ride comfort. The PP1 GT crashed violently over bumps but the non-Performance Package EcoBoost felt no less comfortable than a Focus or Fusion. This is the Mustang you'll want to buy if you just want something comfortable. It still packs tons of performance goodies, allowing the driver to change the steering feel, transmission aggressiveness, throttle mapping, and exhaust sound. The Mustang's steering doesn't feel as precise as the Camaro but the three steering modes are a fun gimmick for drivers to play with. It may not be shouty V8 but the EcoBoost does love to get loud when you put the exhaust into race mode. Plus, the EcoBoost is perfectly capable of some shenanigans like smoking the rear tires using the built-in line-lock feature.
Interestingly enough, the Mustang's EcoBoost straight-four engine performs identically in fuel economy when mated to either the six-speed manual transmission or the ten-speed automatic, with both variants returning EPA estimates of 20/28/23 mpg city/highway/combined. The Mustang can manage a range of around 356 miles on a full tank of premium unleaded fuel with its 15.5-gallon gas tank. On the highway, we were easily able to achieve well over 30 mpg.
Forget, for a moment, that the Mustang Convertible is a two-plus-two, and imagine it as a two-seater coupe - it's wonderful and spacious, with an abundance of head and legroom - provided you don't try squeeze passengers into the tiny back seats. At least, should you attempt to, with the roof down, ingress and egress are easy enough. The cabin is fairly well-assembled, but visibility is limited by chunky A-pillars, and the seats aren't the most supportive. Instrumentation is well laid out, and central to the whole experience is Ford's impressive-but-aging Sync 3 infotainment system. It's a well-executed interior for the most part, which will be accommodating of almost all who enter. But it's nothing exceptional, which is a great pity considering the Mustang's reputation as America's pop-culture icon.
From the moment we sat down in the EcoBoost Convertible, we couldn't be happier to see it did not have the Recaro torture chambers from our last GT tester. Those seats are great on a race track but terrible everywhere else. These seats are perfectly comfortable and could do with slightly more aggressive bolstering but having heating and ventilation is a luxury we would not sacrifice just to have more aggressive seats.
We also loved the bright red leather found on our tester but it clashed a bit with the darker red exterior. If you go for a more neutral color like black or silver, the red leather should look fantastic. As for the rest of the interior, the Premium trim features nice materials that lag Europe and Japan's best but easily shines above the other American competitors. Almost all of the surfaces are soft touch and most of the metallic trim feels like real metal.
For a convertible pony-car, the Mustang is relatively easy to live with in terms of practicality. Its trunk opens appreciably wide, and the lift-over height is relatively low; and, with an impressive 11.4 cubic feet of trunk room on offer, there's more than enough space for a couple of weekend travel bags. Ford has also engineered the convertible top so it doesn't take up any space when down. In-cabin storage is unfortunately not as impressive, limited to a compact passenger-side glovebox, a small center armrest console, and narrow door side pockets that do not hold bottles. The center console dual cupholders are at least large enough to hold supersized beverages.
While the base EcoBoost is fairly bare-bones, the EcoBoost Premium ups the ante with a wide selection of luxury-quality features as standard. Manually adjustable cloth front seats in the base EcoBoost upgrade to power-adjustable leather front seats in the EcoBoost Premium, with heating and ventilation. The base model gets keyless entry and ignition, an auto-dimming rearview mirror, and basic air conditioning, while dual-zone automatic climate control, ambient LED interior lighting, and a universal garage door opener avail the EcoBoost Premium. An integrated reverse camera comes standard across the lineup, with a reverse sensing system featured in the EcoBoost Premium only. The Premium also features selectable drive modes with a fully digital gauge cluster that changes based on what mode you are in.
The base Mustang comes with a tiny LCD screen with tons of buttons surrounding it but the Premium trim rolls in an eight-inch touchscreen with Sync3. This system has been on the market for several years now and it still works well. Voice command is easy-to-use and Android Auto and Apple CarPlay both come standard. We have started to notice some laggy menu changes on the system in recent tests, perhaps signaling that other systems have caught up and Sync3 is in need of an update.
The 2019 Ford Mustang Convertible has not yet been subject to any major recalls, with only the Coupe variant having been recalled due to a malfunctioning instrument cluster. J.D. Power gave the Mustang an average predicted reliability rating of three out of five. Ford offers the Mustang Convertible with a three-year/36,000-mile basic warranty and a five-year/60,000-mile powertrain warranty.
Though the Convertible variant has not been evaluated for its crashworthiness, the Coupe variant has; an overall safety rating of five out of five from the NHTSA and top scores of Good for four out of five evaluations implemented by the IIHS were awarded.
Standard safety features are limited to five airbags including a driver's knee airbag, an SOS post-crash alert system, tire pressure monitoring system, and a rearview camera. Reverse parking sensors are only included on the top trim, while driver-assist technology is relatively limited, comprising just automatic headlights and automatic wipers. As part of an options package, adaptive cruise control, forward collision warning, pedestrian detection, lane keep assist, and automatic emergency braking are available to bolster safety further.
Prepare for a hot take: we prefer the EcoBoost Mustang to the GT. While you pick up your jaw, allow us to explain. If this car wasn't called 'Mustang,' people would be singing its praises for being one of the best affordable sports cars on the market. It's got everything people criticize the Mazda Miata, Subaru BRZ, and Toyota 86 for not having - a turbocharged drivetrain with over 300 hp, a usable trunk, and an affordable price tag. In fact, an EcoBoost Premium Convertible costs around $8,000 less than a GT and feels more nimble through the corners.
Getting a convertible Mustang already means you are willing to sacrifice a bit of performance, so why not save the money and just get the EcoBoost? If this car was called Probe, or Falcon, or Escort, it wouldn't have to face criticism for being a "lesser" Mustang and in our opinion, the EcoBoost makes a strong case for itself over the V8. If we were to buy a Mustang tomorrow, ours would be a manual coupe with the Performance Package, but it would have the EcoBoost under the hood.
The base EcoBoost Mustang Convertible starts the lineup off with an MSRP of $31,895, progressing to $36,910 for the Premium variant. These prices are excluding Ford's destination charge of $1,095 and acquisition charge of $645, as well as any tax, registration, or licensing fees. Selecting the optional ten-speed automatic transmission will throw on an extra $1,595, and optioning in all the available packages for a fully-loaded EcoBoost Premium model can level the total price out at around the $50,000 mark. Our tester was equipped with Magneride suspension ($1,695), Ford Smart and Safe ($1,000), and Active Valve Exhaust ($895) bringing the as-tested price to $42,440.
Ford sells the Mustang Convertible in two trims, the base EcoBoost and a fittingly named EcoBoost Premium derivative. Both are powered by a 2.3-liter turbocharged four-cylinder with a rear-wheel drivetrain, and both can be had with either a six-speed manual gearbox or a ten-speed automatic.
The EcoBoost starts things off with LED headlights, 17-inch alloy wheels, a power-retractable soft-top roof, manually adjustable cloth seats, an AM/FM radio with six speakers, manual climate control, an auto-dimming rearview mirror, and a rearview camera.
The Premium model adds on to this with 18-inch alloy wheels, pony projection entry lights, dual-zone climate control, upgraded interior trim, reverse park sensors, nine speakers, Ford's Sync 3 infotainment system, and power-adjustable heated and cooled leather seats.
Several available packages are mainly applicable to the base EcoBoost, including the 101A group of equipment, which includes 18-inch alloy wheels, SYNC 3, nine speakers, drive modes, six-way power seat adjustment, dual-zone climate control, and reverse park sensors, bringing the base model almost in line with the Premium. There's also the Ford Safe and Smart Package, which adds adaptive cruise control, forward collision warning, automatic emergency braking, and lane-keep assist to the array of features. Standalone options for the base model are numerous, too, including a performance exhaust system. MagneRide adaptive dampers, and voice-activated navigation.
For the Premium models, a Bang & Olufsen sound system with 12 speakers and a subwoofer can be added, as can Recaro sport front seats. The Premium can also be equipped with the same Ford Safe and Smart Package, or an EcoBoost Performance Package, which equips a Torsen limited-slip rear differential, 19-inch alloy wheels with summer tires, sporty suspension, a spoiler delete kit, and unique suspension and stability control tuning while bumping power to 330 hp.
After driving a 2019 Mustang, we can say it might be worth the wait for the upcoming 2020 model with the new High Performance Package. It will increase the output to 330 hp while also improving the handling and visual appearance. Ford's 10-speed automatic is pretty quick but lacks the finesse we like in traffic, so we'd get the six-speed manual. We'd also opt for a coupe over the convertible because despite being quiet and not taking up any trunk space, the Mustang's top requires you to use an old-school latch before opening or closing it. For around $6,000 less, we'll take gladly take a coupe even if the back seat feels more cramped.
The Mustang and Camaro are venerable rivals having stood face to face as pony-car class-champions for ages. The Camaro is available at a similar price to the Mustang but comes stock with a smaller 2.0-liter turbo four-cylinder engine with less impressive outputs of 275 hp and 295 lb-ft. The Camaro's engine is marginally more economical in highway conditions with EPA estimates of 20/30/23 mpg, and manages almost identical sprint times; the Camaro Convertible manages the 0-60 mph sprint in 5.3 seconds. The Camaro's powertrain nevertheless feels as competent as the Mustang's, however, the Camaro also has the option of a more powerful 3.6-liter V6 engine (335 hp and 284 lb-ft). The Camaro also comes stock with a selection of performance-based underpinnings, and with its lighter curb weight, it's more willing to be pushed - it's also more capable at the limits. The Mustang is a better all-rounder, however, with a larger trunk, more passenger room, and intuitive controls. But the Camaro offers more value at the base level in terms of features and performance, which makes it the sensible buy.
Though unavailable in a convertible body style, the Dodge Challenger is still a popular alternative to the Mustang. As a coupe, the obvious advantages to the Challenger are a practically large trunk, which has five cubic feet more than the Mustang Convertible does, and usable rear seats with adequate seating for three across. The Challenger, at the base level, is outfitted with a few more premium features than the Mustang, has greater tech functionality, and the option of all-wheel-drive. The Challenger offers easier livability, but the Mustang is just a bit more enjoyable to drive as the Challenger's hefty curb weight and stretched wheelbase limit its capability - especially when in town. Sacrificing the top-down thrills of the Mustang for the better value and practicality of the Challenger would be a reasonable decision, but the enthusiast would prefer the Mustang's fun-to-drive character and open-top thrills.