Ford, Road Test Reviews, Vehicles

2011 Ford Mustang V-6 Convertible – Road Test

My first experience with a Ford Mustang was way back in the summer of 1969 when a friend of my Mum had one. She dropped the top and I can still feel the sun beating down on my head and my hair getting messed up with the wind… ahh memories! I was only 7 years old, but I still remember it like it was last year… I nagged my Dad for ages to go out and buy one, but he was sticking to driving around in a 1965 Ford Galaxy wagon that was as long as an aircraft carrier. Fast forward to 1978 and we’d just moved to Canada – fresh off the plane and what do I try and get my dad to buy? A 1978 Ford Mustang – I knew he wouldn’t keep it for long, and I would either inherit it or buy it from him. Alas, he bought another land yacht – which I inherited two years later. I still haven’t gotten around to buying my own Mustang yet, but at least I got to drive a 2011 convertible version for a week this past summer.

First Impressions
I’d been looking forward to this week for a couple of months – I had to book this car way in advance before all the other auto journalists got their mitts on it. I missed out last summer, but wasn’t going to be denied another year!

For the 2011 model year, Ford improved the Mustang again – only a year after a major upgrade! They stiffened the chassis by 31% (the convertible is now twice as stiff) over the 2010 model, and added an all-new V-6 engine. In addition to the new engine, the V-6 Mustang gets an all-new dual exhaust system and a die-cast deep-sump oil pan that provides the benefit of 16,000 km oil change intervals.

Climbing behind the wheel, I quickly familiarized myself with the dash layout. Everything is nice and clear – the audio controls are just where they should be, and the climate controls are simple and easy to operate … oh how refreshing in this day of overly complicated dashboards.

I reached for the steering adjustment, but was disappointed to find that the column tilted, but couldn’t be adjusted for reach, and I felt that I was sitting way too close to the steering wheel. Adjusting the seat back helped a little, but it still wasn’t comfortable enough. Then I remembered that many Ford vehicles have power adjustable pedals – that’ll sort my problem out! But unfortunately, it didn’t have those either. I adjusted it the best I could and set off home. Even though I wasn’t entirely comfortable in the position, the seat itself was extremely comfortable with the right amount of support in key areas and a wonderful lumbar adjustment.

Over the next couple of days I fiddled with the various seating positions, but just couldn’t get it right. It’s very unfortunate because I absolutely love the look of the Mustang and this was really bashing my love affair beyond any reconciliation. Every time someone asked me how I liked it, I was deeply disappointed to tell them that I liked it but didn’t love it. I was truly disheartened.

After almost a week of tweaking the seat … it finally happened – I got it just perfect! Once I’d gotten the seat/steering issues sorted out – I really appreciated the Mustang a lot more, and started to fall in love with it again… but all too soon I had to give the keys back. Unfortunately there is no programmable memory with the seat, so when my wife drove it, my perfect position was gone after she adjusted it for her comfort level. Very frustrating, but I think if I owned the Mustang I’d have a better success rate for getting that all important comfort zone back. My issues would be easily resolved if  there were power adjustable pedals, or the pedals were moved closer to the driver, allowing the seat to be moved a little bit further back like most younger drivers do.

Along with a couple of cosmetic changes, the newest upgrades to the 2011 Mustang include EPAS Steering – an electric power steering system that improves steering effort at low speeds, but it also improves precision at high-speed and highway speeds. It also eliminates drawing power from the engine as well as providing a quieter vehicle. Additional benefits with EPAS is Pull-Drift Compensation, where the steering adjusts to correct for crosswinds and road crowning, while Active Nibble Control eliminates any “shimmy” felt at high speeds or when a wheel is out of balance or a brake rotor is warped. It works seamlessly and is definitely a big improvement over the last Mustang convertible I drove.

The clutch is light and easy to modulate if you drive the Mustang fast. I found the first-to-second shift a little annoying, but all the other transitions were smooth. Road imperfections and potholes are a non-issue with the newest Mustang – the suspension is firm and compliant, yet very forgiving. I must say though that I hate where the Ford engineers decided to place the reverse gear – to the left and up – right beside first gear. What knucklehead thought that was a good spot to put reverse? It should always be to the right and up or down – where God intended it to be!!!


Out on the highway with the top up, the Mustang convertible is very quiet – Ford has done a great job insulating the inside from the outside. At speeds in the 130 km/h range, there was no need to even turn up the stereo system or talk louder.

Crashing over train tracks, the steering did a commendable job of isolating the rough ride, and the stiffer chassis was very noticeable, in fact there was no cowl shake to speak of and the steering didn’t twitch even the slightest. Kudos to Ford engineers for making the convertible Mustang a terrific all round car.

With a very respectable 53/47 (front-rear) weight distribution, the Mustang feels a lot lighter and smaller than its actual size. The coupe and convertible have almost identical dimensions, both riding on a 2,720mm wheelbase, the overall length and width are identical, while the convertible is 13mm lower.

Rear seat accommodation is surprisingly good – much better than I expected. All too often convertibles are basically two-seaters with the illusion of a back seat. With the driver’s seat set for me, I was able to get in to the back and sit in reasonably comfortable. The seat angle and comfort level was very good overall. Although the rear seat back is somewhat upright, it is actually nicely contoured and has plenty of lumbar support. Shoulder and headroom was better than I expected – the rear headroom in the convertible is actually 52mm more than the hardtop version! Foot and knee space was limited, but acceptable for short journeys (identical dimensions as the coupe), although shoulder width is tighter by 168mm (1,311mm vs. 1,143mm). For rear passengers sitting behind a taller driver -ie: not me, the situation might not be quite as acceptable… in fact I’d hasten to say it would be near impossible.

We put our dog in the back for a trip through wine country and he loved it back there. With the windows up and the top down there is virtually no wind buffeting and we were able to hold a conversation without even having to raise our voices. Even travelling at 120 km/h it made no difference – that’s very impressive. With the windows down the wind swirled around the cabin a bit more, but that’s the joy of having a convertible in the summer and we still had no need to raise our voices. With the top up and all the windows down, the interior was virtually buffet free. I have to say I don’t remember ever driving a convertible that was this enjoyable – usually the wind or road noise makes me wonder why people bother with ragtops on an on-going basis.

The Shaker 500 (optional) audio system is excellent with big booming bass and clear highs. The AM/FM/MP3/6-CD (single disc if you opt for the Navigation system), 8 speakers and 500-watts of power gets iPod, Aux and USB plugs to further expand your listening pleasure. Oddly enough there’s no mention of a hard drive that normally comes with these types of audio systems. The test vehicle also came with the Ford Sync system – I’ve never liked it and I didn’t even bother to try using it. The steering wheel gets buttons for Bluetooth hands-free phone, all the usual audio controls as well as cruise control. I liked the placement and they are very easy to get used to.

Storage space in the Mustang is at a premium. The glove box is useless – the manuals completely fill it with no room for anything else. Fortunately the centre armrest has a reasonable amount of storage space – you can keep some CD’s or an MP3 player there. That’s also where the Aux and USB input jacks are located.

The trunk space is very good. When the top is lowered it doesn’t interfere with anything that you’ve placed in the trunk – that’s a very important situation – I’ve had convertibles in the past that weren’t so accommodating and I crushed things when I lowered the top.  With 272 Litres (9.6 cu.ft) of cargo space, the convertible loses quite a bit compared to the hard top that comes in at 379 L (13.4 cu.ft) – but is still comparable with other coupes and convertibles. The rear seat doesn’t fold and there is no pass-through, obviously for structural integrity.

As terrific as the clutch and transmission was, the Mustang made a bit of a meal of shifting at the best points when doing my 0-100 km/h test. Dropping the clutch brought the all-familiar squeal of the tires to the fore, but what I didn’t expect was the front of the car to rise up like a stallion. Every time I’d let out the clutch and shift gears, off it would go again skyward. I can’t think of any car in the past 30+ years where I’ve experienced that! The rear end was well planted and didn’t give even a hint of breaking loose, but it’s imperative to have a good grip of the steering wheel when stomping on the go pedal. The key shift point at just about 100 km/h was the same point that you have to shift into 3rd gear or risk topping out on the rev limiter. I managed to get one good run and it came in at 6.0 seconds – quite good, but I’m sure I could have gotten it better than that with a bit more practice (rain and a slick road ended my testing prematurely).

The 2011 Mustang is a very safe car to drive, with the 2010 version earning the U.S. Governments 5 Star Crash Test Rating (Coupe), and the 2011 model expected to get the same.  Standard equipment includes: Limited Slip Differential; AdvanceTrac ESC (Electronic Stability Control) along with the all-speed Traction Control and 4-wheel ABS brakes; Safety belt Pre-Tensioners;  the superb MyKey™ programmable vehicle key (lets parents encourage their teens to drive safer with top speed and audio limits, as well as a “no belts, no tunes” feature that mutes the audio system if front seat belts are not buckled) and the Ford Sync with 911 Assist.

The Conclusion
Obviously this is the best Mustang ever. It’s safer and it’s finally getting better fuel economy while maintaining its fun to drive character. The 6-speed manual and clutch are as slick and almost as good as anything from Europe or Japan – it’s not often anyone can say that about a North American car. Without a doubt this is the best looking Mustang Ford have ever produced. Not enough power – want more? Well there’s always the Mustang GT (5.0 L V-8 with 412 hp or the Shelby GT500 (5.4 L Supercharged V-8 with 550 hp – both available with hard or soft tops.

Once I got the seating position sorted it was just as good as I imagined it would be

Odd driving position – power pedals would solve the problem instantly
So-so fuel economy

Immediate Competition:
Chevy Camaro, Dodge Challenger, Hyundai Genesis Coupe

By The Numbers…
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Powertrain:                    3.7 Litre 24-valve V-6 with Ti-VCT (Twin Independent Variable Camshaft Timing); 6-speed manual; RWD
Horsepower:                 305 @ 6,500 rpm
Torque lb-ft:                 280 @ 4,200 rpm
0-100 kph:                   6.0 seconds
Cargo Capacity:           272 L (9.6 cu.ft)
Curb Weight:                  1,627 kg (3,586 lbs)
Towing capacity:          452kg (1,000 lbs)

Fuel Consumption:  (Regular / 87 Octane)
City: 10.8 L/100 kms  //  Highway: 6.7 L/100 kms

I averaged 11.5L/100 kms during combined driving – not too impressive considering I wasn’t burying the throttle all day long. The on-board computer told me I was getting an average of 9.0 L/100 kms Highway and 10.0 L/100 kms City.

Pricing for the 2011 Ford Mustang V-6 Convertible ($ Cdn)
Base Price: $31,399
As Tested: $35,729

(Options: Cloth Roof – $300, Interior Upgrade Pkg – $1,500, Block Heater – $80, Security Pkg – $350, HID Lights – $600, Conv. Boot Cover – $200, Rear Video Camera – $300, Turned Mini Prep Seats ?! – $1,500)
Destination & Delivery: $1,350

The basic warranty covers the vehicle for 3 years/60,000 kms that includes a 5 year/100,000 kms Powertrain warranty and Roadside Assistance is 5 years/100,000 kms.

Copyright © 2011 by Iain Shankland. All rights reserved.
Text / Images: Iain Shankland

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