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Readers of this site with particularly strong memories will recall that I have a bit of a history with the latest generation of Mustang GT. I drove a few of the 5.0-liter cars when they came out back in 2011, and I liked them so much that I shelled out my own money for one – a Yellow Blaze GT Premium coupe with a 6-speed manual and the Brembo package; no other options. The test car on this page was more or less equipped similarly to mine, save for two crucial factors – its convertible top and a 6-speed automatic. Having never sampled a newer GT configured with either of those options, I was eager to grab the keys to one for a week.

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The automatic in the 5-liter GT has gotten a bit of a bad rap in the press, although after my time with this GT I can’t quite figure out why. After a few hundred miles in the thing, I never once thought it was a bad pairing for the character of the car, particularly in convertible guise. The Mustang drop-top has always been more about cruising than the coupe variant – even Vanilla Ice can attest to that. So it’s understandable that many will spec the auto – just slot it into “D” and let your hair blow to your heart’s content.

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It’s a traditional torque-converter auto, this transmission – it remains to be seen whether the all-new Mustang replacing this model next year will be equipped with a dual-clutch or not. I would suspect not, since Ford’s DCTs have thus far only been paired to small-displacement transverse applications, a far cry from the torque-heavy RWD Mustang. But we’ll see – I haven’t yet been sold on Ford’s DCT offerings, though one properly calibrated for the racier Mustang could change that opinion. As it stands, the 6AT still handily cracks off high-rpm shifts with a firm thump in Sport mode, reassuring in a car with an engine as stout as the GT’s 5.0. And when you’re dawdling around town, it’s just as happy to loaf around in Drive as any other automatic.

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I was prepared for a hefty amount of scuttle shake and chassis reverberations in the chopped-top Mustang, especially considering the relative age of the platform our Ignot Silver example’s body sits atop. So I was pleasantly surprised when, upon crossing my first set of railroad tracks at speed, I detected very little windshield frame shake. In fact, the whole chassis did an admirable job of soaking up and deflecting impacts, producing very little of the sideways axle tramp that live rear ends have been known for. It’s been said before and I’ll say it again, Ford has truly evolved the live rear axle to its absolute pinnacle with this car – before sending it off to an honorable retirement.

Like my 2011, this 2014 GT was equipped with the $1,650 Brembo brake package. Packaging together far more than the name would suggest, the kit includes the aforementioned 14” front stoppers, but also 19×9” dark graphite alloy wheels all around, stickier rubber (255/40-19-sized Pirelli P-Zeros on coupes, Goodyear F1 Supercars on convertibles), different springs and struts/shocks, Shelby GT500 rear lower control arms and finally, different stability and electric power steering control settings. Unlike the buckboard ride my coupe exhibited, the convertible’s was supple in comparison. This could be down to a few factors – perhaps the less-rigid convertible structure allows some give whereas the coupe simply rattles its occupants teeth out; there may be different springs/damper rates at play between Brembo-equipped coupes and convertibles; perhaps there were some line-item changes made to the suspension during the 2013 mid-lifecycle Mustang refresh that makes the ride more livable. Or maybe this author is just looking back through a distorted rearview mirror, as it were. Regardless, I found the convertible’s ride perfectly livable, and the car seemed to turn in with the same vigor and limited body roll as my hardtop coupe.

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The intoxicating pull to redline I got in my coupe is every bit as good as I remember. Ford’s 32-valve, DOHC 5-liter V8 is a gem, generating meaningful pull everywhere in the rev range, and interestingly, it manages to combine a throwback muscle car soundtrack at idle, complete with a lumpy idle that sends small shivers through the driver’s seat, with a high-tech scream toward 7,000 rpm. In my humble opinion, it thoroughly trumps BMW’s 4.0-liter V8 in the latest generation of M3, not only for its spread of torque and around-town drivability, but also its ability to deliver better efficiency. The Mustang avoids a hefty gas-guzzler penalty where the M3 does not. The 5.0 manages to feel lusty and exciting all the time, whereas I’ve found the 4.0-liter in the M3 to be a little dull unless you’re really caning it to redline. It’s my understanding that the 5-liter will carry over more or less unchanged for the first few years of the new Mustang’s lifecycle, and I’m glad to hear it.

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The only area where the Mustang betrays its age, honestly, is the interior. It irked me slightly when I owned mine, but I more or less looked past it thanks to the car’s performance and styling. It’s slightly easier to do that in this GT, equipped as it is with a high-resolution info center between the main gauges, complete with performance apps, as well as a tech package that includes a pretty good touchscreen/nav combo. Still, looking around the cabin, it’s obvious that the bones in here date from 2005. The door panels and center console are constructed of the hardest of plastics, and while the dash pad and console sides are soft-touch, it’s still plain to see that some serious bucks were engineered out of the interior. It all works, and honestly the feature content is quite good, but for an as-tested sticker price of more than $47 grand, most will expect more. Of course, your mileage may vary.

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Not that too many folks will be paying sticker price, mind you. The Mustang normally carries pretty appealing incentives on the hood, and now since it’s nearing the end of its lifecycle, there are likely to be some killer deals to be had out there if you don’t mind driving “last year’s model”. Granted, the new car isn’t expected to bow until the Detroit show in January, but even still, this GT makes a great case for the car in its current state of evolution. The new 2015 model will no doubt be more refined and modern but in becoming so, may be at risk of losing some of that classic Mustang “slice of Americana” appeal that the 2014 car has in spades. The GT’s greatest appeal lies not in its attempt to reach perfection, but in the way it has fully embraced its character and flaws – all the while turning them into assets.

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2014 Ford Mustang GT Convertible Premium

Base price: $40,590

Price as tested: $47,120

Options on test car: 6-speed automatic ($1,195), Electronics package w/ Navigation ($2,340), Back-up sensors and Security package ($695), Comfort package ($650), Brembo brake package ($1,650)

Powertrain: 5.0-liter, 32-valve V8 engine, 6-speed automatic transmission, rear-wheel drive – 420 horsepower, 390 lb-ft torque

S:S:L-observed fuel economy: 18.7 mpg

Ford provided the vehicle for testing purposes and one tank of gas. Photos by the author.

 

                     

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John Kucek

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