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2016 Ford Mustang Convertible Road Trip Review By Steve Purdy

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2016 Ford Mustang Convertible

MORE INFO: Ford Mustang Buyers Guide Archive (1997-2016): Specs, Video, Prices, Images, Comparisons and Options

A Road Trip Travel Review

By Steve Purdy
Senior Editor
The Auto Channel
Michigan Bureau

Sunny Southern California is the place to be in February. While summers in this part of the country can be unbearably hot, winter here is, according to my pretty wife, “paradise.”

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We are newcomers to the Palm Springs area. Though we’ve traveled all over the country we’ve never visited the diverse desert here in the Coachella Valley. Our friends at Ford provided a new Mustang convertible for the trip so we can make our exploration in style while enjoying the sunshine and warm breezes around the endless groves of palm trees in the series of cities around Palm Springs and dry land flora throughout the expanses of these desert environs.

Palm Springs grew to fame in the 1950s as celebrities like Bob Hope, Dinah Shore, Gene Autry and their friends built modern homes here to get away from the hub-bub of Hollywood. Growth was fast and it embraced the Modernism of the time that permeated art, architecture and culture. That style still defines the community today with most of the extravagant historic homes and many of the classic commercial buildings carefully preserved, and with new construction often mimicking that design.

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We picked up our striking white, 5-liter Mustang near LAX and found immediately that only one of our suitcases would fit in the small trunk. The spec sheet says the Mustang coupes have a decent 13.5 cubic-feet of trunk space but it does not even show a number for the convertible. We had to put the top down to get the bigger bag into the tight back seat. Having no experience with the car it was a bit of a struggle to figure out how to manage the power top. We must twist a large handle to release the moorings then push the button on the header. The top retracts in less than 10 seconds seating nicely without a cover. Securing the top when putting it back up takes considerable strength.

We allowed the easily programmed navigation system to guide us on the two-hour journey east to Palm Springs where the Mojave, Sonoran and Colorado Deserts meet in the Coachella Valley. The notorious San Andreas fault runs right down the middle of the valley. A massive wind farm with hundreds of tall, white windmills greeted us as we approached the cutoff onto Highway 111 leading us into the historic town of Palm Springs. I’m not sure the navigation system chose the best route out of LA, but perhaps it accounted for the regular LA-style traffic slowdowns, of which we still encountered plenty.

Our Mustang is the loaded “GT Premium” model with a sticker price of $48,480 including destination charge and a bunch of options. We have: the 5-liter V8, automatic transmission, automatic HID projector beam headlights, dual exhaust, functional hood vents with integrated turn signals, deluxe lighting including ambient interior lights and a little Mustang logo project to the pavement from beneath the mirrors, 8-inch multi-function touch screen, leather seats, push-button start, premium audio system, selectable drive modes, navigation, track apps and lots more stuff. We also have on this one the California trim package costing about 2 grand.

Mustang comes in no fewer than 10 flavors (see links below) , with the V8 models designated by the moniker “GT.” You can get the basic V6-powered convertible for less than 30 grand and the coupe begins at $24,145. Both the V6 and available 2.3-liter EcoBoost 4-cylinder, by the way, are good for around 300 horsepower and, with standard TREMEC 6-speed manual transmissions, both are charming powertrains.

Our son drove up from San Diego to spend the first couple of days here. So the three of us, with my small pretty wife wedged into the tiny back seat, took a scenic drive up Highway 74 climbing into the Santa Rosa Mountains. From the overlook near the top we could see all the way to the Salton Sea many miles to the southeast. The Mustang is certainly in its element on these twisty mountain roads. With “Sport” mode selected we have tight, predictable steering, higher-revving shift points and a generally sporty feel. Track, Snow/Wet modes along with Normal are all available as well and easily actuated with a neat toggle on the lower center stack.

This 5.0-liter V8 makes 435 horsepower and 400 pound-feet of torque (tested using premium fuel, though premium is not required with this engine) and with all that torque we needn’t even keep the revs up to have gobs of power. The 6-speed automatic shifts quickly and it even blips on downshifts just as you would if you were having fun with a manual transmission. The only way this experience would be better is if we had the manual transmission.

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By the way, kudos to Ford’s acoustic engineers who developed an exhaust system that sounds great under all conditions. At idle it burbles and thrums with a deep throaty melody and at full throttle it roars like a beast being freed from constraints. Even at slow cruising speeds we hear that rhythmic V8 grumble muffled just enough to be civilized.

The EPA estimates it should get 24 mpg on the highway, 15 in the city and 18 combined on regular fuel. The relatively small 16-gallon fuel tank makes for a limited range and the low fuel light comes on when the gauge reads ╝ tank. When we fill it up the car’s computer says we have only 260 miles to empty. We were managing around 15.5 through most of the week but that went up to 18.5 after a day of slow cruising through the Joshua Tree National Park marveling at the high desert flora and amazing rock formations. By the time we finished the week and returned the Mustang back to the press fleet managers we were showing 20.5 mpg.

We stopped along the scenic two-lane road in the Joshua Tree National Park to shoot this remarkably photogenic sporty car. White is a great color for this car (he said with total subjectivity) and with the California trim it includes cool black and silver, 19-inch aluminum wheels making for striking contrasts that accentuate classic mustang design details. With each update of the Mustang’s styling the Ford designers have managed to maintain a distinctive character that leaves no doubt as to its heritage. Some of the rental agencies offer the Mustang convertible so there were plenty around but ours still garnered admiring looks and comments.

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Palm Springs is a place to which we’d like to return often, especially this time of year. If we had a few more days we would have taken many longer drives through the desert and explored much more of the culture. For anyone interested in geography, geology, flora, fauna, culture or other intellectual pursuits this is a great place to be. And, if you’re a real car lover you’ll find exotic and interesting cars here are as common as VWs. This also happened to be the twice/year weekend of the little-known but eclectic McCormick collector car auction.

With only 6 days here we still managed to do the Palm Springs Aerial Tramway to the top of San Jacinto Mountain for some high altitude hiking, a visits to the Moorten Botanical Gardens and the amazing Palm Springs Air Museum, a day in the Joshua Tree National Park with some hiking and a visit to the McCormick Auction, plus, of course, lots of explorations at the wheel of our quick and fun Mustang.

Ford’s new car warranty covers the whole car for 3 years or 36,000 mile and the powertrain for 5 years or 60,000 miles.

We will spend much more time with the Mustang and in Palm Springs sometime in the future, but both will have to wait for new opportunities. We’re also looking forward to reviewing some of the other flavors of Mustang, including the monsterous GT350. We’ll need a race track or really deserted country roads for that one.

Watch this space next week when we move up the California coast to do another travel review, this time at Avila Beach with a new 2016 Chevrolet Volt.

ęSteve Purdy, Shunpiker Productions, All Rights Reserved

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