With no responsibilities on a recent sun-drenched Saturday afternoon, the candy-apple red sports car seemingly recognized my surprising block of free time and the 2008 Mustang Convertible and was beckoning for some action.
Given my week with this vintage version of this 1960s dream car was coming to an end, I decided it would be a shame not to enjoy a carefree drive. So the top came down for the first time and off I went in search of some adventure, choosing bucolic Highway 193 as my stretch of pavement to explore.
Despite living in and around Placer County for nearly 20 years, I had never ventured very far along Highway 193. It extends from Lincoln to Auburn and involves more twists than a Chubby Checkers concert.
I say that with affection, because in a performance vehicle like the Mustang, Highway 193 was a near-perfect choice for a scenic drive that seriously tested this quintessential muscle car.
A two-lane road with some dangerous curves, Highway 193 dips into ravines and curls its way along a road that links Placer County’s past with its current nod to expansion. Highway 193 access is located in downtown Lincoln and travels through former gold mining and fruit ranch land and eventually deposits vehicles on to Interstate 80 in Newcastle, California.
Ford probably had carefree drives like this in mind when the Detroit auto manufacturer unveiled the Mustang in 1964. It quickly became noted as a fun-filled vehicle that provided a solid combination of performance and timeless styling.
Mustang lovers were thrilled to see a redesign in 2005 when Ford decided to bring back the original Mustang concept car of the 1960s, which meant round headlights, large, forward-leaning grille, fastback roof, and overhanging hood.
Great performance has always been part of the Mustang profile and that was evident during my afternoon drive where this stylish sedan that featured a 4.0-liter, V6 with 201 horsepower motored though the hilly terrain, all the while exhibiting its trademark noisy exhaust.
There was no problem drowning out the Mustang’s noise during acceleration, it was muffled by the volume being cranked up on a premium audio system that had aging rocker Tom Petty sounding better than ever. For even more speed, a move up to the V8 elicits a 300 horsepower and reportedly the same responsive braking power that the V6 maintains.
The V6 version with 5-speed automatic transmission goes for $25,305, which means Mustang is offered at a bargain price compared to competitors like the Mazda RX-8, Nissan 350Z and a few others. A top of the line Mustang, the classic Shelby GT500 2-door convertible, goes for $47,155.
Of course, the Mustang has its downside. The interior is mostly cheap plastic, the seats don’t provide tremendous support and there are other areas where refinement is an issue. An average of 16-24 mpg won’t keep a lot of people happy, either.
And not everyone will be enamored with the seating. Up front, leg and head room is solid, but overall the cabin can feel a bit cramped. The back seat is cramped and uncomfortable for adults, while the trunk is considered unsuitable for many people’s needs.
Although a redesign had been rumored for 2008, no major changes were added and nothing will be different for the 2009 models (they’ve debuted). Ford has a redesign planned for 2010 . . . stay tuned.
FAST FACTS: Ford Mustang, 2008
Power — 4.0 liter, V6, 201 horsepower; Mileage Estimates — 16 mpg (city), 24 mpg (highway); Standard Features — Power convertible top, 4-wheel disc brakes, tire-pressure monitor, tilt steering, center console, keyless entry, rear defogger, power windows, doors and mirrors; Warranty — Powertrain 5 years/60,000 miles; Bumper-to-bumper, 3/36,000 miles; Corrosion 5 years/unlimited miles; Free roadside assistance.