I’m often asked by people what car they should buy. The answer isn’t necessarily all that easy, because everybody has different needs.
I’m rarely asked what sports car to buy, though. Most people who want one of those babies have been thinking about something specific for years if not decades. They might have had a Porsche or Ferrari poster on the bedroom wall, and that sealed the deal when they were teenagers.
However, in the event that I do encounter somebody who wants sports-car buying advice, I know have a simple, straightforward answer: Get a 2017 Mustang GT convertible with a six-speed manual and a big old 435-horsepower V8. It will set you back less than $50,000, for a reasonably well-optioned example like the test car I recently enjoyed. For three seasons in much of the USA and four in the warmer climates, you will have so much fun with this car that you’ll be dippy.
Mind you, I am by nature a low-horsepower, two-seater type of guy. The new Mazda MX-5 Miata is my cup of tea and the only proper sports car I’ve ever owned (a first-generation model). Moving up the power band, I rather like the Porsche 911 and have no issues with Corvettes.
The drop-top ‘Stang wth that 5.0-liter V8 and an excellent six-grabber is just all sweet spot. There’s also a V6 available, a 3.7-liter making 300 horsepower, which would also be okay, if far less stonking, and a 2.3-liter turbocharged four-banger shaves the output down to 285 hp — both come with the six-speed stick standard.
The Mustang was completely revamped for its 50th anniversary in 2015. The result was a departure from ‘Stangs of the past in that the new Pony Car was definitely less burn-rubber-in-a-straight-line and more carve-up-the-corners. The suspension was upgraded from the reliable old live-axle design, which was great for drag racing but not really up to the task of keeping the car settled through tight maneuvers.
That muscle-car vibe has been supplanted by something that has more of a whiff of the European about it, but the core values of the Mustang we all know and love have been deftly preserved. For example, when you put the GT in Sport mode and stomp on the pedal, the front end rises up and the rear end hunkers down. You can literally feel the rear tires gaining purchase in the pavement, digging in as the torque from the V8 is laid in through, for the sake of argument, second gear. Brembos all around keep matters in check.
The symphony of combustion piping out of the motor (nicknamed “Coyote”) is fairly glorious. Not quite as robust and stirring as what owners of the track-ready Shelby 350 can access via their larger 5.2-liter Voodoo V8. But really, just fine. It’s a decently delivered burble and bark, nothing that will scare the neighbors, but enough to hold your attention when merging to the legal speed limit. Fuel economy is what you should expect, which is not that great: 14 city/23 highway/17 combined.
With a 0-60 mph time of 4.3 seconds, you will not want for acceleration. But neither will you have your ears pinned back and your neck whiplashed. The velocity is manageable.
Even better, the convertible GT isn’t a ride that you need to take a-hoonin’ to have a good time. I drove four adults around (yes, the back seats can handle two of those) my New Jersey town on a warm night in early summer and we kept it around 25 mph the whole time. Essentially, we cruised. And a lovely cruise it was.
The GT has all the tech you might want, starting with Ford’s SYNC 3 infotainment and extending to various available-assist features. But this really isn’t a car that needs much more than a good radio to be appealing (SiriusXM is in the house, directed through a 12-speaker Shaker audio system that does indeed shake). It’s a doggone sports car, the opposite of a techno-ride. And it’s a Pony Car to boot. Just slipping in and buckling up is an exercise in nostalgia.
Here’s the bottom line. My Mustang GT tester shared the driveway with a Ferrari and an Acura NSX, our 2016 Car of the Year. With its boldly updated, yet still classically ‘Stang-y, design, it more than held its own. In “Grabber Blue,” with black leather interior and some groovy racing stripes, I sort of fell in love. I didn’t want to give it back. And so my message to you, brothers and sisters, is if you think a sports car might be for you, just get one of these.