2005 Ford Mustang convertible

While all of the hoopla about the new Ford Mustang has (justifiably) been focused on the 300-hp V8 version, Ford's sales figures indicate that the most popular model in the lineup is actually the 210-hp V6 convertible.

While all of the hoopla about the new Ford Mustang has (justifiably) been focused on the 300-hp V8 version, Ford's sales figures indicate that the most popular model in the lineup is actually the 210-hp V6 convertible.

Musclecar purists may scoff at its 4.0-litre engine, its smaller wheels and its lack of street cred, but after five days behind the wheel of a Legend Lime tester, it's easy to see why this particular model has proven so popular.

There's just something more right about the V6 convertible. A week before, I'd driven a V8 and found it too much car or more specifically, too much engine for its chassis.

Every prod of the gas set the car shaking, and over rough roads, the GT's stiffer suspension and bigger tires exposed weaknesses in the car's structure that weren't there in the closedroof coupe.

The V6, on the other hand, rolling on highprofile 16-inch tires and on a suspension that's designed more for leisurely touring than aggressive driving, felt fine. While there was still the occasional shudder over railway tracks or potholes, for the most part the base convertible rode significantly better over bumps.

While it's 90 horsepower down on the GT, the V6 Mustang is no slouch either. With 210 horses, and relatively close ratios in its fivespeed gearbox, it's fast enough to leave most traffic behind at a stoplight, and sounds pretty good while doing it.

The car's raspy voice isn't as exciting as the V8's almighty burble, but it's certainly pleasing to the ears, and acceptably subdued at idle and during cruising, which makes for a more refined driving experience than you might expect.

Another high point is the manual shifter that comes with the V6: while it has longer throws and a taller lever, its detents are more positive, and it's easier to shift quickly compared to the heavier gearbox in the GT.

The base Mustang doesn't handle as well as the GT does, but then again, the GT isn't that spectacular a handler either: it just has a whole lot of cornering grip.

In other words, the V6 Mustang isn't the car you pull out of the garage for an earlymorning blast down a favourite winding road, but is car to take out for a pleasant ride to nowhere in particular.

In traffic and on the highway, its quick, light steering, responsive throttle and clear sightlines make it quite easy to thread through traffic despite its length and width. You can zip around in it like you would in a much smaller car.

The only time you're reminded of its size and weight is when you hit the brakes.

There's plenty of nose dive, a long pedal travel and a heart-stopping moment or two when you realize just how long the nose is and just how close you're coming to the car in front of you.

Best to drive at a more leisurely pace, which is what this car wants to do naturally.

Its seats have less bolstering than the GT's — and none of that car's fancy ribbing either — but they're adjustable every which way, and very comfortable on long trips.

The base stereo only includes a single-slot CD player, but it sounds fantastic.

Wind buffeting is minimal, which is impressive considering just how much of the cabin is in the open air. The best part is, you can bring friends along: while climbing into the rear seats isn't easy or elegant, they do offer enough space for adults to sit, so long as the front-seat riders aren't too big.

The interior itself shares the GT's fine build quality and symmetrical design theme, but the materials aren't as rich — aluminum on the dashboard is still optional — and the feature content is lower.

None of which really matters in the end. At its inception, the Mustang wasn't intended to be an allout performance car, though through the ages, it has sometimes evolved that way.

Instead, it was something rakish, fashionable and sporty that was also practical and economical enough to be used as a daily driver.

Today, the Mustang's original formula is still the best, and the version that best represents that formula isn't the one with a GT badge.

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