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Under hard acceleration, the 5.0-liter engine pulls eagerly deep into redline territory, and it does so without a significant amount of rear-end squat.
After nearly 50 years, a person could understandably be showing his or her age and perhaps holding on a bit too strongly to past glory days. Perhaps that’s the case for your Uncle John. The 2014 Ford Mustang, on the other hand, is the culmination of five decades of engineering development. And the Pony car has never been better.
Look and Feel
Out of 10
Don’t be fooled—there is a definite difference between retro and iconic. In terms of cars, the former has been addressed by rides like the Dodge Challenger, Chrysler PT Cruiser, Chevy SSR and even Buick, to a much lesser degree, with the so-called portholes that have found their way back to modern-day models like the LaCrosse sedan. With the exception of the PT Cruiser, which started the whole old-is-new craze and initially sold like bottled water in Death Valley, these vehicles will never qualify as iconic.
The 2014 Ford Mustang will, thanks in large part to broad appeal that’s stood the test of nearly five decades. That’s saying something, especially when you consider the few Mustang II years mixed in there. Today, the original Pony car’s success can also be attributed to a retro groove, with convincingly contemporary styling that shoots a straight line back to the late ‘60s, an old-school interior with recent much-needed quality improvements and available multi-color gauges that even a chemical-free Andy Warhol could see, and the kind of throttle-steer handling one gets when a thumping V8 is paired with a solid rear axle.
To get an 8-cylinder engine under the hood, you’ll need to opt for one of the GT trims or a Shelby GT500 model (which we cover separately). GT trims feature a 5.0-liter powerplant, are built in coupe and convertible body styles and available in base and Premium guise, start at about $35,000 and offer standard and optional amenities, including a touchscreen navigation system with real-time traffic information, upgraded Brembo brakes, a programmable key, upgraded audio with a trunk-mounted subwoofer, smartphone-linked SYNC infotainment system, HID headlights, functional hood vents and 18- or 19-inch alloy wheels.
The base Mustang carries a base price of about $22,000 and features a 6-cylinder engine, cruise control, stainless steel dual exhaust, HID headlights and 17-inch alloy wheels. A move up to the V6 Premium trim level gets buyers standard leather upholstery, the smartphone-linked SYNC system, an auto-dimming rear-view mirror, aluminum interior trim, a premium audio package with satellite radio service and a power-adjustable driver’s seat.
My test car was a 2014 Ford Mustang GT Premium Convertible painted in an impossible-to-miss color called Gotta Have It Green. Needless to say, it was a magnet for every cop in sight. Its brightness probably even awoke one or two who were resting their eyelids while parked at a speed trap. Ford charges $495 for the privilege of having your car painted in what looks like spent nuclear waste. Other options on my GT included a $695 Reverse Sensing System and Security Package (rear parking sensors, alarm, wheel locks), a $650 Comfort Package (power-adjustable driver’s seat, heated front seats, heated mirrors with puddle lamps), and a $1,695 Brembo Brake Package (performance-tuned suspension, 19-inch alloy wheels wrapped in 255/40R19 summer tires, recalibrated stability control system, Brembo brakes). With a $795 destination charge factored in, the as-tested price came to $44,080.
Out of 10
As has been the case throughout most of its nearly 50-year history, the Mustang’s base engine is of the 6-cylinder variety. Specifically, we’re talking about a 3.7-liter V6 that puts out 305 horsepower and 280 lb-ft of torque, numbers that just a few years ago would’ve been more closely aligned with a V8 than a standard six-shooter. In addition to its generous grunt, the V6 runs just fine on relatively cheap 87-octane gas and, when mated to a 6-speed manual gearbox, delivers an EPA-estimated 31 mpg on the highway. So, if you’re a fan of modern-day muscle-car design and fuel economy that’s both eco- and wallet-friendly, the 6-cylinder-equipped model is the way to go.
Not unexpectedly, the 2014 Mustang GT I evaluated for this review was a little more dependent on the efforts of OPEC, averaging 19.4 mpg over the course of hundreds of miles and, admittedly, rather liberal use of the right pedal. That level of natural-resource consumption won’t win any Sierra Club awards, but it’s exactly what the EPA predicted from my test car, with its 6-speed manual tranny and 5.0-liter V8 boasting 420 horses and 390 lb-ft of torque. Expect 15 mpg in the city and 26 on the highway (an available 6-speed automatic is rated at 18 city, 25 highway and 20 combined). Unfortunately, Ford recommends filling the GT’s tank with premium gas, so not only will you need to visit the petrol station a bit more frequently, you’ll also have to drop a few extra bucks when you’re there.
Is that a surprise? Hardly. And frankly, it’s a small price to pay for the unfettered joy that comes with the simple turn of a key. Once the V8 is spurred to life, its low rumble almost beckons you to the tail of the car, where the note of the mufflers puts an all-is-right-with-the-world grin on your face as you watch the exhaust steam up the LED taillights on a cool evening. Most people enjoy the tranquil scene of the sun setting over a flat ocean horizon; car nuts, on the other hand, prefer moments like these.
Thankfully, the 2014 Ford Mustang GT Convertible performs as well as it sounds. Under hard acceleration, the 5.0-liter engine pulls eagerly deep into redline territory, and it does so without a significant amount of rear-end squat. Hard braking elicits some nose dive, but not a bothersome amount. One quibble I do have centers on the shifter, which gets credit for fairly short throws but loses a few points for being imprecise. Rowing through the gears isn’t as crisp as it could be and caused me to miss an upshift or two—not something I’m accustomed to doing. Of course, with such an abundance of torque, frequent gear changes weren’t necessarily required; I was often able to leave the transmission in third and still have plenty of grunt for exiting a corner.
In terms of handling, the GT never failed to make me feel thankful to be behind the wheel. That’s due, in part, to my affinity for cars that require a fair bit of actual driving skill and don’t inject overwhelming amounts of technology engineered to steer and brake a vehicle better than any human. Yes, the Mustang is a little on the soft side when tossed into a turn, its suspension lets you hear and feel it reacting to rough pavement, and there’s some noticeable cowl shake on roadways not recently paved. However, the car reacts predictably and quickly to throttle input that hooks up the rear tires, and the electric power steering’s multiple driver-selectable settings—Comfort, Standard and Sport—provide varying levels of response befitting casual or aggressive driving.
Finally, I wasn’t able to make it to a closed course during my week-long test drive, but if I had, I would’ve been able to take advantage of the GT Premium’s standard Track Apps feature. Functionality includes a stopwatch linked to a graphic of a drag-strip light tree, a g-force meter, braking timer and more.
Form and Function
Out of 10
From the driver’s perspective, the 2014 Ford Mustang GT Convertible offers a hospitable spot to watch the miles roll by. Despite traveling long stretches on rough roads, I never had an issue with comfort, credit for which goes to soft leather upholstery and side bolsters, a power seat with single-setting heat and a tilt steering wheel (unfortunately, it offered no telescopic adjustment). A slightly padded cover for the center console served as an armrest, but when a 20-oz. drink bottle was placed in one of the cupholders just ahead, reaching the shifter became a somewhat awkward endeavor. There are no cupholders in the doors, so occupants might want to stick with short soda cans or skip beverages altogether.
If you’ve seen the tiny confines that qualify as the Mustang’s rear seat area, you might expect positive comments about comfort to be completely off the radar. Truth be told, I had the opportunity to put a couple of well-fed middle-aged guys back there for a spirited drive and was surprised to hear that they were, in fact, quite comfortable. Granted, the top was down and both leg and foot room were in short supply, but they appreciated the soft cushions and what they found to be a surprisingly coddling ride (saddling the rear suspension with a few hundred extra pounds can do that). Others may be turned off by an upright back rest, narrow accommodations, and the complete lack of cupholders, armrests or storage provisions of any kind. On the plus side, soft front seatbacks promise to be easy on rear passengers’ knees, and quick-release levers facilitate entry to the second row.
In terms of materials used throughout the interior, I continue to be impressed by the upgrades made a few years back. At that time, Ford opted to dress the cabin with soft-touch panels on the dash, complementing leather accents, mesh-trimmed visors, the pseudo-padded center armrest, and hard but not overly shiny or cheap plastics on many of the controls and less obvious panels.
Behind the passenger compartment is the 2014 Mustang Convertible’s 9.6-cubic-foot trunk. Although the liftover is high and the actual opening isn’t all that wide, I was able to pack in a weekend’s worth of camping gear, including a tent, sleeping bag, cooler, food and a backpack. The power-retractable soft top requires about 12 seconds to lower, but doesn’t sacrifice any cargo space when in the down position.
Out of 10
From an interior technology perspective, my test car’s standard Shaker 500 audio system and basic climate controls were a bit old school with traditional buttons and dials, all well-labeled and simple to operate. However, the list of standard features did also include Ford’s SYNC AppLink technology, which allows for hands-free calling and voice control of apps uploaded onto linked mobile devices.
An Electronics Package is available and offers a touchscreen and voice-controlled navigation system with SiriusXM real-time traffic information, HD radio, a 6-month subscription to Travel Link and dual-zone automatic climate control. Buyers also have the option of selecting a rear-view camera that displays an image on the navigation system’s screen or on the interior rear-view mirror.
Out of 10
According to the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS), the 2013 Ford Mustang Convertible earned top marks in all of its crash tests (results have not been published for the 2014 model). The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) has awarded the Mustang Convertible 5 out of 5 stars for its rollover protection, but has not yet subjected the car to its other crash tests.
Serving to keep the 2014 Ford Mustang Convertible moving along on the straight and narrow, and keeping passengers safe in the process, are standard features that include 4-wheel antilock disc brakes, AdvanceTrac with electronic stability control, a hill-start assist feature paired with the available 6-speed manual transmission and 4 airbags. What you won’t find on the Mustang are more advanced systems, like a blind-spot monitor, forward-collision warning, rear cross-traffic alert and even some of the more dated technologies like lane-departure warning.
Out of 10
Much to the chagrin of enthusiasts who like their 4-passenger, rear-wheel-drive, V8-equipped, drop-top American-branded muscle cars, the current assortment is pretty slim. In fact, aside from the Mustang GT and its most direct competitor, the Chevrolet Camaro SS, there are no other options. So, to give my comparative analysis a bit more flavor, I added in the V6-powered Nissan 370Z Roadster. For this brief little exercise, all were configured with manual transmissions.
Among the three, the 2014 Mustang GT Premium Convertible beat out the Chevy and Nissan with a rating of 26 mpg on the highway, but its base price was a bit higher than the Camaro’s, its trunk is smaller than the Camaro’s, its V8 is less powerful than the Camaro’s, and its powertrain warranty is on par with the 370Z’s but 40,000 miles shorter than the Camaro’s. In terms of dependability, J.D. Power and Associates ranks the Mustang and Camaro above average, but the 370Z scores higher with an excellent rating. Three-year residual values are almost identical for the Ford and Chevy, with the Nissan landing a distant third.
Thom Blackett is a lifelong car nut, owning cars ranging from Datsuns to Mustang GTs and, currently, a Ram 2500 plow truck. He has spent the past decade writing objective, thorough vehicle reviews and consumer-focused feature articles for Autobytel.com, Kelley Blue Book, The Boston Globe, Cars.com, and other leading websites and publications.
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