New Car Review: 2019 Ford Mustang EcoBoost Convertible – A Capable Coastal Companion

Just last year, I reviewed a (pre-facelift) 2017 Ford Mustang EcoBoost here on Curbside Classic. Today, I present to you this 2019 Ford Mustang EcoBoost. Is this review going to be all that different? Yes. Firstly, this is the convertible. And secondly, instead of a day driving around Los Angeles, I spent three days and put almost 1000 miles on this Mustang as I traversed the west coast. So, what’s better? Coupe or convertible? And did Ford meaningfully improve the Mustang for 2018?

It’s rather cliché taking a Mustang convertible along CA-1 and my friend and I certainly saw many like-minded travellers. I’d reserved a coupe but had a last-minute change to a convertible. This meant a significant reduction in luggage space – while the coupe can fit three suitcases in its trunk, the convertible can muster only one large suitcase and a standard-size carry-on. My friend’s large backpacks had to occupy the back seat.

The reduction in structural rigidity is also immediately noticed. The convertible does suffer from some scuttle shake and you can occasionally see the windshield quiver. Handling is a little less planted in tight turns with a touch more body roll, though ride quality remains commendable.

Ah, but drop that top and there’s that convertible magic, the tree canopies over the Redwood Highway or the beautifully striated clouds along CA-1 proving beautifully if dangerously distracting. Dropping the top itself is easy – twist a handle, push a button and wait around 5 seconds. Putting it back up just requires an extra pull when twisting the handle and you’ll have to wind up the windows yourself.

Even with the roof up, however, the Mustang EcoBoost is delightful to drive. It is, however, noisier than the coupe. We also encountered an issue with the Sound Symposer, the system whereby engine and exhaust sound is piped through speakers into the cabin. For the most part, it worked well. Whether these little speakers accurately enhanced the Mustang’s existing engine sounds or not, the end result was a car that sounded more like a burbling Volkswagen five-cylinder engine than a buzzy four-cylinder. Alas, the Sound Symposer experienced some technical difficulties and made some strange creaking and static noises. There didn’t appear to be a way to turn it off, either.

Drop the top again, however, and the sound wasn’t noticeable. Either that or pump up the stereo, or both. The Mustang’s 8-inch infotainment system is relatively intuitive to use but its user interface is a little Windows 95 in appearance. The navigation system, like basically every proprietary navigation, is vastly inferior to Google Maps; Sync’s voice command system was also disappointing. Fortunately, there’s Android Auto to the rescue and so my phone stayed securely plugged in for almost the entire trip.

Unlike my last Mustang rental, this EcoBoost Premium convertible came with the optional configurable 12.4-inch digital gauge cluster. You can use one of the chrome-look rocker switches on the dash to toggle between the Mustang’s drive modes – Normal, Sport +, Track, Drag Strip and Snow/Ice. The appearance and layout of the gauge cluster will change accordingly. You can even customize the appearance and the steering wheel button with a Mustang logo on it will take you to a menu where you can customize the colors. That includes both the primary and secondary colors on the gauge cluster as well as the ambient lighting throughout the cabin, and if your desired color isn’t in the pre-sets you can configure your own. Gimmicky? Absolutely, but it’s a wonderfully easy bit of personalization Ford has allowed Mustang owners to do. More importantly, you can use this menu to set your preferred drive mode selections, too.

The 2018 revision brought myriad changes to the Mustang. Most visible was a new front-end design with a more rakish fascia that looks almost vaguely European, as well as revised taillights. There are some who prefer the old design and others the new, but I’m sure everybody is on the same page regarding the interior. There are some nicer materials and some stitching detail around the center console, previously a wasteland of hard and unpleasant plastic. There’s even some nice leatherette padding on either side of the console where one’s knees might make contact. In photos, the cabin might not look all that different but in person, the ambience is hugely improved. Ford may even have the best interior design in the segment now.

Perhaps the most crucial change was the introduction of a new 10-speed automatic transmission. Fortunately, it resolved my biggest issue with the pre-facelift car and its six-speed auto: the jarring shifts in Sports Mode. Though Normal mode is perfectly fine when loping around town, Sport+ firms up the steering, tweaks the stability control, and shifts the gears more aggressively (albeit smoothly) and is therefore the preferred selection.

You can use the paddle shifters to change the gears manually, though it will countermand you if you leave it in a particular gear for too long. The programming is less intrusive than in some other cars with paddle shifters, however. From Leggett inland out to the coast, I enjoyed a long bout of using the paddles and found it only overrode me once I got out of the twisties and onto a straight road. And even left to its own devices, the 10-speed performed superbly.

Selectable driving modes have been around for decades now but they’re enjoying a surge in popularity. Since its extensive refresh in 2018, the Mustang can also now be equipped with MagneRide adaptive dampers to further customize your driving experience.

The Mustang EcoBoost delivers its power progressively and without any untoward turbo lag. Indeed, an authoritative stomp on the gas pedal yields immediate dividends as the turbocharger spools up. Producing 310 hp at 5500 rpm and 320 ft-lbs at 3000 rpm, the Mustang EcoBoost hits 60 mph in approximately 5.3 seconds. Though it doesn’t feel as snappy off the line as a V8-powered pony car, there’s more than enough power here to delight, especially if you keep your foot planted.

The EPA rates the Mustang EcoBoost convertible at 21/32 mpg or 25 combined. I achieved 25 mpg in almost exclusively highway driving up until CA-1 started and the roads became too curvaceous to drive placidly, sinking our mileage to 22 mpg. While an average of 22 mpg for a nearly 1000-mile trip of mostly highway driving sounds disappointing, at least when juxtaposed with the Mustang’s EPA highway rating, I can only imagine how much worse it would’ve been with the V8. Our car was barely broken in, mind you, with less than 2000 miles on the odometer.

Back home in Australia, the Mustang V8 accounts for upwards of 85% of Mustang sales. There, however, the Mustang has a storied reputation for V8 performance. The US, however, has a long history of four- and six-cylinder Mustangs owned by rental companies, young women and others. And this belter of an engine shows you needn’t buy the V8 to have fun in a Mustang. Four-cylinder Mustangs have come a long way since the naturally-aspirated Fox ‘Stangs of the ’80s and ’90s.

Base MSRP for the 2019 coupe is $26,395, the convertible commanding a substantial $5500 premium. Unless you’re completely enamoured with the drop-top experience, the coupe is the more sensible choice. Even the base EcoBoost model comes standard with performance goodies like electronic line-lock, as well as launch control in manual versions. Base Mustangs use a smaller, 4.2-inch infotainment screen and have cloth seats without power assist. To get my rental’s niceties, you’ll need to shell out another $5k or so for the EcoBoost Premium model. There’s a lot of extra kit for that money, thankfully, including the larger touchscreen with SYNC 3, Android Auto and Apple CarPlay, plus leather trim, heated and cooled front seats, ambient lighting and dual-zone climate control.

In 2018 and 2019 models, the optional Performance package – available on both EcoBoost and V8 models – added larger brakes, 19-inch wheels and summer tires, a shorter differential ratio, bigger radiator, stiffer front springs and a larger rear stabilizer bar. MagneRide adaptive dampers were a standalone option. For 2020, the Performance package on the EcoBoost is replaced with a special High Performance package exclusive to the EcoBoost. This uses a version of the Focus RS’s Spanish-built 2.3 turbo four, rated at 330 hp (up 20 from the regular EcoBoost Mustang, down 20 from the Focus), and also includes the old package’s performance add-ons. A coupe-exclusive EcoBoost Handling Package adds the MagneRide dampers.

Therein lies the most brilliant part of the Mustang. It has the performance chops to deliver on a spirited drive along a winding road but it’s equally competent in the day-to-day grind. The ride is accommodating, the steering comfortably light in Normal mode, and the transmission is refined. Alas, the Mustang is still compromised. Those rear seats are seats in name only and those with aching joints will have to enter and exit in an awkward, side-saddle way. Nevertheless, this is a relatively affordable way to get the sports car experience without sacrificing too much comfort or spending too much. For maximum dynamic ability, however, save yourself $5k and get the coupe.

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