Ford Mus­tang V8 GT Con­vert­ible & Mazda MX-5 RF

Our two con­vert­ibles are worlds apart in so many ways, but they also have a few things in com­mon…

Evo - - FAST FLEET - Antony In­gram (@evoantony)

TO THINK OF CON­VERT­IBLES AS sum­mer ve­hi­cles only is to miss out on some of the year’s more beau­ti­ful and im­mer­sive drives. Re­strict top-down driv­ing to the warmer months and you don’t get to ex­pe­ri­ence the hiss of tyres against a damp road sur­face, the sen­sa­tion of a cool gust on your face as your toes and hands are smoth­ered in heated air, and the evoca­tive views of a land­scape lit all day long by a lowhang­ing sun.

Our soft-top Mus­tang might be more ap­pro­pri­ate for Route 66 than the A66, but it’s prov­ing far from un­pleas­ant as the au­tumn colours fade. Part of that is down to the heated seats (they’re cooled too), but the Stang’s big V8 has to take some credit.

It could be the cool am­bi­ent tem­per­a­tures, or maybe it’s the bed­ding-in ef­fects of our first few thou­sand miles with the five-point-oh, but our long-ter­mer has per­haps the health­i­est-feel­ing en­gine of any cur­rent Mus­tang I’ve driven so far: it’s as happy pulling its over­drive sixth gear from 1000rpm as it is brawl­ing its way to the red line in sec­ond. The man­ual gear­box con­tin­ues to be fan­tas­tic, too, with a sat­is­fy­ingly hefty move­ment, though sadly the brakes are a bug­bear. In the con­ver­sion from left- to right-hand drive, great pedal feel has been traded for a grabby, over-ser­voed ac­tion with the sole merit of good stop­ping power. Co­in­ci­den­tally, my usual long-ter­mer’s brakes aren’t at their best right now ei­ther. A sum­mer of track­days seems to have fi­nally taken its toll, giv­ing the MX-5 RF’S stop­pers a slightly mushy feel. The throt­tle is as snappy as ever, though, and the gearshift has mel­lowed with miles, mak­ing it even more sat­is­fy­ing to use than it was when new.

There are, strangely, other sim­i­lar­i­ties be­tween the Mazda and the Mus­tang be­sides their roof­less na­ture and front-en­gined, reardrive lay­outs. The first is some­thing that few own­ers of mod­ern cars are likely to ex­pe­ri­ence else­where – own­er­ship ca­ma­raderie. Pass a sim­i­lar model go­ing the other way and you’ll of­ten get a flash of the lights or a thumbs-up. With the Mazda it seems to hap­pen re­gard­less of gen­er­a­tion – I’ve had sev­eral Mk1 own­ers raise their pop-ups in greet­ing – and the Mus­tang is still a rare enough sight on UK roads that you can be sure that each and ev­ery owner is a kin­dred spirit.

The next is a feel­ing that nei­ther car is re­ally at its hap­pi­est be­ing hus­tled. And that’s not meant neg­a­tively. The most en­joy­able driv­ing in each is done a few notches back from max­i­mum at­tack, where you can en­joy their tac­til­ity and sen­sa­tions of speed with­out the sweaty palms and heart-in-mouth mo­ments. In the Mus­tang par­tic­u­larly. While it’s un­doubt­edly the quicker of the pair, that V8 is an ap­peal­ing com­pan­ion even if it’s just rum­bling away to it­self in a queue of traf­fic.

And both feel very much like prod­ucts of their re­spec­tive coun­tries, which is in­creas­ingly at­trac­tive as ve­hi­cles are pulled to­wards the ho­moge­nous black hole of pseudo-pre­mium crossover­dom. The Ford is big and brash, slightly un­so­phis­ti­cated but bustling with char­ac­ter and open-road vibes; the Mazda is com­pact and tech­ni­cal, but also or­nate in its de­tails and con­sid­er­ately de­signed.

Given each is priced not a mil­lion miles from the dozens of hot hatch­backs you might con­sider in­stead, they’re both com­pelling al­ter­na­tives to the main­stream per­for­mance op­tions. What­ever the weather.

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