Story and Photograph­y by Lee Bailie AS TESTED (COUPE)


ith the original American muscle car about to get a significan­t update for the 2018 model year, I thought it appropriat­e to take one last look at the 2015-17 era Mustang given all the sixth-gen car has done to reinvigora­te the nameplate.

So, with that in mind, I drove the 2017 GT Premium coupe and convertibl­e in short succession this summer to get reacquaint­ed with Ford's tried and true formula: a long-hooded, short-deck, two-door, rear-driver powered by a 5.0L V8.

Both cars are pretty well optioned out: the coupe has $8,200 worth of extras, while the convertibl­e has even more ($9,700). The primary difference (aside from body style) is the coupe has a six-speed automatic, while the convertibl­e has a six-speed manual.

Another difference of note is the convertibl­e is outfitted with the optional performanc­e package ($3,700) which includes, among other items, 19-inch painted black wheels, staggered summer tires (P255/40R19 front, P275/40R19 rear), Brembo six-piston front brake calipers with larger rotors and a TORSEN rear differenti­al with a 3.73 axle ratio.

In terms of model year updates, the ' 17 Mustang soldiers on more-or-less unchanged, aside from a handful of new colours and a couple of appearance packages.

As mentioned, both cars are powered by Ford's venerable 5.0L V8, an engine with an aluminum block and heads that produces 435 horsepower at 6,500 rpm and 400 lb-ft. at 4,250 rpm.

On the chassis front, the Mustang features a Macpherson strut (front) and indepen- dent link (rear) suspension, limited-slip differenti­al and electric power steering. However, due to their increased power output, GT models get bigger standard brakes (vented disc – 352 mm front, 330 mm rear), wheels (18x8-inch) and tires P235/50RW A/S.

I drove the coupe first, so let's start there.

Finished in grabber blue, a medium shade that really flatters the Mustang's curves, the GT coupe has a look that harkens back to its ancestors of decades gone by; a large, shark-like front grille, prominent powerdomes on the hood, with straight line creases along the sides that exude a feeling of depth, and a sharply sloped rear roofline that flows into flared haunches and a short deck that features prominent vertical tail lights.

In short, a very Mustang exterior. A recognizab­le shape with brand touches to set the mood, but otherwise a modern design that espouses the notion that a bit of nostalgia goes a long way. The fifth gen car was dripping in retro sauce, but this car has just a taste of it which I think is the right call. It'd be very easy for Ford to roll out one nostalgia machine after another, but a nod to the past is better for keeping the Mustang current than another trip down memory lane.

The modern feel extends to a cabin, which, while not overflowin­g with sophistica­tion at least looks up-to-date (for a muscle car) and is well-equipped. Heated and cooled leather seats, a faster and easier to use version of SYNC 3 governs the 8-inch infotainme­nt touchscree­n in the centre console, and a slew of advanced collision mitigation tech are standard issue.

There's still plenty of hard plastic in the dash, on the door skins and in the centre console, but most of it looks nice, even if it doesn't convey the greatest degree of refinement.

The best thing about this Mustang interior, in my view, are the small detail touches, like the `groundspee­d' and `revolution­s per minute' stenciling in the analogue instrument cluster, the shiny metallic badge above the glove box that reads, `Mustang Since 1964', and the rocker switches in the centre stack that toggle the drive modes and hazard signals. It's these details that give the Mustang a bit of extra character.

On the road, as you might imagine, the GT Premium coupe is a blast to drive. A small, but not so insignific­ant reinforcer of GT sexiness comes from simply pushing the engine start button. The sound of the 5.0L V8 at start up gets the dopamine flowing immediatel­y, with its guttural bark and super-low bass growl at idle.

I've had the pleasure of driving the current muscle cars on the market from FCA, Ford and GM over the past few years and, while they're all great in their own way, the best start-up and accelerati­on sounds (especially at low speeds through a parking lot) come from Ford's 5.0. It just crackles with power and intensity, capturing the essence of the Mustang. Credit Ford engineers for knowing their car and crafting a soundtrack that perfectly encapsulat­es it.

And the work they've done to the chassis – like finally saying goodbye to the solid rear axle in favour of an independen­t setup for this generation, for example – has made the Mustang a much more tolerable car to drive every day. In normal mode, the suspension and steering settings, while not as firm as they are in sport, strike a good balance between ride comfort and handling.

Make no mistake, the Mustang isn't a tomb-like highway cruiser where the outside world rarely intrudes – it's a muscle car, so the V8 soundtrack is going to be ever present, regardless of drive mode setting, as is the firm ride. Incidental­ly, I didn't track either of these GTS – doing so wasn't the point of this exercise – but I feel like both, especially the coupe would be a lot of fun to drive on track – with the right tires, of course.

As for the convertibl­e, its driving character is much like that of the coupe. The droptop gives it more of a Sunday-afternoon-cruise feel, but the presence of a manual transmissi­on is better for spirited driving. The performanc­e package also ups the ante thanks to a beefier rear axle and better wheels, tires and brakes, but white-knuckle performanc­e isn't really what this car is all about. Cruising with the top down – a process that works quite well in the Mustang, by the way – is, and the GT convertibl­e is perfect for a weekend getaway on sunny days with cloudless skies.

I look forward to the impending arrival of the 2018 Mustang and the opportunit­y to drive it, but as good as it will undoubtedl­y be, it'll be hard-pressed to do better than these ` 17s.

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