Ford Mustang Convertible
With a 2.3-litre turbocharged engine offering the option of better fuel economy than the traditional V8, as well as a lower price point, this improved Ford Mustang should continue to be quite a success in Europe, especially in Convertible guise. The idea here is to provide sports car performance and 50 years of heritage for the same sort of money as a humdrum executive drop-top.
We've yet to drive this improved model but on paper, the prospects look quite promising. The roof is fabric and must cover 4.7-metres of car. To start the roof retraction process, you have to twist a roof-mounted handle though from then on, the process is electric. Another potential irritation is that this process can only work when the car is at a standstill. Nor is there the option of a wind deflector.
While there will be many who don't see the point in choosing anything other than the 5.0-litre V8, Ford predicts a good take-up of the 2.3-litre Ecoboost turbo four. With UK pump prices being what they are, you can see the logic. It's not exactly limp-wristed either. With 290PS to call upon, it'll get to 62mph in around 6 seconds in six-speed manual guise. As an option, Ford now offers an auto transmission wth no fewer than ten speeds. The brand claims that this new auto 'box offers greater fuel efficiency and improved acceleration. The gearbox's electronic control system enables settings that optimise performance for the car's various Drive Modes, plus there's real-time adaptive shift-scheduling that allows the transmission to adapt to changing conditions and select the right gear in any situation - from coast-road cruising to the drag-strip.
In short, for the right buyer, the 2.3-litre EcoBoost Mustang variant could now be quite a tempting proposition. Look at the ballistic V8 version though and your resolve might weaken. Its output has now been increased to 450PS, plus there's more low-end torque than there was before.
As for driving dynamics, well Ford claims to have improved these for European buyers with this enhanced model. Recalibrated shock absorbers should improve stability through corners, while the rear suspension has been stiffened with a cross-axis joint that reduces unwanted movement at each corner that can lead to body flex. Thicker anti-roll bars also better control body-roll for sharper handling. A new optional MagneRide Damping System can deliver a lightning-quick response to changing road conditions. Plus there are two new Drive Modes in addition to the usual 'Normal', 'Sport', 'Track' and 'Snow/Wet' settings. 'Drag Strip Mode' optimises performance for maximum acceleration from standing starts. And 'My Mode' enables drivers to select their own preferred settings for performance, dynamics and exhaust sound.
In addition, the car also has a 'Good Neighbour Mode' that can be programmed to automatically limit the exhaust's noise output at pre-programmed times of the day to avoid disturbing your neighbours, not least when firing up the legendary 5.0-litre V8 early in the morning.
In many ways, Ford has played it safe with the new Mustang's looks, changing it only in the details, such as the new headlights. It would be unfair to slate Ford for that though, because the Mustang is such an icon that the company can't really do anything too drastic with it. It isn't like the Blue Oval feels the need to change things much either, because the company sells about 18 Mustangs an hour in the States.
The Mustang may not have changed drastically, but it's still a head-turner. The new front end makes it look more elegant than muscular, and the sheer bulk gives it presence. More than anything else, though, it's still likely to be a novelty on British roads, and with the canvas hood of this Convertible version up or down, it'll draw attention.
Let's talk you through the changes made to this revised model. The bonnet profile is now lower with integrated air vents, combined with a revised lower grille design to give the Mustang a sharper, more aggressive face, while improving aerodynamics. The headlamps and tail lights have been re-styled too and at the rear, there's a sleeer bumper and a more aggressive diffuser.
Inside, Ford has tried to give the cabin more of the premium feel you get in notable German rivals. Soft touch materials now feature for the door linings and the door handles are finished in aluminium. The centre console features a smarter hand-stitched, soft-touch wrap, finished with stitching in a contrast colour for a more dynamic and upscale feel. Leather-trimmed, heated and cooled seats, and a heated steering wheel are also offered across the line-up for the first time for ultimate comfort. There's also now a customisable, all-digital, 12-inch LCD instrument cluster and the centre-dash infotainment system has been upgraded to 'SYNC 3' status, which includes 'Apple CarPlay'/'Android Auto' smartphone mirroring functionalty.
Overall, this revised model has a classier feel, both inside and out - and the extra driving modes, additional safety features and 10-speed auto gearbox are all welcome additions. None of this though, has diluted this Ford sportscar's essential charm. A Mustang is all about the noise it makes, hence the appeal of this Convertible version. Without a roof, the 5.0-litre V8 should sound just great but Ford says it's tuned the alternative 2.3-litre EcoBoost engine to make nearly as potent a noise.
What that smaller engine will do is make the option of Mustang ownership available to more people. With a folding roof, a 5.8-second sprint to 62mph and almost acceptable fuel economy, this variant might be empting. After all, there aren't many ways of getting this much heritage and this much drama onto your driveway for this kind of budget. Go on: try one.Click here to find out more about our Ford Mustang Convertible range
BMW 4 Series Convertible
BMW's improved 4 Series Convertible perseveres with a neat metal-folding roof that offers a different option to executive segment cabriolet buyers not already swayed by the competing charms of rival open-topped versions of the Audi A5 and Mercedes C-Class. You won't get the large boot and cutting-edge driving dynamics of the 4 Series Coupe, but compensations come in the form of refinement, security and drop-top desirability. In short, you'd like one.
BMW alone persists with the metal-folding roof concept in this segment, so if you prefer this 4 Series Convertible to either of its two direct rivals, Cabriolet versions of the Audi A5 and Mercedes C-Class, that's likely to be the major reason why. The changes made to this revised model are really quite subtle. If you know the car well, you'll spot the new twin LED headlights that now come as standard. Another frontal change is found in the central air intake which has an aperture that increases in size towards the outer edges, adding a more imposing presence and greater sense of width to the entire nose section.
Otherwise, the recipe is as it was before. Having to create a pretty shape that effortlessly swallowed all the roof-work's sliding metal panels must be quite a design challenge but here, that's been expertly carried off, helped by the fact that like all the most modern folding hardtops, the BMW system - which takes 20 seconds to operate and can function at speeds of up to 8mph - uses three rather than two-pieces. The advantage of this is that you don't need a distended rear end on the car to accommodate the larger sections of a two-piece roof. The downside of stacking three rather than two pieces on top of each other in the boot is that when they're all folded and sandwiched together here, there's not a great deal of luggage space left. With the roof up, you'll get 370-litres of cargo capacity. But fold it down and that figure falls to just 220-litres.
And the rear seats? Well, getting to them isn't the easiest task in the world and once you're seated, there's just about enough room for two adults on shorter trips. At the wheel, there's a low-set driving position and a grippy three-spoke sports steering wheel. Optional on this car is the Air Collar, a concept first pioneered by Mercedes, with vents below the head restraints that can massage your neck with comforting warm air on cold mornings. Otherwise, everything is as it would be in a 4 Series Coupe.
On to drive dynamics. Is the average BMW 4 Series Convertible customer going to approach this car wanting to sling it around a bit? Provided the variant in question isn't the hot rod M4 version, I suspect not. Still, if you do like your driving, you'll be interested to hear that dynamic changes made across the range mean stiffer suspension and an upgraded steering set-up. These measures have resulted in a tangible improvement in both lateral and longitudinal handling properties, regardless of the load on board. The upshot is reduced roll, more neutral responses when driving at the limit, even greater straight-line stability and the wonderfully precise steering for which BMW is renowned. This applies to the standard suspension, as well as the M Sport suspension and Adaptive suspension.
On to engines. Diesel-wise, this means a choice of three units, starting with the 190bhp unit found in the 420d. Above that come the six cylinder diesel models, the 258bhp 430d and the 435d diesel range-topper with a hefty 313bhp at its disposal. Petrol people get a 2.0-litre unit developing 184bhp in the 420i and 252bhp in the 430i. Above that sit two six cylinder derivatives, the 326bhp 440i and the 431bhp M4 performance model. The xDrive 4WD system is an option on 420i, 420d and 430d variants and standard on the 435d.
But I haven't yet talked about the roof. If the sun comes out or the heavens open, it's nice that you don't now have to stop at the side of the road to either retract or erect it, though you do have to slow to a speed of below 8mph for the 20 seconds the three metal panels take to assume their necessary positions. When the top is up, the refinement you get is indistinguishable from that you'd expect to find in the 4 Series Coupe model, thanks to a number of design improvements made to this Convertible version. These include a sound-absorbing headliner that reduces wind noise by up to 2dB.Click here to find out more about our BMW 4 Series Convertible range
Mercedes-Benz C-Class Cabriolet
There wasn't much wrong with the Mercedes C-Class Cabriolet that a few more sophisticated entry-level engines wouldn't have put right. Now that this smartly-styled convertible has these mainstream powerplants in place, it's properly set to really trouble mid-sized drop-top segment favourites like the Audi A5 Cabrio and the BMW 4 Series Convertible. You'd like one.
On the road, this C-Class Cabriolet comes with a multi-layered fabric roof that can activate in less than 20s at speeds of up to around 30mph. Once the hood is unclipped and on its way backwards, what Mercedes calls an 'AIRCAP' draught stop system springs up on the windscreen header rail. At the same time, a wind deflector can glide up behind the rear seats and together, these two elements are very effective in limiting cabin buffeting at speed. That roof mechanism leaves this model is 125kgs heavier than the C-Class Coupe model it's based upon, extra bulk you really feel when you're pushing on around twisting secondary roads. On the plus side though, this Cabriolet is stable and very well balanced, aided by a standard 'DYNAMIC SELECT' driving modes system that not only tweaks the throttle and steering but also alters responses from the standard 'AGILITY CONTROL' adaptive suspension. Uniquely in this class, there's the option of upgrading the damping into a hi-tech air-suspended 'AIRMATIC' set-up.
On top of that, mainstream variants get a 9G-TRONIC 9-speed automatic gearbox that's more sophisticated than anything the opposition can offer. With this revised model, the most important news is the introduction of fresh mainstream petrol and diesel engines beneath the bonnet. The range kicks off with the new 1.5-litre petrol unit with 184hp fitted to the base C200, a model available only in rear-driven form. This powerplant features clever 'EQ Boost' technology which uses a 48volt on-board network with a belt-driven starter/alternator. As mentioned, there's a new four cylinder diesel too, the previous 2.1-litre unit now replaced by a state-of-the-art 2.0-litre powerplant with 194hp, this fitted to the rear-driven C220d variant. At the top of the range lie the fearsome Mercedes-AMG models, offered with V6 or V8 power. The V6-engined C 43 4MATIC now puts out 390hp, 23hp more than before. That's enough to take a C 43 Coupe from rest to 62mph in just 4.7s. Beyond that lies only the V8 C63 AMG model, with a 4.0-litre V8 Biturbo engine offering either 476 or 510hp.
With its top up, the profile of this two-door cabriolet resembles that of the C-Class Coupe, with virtually identical basic dimensions. The styling of this revised model isn't much different, a revised front bumper slotting under the smart diamond radiator grille which is flanked by standard-fit LED High Performance headlights. As before, a high beltline and frameless doors with free-standing exterior mirrors aim to underscore the sporty character. The fully automatic fabric soft top can be opened and closed using a matt chrome curved switch on the centre console. After opening, it folds down quietly and is stored in the soft-top compartment in the boot.
Inside, the cabin now gets the option of the fully-digital instrument display, a 12.3-inch TFT screen that replaces the conventional dials using technology borrowed from larger Mercedes models. You can customise the layout between three display styles - 'Classic', 'Sport' and 'Progressive'. As before, flowing forms characterise the centre console as well as the door and rear side panelling, which smoothly merge into one another to emphasise the coupe character. The front sports seats feature automatic belt feeders for added convenience. The choice of materials and the finish have a hand-crafted feel with high-class appeal and aim to deliver a fresh take on modern luxury. The 50:50 split rear seats can be completely folded down. This extends boot capacity which is 360-litres - or 285-litres with the roof open.
I said at the beginning that you might not necessarily need a lottery win to own one of these but the important thing is that at the wheel - or on your driveway - this C-Class Cabriolet will make you feel as if your numbers have come up. Use it day-in and day-out and we think you'd start to wonder whether it would be really worth paying twice as much for a more exalted Mercedes drop-top, even if you had the funds to do so.
Yes, you could get yourself an Audi A5 Cabriolet or a BMW 4 Series Convertible for a little less than you'd pay for one of these, but neither of those cars have quite the street cred that attaches itself to this C-Class. This is, in short, a very complete product.Click here to find out more about our Mercedes-Benz C-Class Cabriolet range