Frank H. Cicerale
August 1, 2008
Before each of the three passes made with the car at Old Bridge Township Raceway Park, the tires were cleaned off in a very smoky fashion. While no rubber marks were left on the street, a couple of pesky ricers did get smoked.

"OK, kid. Take the keys, enjoy the weekend, and give me a full report on Monday."

With those parting words, MM&FF Editor Evan Smith tossed me the keys to the '08 Mustang GT convertible tester that was sitting in the office parking lot and walked away. Could this job get any better?

I flew through the rest of the day at work, relishing in the fact that waiting for me when I punched out at five sharp was the latest model-year S197 drop-top from Ford. The whistle blew, and I quickly packed my briefcase, readying myself for what would be a weekend filled with top-down, open-air cruising.

As soon as I found the car in the lot-like that was hard with the attention-stealing Grabber Orange hue-I did a quick walk-around before pressing the Unlock button on the keyless remote. On the rear trunk lid was the black satellite antenna, so right off the bat I knew my ride home would be filled with trying to look cool, not channel surfing through the FM radio stations. The trunk lid looked a bit off, and then it dawned on me that the car was equipped with the spoiler-delete option, leaving the lid smooth and clean. The standard-fare, 17-inch, painted cast-aluminum wheels were nowhere to be found; in their place were the optional 18-inch premium aluminum rims.

Strolling around to the driver side, I finally opened the door, slipped into the Dark Charcoal leather seat, and glanced around at my newfound home for the weekend. I was enthralled with the options at my disposal.

Interior upgrade option. Check.
Heated seats. Check.
Premier trim package with black floor mats. Check.
Mirrors adjusted. Check.
Easy-to-drop optional black cloth convertible top. Double check.

And with that, I slid the key into the ignition, heard the 300hp 4.6L Three-Valve roar to life, slung the shifter on the Tremec 3650 five-speed manual transmission into First, and happily set out on my one-hour commute to the old homestead.

The outward and inward appearance of the '08 car hasn't changed much since the inception of the body style in 2005. The vehicle I was chosen to evaluate was equipped with the interior upgrade package, which basically means the cloth interior made way for leather. All of the controls were easy to operate and within reach, and thanks to the auxiliary input jack located in the center console, I was able to hook up my iPod and rock out to some Bon Jovi (I'm from New Jersey. And it's not Joisey-no one here says that). Introduced in the '07 model, the MP3 advancement is a welcome addition, as it seems that an auxiliary input is now standard on most new vehicles. For all intents and purposes, the interior was comfortable for both driver and passengers, whether it was during a short jaunt to the local ice cream parlor or a longer trip to the Jersey shore.

As stated, the tester was equipped with the optional black cloth convertible roof, which tacked on an extra $230. While the top itself was easy to operate, the optional black cloth boot cover was admittedly confusing. It took me the better part of 20 minutes to figure out how the get the boot on, and even when it was in position, it appeared to be ill-secured. There were a few times while cruising when I pulled over and double-checked the boot, as it was buffeting around pretty good at speed.

From those who saw the car and talked with me, the Grabber Orange Clearcoat was one of those love-it-or-hate-it colors. To me, it was a nice complement to the black top and interior, which toned down the brightness of the hue. However, one bystander commented that "the car looks like a sporty school bus." It didn't look that bad withoutthe rear spoiler, though the location of the Sirius satellite antenna on the rear trunk lid was, in my opinion, not ideal. Hopefully, Ford will relocate the antenna to a less conspicuous area.