Let’s imagine going back to the days when we could travel, and life takes you to the sunny state of California.
You find yourself driving along the coastline enjoying the ocean breeze, and there’s no car more appropriate to journey with than a Mustang Convertible. The sight of its beautiful silhouette pitted against the sea backdrop, along with the sound of a V8 roar and the relaxing driving dynamics will check the boxes for a perfect vacation companion. This week, we have the pleasure to take the 2021 Ford Mustang GT California Special on the road to reminisce that good old vacationing feel.
The styling of the Mustang Convertible needs no introduction, but the California Special package is well worth mentioning. The GT/CS logo on the front fenders can trace its roots back to 1968 when Ford created the first California Special, and the company reintroduced it as an appearance package in 2007. For 2021, the package dresses up the exterior with a unique front grille with an offset Pony logo, front and rear spoilers, side scoops, side stripes, and two-tone 19-inch wheels. These additions are subtle and made just enough of a difference for the Mustang to be noticed.
The interior of the Mustang GT California Special also gets several key distinctions, including the Miko Suede door and seat inserts with red contrast stitching, GT/CS embossment on the front headrests, ‘Carbon Hex’ aluminum instrument panel, and special California Special script logo on the instrument panel badge as well as the floor mats.
The dashboard layout of the Mustang is industrial looking with retro style toggle switches on the bottom row for drive mode selections, steering feel adjustment, traction control switch, as well as the four-way emergency light while the rest of the centre console consist of the regular shortcut keys and physical climate control. We do wish the heated steering wheel controls had their own physical button near the seat heating and ventilation controls instead of being a standalone selection on the touchscreen, but the rest is quite easy and intuitive to use.
The 2021 Mustang lineup uses the SYNC 3 infotainment system that continues to be good to use but shows its age with resolution and screen size when compared to the competition. We enjoyed the vast amount of customizable options on the 12-inch LCD digital instrument cluster, especially for the different track apps that are available to use with it. Drivers can use the apps to measure g-forces, acceleration times, lap times, as well as to engage the electronic line-lock and launch control features, gamifying the Mustang ownership experience and adding to the overall fun.
What also adds to the experience is a comfortable ride thanks to supportive seats and refined suspension tuning. Steering is accurate with decent weight with the sports steering mode. Though the Mustang GT Premium has softer dampening than what most would expect out of a dedicated sports car leading to a bit of wallowing in the corners, we did not mind the trade-off for better ride comfort. Those looking for sharper handling can select the optional MagneRide Damping system that tidies up the driving experience. It’s worth noting this system is not available with the California Special package.
Standard power source on the 2021 Ford Mustang GT is a 5.0-litre V8 engine that produces 460 horsepower and 420 lb-ft. of torque. The linear power delivery is exemplified up near the higher RPMs where the Mustang really sings. The optional Active Valve Performance Exhaust is a perfect match with the Mustang GT Convertible, offering an aural experience unlike any cars in this price range whether the top is open or closed. It is this exact combination of a high-revving engine, a notchy six-speed manual transmission, a screaming exhaust, and the relaxing demeanor in an open-air setting that truly transcends the Mustang driving experience.
Also standard is the Ford Co-Pilot360 driver assist features including Adaptive Cruise Control, Blind Spot Information System with Cross-Traffic Alert, Lane-Keeping System, Pre-Collision Assist with Automatic Emergency Braking, and Auto High-Beam headlamps. These features work well together to keep occupants safe and it is great to see Ford offering them with the standard transmission, a slight rarity in the industry today.
Pricing of the 2021 Ford Mustang GT Premium Convertible starts at $54,490, with the California Special Package costing an extra $2,500. Add $2,200 for the 401A Equipment Group (LCD digital instrument cluster, heated steering wheel, voice-activated touchscreen navigation system, and adaptive cruise control), $1,000 for the Active Valve Performance Exhaust, and another $1,000 for the 12-speaker Bang & Olufsen sound system with HD Radio, and we arrive at an as-tested price of $63,090.
The Ford Mustang GT is closely matched with its archrival, the Chevrolet Camaro SS, with the Mustang offering more fun on the back roads given its rev-happy personality. The Camaro’s 6.2-litre V8 engine offers more low-end torque for slightly friendlier urban commutes, and the chassis makes for a more sorted performance car.
After spending a week with the 2021 Ford Mustang GT California Special, we were won over by how relaxed it makes us feel. Until we can safely travel southward, the Mustang GT is probably the closest we get to experiencing that good old California vacation feeling and it is a strong candidate for anyone looking for a relaxing summer cruiser with plenty of pep.