HD Road Test Review – 2016 Ford Mustang GT California Special (w/ Videos!)



The Mustang GT Convertible had a hell of a week here at Car-Revs-Daily.com!

First we shot photos of the pony-car icon alongside a LaFerrari, then took an epic road trip down to Botany Bay for yet more photos.  And some very exciting full-throttle videos, too!

You would do the same when presented with a dream-car, right?

This Mustang GT Cali Special is a life-changing vehicle.  One that is so outstandingly fun, sexy and playful that you gladly forgive its autobox spec and slight cowl shake over big bumps.

Wind in your hair, V8 bellow in your ears…… is there any finer combination?!

Let’s detail this fantastic new-for-2016 California Special option package via the standard Exterior, Interior, Performance, Pricing and Summary section headings.  Three terrific top-down drive videos accompany these words — and they’re worth a brief watch.  If only to set the mood music to “Throbbing V8.”  Who needs a playlist or 12-speaker audio with harmonics like this Mustang GT on full throttle?!




This American Dream on wheels?  Race Red and wearing gorgeous upgraded 19-inch Mach alloy wheels, special graphics and even a contrast-black decklid spoiler.

The $1995 California Special package is a deep upgrades pack outside — for the cost of an alloy-wheel upgrade alone.  Our favorite detail?  Easily the giant 5.0 badges on both fenders!  They make clear that this is the Mustang GT versus its V6 and EcoBoost siblings.  That is not instantly clear from the front of the Cali Special.  A unique Mustang badge in the side of the intake up front is different from the GT grille on other V8 Mustangs.  This is a bit touchy, as all Mustangs for 2016 look pretty sleek and sporty.  But among gearheads, it is the V8 Mustang that elicits the most respect on the road.

The giant fender badges and GT California Special plate on the back, luckily, confirm loud and clear that this is no V6 or turbo four.

But in truth, you would need to be pretty hard of hearing not to recognize this V8 burble, even without the badges!

The Cali Special’s exterior has a few more tricks up its sleeve, too.  Those are the extended chin splitter from the Performance Pack Mustangs, plus CS-exclusive reverse hood vents with integrated LED blinkers.  These are rear-facing and are fairly subtle from the driver’s seat. But are extra visible to cars beside you on the road.



The LED goodness is deep with this Mustang GT.  LED DRLs, of course, but also LED fogs and sequential LED brake lights/indicators.  HID main beams round out a perfectly matched white lighting signature up front.  Only the old-fashioned blinker lights in amber on the front bumper let down the ultra-modern appeal of the car.  Those are an easy DIY swap for LED bulbs on the aftermarket, though.

Overall, the Mustang GT CS is one of the coolest and most stylish cars on the road. It looks so good, in fact, that it is pretty chic and sporty even with the black soft-top up.



The Mustang GT CS comes with nearly everything standard for 2016. Leather-trimmed sport buckets with custom GT/CS stitching set the mood nicely.  These are not the race seats that are optional, but are still extremely comfortable, adjustable and supportive.  The 8-inch SYNC3 touchscreen audio in the dash of the Mustang is upgraded here with the $800 navigation option and $1800 Shaker Pro audio system with 12 speakers and a thumping subwoofer.  The new Sync 3 generation is easier than ever to use, with quick reactions and intuitive controls.

So you are already in heaven before even setting off.  Then you dab the start button and the V8 rumble from all around washes over you like a wave of joy.  This is one car that sells itself — without turning a wheel!

The convertible top this year is fully lined and power-operated with just a push of a button. You still clasp and unclasp the roof at its header point via manual handle, but it is a piece of cake.  The top is up or down in under 20 seconds and works even in Drive, as long as you’re under 5-mph or so.  In reality, it is up or down well before any stoplight changes to green.

When it does, you are ready to punish almost anything off the line. This V8 and six-speed automatic combo is an easy and seamless way to rip off 5.0-second sprints all day, every day.  Even while on a Bluetooth phone call!

A few sonic notes, though.  The softtop is commendably quiet at speed when it is up, and lays perfectly flat in its housing when down.  You have a fantastic, immersive exhaust note to stay entertained at all times, though.  We think this is a major advantage for the Mustang over humdrum machines of all stripes.  But it can take some getting used to.  The V8 burble is ever-present. Even in drive-thru lines and traffic, though.

The other sound note is a gripe: the old-fashioned blinker noise from inside the car is a weird throwback.  It is a slow, slow tick that is an odd reminder of yesteryear.  A quicker, more high-tech blinker noise would match the car’s mood much better.

The only other observation from the cabin to share?  We had some key issues with this Mustang.  Luckily, no lockouts to report and the remote-start is pretty easy to master.  But the car does honk very, very frequently. Hopefully this can be disabled in the menus.  It honks for lock, of course, but also honks when the remote-start has been running for a few minutes.  I think this is a safety feature, letting you know the car was idling?  Whatever the case, it is irritating to have the remote-start engine then set off the alarm itself a few minutes later.

Secondly, the key itself.  This giant fob has buttons that protrude from its rectangular face.  No big deal, right?


For an admittedly round car tester in skinny jeans… the Mustang key buttons often pushed themselves when we bent over or sat down.  Super embarrassing.  Like when a fat thigh pushes your iPhone button and Siri says, “How can I help you?”  But you were just bending over.



Luckily, all detail complaints above are right out the window at speed. This Mustang GT California Special drives more like a Califnornia Dream!

So fast, so playful and so balanced.  The lack of a roof overhead actually makes the Mustang GT feel a bit more playful and more fun than its more-rigid hardtop sibling.  Maybe it is just the HD intake noise, massive exhaust roar and G-forces galore!?  But this Mustang GT is really the antidote for all boring cars.

The six-speed automatic is game for fast drives.  As you can see in the HD drive videos, this automatic with its snappy paddle shifters is a dream partner for the V8.  Just six cogs, but so much torque that every gear feels right.  Every time!  In S drive mode versus D, or when you select Sport or Track drive modes, the autobox is always ready to pounce forward with no hesitation.  In its sportier modes, the Mustang GT CS also downshifts cleanly as you approach bends.  Then it holds the right gear all the way around the corner. You’re spit out the other side with a big grin and a snap upshift at the redline.

So, so much fun. A six-speed manual is available, too, of course.  For purists.

The only place you really miss the extra chassis strength of the Coupe is when taking sharp curves or trying the Mustang’s tail-out U-turn technique. The rump of the Mustang convertible with all this power is just slightly looser than it is in the Coupe.  Not a big deal, but something to keep in mind.

The car is happy to be flogged just as hard as the Coupe.  But it is a bit less tight in back once you start hanging the tail out.


Mustang Convertibles are expensive these days!  But for the unique speed, style and sex-appeal they offer?  Still great value versus a 228i or Buick Cascada.

The Mustang GT Convertible stickers from $41,895, plus a $900 deliver charge.  Atop that, we added the $2k Cali Special pack that is terrific value.  The Shaker stereo is less of a homerun in terms of value for money, but it does sound great.  The automatic is a $1200 premium over the standard manual.  Plus $800 for the Nav functionality in SYNC 3.  This is a total of $5800 in options and an out-the-door price of $48,575.

Seems pricey, perhaps. But keep in mind that a Mustang V6 convertible is similarly-equipped for about $39k.  The delightful 5.0-liter, 435HP V8 certainly feels worth the extra cash!




Most people think of the American Dream in terms of the long-term future. Getting a great education, a great job, a great house.  And having a terrific love affair that makes a few great kids, too.

But all that is so abstract.

Want to feel the real, present-tense American Dream?

Roll onto the throttle of this California Special.  Hear it kiss the red line right as the wind picks up your hair and the sun kisses your cheek.

This Mustang GT is a shortcut to greatness.  It is one of the happiest, most joyful machines on the market.

For all that and more, the Mustang GT CS is one of the best cars you’ll ever love.


Tom Burkart is the founder and managing editor of Car-Revs-Daily.com, an innovative and rapidly-expanding automotive news magazine.

He holds a Journalism JBA degree from the University of Wisconsin – Madison. Tom currently resides in Charleston, South Carolina with his two amazing dogs, Drake and Tank.

Mr. Burkart is available for all questions and concerns by email Tom(at)car-revs-daily.com.

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