The improved sixth generation version of Ford's Mustang can be ordered with an engine you might be much more likely to bond with in the real world. Jonathan Crouch looks at the 2.3-litre EcoBoost version.
If any further evidence was needed that Ford wants the improved sixth generation version of its Mustang sportscar to be a world-orientated model, the existence of this 2.3-litre four cylinder variant provides it. A Mustang you could actually call 'sensible'? Surely not..
It seems almost sacreligious to order something like a Ford Mustang with a four cylinder engine beneath the bonnet. It might make more sense though. Yes, the 5.0-litre V8 you can still get in this car sounds great - but it will also leave you spending most of your time achieving sub-20mpg fuel economy figures, while the CO2 returns will put a serious dent in your tax return. In contrast, a Mustang with 2.3-litre four-pot power can deliver over 31mpg and 199g/km of CO2: quite a difference.
If you're still wavering, it might help to know that the 2.3-litre EcoBoost engine on offer here is the same on that the Blue Oval brand used with its fiery Focus RS uber-hot hatch: or nearly the same anyway. If you've decided on a Mustang but not on the engine that will power it, it might all be enough to give you pause for thought. Especially once you start to consider the changes made to his improved model, which include smarter styling, a classier interior, fresh engine modes, improved media connectivity, extra safety provision and the option of a new 10-speed auto gearbox.
Choose the turbocharged 2.3-litre 'EcoBoost' four cylinder unit we're looking at here and you get a free-revving 290PS motor that offers 440Nm of torque and blends 0-62mph in 5.8 seconds with up to 31.4mpg combined fuel consumption. That's pretty much the best of both worlds, but we wouldn't blame anyone for picking the more charismatic 450PS 5.0-litre V8 with its subtle burble and 0-62mph in just 4.3 seconds. However, the 23.3mpg returns on offer with the V8 won't appeal to everyone. Still, whichever variant you prefer, you get a performance car that goes, stops and even handles in a manner sure to surprise drivers used to European alternatives.
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.
There's a new optional ten-speed automatic gearbox that'll be a better choice if you've occasionally got to erngage in city driving, while a slick-shifting six-ratio manual transmission option emphasises this Ford's sporting side. However you drive, it, the Mustang makes light work of lumpy roads and keeps noise at bay at higher speeds, whether you're in the Fastback coupe or a Convertible variant with the roof up.
Whether you choose Fastback coupe or Convertible, you don't have to be a committed car fan to know what this car is. In fact, Ford is so confident in the global recognition this model enjoys that the word 'Mustang' doesn't appear anywhere on the bodywork. It helps of course that this iconic shape has been seen in so many films and TV shows, most memorably of course the 'Bullitt' movie and that car chase with Steve McQueen. This kind of instant recognition is priceless, explaining why Ford has been so careful to keep the shape and style of the original 1960s model, while bringing it right up to date in this improved sixth generation guise.
Changes made to this revised model see the bonnet profile now lower with integrated air vents. This is 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 sleeker 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 functionality. Practicality remains a strongpoint: even the Convertible model can swallow 332-litres of cargo, roof up or down.
You save around £3,500 by opting for 2.3-litre EcoBoost power rather than the 5.0-litre V8. That means prices that start from around £36,000. Otherwise, the options are 'Fastback' coupe or Convertible bodystyles and six-speed manual or 10-speed auto transmission. That's it. No fancier trim levels, no all-wheel drive option: you get it as it comes. Add around £5,000 to the asking price if you want the Convertible bodystyle. And a further £1,500 of you want the auto gearbox.
Safety's been improved, this enhanced model now featuring autonomous braking - Ford calls it 'Pre-Collision Assist with Pedestrian Detection'. The Mustang is also now offered with Adaptive Cruise Control and Distance Alert technologies that help drivers maintain an appropriate distance to the vehicle ahead, as well as Lane Departure Warning that can warn when drivers unintentionally drift out of lane, plus a Lane Keeping Aid that can apply torque to the steering wheel to steer the vehicle back into lane.
If you hold great store in miles per gallon figures, don't ever, ever take a test drive in the 5.0-litre V8 Mustang. It'll ruin you for this Ecoboost model. The 2.3-litre car returns an economy reading that is actually quite impressive for such a big, powerful, petrol-engined car, getting 31.3mpg in manual fixed-top guise and 30.7mpg if you choose the automatic, respective emissions figures being 199 and 205g/km. For the 2.3-litre Convertible, you're looking at 31mpg for the manual with 200g/km of CO2. And 29.7mpg for the auto, with 211g/km.
It's all a big improvement over the alternative heavy hitting V8. Go for your Mustang with that bigger 5.0-litre powerplant and you'll emit 277g/km, while if you can get the fuel meter to average anything into the twenties, you have more restraint than we could manage.
The 2.3-litre EcoBoost engine uses direct injection, variable cam timing and turbocharging to deliver its efficiency. A unique intake manifold and turbocharger housing enable it to make good on the performance Mustang drivers expect. The automatic transmission versions feature steering wheel-mounted shift paddles, which isn't really very 'Mustang': more Mondeo coupe.
The idea that a car built in America isn't suited to anywhere outside of the USA is blown away by this improved sixth generation Mustang. Where once, we would have seen this Ford as a car only for hard core enthusiasts and Mustang devotees, it's now a serious contender for any coupe or convertible buyer's attention, especially in this 2.3-litre four cylinder guise.
In this form, the car isn't quite as charismatic but it's still fast, desirable and a heck of a lot more justifiable to own. There's a lot to like here then - as you'd expect there might be. This is, after all, more than just a sportscar. It's the heart and soul of Ford.