The sixth generation version of Ford's Mustang can be ordered with an engine you much more likely to be able to bond with in the real world. Jonathan Crouch tries the 2.3-litre EcoBoost version.
Ten Second Review
If any further evidence was needed that Ford wants the 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 35mpg and 179g/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 fits to 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.
Choose the turbocharged 2.3-litre 'EcoBoost' four cylinder unit we're looking at here and you get a free-revving 317bhp motor that blends 0-62mph in 5.8 seconds with up to 35.3mpg combined fuel consumption. That's pretty much the best of both worlds, but we wouldn't blame anyone for picking the more charismatic 416bhp 5.0-litre V8 with its subtle burble and 0-62mph in just 4.8 seconds. However, the 23.5mpg returns on offer here 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. Ah yes, the handling: we should talk about that. This sixth generation Mustang isn't just blisteringly fast in a straight line: it also feels surprisingly good through the corners, exhibiting precision and balance thanks to a sophisticated multi-link rear suspension design, lightweight aluminium parts, and a much more rigid body. The steering doesn't have quite as much feel as we'd like when the car's being driven hard, but it's light around town and for parking. The optional six-speed automatic gearbox is also ideal for 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.
Design and Build
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 sixth generation guise. As you get comfortable inside, it's noticeable just how much space there is to move around in the cabin. This is a bigger car than its rivals and you certainly feel that, helped by the way that the deeply cushioned six-way electrically adjustable leather seats are supportive but also luxurious and are easy to position for a commanding view ahead, though it's rather hard to see over the end of the long bonnet. Finally, let's deal with boot space. You might expect to have to compromise in this regard with such an out-and-out sportscar. Think again. True, there's quite a high loading lip and the opening is fairly narrow, but you can't argue with the amount of space on offer, given the inevitable limitations of a car of this kind. Even the Convertible model can swallow 332-litres of cargo, roof up or down.
Market and Model
You save around £4,000 by opting for 2.3-litre EcoBoost power rather than the 5.0-litre V8. That means prices that start from around £31,000. Otherwise, the options are the same. 'Fastback' coupe or Convertible bodystyles and six-speed manual or six-speed auto transmission. That's it. No fancier trim levels, no all-wheel drive option: you get it as it comes. Add £3,500 to the asking price if you want the Convertible bodystyle. And a further £1,500 of you want the auto gearbox we're tried. It's also worth pointing out that Mustangs aren't sold at every one of the Blue Oval maker's dealerships. You'll find this sportscar only in the showrooms of the company's premium 'Ford Store' locations. At this model's launch, there were 70 of these, enough, says the brand, to ensure that 90% of the population will be with an hour's drive of one.
Cost of Ownership
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 35.3mpg in manual guise and a less rosy 28.5mpg if you choose the automatic, respective emissions figures being 179 and 228g/km. Choose that heavy hitting V8 instead though, and you'll emit 306g/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 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.