For ages, car nuts have been typically polarized between good old fashioned American muscle and the potent propulsion of turbo fed imports. It always seemed unlikely to reconcile the two, save for a few Frankensteins here and there.
Some may remember one such unholy marriage from a movie called "The Fast and the Furious: Tokyo Drift," where a vintage 60's Mustang fastback was turned into a drift car thanks to a modern underchassis upgrade and an RB26DET (Nissan Skyline engine) for a heart.
In many ways, Ford's latest Mustang EcoBoost can be compared to such a vehicle. While the idea may seem like sacriledge to faithfuls of either side, it also brings with it some unforseen benefits.
Before delving into technicalities, a little introduction is in order. Ford's Mustang has been enjoying renewed popularity, much thanks to the fifth generation's retro-futuristic styling that nods to the classic first generation. Nine years of subtle facelifts and improvements have led to renewed confidence in the model and the eventual full-model change of 2015.
For this sixth generation, Ford's engineers have been emboldened, daring to depart from the half-century old rear live axle formula to a new fully independent chassis. Thankfully, some of that retro-futuristic styling has been retained, though taken to a more aggressive extreme.
Admittedly, some photos and angles don't do justice to how intimidating the new Mustang looks in person. The trapezoid grille is much larger, with the trademark Ford truck nostrils on its sides. Headlights have been shrunk and move further to the sides, accompanied by shark gill LED daytime running lamps. Grooves on the hood lead eyes to the classic fastback silhouette. Behind, the same tri-bar tail-lamps with sequential turn signals have been kept. They're complemented by twin pipes integrated into the lower diffuser.
Inside, are subtle hints to the muscle car with a deep-dish three spoke wheel, twin hooded instrument cluster binnacles and a symmetric design to the dash. There are circular aircon vents and large radio knobs are still there, but now, they're paired with toggles at the bottom of the center console. Opt for an automatic and you'll still get a shifter that practically looks like a manual.
This is no Mustang on the cheap. For those worried they'll quickly be spotted and maligned in the non-V8 Mustang, the only distinguishing features of the EcoBoost are the black 19-inch wheels and the lack of a GT badge at the back. Everything else, like the SYNC with MyFord Touch and a 12-speaker Shaker Pro speaker system, Pony puddle lamps, plus the very enjoyable Track Apps, are still fitted as standard. It however gets Ebony sport leather Recaro seats, while the GT gets the retro broad leather seats for a more grand tourer feel. Another touch exclusive to the EcoBoost is the boost gauge in the center dash.
Propelling this all forward is the controversial 2.3-liter EcoBoost inline-4 direct injection turbo. It delivers 314 PS and 434 Nm of torque through a six-speed transmission. Keeping it aloft is a new double-ball-joint MacPherson Strut system in front. The rear is now fully independent with an integral-link system tuned for high-performance driving. All of this rolls on some pretty serious rubber.
This unconventional setup was chosen because this particular Mustang model was designed to be a global contender, not just for American Boulevard cruising. Engineers had envisioned this vehicle to be just at home on the Nurburgring as it is on LA streets.
Nonetheless, the muscle car feeling hasn't been banished from the car entirely. Window sills still come up to your shoulders, the vehicle is still imposingly wide, and there's the long hood to be wary of. Nonetheless, it's not a lumbering beast like its predecessor. In fact, it feels considerably lighter with the suspension more on the taut side. The driver will definitely feel most of the bumps on the road. While this may be a bit of a problem when driven daily, it will pay dividends on tighter turns and sweeping roads, and circuits. This Mustang hugs the road far better than any other.
As for the EcoBoost engine, it won't be found wanting. There isn't much low end grunt like the V8, though the turbo certainly makes up for it in the higher rev ranges. The transmission is a treat, shifting quickly and even blipping when downshifting in sport mode. Floor it and you'll find the acceleration comes very close to that old V8 feeling. Activate the Track Apps and call to fore the built-in 0-100 timer and compare how close the times are to a V8 yourself.
Having only half the cylinders benefits fuel consumption too, but not by much. In the city, the EcoBoost will average 6 km/L in heavy traffic and 10 km/L on the highway.
The only downside to having an EcoBoost Mustang is there's none of that burble at idle nor humbling roar at full throttle. Instead, it's a comparatively quiet but rapid horizon-grabbing momentum.
For the tuners and track day warriors who have been wishing for a tunable, more time attack friendly Mustang, this is the model to get. But for those that still yearn for the sheer hair-raising resonance of a V8 and it's lofty ride, it's an extra P600,000 to have it the old way.