A four-cylinder on an American classic? No it’s not the end of the world just yet.
As the reality of stricter emission laws, demand for more fuel efficient powertrains and overall practicality set the bar for perfectly reasonable cars to own, automakers are forced to come up with unique yet ingenious cars. This brings me to such a vehicle, the Ford Mustang EcoBoost. Purists will come off immediately and say that there is no replacement for displacement (i.e. V8). I'd share their sentiments but there are two reasons why I have to disagree.
Firstly, this is not the first time a four-cylinder turbo has been used in a Mustang. That title goes to the Mustang SVO of the 80s which coincidentally also had a 2.3-liter turbo inline-four but that's where the similarities end. Lastly, downsized turbocharged engines are slowly becoming the new norm in making cleaner, more powerful sources of horsepower.
With Ford recently introducing a quiet update on the Mustang, we take a look at what exactly the Blue Oval did to subtly spruce up the quintessential ‘pony car’.
It’s not yet the 2018 facelift but frankly, this particular Mustang has all the right curves in all the right places. With its long hood, short deck design, the Mustang presented itself as a sporty, strikingly-beautiful two-door that blends both old and new design.
It still has that air of nostalgia thanks to the retro-inspired design that has been imbued with modernity. The shark-like front fascia with its sharp-looking headlights give it a handsome look while the signature silhouette and sloped roofline harks back to the timeless design of the first-generation model. As always, the tri-bar taillights with the sequential turn signals are always a delight to see. Honestly I can never see the Mustang with a different set of taillights.
Never have I imagined that a Mustang will roll on 19-inch wheels. But surprisingly the black alloy wheels do look the part and work well with the Oxford White paint. Wrapped around the huge rims are some serious rubber. All four corners of the Mustang are equipped with Pirelli P Zero 255/40 tires. We'll talk more later about how the Mustang handles.
Like its exterior, Ford also brought the old-new look inside the sixth-gen Mustang. The large three-spoke steering wheel, hooded instrument gauges and toggle switches remind us of the golden years of American Muscle.
With the quiet update, Ford gave the interior a once over and it now looks exactly the same as GT. Gone are the boost and oil pressure gauges on the center dash as both have been replaced with an additional air vent. It now also has the same brushed metal dashboard trim found in the GT. Subtle it may be but I find the gauges tacky in my opinion so it was a nice of Ford to delete them. Also available are headlight level adjusters which were not standard on the pre-updated models.
Sitting on the Recaro sport bucket seats, it felt like I was one with the car as it hugged every inch of my body. Unique only to the EcoBoost Mustang, the seats are actually pretty comfortable and have good support. The only downside of having these kind of seats is that you will feel every bump on the road. Take it to a twisty road or track however, and these seats will keep you planted.
A new SYNC 3 touchscreen infotainment system replaces the previous SYNC 2. I never had any problems using SYNC 2 but I was impressed as to how easy it was to go through the menus in SYNC 3. With a smartphone-like interface, faster processing speed and quicker response to inputs, it's safe to say that this is a major improvement over the older system. Did I mention that SYNC 3 also supports Android Auto and Apple CarPlay? Complementing the easy-to-use infotainment system is the 12-speaker Shaker audio system.
The Mustang does have two seats at the back, but unless your two extra passengers are well above the average Filipino height, they're mostly for kids or young adults. Mind you, I was able to fit my 5'7 frame at the back but that was not a pleasant experience I can tell you that.
There’s no thundering V8 under the hood. Instead, a 2.3-liter four-cylinder EcoBoost sends power to the rear wheels. It may have four less cylinders, but do remember that this is the same engine that powers the fire-breathing Focus RS. With a twin-scroll turbo and direct injection, this average-sized inline-four actually doles out a hefty 314 PS. Pulling power is also impressive thanks to 434 Nm of torque.
So what is it like to drive a non-V8 Mustang? Boring? Lacking in power? None of the above. I'm a muscle car guy myself but sticking an EcoBoost inline-four in a Mustang actually makes sense. First making an impression on me is its relative lightness and ease of driving. Without a heavy V8 up front, there's more unsprung weight on the front axle which makes up for better handling and reduced understeer.
No live rear axles here as the sixth-generation Mustang now has an independent multi-link rear suspension. This meant that the Mustang can now carve through the corners better. Combined with the high-performance Pirelli P Zero tires and configurable steering (Comfort, Normal, Sport), the all-new Mustang actually handled itself well in both dry and wet conditions. Granted, it's no featherweight (as this still weighs a healthy 1600 kg) , the EcoBoost 'Stang performs more like a sports car rather than a GT muscle car.
So what about its EcoBoost heart? Saying that it's a powerhouse is an understatement. Those that scoff at the smaller four-cylinder will be in for a surprise. With most of its grunt in the low and mid-range, pulling power is always at the ready. Thanks to nearly 440 Nm of torque, the turbo four actually pulls like a smaller V8. Bury your right foot and the Mustang will gladly reach highway speeds with ease. My dad, who used to have a 69' Mustang Mach 1 back in the day, was quite impressed of the EcoBoost's power. He even went on to say that its acceleration is slightly on par with his old 'Stang.
The smooth-shifting six-speed automatic works perfectly with the EcoBoost engine and responds quickly to throttle input. Take it on a leisurely stroll and the revs stay well below boost. Give the pedal some juice and the car lets out a throaty response that is then closely followed by the twin-scroll turbo kicking in. It's no V8, but there's plenty of power from that four-banger up front.
Fuel consumption over the V8 GT is slightly better though just. Cruising at a steady 90 km/h, the EcoBoost will return about 12.0 km/l at best. Around the city, the four-cylinder turbo will average around 6.5 – 7.0 km/l. But seriously, would you buy a Mustang for fuel economy?
As much as I adore the Mustang, there are some minor gripes that I have to mention. First off, its rather numb braking. While Ford does equip their cars with powerful brakes, I wished that their brake pedals had more feel and better modulation. Second is the heavy use of hard plastic. For a car worth more than PhP 2 million, I was expecting Ford's pony car to have more of the soft-touch plastic. Lastly, it's trunk. Sure it's pretty spacious but it's actually difficult storing large items given the Mustang's rather small trunk aperture.
So where do I stand with the EcoBoost Mustang? It's obvious that it's not as powerful as the V8 but horsepower is not everything. Like what I said earlier, this particular steed is lighter, slightly more agile and dare I say far more practical than the GT in my opinion.
314 PS and 434 Nm may not sound like much in the new Mustang (since the fifth-gen model's then 4.6-liter V8 produced 300 PS and 434 Nm of torque), but like what I said from the beginning, this is the new way automakers are making cleaner horsepower. As much as the V8 is synonymous to American Muscle, downsizing and turbocharging is the better way forward.
It can never replace the V8 in terms of overall performance and aural experience but with the way the EcoBoost Mustang performed, turbocharging American muscle cars could become the new alternative in laying down serious power on the road.