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2016 Ford Mustang 2.3L Ecoboost

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D3---Mustang-0820160216I honestly didn’t know what to expect of the Ford Mustang EcoBoost.

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The GT version I’ve become familiar with, what with its carryover 5.0-liter V-8, comfortable suspension for grand touring, and the badge that signifies affordable American performance. This EcoBoost, however, turns that concept on its head a bit.

Let’s wind the clock back a bit to 2014. Back then, Ford has just released the all-new sixth-generation Mustang along with the announcement that it will be for a global market.

Design-wise, we can’t really say that it’s styled for global appeal because it’s still signature pony car all throughout. The long hood, wide stance and fastback profile are all signs that this is a Mustang and not any other pony car. The EcoBoost that Ford sent us actually differs little in appearance from the V8 we drove earlier with the exception of the GT emblem in the back and the black wheels. This one actually came in a very handsome shade of dark gray, giving the Mustang EcoBoost a rather sleek but stealthy look.

Open the long doors and the same premium interior greets you. Practically all the features that were in the GT are here; surprising given that this is the local “entry” grade variant of the ‘Stang. If I was to go bit-by-bit, it’s actually hard to distinguish this cabin from the GT as well; about the only tell-tale sign is the presence of an oil pressure gauge and a vaccuum/boost gauge on the dash instead of a third central air-conditioning (A/C) vent.

The steering wheel is the same. The shifter for the automatic gearbox is the same. The pedals, SYNC, A/C, toggles and other features are the same. The big difference, however, are the Recaro seats. Expect a snug fit as these seats are designed to hold you in place during hard cornering.

Push the start button and the engine gets going. This four-cylinder motor is half the usual number of cylinders one would expect in an American muscle or pony car, and at 2.3-liters is less than half the displacement of the V8. Despite that, at 314 PS (309 horsepower) and 434 Newton-meters, the EcoBoost (turbo direct injection) got 75 percent of the horsepower and 80 percent of the torque, all coursed to the rear wheels via a six-speed automatic gearbox with paddle shifters.

On an everyday commute, the Mustang EcoBoost drives like any other normal car; well, apart from the challenge of parking with that long snout ahead. The engine and transmission combo are good, making for rather convenient driving in the city. The real surprise came in the suspension; unlike the GT, this one is quite stiff. So much so that it actually behaves (somewhat) like a European sports car, not an All-American. That’s good, as this generation of Mustang was meant to be marketed across many different continents.

Turbo performance
Find an open road and floor the throttle to see what they’ve done to the Mustang. Once the turbo spools and the boost kicks in, this Mustang will surge forward with the arrival of thrust. Around 5.9 seconds is all it takes to dispatch 100 km/h from a standstill. Acceleration is not linear like the naturally-aspirated V8, but it’s certainly entertaining. Juvenile, but fun.

The same suspension that we found stiff showed off what it can do with the Mustang EcoBoost. There’s not much leeriness here; just good body control in tight bends and a planted footprint, thanks to the Mustang-first independent rear suspension. The car is also lighter because the engine is much smaller. The tires are also more performance-oriented Pirelli P-Zero rubber, not the P-Zero Nero version that was on the GT. No, this isn’t a one trick pony meant for quarter mile runs. It’s still big and heavy, but it can sure brake and take on corners like no other production pony car before it.

Great and fun as the performance is, there is one thing seriously lacking: drama. As a driver, you know it has some good handling dialed in and the EcoBoost engine punches at a level above its displacement, but the turbocharged heart doesn’t have the audio that the V8 GT offers. There’s no eight-cylinder snarl at idle, that gruff note when you prod the throttle, or that macho roar when pushed into the higher limits of the rpm range. And that’s a shame.

Ford did great with the Mustang EcoBoost’s overall performance, pricing and more. But cars like the Mustang are supposed to be bought for the experience, the sensation and the drama. Good as that EcoBoost is, the lack of sound takes away the soul of this thoroughbred.

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