Some might consider the Ecoboost Mustang is only half the car the GT is but the new-for-2018 turbo’d pony car is a worthy proposition if you don’t think the V8 is the be-all and end-all.
The turbo for export markets now has a few less horses in its herd as it’s been tuned to meet Euro6 regs. It’s shrunk from 233 to 224kW but they’ve added more Newts, now with 441Nm at 3000rpm. And it has a few more gears with the ten-speed 10R80 slipping in behind the 2.3, which more than makes amends for the drop in power.
One of the Mustang’s myriad drive modes is dubbed Drag Strip where the computer won’t retard the engine timing between shifts, so the gearbox can snap between the cogs at full power. The Ecoboost jets off the mark with little bother; stall up 2000rpm then slam the throttle against the firewall and three quick changes later it’s registered one hundred in just over five seconds. That makes it almost a full second quicker than the old model.
This ten-speed auto is quite something. The turbo’s torque builds quickly and is pulling well by 2500rpm, whereas the V8 is peaky but it does make more power up top so is still almost half a second faster again to 100.
Once you’re done draggin’, and back in ‘Normal’ mode, the auto alters its shifting strategy to help ease consumption. Round town rambling sees it shift from first to third to fifth in a near seamless manner, before sneaking into seventh (which is direct 1:1) when tootling about. Given the ready torque and spread of gears, the Ecoboost will average about 10L/100km for a mix of city and motorway trawling, where the GT will do about 15. Even after we took this for a gallop, the numbers didn’t bolt, rising into the 14s, whereas the V8 will nudge into the 20s.
And the turbo is tuned to run happily on 91, whereas the V8 gives its best on 98. In tenth at 100km/h, the Ecoboost is pulling 1800rpm, but give the gas a decent prod and it’ll slot fourth for quick and easy passing. The auto does a lot of shifting but the swaps are smooth and it responds quickly to prompts for more go, even in Normal mode. And yet if you think it’s not fast enough, slot the lever into Sport where the downshifts are even more forthcoming.
The Ecoboost is $16,000 cheaper than the GT, and there aren’t many spec differences between them; wider rear wheels on the GT and bigger front brakes but other than an additional oil cooler (and those all important extra cylinders), it has the same LSD and suspension tune as part of the Performance Pack with which NZ cars are specified.
And it’s exactly the same inside. Except, that is, for the missing sound. When you start this up, it’s flat, like you’re driving a Mondeo. And when you have your foot up it there’s a bit of a ‘grrrr’ from up front while the exhaust note is all woosh and no rumble. For around $15k, the likes of CTB Performance can liberate more power and noise, with a sound reminiscent of the Focus RS, which uses this engine as its base.
The four exerts less of a burden on the front axle for improved balance, it being 101kg lighter in the engine area than the GT we scaled a few months back. While the Mustang Fastback isn’t the last word in steering precision, it tucks its front end in effortlessly while the revised suspension has it all anchored better, particularly the rear end. And that in turn helps the front stick better. You can really push the issue with the front treads and the Ecoboost resists understeer well, helped by the new Pirelli P Zeros.
In the Sport Plus mode, the engine response is crisp when you’re on and off the gas, while the long travel pedal means it’s not too twitchy. The traction control can get a working over if you’re too keen but you can ease into the gas just prior to the exit proper and it won’t start pushing the front end wide. Initially we thought it odd that the gearbox seemed reluctant to shift down below fourth but then when we switched to paddling it, we rarely found the need to dip down into third, given the torque and gear spread. Fourth and fifth keep the engine spinning in its optimal 3000-5000rpm band, and the progress is calm but quick. While it lacks the ultimate pace and drama of the GT, it’s not slow either. The brakes are okay here, but we’d option the MagneRide suspension.
This car wasn’t equipped with them but from our drive in other Mustangs fitted with this tech, they take care of the short, sharp-edged bumps better and settle the car in longer corners. They calm the round town too.
The Ecoboost makes for a compelling sports coupe, and logic says it’s all you need, but it’s still not quite the same as the GT, is it?