When I tell self-proclaimed car enthusiasts that I own an Ecoboost Mustang, 9 times out of 10 the next sentence out of their mouth is as follows: “Why didn’t you buy the V8?”
I should keep a tally. If I had to estimate, in the first 6 weeks of ownership I’ve been asked this question approximately 3,526 times. If I had a nickel…
On April 17th, 1964, Ford introduced a car that would become legendary. The Ford Mustang. Despite forecasting less than 100,000 sales in its first year the Mustang was an instant surprise hit: between the now infamous ‘1964 and 1/2’ model year and the 1965 model year Ford sold over 650,000 Mustangs, making it the company’s most successful new car launch since the Model A.
The original Mustang became an instant classic, and at the time was available with either an inline six cylinder or a Windsor V8. Interestingly enough, the Mustang name was first used by Ford on a 1962 mid-engined concept powered by a V4 engine. That’s right, folks: the 4 cylinder Ford Mustang outdates the V8.
Fast forward about 50 years to December 5th, 2013: the global unveiling of the iconic Mustang’s sixth generation. Ford introduced the 2015 model as a 50th anniversary tribute to the original with a bit of a twist. This would be the first truly global market Mustang, a new sports car designed to go toe to toe with the traditional European sports car manufacturers. To help in this battle the new generation of Mustang would be equipped with something not seen in a Mustang since 1986: a turbocharged 4 cylinder engine
I would hope that last sentence didn’t surprise any of our readers, but just in case it did let’s continue the history lesson. In the 1970s America faced an oil crisis. Gas prices were rising, and people were starting to realize that emissions regulations were a bit too lax. Between the high gas prices and the power sucking emissions requirements starting to take hold, the muscle car was dying. Once proud V8 powerhouses were reduced to wheezing shells of their former selves. By 1982 the V8 Mustang GT could only manage a measly 160 hp. Something had to be done. That something became known as the SVO.
In 1984 Ford introduced the 2.3L, 4 cylinder turbocharged Mustang SVO. It was rated at 175 horsepower and 210 ft-lbs of torque making it the fastest Mustang of its time. Ford wasn’t playing games with the SVO, either: it featured high end suspension and a crazy bi-plane wing to make it the best performing Mustang in the lineup. By the time the SVO ended its production in 1986 it was capable of producing more than 200 horsepower while returning a combined average of about 24 miles per gallon. At the time the SVO was the most expensive Mustang, which was ultimately its downfall: production numbers were quite low and the SVO went away with the 1987 model year refresh of the Mustang.
Of course the new Ecoboost Mustang isn’t quite the same as the SVO. True, it has the same 2.3L of displacement, but it’s no longer the top of the line. It’s the middle of the range, a step above the V6 and below the 5.0 V8. While it may not be the top performer of the line up anymore (the GT350R took that crown and locked it away deep, deep underground), it’s certainly no slouch: 310 horsepower. 320 lb-ft of torque. 0-60 in 5.5 seconds.
For reference, that’s faster than any standard GT was until 1999. The 2005 GT was only .5 seconds faster to 60. The first Coyote V8 GT was only 1 second faster to 60. Is the Ecoboost slower than a V8? Of course it is. Is it slow? Absolutely not.
It certainly won’t win any drag races with V8 Mustangs, but I’m an autocrosser. On the autocross course the lightweight I4 gives the Mustang surprisingly good balance, giving minimal understeer. The independent rear suspension keeps the car composed throughout corners, making it an absolute joy to drive. Gone are the days where a Mustang was only good at the drag strip, this is truly a modern sports car, albeit a heavy one.
The best part? That 5.5 second zero to 60 time and great handling comes with little penalty to the wallet: in my 6 weeks of ownership I have seen about 26 miles per gallon driving about 60% highway and 40% city. Cruising on the highway the car has reported as much as 33 MPG average! In my opinion the Ecoboost Mustang is truly a ‘have your cake and eat it too’ sports car. It’s fast enough to get into trouble on the streets, but efficient enough to avoid the fuel pump for long stretches.
In their quest to go toe-to-toe with the Europeans, Ford succeeded in making the sixth generation Mustang a very nice car. The interior is very well appointed, in my case equipped with supple heated and cooled leather seats, a 12 speaker sound system, large touchscreen interface, 4 different driving modes, 3 different steering modes, blind spot monitoring, backup camera with cross-traffic alert, user-selected interior lighting, and more. Oh, and the car shines a Mustang logo on the ground by the doors at night. This is a no-compromises American grand tourer.
The Ecoboost Mustang’s biggest problem might just be that it’s called a Mustang. It’s a wonderful car who’s owners will never avoid being asked that inevitable question: why didn’t you buy the V8? To those reading this don’t be surprised if their answer is the same as mine: because I wanted the Ecoboost.