Have you ever wanted a Mustang but thought the 5.0 Block V8 is too much of a handful? Or perhaps you just didn’t want to have your consciousness tell you “you are ruining the world” every time you got in the driver’s seat of your big, burly Mustang? Whatever the reason may be, Ford has now been producing their signature pony car with a 2.3L turbocharged EcoBoost engine since 2015, for all to enjoy, even with a tree-hugger’s mindset.
It is a Mustang though… When I first heard that Ford was going to be fitting four cylinder engines in the outgoing model year of the Mustang, it almost screamed blasphemy to me. Mustangs are supposed to be mean, loud, a bit heavy, and completely visceral in its driving experience. It has been embodying the American dream as it roars down the street; ” ‘Muricaaaaaaa” and “What are you going to do about my loud exhaust” are some of the phrases most commonly used by 5.0 Mustang GT owners and Older Mustang connoisseurs alike. So here’s the age old question: Is the EcoBoost Mustang a true ‘stang?
This particular EcoBoost had some modifications done. Injen evolution intakes, stainless works cat-less downpipes along with a catback exhausts give the little four cylinder a helping hand, allowing it to breathe better and in turn producing a bit more power. Even with a dyno tune under its belt, the sound the thing made was unbelievable as well. I could see some people arguing that it is too loud, though I was mainly just amazed at the fact that a four cylinder can even get that loud. (Just as a side note, if it was me, I would personally go for a different set of exhausts: the Stainless works exhaust sounded a bit too “metallic” on the high end of the rev counter.)
The four cylinder actually has a few upsides. First and foremost would be the fact that the EcoBoost engine is the lightest of the engine options available, which results in less weight over the front wheels, therefore dramatically decreasing understeer when diving into corners, making the car feel a bit more manageable compared to the big V8. Who knew that halving the size of the engine block would make a boat feel like a car?
Not only that but for most people, 310 horsepower and 320 lb/ft of torque in its stock form is more than enough to scare them from time to time. The Mustang comes with 235 section tires all the way around so “lacking power” is not a problem you will encounter in the Mustang any time soon. But I have to emphasize, I’m not most people.
For people like me, I actually found quite a bit left to be desired when I stepped out of the car after taking it around the block. The biggest issue I found with the Mustang was the transmission. The optional 6-speed-automatic transmission that is available on the Mustang is, although acceptable, quite stupid. If the car is in Track+ mode and your foot is glued to the floor, the transmission knows what to do, and it’ll shift up when revs are nearing the redline. However all other times, I don’t think the transmission graduated from the school of transmissions with flying colors. Even in normal mode or sport mode, the shifting timing of the transmission either felt very delayed when trying to accelerate or go up hills, and when it finally does downshift, I’ve found that it sometimes downshifts two gears. In a car that has 320 lb/ft of torque and a LOUD exhaust (this car specifically), that whole ordeal becomes quite tiring. I’d be sitting there slowly putting my foot closer to the floor hoping ‘maybe the engine will downshift if I push the pedal 1/8 of an inch further’, but no. The transmission just sits there wondering, “Do you want me to shift? What is shifting? How do I do that?” Finally, after much consideration it finally remembers what the shifting teacher from transmission school taught it and goes “OH I’M A TRANSMISSION! I’M GOING TO SHIFT NOW”-and you’ll notice when it shifts gears, trust me.
Okay look, here’s the truth: the EcoBoost engine is over 100 horsepower down from the 5.0L Coyote engine in the Mustang GT, and there is just no replacement for displacement. Sure, you can try and throw on an intercooler, intake, exhausts, downpipes, AND a tune to put more power down to the wheels, but unless you’re planning on strapping on two turbos to the engine-and even then-I don’t see this car providing as much of a carnal, raw experience as the big boy 5.0L.
The Mustang-the way this test car was spec-ed out-comes with quite a few creature comfort features, such as cooled seats, a bucket full of vehicle performance information (such as G-force meters and acceleration timers) and even SYNC 3 system with integrated apple carplay and android auto. Yes, it’s a Mustang on the outside, and it definitely has the style element down. At this point though, I have to take a step back and ponder the big question.
Is the EcoBoost a true Mustang? I know I might get a lot of angry EcoBoost owners’ emails with lots of eccentric language, but I have to say, as much as it pains me to believe, I don’t think so. In this configuration of the EcoBoost engine paired with the 6-speed automatic, it’s like a sheep in a wolf’s skin. Sure, it has power. Sure, it certainly is quite quick for only a 2.3L engine. At the end of the day though, what you get when you take a beast so horrendous (in the best way) as a Mustang and strip away its red, hot, beating heart and replace it with a bike pump, it’s simply not the same beast anymore. It’ll get the job done in a sense, but it’s just not the same, and it never will be.