A Mustang doesn't need a V8 to make you smile - a turbo is the perfect replacement for displacement.
Mustang – Since 1964. Yup, the motoring icon that is the Ford Mustang started 56 years ago with it's debut at the World’s Fair held in New York on the 17th April 1964 - the same day it was launched in Ford dealerships across the USA. The powers that be should have immediately known that success was a given thanks to the absolutely astonishing fact that the first day sales of the Ford Mustang tallied a whopping 22 000 units. Incidentally many of those first Mustangs are sought after by collectors because they were classified as 1964 ½ models, with 1965 only being the first full year of production. The model was expected to sell 100 000 models in that first year, but it ended up being the most successful vehicle launch since the 1927 Model A Ford totalling over 400 000 sales in 1965 alone; in just two years over a million Mustangs were scattered around the USA and a few outlying countries.
Now when most people think of the Ford Mustang, classic or modern, the Ponycar is pictured with a growling V8 powerplant. It's totally possible to get into a fistfight with a total stranger of a Ford fanatic by arguing that other engine offerings can be just as good. I mean back in the 60s all those sales weren't attributed to the 8-cylinder models, many of those cars were inline 6-cylinder models. They were cheaper than the 8-banger and were part of the reason that the sales were so good; it put the Mustang within reach of the blue collar workers. It's the same these days, since new life was breathed into the Mustang back in 2015 when it was turned into a global model, there's was the option of a 3.7-litre V6 and a 2.3-litre 4-cylinder EcoBoost turbocharged powerplant - much to the dismay of purists.
Even though 2015 isn't too long ago, this generation Ford Mustang received a makeover before this 2019/2020 facelift. In and amongst things changed and updated, some exterior bits were redesigned to keep the car looking as fresh as it's competitors, and at the same time the V6 powerplant was dropped from the option list leaving the V8 and the turbocharged inline-4 as the only options. The 2020 model arrived with the 5.0 V8's power figures at a very healthy 331kW and 529Nm, and the EcoBoost rated at 213kW with 441Nm - and both setups have now benefitted from a new slick 10-speed auto transmission. So looking at those figures, 213kW isn't something to turn your nose up at. Those that live their life by the numbers cars spit out never seem to acknowledge that it's a decent chunk of killerwatts from a 4-cylinder setup, even if there's 300cc more than usual. I mean the holy grail of hatchbacks, the GTi is rated at 169kW and the highly tuned Golf R is at 228kW. All of a sudden the numbers from the entry-level Mustang are worth taking note of...
The last time I drove a Mustang was during the local launch in December 2015 and it's one of those motoring experiences that has stuck with me. Rolling along the beach road in Camps Bay in a Mustang is pretty much ingrained in my motoring memory highlights, and while the yellow 5.0 V8 GT was great, I swear that I had more fun driving the EcoBoost. I did mention so to a few fellow journos and this saw me getting the stinkeye in reply. I guess that feeling of boost pressure building up tickled my fancy more than it did the others. Now, here in July of 2020 after a week with the latest incarnation of the droptop 2.3 EcoBoost Mustang, my mind is even more set. Yeah, the burbling V8 is a winner, no argument there, but daaaaaamn the feeling of reward I personally get from driving the 4-banger is hard to beat. While the V8 GT can hit 100km/h in a quick 4.8-seconds, this here 4-banger is claimed to run the test in a respectable 5.8-seconds. If you catch a V8 Mustang driver not paying attention, the 2.3 will out-launch it and that puts the V8 on a serious back foot with more than it's work cut out to try and catch up. You also have to remember that these cars are often bought to be modified. If I gave you a 5.0 V8 GT and a budget of R50 000 for upgrades, and I spent the same R50 000 on the 2.3 EcoBoost, I'll put my money on the 4-banger every single time. It is, after all, the same powerplant found in Ford's Focus RS but it only has to power two wheels.
I was commissioned to shoot a private test and tune event over the weekend that I had the Mustang, and I must say it did feel pretty damn awesome pitching up at one of these events in such a tasty car. I got to take it up and down the strip a few times, not for measured times of course, it was just to get between the pits and the start line so I could get into position to shoot what I needed. During lunch when the track was closed I was able to take advantage and test the onboard Track Apps, in this case the drag race feature. When you enable it, the 12-inch digital instrument cluster transforms into a drag strip Christmas Tree that gives you a proper countdown launch and times your run and speed over different distances. It also tweaks the electronics to be optimum for drag racing, and so the steering firmed up, the transmission did some magick things and the car went like the clappers. In normal mode when you mash the accelerator, the Mustang pulls off with urgency and the rears scrabble for traction a little in 1st gear, but in Drag Mode the gear changes are hard and immediate resulting in the tyres chirping on shift up until 5th gear. This resulted in a smile cramp from hell, but one that I'd happily endure on a daily basis.
A few people commented on how cool Ruby (that's what I named her) looks, sounded and ran and even though it wasn't my car, it felt fukken awesome. Then some chop commented to his friend that I better not be there to race because it's ONLY the 4-cylinder. The Kempton Park in me wanted to defend Ruby's honour and hand out a PK or two, but with so many witnesses around I decided it best to ignore the insult and carry on with my day. Well, that was until it was time for me to head home. There may or may not be an Instagram story depicting a certain Lucid Red convertible 2.3 EcoBoost Mustang doing a bit of a burnout at the track's staging area before nailing it 3/4 of the way down the strip and left out of the venue.
While there's a million and one performance cars available on the market, a good many being more powerful and faster than an EcoBoost Mustang, it really doesn't matter. The feeling you get while driving around in an icon with a history spanning over half a century long is rather hard to compare to. On the performance car front, not many can say their lineage started out that long ago. Over and above the feeling you get, attention is also part of the package. In my review week there was not one single time I drove the car that I didn't get a thumbs up or a compliment on "my" car. At first I told people it was a press car, but by day 4 I just nodded a thanks in appreciation. This car is great for the self esteem. Of course there's more to the Mustang than great styling, a smooth and fast transmission and loads of power - there's so much tech and safety crammed in too.
It's the perfect daily driver, Ford's SYNC 3 is in play via the 8-inch touchscreen, so you can control everything from calls and text messaging to music and SatNav - via voice control too if you like. There's also Android Auto which I used to bang tunes from my YouTube Music app through the absolutely brilliant Bang & Olufsen 10-speaker audio system (including a woofer). It also caters perfectly to my new obsession - Audible. A 100km drive listening to Stephen King's The Gunslinger made my Sunday evening drive home from the track just perfect. I'm not gonna bore you with the extensive spec and feature list, for that you can download the Mustang brochure below this video below that shows some of the working of the instrument cluster.
The Ford Mustang is more than a car, it's an icon that somehow makes you feel like the proverbial million bucks. I didn't want to stop driving it, I used the car for the most ridiculous trips. I even made sure to "forget" things when I went on some errands just so that I could go back again. And again. I went through almost four tanks of fuel during my week with the Ponycar, making up for all the money I saved on fuel during lockdown. Does that mean it's heavy on fuel? I have absolutely no idea and I actually didn't care either, I never once looked at the consumption figures. I'm sure they're available on Ford's website or some other online review but this just isn't the kind of car where consumption makes any difference, well to me anyway. I had configured the instrument cluster to display the Sports tachometer running from the left and over the top section to the right of the cluster with the speedometer on the right below that, and I added three gauges in the centre to monitor the engine oil temp, transmission oil temp and boost pressure. There was simply nothing else I needed or wanted to see. The soft top opens up in around ten seconds, and I did manage to drive the car for about half an hour with the top down, but even with the heater blasting and the heated seats on full, July just isn't the right time to have no roof on your car, unless you're ok with frozen, well, everything. In all honesty, if I was buying a Mustang for myself, I'd likely choose the Fastback because I'd rarely have the top down - unless I lived at the coast, because this is the ultimate beach cruise car with the roof down.
While the Ford Mustang range in SA is pricey, you can't really put a tag on the way these cars make you feel. Ok, you can, but some things really are worth it. The Mustang range starts at R833 900 for the 2.3 EcoBoost Fastback and R901 600 for the droptop, while the V8 starts at R993 700 for the Fastback and R1 061 000 for the droptop. The limited edition Bullitt is also still available and that starts at R1 079 700 and is only in Fastback guise. These figures also include a 4-year/120 000km Comprehensive Warranty, a a 6-year/90 000km Service Plan (with 15 000km intervals, which covers all scheduled servicing except friction materials, i.e. brake pads and wiper blades), a 5-year/unlimited km Corrosion Warranty and a 3-year/unlimited km cover for mechanical, electrical, flat tyres, batteries, medical emergencies and towing, if needed, to the nearest Ford dealership.
Oh and a week behind the wheel confirmed something else for me - all those Mustang vids where they get tail-happy leaving events and taking out the surrounding everything, is 110% down to moronic drivers... Eedjits.