Ford Mustang EcoBoost: four cylinders a hard sell for muscle lovers?
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There’s a coincidental connection between a car we’ve driven recently and some motor-racing history we stumbled across on the internet.
Driven was the temporary key holder of an updated-for-2018 Ford Mustang EcoBoost — the four-cylinder turbo alternative in a Mustang stable that is the first generation to be factory-built in right-hand-drive and sold as a global car.
Our browsing had led to a documentary about the most extreme Mustang developed as an official racing project.
The Mustang GTP was created for IMSA sports car racing. It was an unusual front-engine prototype with head and tail lights resembling a Mustang, a pony badge adorning its grille and what would evolve into the Zakspeed F1 turbo engine under the bonnet.
The racer won on debut, immediately raising Ford’s hopes it would showcase small capacity turbocharged engines as the future high-performance solution for North American customers.
That was 1983 and the Mustang GTP programme never gained competitive momentum. It was canned at the end of 1984.
Thirty-five years later Ford has announced plans to hit 2019 with top-tier Nascar, NHRA Funny Car and Aussie Supercar racing programmes for the Mustang — all with V8 power.
The turbo performance future that was touted for Mustang in the early-1980s still hasn’t really come to pass and the main focus of the pony-car experience — on track and on the road — remains the V8.
The Mustang is an enthusiasts’ car and cranking eight-cylinders and 5.0-litres of displacement into life is a key part of the appeal. Apply practicality, efficiency and logical buying decisions as the yardstick and the EcoBoost makes sense but Mustang’s lure isn’t about making sense and four cylinders is a hard sell when the first pod of the starter button doesn’t provoke that signature bark and rumbly idle.
Set perceptions aside and there’s plenty to convince you the Mustang EcoBoost is a great drive and more than a show pony.
The 2261cc EcoBoost direct-injection engine with twin scroll turbo is a close relative of the Focus RS engine and delivers 224kW output and 441Nm of torque to match what V8s were delivering a few years ago.
For 2018 the engine gets some minor refinement and efficiency upgrades but the big news is four extra gears with a new 10-speed automatic. When it’s revved harder there’s a throaty exhaust note to accompany acceleration. Where the turbo four has one advantage over the V8 is the steering response.
Less engine means less weight over the front wheels and through twisty roads the EcoBoost wins on agility. . Although it’s priced at $62,990 and enjoys a $17,000 advantage over the 5.0 GT, there are only minor specification differences.
The Mustang EcoBoost occupies a space where it delivers genuine sports coupe performance and a competitive price but probably gets overlooked because its muscle-car personality is more trimmed down.
Muscle-car enthusiasts will probably say the EcoBoost is the Mustang you drive when you’re not really driving a Mustang.
Drivers with a broader performance car appetite should find appeal in a car that has a sophisticated powertrain, and competitively priced for its level of performance and driving appeal.