Ford Mustang V8 or EcoBoost? Take your pick
CHOOSE BETWEEN AN AUTHENTIC MUSTANG MUSCLE CAR EXPERIENCE OR FORD’S MORE SOFTLY SPOKEN ECOBOOST VERSION, WRITES COLIN SMITH
Do you prefer performance cars with a brash American accent or maybe a softer spoken tone?
The two distinctly different flavours of the new Ford Mustang provide that choice.
2016 Ford Mustang 5.0 GT (above).
I have greatly enjoyed back-to-back drives in the new Mustang. The 5.0-litre V8 serves up an authentic American muscle car experience while the 2.3-litre four-cylinder EcoBoost version is the surprise package with an efficiency advantage and performance car status.
The sixth generation pony car that rolls out of the Flat Rock, Michigan plant in factory right-hand-drive configuration — for the first time in Mustang history — is proving a huge sales success for the Blue Oval. Ford New Zealand has orders and a supply cycle that will deliver about 1000 Mustangs this year — with more customers already in-line for 2017 delivery.
It has pretty much doubled the size of New Zealand’s sports car segment compared to last year.
The Ford Mustang 5.0 GT is genuinely quick with a growly soundtrack thanks to the big V8.
Mustang even ranked as the number two selling Ford model — behind all those Ranger utes — in the May registration figures.
Heritage fastback styling, strong performance and accessible pricing have merged nicely to make the Mustang one of the big stories of this year.
With 5.0-litres of Coyote V8 developing 306kW output and 530Nm of torque, the Mustang GT is genuinely quick with a growly sound track and a greedy thirst for the contents of its fuel tank.
The 2261cc four-cylinder alternative has the full weight of Ford’s EcoBoost direct injection turbo technology behind it for 233kW output and a nicely flexible 432Nm of torque delivered at 3000rpm.
It should not be thought of in the same way as the asthmatic four-cylinder Mustangs of the mid-1970s.
A quick comparison of the two models reveals the differences to be surprisingly few.
Spec levels are basically identical, both cars have (different style) 19-inch alloy wheels while there’s a GT badge at the centre of the rear fascia on the V8 and a pony emblem on EcoBoost cars.
The V8 is engineered for its higher output — and increased weight — with larger front brakes and Brembo six-piston callipers. The front tyres on the GT and all four on the EcoBoost are 255/40 R19 dimension, while the Coyote V8 power goes on the road via fatter 275/40 R19 rubber.
Interestingly, the EcoBoost delivers enough mid-range torque to work with the same gearing as the V8. The six-speed automatic has paddle shifters and both cars happily cruise at 100km/h, using just 1800rpm in top gear with downshifts to 2300rpm in fifth and 3000rpm in fourth.
The amount by which they lighten your wallet is one key difference. The EcoBoost version kicks off Mustang pricing at $59,880 and the GT starts at $77,880. Considering their close-to-identical equipment levels and the strong performance of the EcoBoost, the $18,000 price premium seems reasonably wide.
And the ongoing cost greatly favours the new engine technology thanks to a fuel consumption advantage in the region of 3L per 100km.
The GT appeals for its big displacement horsepower and turn-up-the-volume V8 sound track, but it was the EcoBoost that provided an element of surprise.
My affection for it ramped up as I drove it further and I rate it as the better of the two Mustangs in some key aspects.
Hurry along a twisty stretch and the lighter four-cylinder engine means a better balanced Mustang with more precise steering and quicker direction change.
The weight difference of 82kg — virtually all of it over the front wheels — is noticeable.
And the relatively small fuel tanks (61 litres for the V8 and 59 litres for the EcoBoost) make the EcoBoost the long distance tourer of choice — capable of going significantly further between refuels.
Mustang V8 fuel consumption is officially 12.6L/100km and my road test averaged 13.2L/100km.
The EcoBoost is rated at 9.3L/100km and, with a Tauranga-Taupo return trip included in my drive, the average was 9.2L/100km.
If consumption and the $18,000 price difference still isn’t enough to sway the argument in favour of the turbo, then you could say the V8 engine note is a start-up thrill, a low-speed rumble that will turn a few heads in car parks and some full throttle accompaniment.
Cruising at highway speeds, it’s the wide Pirelli P-Zeros on the coarse chip that are the underlying soundtrack.
The new Mustang is well specified rather than lavishly appointed.
You get leather seat trim with heated and ventilated front seats, a nine-speaker audio system, 8-inch touchscreen with SYNC2 navigation, phone and media functions, push button starter, dual zone climate control, high intensity auto headlights, tyre pressure monitoring, rain sensor wipers plus alarm and immobiliser.
You sit low in the comfy bucket style seats with a lot of bonnet stretching out ahead. The main gauges are deep set and there’s a relatively large leather trimmed steering wheel.
It’s a traditional coupe seating position and to reinforce the heritage theme alloy toggle switches provide access to the Normal, Sport, Track and Snow drive modes and the three steering modes while a dash emblem proclaims “Mustang — Since 1964”.
The front seats have plenty of bolstering and lower back support but it seemed to me the passenger height adjustment allowed more headroom than the driver can achieve.
It’s as if seat height adjustment perhaps make the transition across to right-hand-drive.
The same applies to the hand brake lever which remains biased to a left-hand drive layout. I question why Ford didn’t eliminate this with a push button electric park brake system.
The typical coupe compromises are demanded by the Mustang. Fastback styling and the rear-set cabin means tight 2+2 rear seating with restricted rear headroom and legroom. A nice surprise is the generous 383 litres of boot space.
Visibility past the chunky A-pillars is a little tricky and the rear three-quarter view is restricted so that blind spot monitoring and rear cross traffic alert would be welcome additions.
Ford has applied Mustang’s heritage and distinctive stance to produce two performance cars with an engaging character.
All but the details of styling and specification are shared but there are two distinct driving experiences.
In simple terms it’s a head or heart argument.
A good sports car will put the focus on the emotional side and for most the bigger heart of the 5.0-litre gets the nod.
But the Mustang EcoBoost with crisper dynamics, sharper pricing plus modern efficiency puts up a compelling argument.