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Driven: Ford Mustang EcoBoost. Image by Ford.

Driven: Ford Mustang EcoBoost
Facelifted Mustang gets a fresh look and a new 10-speed auto.

 



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Ford Mustang 2.3 EcoBoost Fastback

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The Mustang has been given a good going-over for the 2018 model year, with trick new dampers, a 10-speed gearbox and a revised cabin. It hasn't changed all that much, thankfully, and remains effortlessly cool and lots of fun to drive.

Test Car Specifications

Ford Mustang EcoBoost Fastback Auto
Pricing: From 35,995.
Engine: 2.3-litre turbocharged four-cylinder petrol
Transmission: ten-speed automatic, rear-wheel drive
Body style: two-door coupe
CO2 emissions: 205g/km (Band 191-225, 1,200 per annum)
Combined economy: 30.7mpg (9.2 litres/100km)
Top speed: 144mph
0-62mph: 5.5 seconds
Power: 490hp at 5,400rpm
Torque: 440Nm at 3,000rpm
Boot space: 408-litres
EuroNCAP rating: Not yet tested

What's this?

It's the 2018 Ford Mustang, which looks very much like the 2017 Mustang, which looked very much like the 2016 model which... Well, you get the point. All the way back to 1964, bar some styling aberrations in the seventies and eighties, the whole point of a Mustang has been to look like a Mustang. This one does; hooray! Although it does look slightly different. Ford has fitted new LED lights front and rear, tweaked the bumpers and grille, fitted hood scoops (no; bonnet vents - please, we're British...) and a new front splitter and added an optional boot spoiler. It doesn't look wildly different (see above..,) but it does look pleasingly massaged.

In the cabin, the overall style hasn't changed much (and nor has the cramped confines in the back seats, more's the pity) but Ford says it has swept the cabin out with a new broom and improved the quality, fit and finish. Part of that upgrade includes a new digital instrument cluster, in the form of a 12-inch TFT screen. Most of the time, that displays classic twin round dials (highlighted in any colour you like if you fiddle with the menu options) but when you switch to Sport mode, it changes to a sweeping bar-style rev-counter, mimicking the instruments of that original '64 Mustang.

There are some other functions too. Track mode opens the taps on the exhausts for maximum noise, stiffens the (optional) adaptive magnetic dampers, and sharpens the steering and throttle. Drag Strip, though, actually softens the rear suspension, allowing the car to squat under acceleration for maximum traction, smoking up the rear tyres beforehand, and then launching you towards the horizon like a, well, like a drag racer. It even gives you a red-amber-green light countdown...

There have been some rather more serious additions to the Mustang, not least the new 10-speed automatic gearbox. Available as an option, it replaces the old six-speed auto, and is meant to improve performance more than it does economy, although there are some fringe benefits.

There's also the option of Magneride dampers for the suspension. These sophisticated things use a magnetically-responsive fluid which can stiffen and soften as needed, and they react to the road conditions as many as 1,000-times per second.

The engines have been updated too. The V8 is now more powerful, still displacing 5.0-litres, but with 450hp (thanks in part to smoother, thinner cylinder liners and a new fuel injection system). The 2.3-litre turbo EcoBoost engine, by contrast, now has 290hp when it used to have 313hp. Why? Because Ford has changed how it measures the engine's output, as part of the new WLTP fuel and emissions tests, plus it has fitted a new exhaust particulate filter. So the EcoBoost's power is now its average total power figure, with the old 313hp still available when the turbo is in 'overboost' mode. Performance and economy are effectively unchanged.

There's some extra safety kit, too. Ford took some flack from critics who said that the outgoing Mustang was not as safe as it could have been, so this one has features such as autonomous emergency braking (with pedestrian detection), active cruise control and lane-keeping steering as standard. Which is all to the good, but it does mean that the price has swollen, starting at 35,995 for an EcoBoost manual Fastback, and beyond 46,000 for the V8 auto convertible.

How does it drive?

That depends very much on which Mustang you're driving, and the engine fitted. If you're in a V8 convertible, for instance, it's kind of hilariously bad. The V8 is a thing of wonder, in itself. One of the last of the big, noisy naturally-aspirated V8s, it bellows and thunders at the slightest flex of your right foot, providing you with the sort of voluminous soundtrack that, as a child, you thought all cars should have.

You do need to work it to extract the performance, though. Real power doesn't start arriving til 2,500rpm, and you need 4,600rpm on the clock to access peak torque, After that, though, it pulls like the Santa Fe Express, chewing up the horizon in big, meaty chunks. Thankfully the exhaust does have a quiet mode, and you can set it on a timer so that, if you're an early riser, you're not blowing the wax out of your neighbours' ears at 7.00am with a blare of V8 revs on start-up.

Handling though? The problem is that the convertible Mustang just isn't very stiff, so even the clever new magnetic dampers can't do much to help. It flops and lollops around the place, with noticeable scuttle shake at times, and the weight of the big V8 engine on the nose doesn't help either - it can take real effort to tuck the nose into a tight corner. Sport mode sharpens the steering and firms up the dampers, but it's still quite a slack car on a challenging road. Of course, then you find a quiet spot, activate Drag Strip mode and start melting the rear tyres in a cloud of smoke with a Brian Blessed roar, and you remember what the V8 is all about. The noise really is quite intoxicating.

Switch into an EcoBoost model and, no, it doesn't (couldn't, ever) sound as good as the V8, and it's not as ballistically fast in a straight line, but here is actually a proper driver's car. Making sure to pick a Fastback coupe for maximum torsional stiffness, the EcoBoost is actually properly precise, sharp and rewarding to drive, even pushing hard on a twisting, turning Alpine road, which is assuredly not the Mustang's natural habitat. OK, so it's not as good as a Porsche Cayman or Jaguar F-Type, but it's not perhaps as far away in ability as those two would like to think. And without the extra 90kg of the V8 sitting on top of the front wheels, it's far more agile in tight and fast corners. It is, in fact, a massive amount of fun.

The 10-speed gearbox plays its part. It's not perfect, but it fires rapidly through changes (occasionally sounding a little like a CVT, with all those ratios and very smooth cog-swapping) but we did get it to shunt and slap a couple of times. The manual six-speed gearbox remains a hefty-feeling delight to use, incidentally.

And the dampers? Free of the wobbly convertible, they do seem to work pretty well. The Mustang will always be a touch too stiff at low, urban speeds on bad roads, but on open stretches, at higher speeds, it blends a good mixture of composure and comfort.

Verdict

So, clearly, a V8 convertible is not the one to have if you love driving or if you have lots of twisty roads on your daily commute. A V8 Fastback? Better, but you still have to deal with the weight issue and the steering is not as satisfying as it should be. No, actually for keen drivers, in spite of the lack of noise and the lower power output, the EcoBoost, fitted with the Magneride dampers, in Fastback form, really is the pick of the range. Fast (enough), agile, fun, rewarding, and thanks to that Established-In-1964 styling, still effortlessly cool.

5 5 5 5 5 Exterior Design

3 3 3 3 3 Interior Ambience

2 2 2 2 2 Passenger Space

3 3 3 3 3 Luggage Space

5 5 5 5 5 Safety

4 4 4 4 4 Comfort

5 5 5 5 5 Driving Dynamics

4 4 4 4 4 Powertrain


Neil Briscoe - 26 Mar 2018









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2018 Ford Mustang EcoBoost drive. Image by Ford.2018 Ford Mustang EcoBoost drive. Image by Ford.2018 Ford Mustang EcoBoost drive. Image by Ford.2018 Ford Mustang EcoBoost drive. Image by Ford.2018 Ford Mustang EcoBoost drive. Image by Ford.

2018 Ford Mustang EcoBoost drive. Image by Ford.2018 Ford Mustang EcoBoost drive. Image by Ford.2018 Ford Mustang EcoBoost drive. Image by Ford.2018 Ford Mustang EcoBoost drive. Image by Ford.2018 Ford Mustang EcoBoost drive. Image by Ford.








 

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