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Driven: Ford Mustang EcoBoost. Image by Ford.

Driven: Ford Mustang EcoBoost
We take the Mustang 2.3 four-cylinder on a road trip in homage to Route 66. Sort of.

 



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Ford Mustang EcoBoost

4 4 4 4 4

Good points: Incredible looks, spacious interior, surprisingly lively performance, comfortable ride, ridiculous value

Not so good: 2.3-litre engine isn't that thrilling, lacks final few degrees of driver interactivity, not cheap enough compared to V8 model

Key Facts

Model tested: Ford Mustang 2.3 EcoBoost Coupe
Price: Mustang from 31,745, car as tested 34,135
Engine: 2.3-litre turbocharged four-cylinder petrol
Transmission: rear-wheel drive, six-speed manual
Body style: two-door coupe
CO2 emissions: 179g/km (Road tax 800 first 12 months, 140 per annum after that)
Combined economy: 35.3mpg
Top speed: 145mph
0-62mph: 5.8 seconds
Power: 317hp at 5,500rpm
Torque: 432Nm at 3,000rpm

Our view:

After half a century of making us wait patiently, the Ford Mustang has finally arrived in the UK in an official capacity. That means we get right-hand drive. That means we get a honking great slice of automotive Americana for the price of a top-spec Mondeo. That means that fans of the car no longer have to negotiate all the potential pitfalls of importing a Mustang from the US at their own expense, should they want to own one.

Myself, I'm no huge fan of American culture, but when the Yanks get cars right, they really get cars right. I present as evidence the glories that are the Auburn-Cord 812, the C2 Chevrolet Corvette Sting Ray Coupe (you know the one... split rear windows, possibly one of the most beautiful cars ever built, Colm Meaney's character had a convertible version in Con Air with the licence plate 'AZZ KIKR') - heck, even the original Dodge Viper GTS, in that blue with twin white Daytona stripes, floats my boat.

Therefore, the original Mustang, undeniably a classic piece of design and one of the most recognisable cars in the world, was sorely missed here in the UK. So Ford's eventual decision to green-light it for our shores is highly commendable. And so, with a week in a Mustang coupe booked in, I felt it only right to do a proper, American-style road trip in the big Ford to pay homage to it. Of course, I'm not about to recreate either Vanishing Point or Easy Rider, given they don't end particularly well for their protagonists, but some sort of Route 66-linked drive should work well.

Where to do it, though? Well, the obvious location would be the A66 from just outside Middlesbrough to Workington in Cumbria, but I haven't got the time to schlep all the way up there. And besides, for all its glorious scenery, the A66 isn't much of a road. No, far better to get out my journalistic shoehorn and try and convince you all that the A616 is a UK-based microcosm of America's Mother Road.

So, our 'epic' journey in the Mustang begins and, somewhat appropriately - given I'm doing what is a rather, ahem, low-key road trip - the coupe Ford has sent us is not packing the rumbling 5.0-litre V8, but the 2.3-litre four-cylinder turbocharged EcoBoost unit. This makes it the entry-level variant at 31,745, to which Ford's press team has added premium paint (595) and the 1,795 Custom Pack that brings the Shaker Pro premium sound system with satnav, climate controlled seats, reverse parking sensors, 19-inch Lustre Nickel multispoke alloys and chrome surrounds for the side windows, for a vehicle totalling 34,135. Four pistons or not, to have a 300hp+ premium coupe like this for such a sum is incredible value, in much the same way a 9.99 bargain bucket of chicken from Colonel Sanders represents a whole lotta food for not much cash.

Parked up at the starting point of Route 6(1)6 near Newark castle, the heritage lines of the Mustang look utterly magnificent. The 'retro-inspired' design of some modern cars has been around for a while now, but this Ford is beautifully wrought, having a powerful identity of its own, despite using much of the 1964 Mustang's design strokes. It looks superb in dark grey paint and the alloys further flatter the bodywork, while only a scant few exterior details (the grille, a lack of '5.0' badges on the wing, no GT logo on the boot) give away the coupe's lack of cubic inches - in fact, so convincing is the EcoBoost that bystanders will gawp at it incessantly. They're waiting to hear the venomous throb of a V8, mind, so don't look too closely at their faces when you do eventually fire up the four-pot motor, because you'll see the intense disappointment etched on each and every staring mush.

Actually, Route 6(1)6 doesn't begin at the castle where King John died, but a short way up the road at Newark Livestock Market, next to the A46. This means nosing the car out of the town and over the River Trent, which has a conspicuous absence of those paddlewheel riverboat casinos you might spot on the mighty Mississippi; an opportunity missed, I fancy, on the part of Newark and Sherwood District Council.

Anyway, the Mustang is easy enough to drive in urban conditions, thanks to its reasonably light steering, a pleasingly chunky six-speed manual transmission and good visibility. The 2.3 is tractable too, so the early signs are promising - it would appear that the Mustang isn't a Yankee catfish out of black water. Rolling in to the livestock market, where steers from all over the Midwest East Midlands are brought in by ranchers (farmers), I've gone, ooh, I don't know, 400 metres or so? Might be time to get a drink at the aptly named local greasy spoon establishment, the Ranch Cafe.

Following a cheap cup of tea (not iced, though), it's time to embark on the drive, which means ignoring roads to destinations as exotic as Leicester, Mansfield and Sleaford, and instead pointing the car towards Ollerton. As I depart, I remind myself that Newark is analogous to Chicago, the starting point of US66, which is affectionately known as the Windy City. Handy, then, that Newark is often referred to as the Breezy Town* by locals, who as a result of prevailing airflow in the area are almost constantly shrouded in the sickly-sweet smoke of the British Sugar factory just off the Great North Road - the first proper stretch of Route 6(1)6. This place refines sugar beets into the granulated stuff for our tables and it's reminiscent of the heavy industries based on the fringes of Chicago. Or something.

Not long after crossing another branch of the River MississiTrent, Route 6(1)6 spurs off the Great North Road and heads out into the vast plains of the UK's interior (aka, Nottinghamshire). This is big sky country out here, with huge arable pastures stretching away to either side of long, straight stretches of the road, on which the most common traffic is agricultural machinery. But even by this early stage, it's clear there's nothing agricultural about the Mustang. Its best attribute is the ride, which is far more comfortable than you would expect of a sporty car like this, and the overall levels of refinement are hugely impressive. It's feeling more at home in little ol' England with every mile passing under its wheels.

After passing an eerie destination marker sign to Sheffield, that's riddled with bullet holes like roadside furniture in the Deep South (it's not all shot up, just a bit rusty), and then a pointer for an American institution in the form of an ice cream parlour - near the towns of Hockerton, NG, and Southwell, NG - I decide I need to seek out one of those corny US roadside attractions. You know, like the 66-foot-high soda bottle of Pop's Diner on US66, or the world's largest ball of twine (that's in Minnesota, nowhere near Route 66 - Ed.).

Sadly, Route 6(1)6 isn't as forthcoming with the cheese, so the old maypole at Wellow will have to suffice. Parked up near the base of this edifice, I give the Mustang's interior a fuller assessment. Critics will immediately make unfavourable quality comparisons to various Germanic machines, but it's actually very amenable inside the Ford. The twin-cowled dashboard provides visual interest, there's a neat array of switches under the touchscreen infotainment, the pair of deep-tube dials in the cluster - one of them reading 'Ground Speed', a nod to the original Pony car - are evocative, and that ergonomically sound gearlever also looks good. The driving position is ideal and can be set really low, while four adults might just squeeze into the Mustang for short journeys (try doing that in an Audi TT), and all the fixtures and fittings are well-finished. The only slight issue is that, if I wasn't paying attention, I would inadvertently jab the round 'TUNE' button of the stereo when trying to start the car - as it sits only a few inches above the engine start/stop switch. Apart from that, the Mustang has a cabin of class, space and character.

Past the busy intersection (roundabout) at Ollerton - where there's an example of the UK's chronic infestation of drive-thru McDonald's 'restaurants' - I stop again at the Forest Corner Cafe for a quick injection of caffeine, and then it's time to hit the road west once more. Somewhat prophetically, given I'm going to end up in Huddersfield, it's at this point that Talking Heads' superb Road To Nowhere comes on the Shaker sound system...

Moving on from David Byrne's musical witticisms, I need to get a move on now through the fast sections in Robin Hood's stomping patch of Sherwood Forest, through which Route 6(1)6 cuts. Thankfully, the Mustang doesn't disappoint. With 317hp and 432Nm, it's a quick car - a 5.8-second 0-62mph time is up with the current leading lights in the hot hatchback world and it's a good way ahead of the equivalent-price European or Japanese opposition. The EcoBoost even sounds good, although it's not as appealing here as it is in its more powerful Focus RS, nor (of course) is it what you want to hear from a Mustang; you want the rumble of a V8.

Nevertheless, by the time I'm heading past Creswell Crags - this was prime real estate during the last ice age, as it boasted some of the most desirable of cave-based condos - and driving with the village of Clowne to my left, while Joker's to my right, I've convinced myself that the EcoBoost is a brilliant car. It preserves much of the Mustang's character and desirability without costing the Earth to run, and it remains a rapid vehicle that should more than suit most drivers' needs.

Approaching the Steel City of Pittsburgh... sorry, Sheffield, as has happened to large stretches of US66, the old path of Route 6(1)6 has today been superseded by an interstate, in this case the M1 to Leeds. So it's onto the motorway for a stretch, where the Mustang once again takes up its effortless cruising duties. A brief stop at Woodall Services in order to stretch legs sees a dispiriting sign for a Starbucks drive-thru, before eventually J35a looms large and it's back off the freeway for our climb into the Rockies, or - more accurately - the Pennines. Unlike the largely even-tempered US climate, it's at this point that the weather closes in and the rain begins. Nevertheless, the Mustang remains sure-footed and proves it's the most dynamically sorted American car yet to come to the Old World.

There is just enough daylight left to take some pictures at the derelict Flouch pub (nope, me neither) before one final push over the moors, and after such a mammoth cross-continental slog I end up in Huddersfield. In the same way we can draw comparisons between Newark and Chicago, this Yorkshire town has a lot of similarities with Los Angeles, as both of these world-famous settlements have streets, houses and shops; honestly, it's uncanny how alike they are. All too soon, I pull up outside the familiar shape of the Broadbent warehouse, where Route 6(1)6 terminates at a junction with Huddersfield ring road, and take stock of both the journey and the Mustang EcoBoost.

Having covered a gargantuan 70.7 miles in a gruelling two hours, 14 minutes and 20 seconds, I can tell you it has been a life-affirming trek to do every inch of Route 6(1)6, during which I got plenty of kicks. Well... all right, it hasn't been life-affirming, it's been a load of old nonsense in order to spin a yarn. But I've enjoyed it, and crucially, I've enjoyed the Mustang too.

The serious verdict arrived at as a result of the road trip is that there's no shame in having the EcoBoost model, because it's a damned fine car in many respects - and the Mustang does have a four-cylinder heritage that stretches back to the 1970s, so it's not as if this engine is an automotive crime perpetrated under the contemporary banner of 'downsizing'. With masses of comfort kit fitted to it and a brilliant 317hp turbocharged engine under the bonnet, the Ford is a highly likeable machine that would delight anyone who takes the plunge on buying it.

But, rather like driving up the A616 is no substitute for getting over to the States and traversing all 2,448 miles of the genuine Route 66, a Mustang really deserves a V8. And the price gap from EcoBoost to the 5.0-litre car just isn't wide enough at 4,000; either Ford has made the 2.3 too expensive, or - as most of us here at CE suspect - the V8 unbelievably cheap.

Whatever the case, our closing advice is this: rejoice in the fact the Mustang has finally made it to our shores and embrace the American dream by buying a 5.0-litre V8 Coupe manual in Competition Orange, and then have the wheels finished in black. And use the massive chunk of money you'll have saved by buying the Ford instead of a BMW 435i M Sport to fly out to the US and do Route 66 for real. The A6(1)6, like the Mustang Ecoboost, is no replacement for displacement.

* = Newark-on-Trent has never been referred to as the Breezy Town, so far as I'm aware.

Alternatives:

Audi TT: Theoretically, you can sit in a new TT for as little as 27,585. However, if you want any resale value at all, you'll need the 230hp 2.0 TFSI as an S line, from 32,920.

Chevrolet Camaro: Like American cars? Not a Ford fan? Prefer GM? Then the turbocharged 2.0-litre Camaro, with 275hp/400Nm from 31,755 will be your preferred choice. It is left-hand-drive only, though.

Lexus RC 200t: Elegant looks and it's a bit different from a BMW 4 Series/Mercedes C-Class Coupe, but the 245hp/350Nm 2.0-litre turbo four (from 37,495) doesn't make it into a driver's car in the slightest.


Matt Robinson - 20 Dec 2016









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2016 Ford Mustang EcoBoost drive. Image by Ford.2016 Ford Mustang EcoBoost drive. Image by Ford.2016 Ford Mustang EcoBoost drive. Image by Ford.2016 Ford Mustang EcoBoost drive. Image by Ford.2016 Ford Mustang EcoBoost drive. Image by Ford.

2016 Ford Mustang EcoBoost drive. Image by Ford.2016 Ford Mustang EcoBoost drive. Image by Ford.2016 Ford Mustang EcoBoost drive. Image by Ford.2016 Ford Mustang EcoBoost drive. Image by Ford.







 

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