DRIVING IMPRESSION: Ford Mustang 2.3 EcoBoost Fastback AT
Ever since its arrival more than a hundred years ago, the automobile has become more than what the original pioneers inviscid as simply mobilising the masses using the wheel and internal combustion engine.
Whether as a status symbol, family hauler, expedition vehicle, business tool or even a gateway to freedom after passing one’s driver’s test, even the most basic budget beater has come a long way from the original “horseless carriage”.
As time progressed and access to the automobile became more universal, assertion to manufactures and their models were being developed, some going on to be the stuff of legends and undoubted icons of the four-wheeled world, while others failed miserably and became more associated with the term “let us forget”.
Falling into the former designation without a doubt, the Ford Mustang has gone on to become what many view as the ultimate expression of being American. Big, brash and with a thundering V8 up front, a frown more often than not turns into a grin when Ford’s much revered pony car is mentioned.
Despite its launch in 1964 smashing all previous records with over a million units sold within eighteen months, the Mustang continued to be nothing more than a pipe dream for local fans as Ford had no intention of selling it in countries driving on the left-hand side. That is until now…
Announced as one the models to be included under the Blue Oval’s so-called One Ford Plan, the Mustang finally become available in right-hand-drive (RHD) last year, and immediately began setting the charts alight with demand, especially Down Under, skyrocketing to such an extent that the Flat Rock Plant in Michigan has been running on overtime as order books fill up.
Unsurprisingly, most of the 233 Mustangs already sold in South Africa, like those in the UK and Australia, are flagship V8 models and given the high demand, there was always the possibility that flooring the accelerator to the sound of Detroit muscle for the first time would be no-no.
Hence, the Magnetic Grey example tested here is not the full-banana 5.0-litre GT but rather the entry-level model fitted with Ford’s brand new 2.3-litre EcoBoost four-cylinder turbo engine, and mated to six-speed automatic gearbox with paddle shifters.
A recipe for dreadfulness it might sound to some on paper, the boosted four arguably makes sense from a South African view as it offers decent economy without sacrificing too much of the thrills offered by the considerably dearer V8.
While it would be fair to say that certain cars to tend to stick out on first glance, nothing came even close to the stares, finger pointing, flashing of cellphone cameras, smiles of amazement and countless thumbs-up the Mustang received during its four-day stay… and for good reason.
Whereas the previous generation was often criticised for its retro looks, the latest Mustang has a more muscular and macho appearance, characterised by that long bonnet line, honeycomb grille with the iconic mustang logo embezzled on it, a set of mean looking headlights and intimidating black 19-inch alloy wheels wrapped in 255/40 section Pirelli PZero rubber.
More than likely however, the Mustang plays its biggest trump card when you look at it from the rear. The bulging wheel arches and body lines, clear lens three bar taillights on either side of the black panelling with the chrome mustang logo in the middle, flared bumper, black diffuser and of course that trademark Fastback shape is enough leave you just standing in awe and just observe.
Divert your attention away from the looks and open those wide pillar less doors, the interior does exhibit some of the previous Mustang’s retro finishes – the steering wheel being the most obvious - although the entire layout is brand new for 2016.
Despite this, the type of materials used, as with some cars originating from “the land of the free”, continues to venture on the plasticky side although no rattles or squeaks were emitted during the Mustang’s short’s four day stay.
Look past this, the actual layout appears neat with lots of silver and chrome bits, leather trim on most surfaces with white stitching on the door panels, handbrake lever and seats, rounded buttons for the sound system and ventilation controls, and four conspicuous toggle switches next to the start button denoting the four drive mode options, steering settings, traction control and hazard lights.
As with the Ranger, Everest and Fusion, the Mustang’s media interface utilises Ford’s SYNC 2 system with voice recognition, and proved frankly easy to use and navigate whether by using the screen or taking prompts linguistically.
Given its country of origin, space up front is generous with ample of leg and neck room, although the sloping roof line and front pews impede slightly on rear passenger space.
In spite of serving as the starting point in the Mustang range, the EcoBoost does not warrant for a lack of luxuries with standard items including dual-zone climate control, heated and cooled electric seats, rear parking sensors with reverse camera, cruise control, rake and reach steering wheel, auto on/off wipers, six-speaker sound system with Bluetooth, dual USB ports, Aux input and SD card slot, electric mirrors, six airbags, ABS with EBD, BAS and DSC.
A noteworthy feature that garnered a lot of attention at night, was the mirror-mounted puddle lamps which displayed the signature mustang logo at your feet each time the doors were opened or the headlights left on.
Undoubtedly the biggest talking point surrounding the Mustang has been the inclusion of the aforementioned EcoBoost engine which also powers the scoring Focus RS that debuts later this year.
While sounding like a cardinal sin to have a Mustang with anything but a bent-eight residing underneath the hood, the boosted four-pot, whose configuration was famously offered in the third generation model from 1979-1985, proved astonishing from the minute the start button was pushed and gear lever slotted into Drive.
Yes it might lack the aural sensation of the V8 at start-up, notwithstanding the fitment of a sound synthesiser, but nail the accelerator and the engine responds with a surge of grunt that it pushes you back into the comfy surrounded of the driver’s chair as that long bonnet noses up to unleash 233 kW and 430 N.m of torque at those rear Pirellis.
Compounding this even further, the turbo whine, to an extent, makes up for the lack of a V8 in the sound department at full blast, rendering any use of the radio redounded.
As part of the standard Performance Pack fitted across the Mustang range, flicking the Mode switch allows for the choosing of four drive modes; Normal, Sport+, Track and Snow/Wet. Although its remains certain that the latter would seldom be called upon, choosing Sport+ not only sharpened the steering, improved throttle response and made the gear changes quicker, but changed the Mustang from an already quick GT into the animal it was named after.
Taking control of the paddles while still in automatic mode, the box held on to each gear longer with the shifts being more response. For the full effect, nudging the gear lever into S allows each change to be at your behest with the box holding on to the desired ratio until you flick the up/down paddle.
Add to this, the dropping of the old Mustang’s live rear axle in favour of a fully independent setup and limited slip diff, allowed it to hang on to the corners more tightly in Sport+ without sacrificing on comfort.
Switching to Race mode throws in the added benefit (to some) of the traction control being turned off, although this was seldom called upon as was the urge to reduce the rear wheels to smoke.
Put back into Normal mode and leave the box to decide for itself, the Mustang proved a comfortable everyday commuter in spite of the ride being admittedly a tad firm when faced with road surface imperfections. As for fuel consumption, the average figure showed on the 4.2-inch TFT central display dropped to as slow as 9.8 L/100 km at one point, with some spirited driving eventually seeing it settle at 10.8 L/100 km.
South Africans have had to wait a long time for the Ford Mustang to arrive on local shores, but, partly thanks to the deteriorating rand and strong demand from other RHD countries, it would sadly continue to remain a rare sight on our roads.
That said however, as way of standing out, nothing comes close to matching the Mustang’s sheer presence, character, likability and appeal, regardless what lies beneath the hood.
|ENGINE LAYOUT||DOHC 16v Inline 4 Turbo|
|MAX POWER||233 kW @5600 rpm-5700 rpm|
|MAX TORQUE||430 N.m @3000 rpm|
|DRIVE LAYOUT||Front engine; Rear-wheel drive|
|ACCELERATION [0-100 KM/H]||5.8 secs|
|TOP SPEED||239 km/h|
|FUEL CONSUMPTION||9.8 L/100 km|
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