After 50 years and five model-generations, Ford’s iconic “pony” will finally be available in right-hand-drive for markets such as Singapore. The handsome sixth-generation Mustang comes with a right-size engine, too – a turbocharged 2.3-litre EcoBoost 4-cylinder.
With the other engine choice being a beefy 5-litre V8, the inline-4 is like the French fries of a Big Mac meal. But the output of the 2.3-litre is surprisingly big – 310bhp and 434Nm. On a horsepower-per-litre basis, this is Ford’s most powerful production engine today.
But it cannot move me like the V8 can – both literally and figuratively. Nothing much happens below 3000rpm and the 4-pot runs out of puff before 6000rpm, so almost all the action happens in between the two rev marks, whereas the 8-pot is consistently action-packed from just above idling all the way to 7000rpm.
The V8 pushes the rear-drive Mustang like the proverbial freight train, with a linear spread of “steam” across the entire rev range, although it sometimes feels like it’s combusting four litres of Dearborn “coal” in the boiler room instead of five. Also, the “steam” pedal seems as soft as marshmallow under my hard right foot.
Nevertheless, the American motor has character compared to German powerhouse V8s, being less creamy and more crunchy. It’s like nutty peanut butter in automotive terms.
Admittedly, the Blue Oval 8-cylinder isn’t the most efficient “steam engine” around, with its naturally aspirated power (435bhp) and torque (542Nm) less effective than the headline figures put out by highly tuned German V8s. But this motor suits the muscular Mustang.
Less suitable is the turbocharged 2.3-litre 4-cylinder. With 310bhp and 434Nm, it’s considerably stronger on paper than the related 2-litre unit in the Focus ST hot hatch that produces 250bhp and 345Nm, but it somehow feels weaker on tarmac.
The seemingly weaker performance is a mystery, because even though the 1.6-tonne Mustang is over 300kg heavier than the Focus hatchback, its torque-to-weight ratio is actually better. Might be the gearing or something.
On the specs sheet, the Mustang 2.3 is one second quicker than the 6.5sec Focus ST in the century sprint, but it feels no faster on the open road. The coupe sounds fast, though, thanks to a sporty induction note (possibly enhanced by a “sound symposer” like in the ST). Too bad there’s not much of an “EcoBoosted” exhaust note from the back.
Of course, no matter how sporty the 2.3-litre sounds, it’s just a “pop song” compared to the “rock song” sung by the 5-litre V8. In “music” terms, the 2.3L is Taylor Swift and the 5.0L is Aerosmith.
Thankfully, the body and chassis of this heavy metal performer don’t rock while tackling the wide, winding mountain roads of Santa Monica.
Ford added torsional rigidity (28 percent) and ditched the primitive live axle of old Mustangs, replacing it with all-round independent suspension. The result is positive.
The Mustang assaults the asphalt like a well-trained warhorse on the charge, with (optional) 255/40 R19 hooves that provide plenty of grip. It also keeps a rein on untidy movements during directional changes and performs according to the horseman’s commands, with no signs of misbehaviour apart from brief lateral skips in sharper corners.
With 380mm front and 330mm rear ventilated disc brakes (part of the GT’s extra-cost Performance Package), and the front anchors clamped tightly by Brembo 6-piston callipers, the animal stops confidently, too. And it comes with individual tyre-pressure monitoring, a first for Ford.
For Mustang riders just cruising on the freeway and shooting the breeze, however, the road noise that enters the cabin is potentially irritating. It’s a sign of below-average insulation around the fender areas.
If the driver chooses to misbehave in the Mustang, it’s happy to engage in some horseplay (where permitted by the police or tolerated by the public), such as smoky V8-driven wheelspin, dramatic drag-race launches or a burnout just for kicks.
There are also nifty in-dash Track Apps to give further encouragement for antics. These include a G-force indicator and an acceleration timer, which can be used to clock your 0-100km/h, 0-160km/h and quarter-mile timings in the Mustang. Even the speedometer provides a form of written encouragement with its “Ground Speed” text. Feeling the need for speed comes quickly in this Ford fastback.
For the enthusiast who likes to keep track of his sports car’s oily bits on the go, the Mustang is equipped with a digital gauge display between the main instrument meters. It can show real-time data such as the engine’s air/fuel ratio, oil pressure, transmission fluid temperature and even the cylinder head temperature.
More practical on an everyday basis are the four-mode drive system (Normal, Sport+, Track, Snow/Wet) and three-mode steering assistance (Normal, Sport, Comfort). The different modes tweak the Mustang’s powertrain responses, electric-steering effort and stability aids to the driver’s liking.
In the saddle of the Mustang, the steering feel (through the surprisingly slender leather rim of the large-diameter wheel) is generally light, the clutch pedal is medium-effort, while the manual gearshifts are notchy and almost heavy-duty. The pedals are placed close enough for heel-toe footwork.
This Ford is a donkey-proof high performer, but it needs the driver’s concentration and commitment to perform like a true cowboy’s thoroughbred.
The straightforward, uncomplicated cockpit helps the driver to concentrate on the driving. Visibility through the windscreen is excellent if I ignore the bonnet’s slightly obstructive, chamfered trailing edge of the 5.0 V8 GT version. The front seats are supportive (albeit more for the torso than the thighs) and can be specified with built-in ventilation (cold or hot), and all the dashboard controls are logically laid out.
At the same time, there are numerous active-safety systems to assist the driver, such as blind-spot monitoring and collision mitigation. Ford also doubled the number of airbags in the Mustang from four to eight, and upgraded the infotainment.
However, there’s room for interior improvement, at least in the pre-production US-spec Mustangs I tested.
The engine start/stop button looks way better than it feels, the sunglass drawer and reading-lamp switches are tacky, and some of the cockpit’s silver plastic trim is so reflective that it causes glare under bright (Californian) sunlight. The console’s four toggle switches are stylish and they click nicely, but the cheap switch for the hazard lights could have come from skid row.
Instead of spotting/solving these issues, Ford provided a driver-selectable choice of 256 colour combinations for the instrument cluster and retained the horse-shaped puddle-lighting effect from the previous Mustang. Oh well.
Backseat space is adequate for my legs but not for my head (I’m 1.77m tall). Boot space is a useful 408 litres, but the cramped glovebox is not as useful. Gloves and whatnot can still be stashed easily, though, thanks to the cabin’s sizeable front doorbins, practical seatback pockets, spacious centre box and generous dual cupholders (ready for upsized drinks at drive-ins).
The new-age Ford Mustang will gallop into Singapore in the fourth quarter of this year, as a 2.3-litre turbo 4-cylinder and 5-litre naturally aspirated 8-cylinder, both probably with 6-speed paddle-shift automatic transmissions. The 300bhp/380Nm 3.7-litre V6 model won’t be coming here.
The low-fat, relatively low-tax 2.3 Mustang will be an interesting American alternative to the BMW M235i Coupe, but Ford’s “pony” power is best experienced with the hearty 5-litre V8.
TYPE V8, 32-valves
BORE X STROKE 92.2mm x 92.7mm
COMPRESSION RATIO 11:1
MAX POWER 435bhp at 6500rpm
MAX TORQUE 542Nm at 4250rpm
POWER TO WEIGHT 258.8bhp per tonne
GEARBOX 6-speed manual
DRIVEN WHEELS Rear
0-100KM/H 4.5 seconds
TOP SPEED 250km/h
CONSUMPTION 8.1km/L (combined)
CO2 EMISSION Not available
FRONT MacPherson struts, coil springs, anti-roll bar
REAR Multi-link, coil springs, anti-roll bar
FRONT / REAR Ventilated discs
TYPE Pirelli P Zero Nero
SIZE 35/50 R18
TRACTION AIDS ABS with ESC
KERB WEIGHT 1681kg
TURNING CIRCLE 11.5m
PRICE INCL. COE To be announced
WARRANTY To be announced
+ Looks smoking hot, gallops with gusto, as driver-friendly as a Ford Focus
– Need to top up the dough for Performance Package of mechanical upgrades