Two years ago I purchased my first Mustang. It was a beautiful silver rear wheel drive, manual transmission, chariot that fully expressed my growing dedication to car enthusiasm. It had twice as much power as any car I’d previously owned and never failed to put a smile on my face. The only time that smile ever faltered was when I tried to share my passion for it with other so-called enthusiasts only to have them pass their unwelcomed judgement on my pride and joy:
“Oh, it’s the Ecoboost? Why didn’t you buy the V8? I’d never buy a Mustang without a V8…”
I was well aware that buying a 4 cylinder Mustang would come with a certain stigma, but I was ready to defend it. I wrote an article a month into ownership to explain my decision, how I wanted the ecoboost, how I sought out the ecoboost because it offered such a perfect balance of power, handling, style, and economy. My ecoboost, especially once tuned, was an over 300 horsepower, nearly 400 foot-pound torque, snarling sports car with great balance that earned me a top street-tire raw time finish at an autocross and 25 miles to the gallon on the trip back home.
Now, almost 2 years after I took that silver, four cylinder hearted pony home, where do I stand with it now?
I stand with a black Mustang GT, Coyote 8 cylinder and all, finally owning the right Mustang. And laughing every day with it.
My background as an enthusiast feels a little different than many I meet. At 28 years of age, I did not grow up in the backseat of a ‘72 Mach 1. My parents did not take me to school in loud, stinky V8 powered land yacht, only for my uncle to pick me up in a sweet European sports car. I did not go to the drag strip, I did not watch F1, I did not attend Friday night show ‘n shines featuring brightly colored cars of the golden age long past. I rode to school first in a 1994 Nissan Quest and then in a slightly newer, significantly greener, Chrysler Town & Country. My father took me to the Houston Auto Show to watch him decide which luxury SUV he should purchase to replace his 3 year old Lexus RX300. I was always around newer cars, non-enthusiast cars, cars that served not to inspire enthusiasm but to serve as comfortable transportation.
I always had an interest in cars, but mostly a passing one. I enjoyed countless hours in Gran Turismo and Rallysport Challenge 2. I read car magazines occasionally, watched Motorweek, and dreamed of driving. I was certainly an enthusiast, but my enthusiasm didn’t shine until after college. Until that point I was relegated to driving borrowed parent’s cars or hand-me downs from my brother, always nice but never exciting. The 2004 Honda Accord I drove my last two years of college got me from A to B and even C, but in no hurry. Once I was on my own, and the time came to make an enthusiast’s choice, I had to build from what I knew and purchased a 2013 Chevrolet Sonic RS.
That Sonic was a hoot. Powered by a 1.4 liter turbocharged engine, it made the right noises and a decent amount of power. It was a blast to autocross and even more of a blast to rev out only to let off to a resounding *PSHHHHhhhhh* from the blow-off valve through my aftermarket intake. It showed me how great new car technology was: here I had a fun, quick, turbocharged car that returned 29 miles to the gallon and brought me endless smiles on my drive to work.
Naturally, as I looked to upgrade my vehicle to something faster, something better, something with rear wheel drive, I took to turbocharged motors. I’d certainly read plenty of opinions that a car needs “character” and “emotion” but I didn’t care. Cross shopping a Ecoboost Mustang with a V8 anything led to compromise: sure, I could stretch my budget and get the V8 but to what benefit? Loud noises, crappy gas mileage, and moderately better straight line performance?
It made no sense. I did not understand why people were so hung up on what a Mustang should be, ignoring what it had become. For many years the base models had offered more than sufficient performance, but had been relegated to rental lots to be abused by business travelers with a hot streak or scratched by teenage drivers with more care of how their selfies turned out than their position relative to other cars or fixed objects scattered along the road. I made my choice, knowing that I was right, knowing that it was the better option, and I spent 18 months defending it logically.
The thing is, logic is meaningless when it comes to a pony car. No matter how fast the car was, no matter how low the running costs, no one cared. I could be 8 seconds faster around an autocross course than a person in an SN-95 GT making half as much horsepower as me and I would still get sideways looks when I opened the hood. Everyone wanted to explain to me why I made the wrong choice, why I needed a V8, and I kept insisting I didn’t need to listen.
Eventually it wore me down, I couldn’t do it anymore. It’s not that I didn’t like my car, I loved it, but I kept asking “what if”? What if I owned a V8? What if people didn’t judge my cylinder count? What if MPG really didn’t matter? What if I could afford to get a GT? With the help of depreciation and a good friend that scored me a deal I couldn’t pass, I finally did it: I bought a 2015 Mustang GT.
There are plenty of reviews of the GT, so I won’t bore you with one. Instead I’ll finally get to the point, the inspiration for this article, the reason I am so in love with this car. To be honest, day to day it’s kind of awful. The Ecoboost is better for that commute to work. My performance package GT makes annoying noises in the cold, it’s loud, it burns a lot of gas, it costs more to insure, and it’s just a stupid car to drive daily. But when I roll down the window, switch it into sport mode, and put my foot down, god damn is it a stupid car that makes me grin from ear to ear.
Under load the V8 pulls like a freight train, the raw, guttural sounds it makes slap off buildings and trees like a marching band in a thunderstorm. In a tunnel it reverberates so loudly that a redline pull causes genuine pain to the ears, so much so that my girlfriend hates when I lower the windows approaching a tunnel and often rolls hers up. It leaves slower traffic like its standing still, makes passing a slow semi on the highway an absolute joy until I look down at my speedo and let off giggling in shame. Shame? Nah, I’m not ashamed. I’m in love.
For everything that the Ecoboost did well, the GT does well with authority. The Ecoboost isn’t bad, and seeing as mine sold for only $18,500 with 25,000 miles on the clock it’s a performance bargain that’s very hard to pass up. With a healthy aftermarket you could even buy that Ecoboost, make some changes, and have a car that’s faster than a GT while being lighter and more efficient. Logically, it’s the better car. But logic has never mattered in this debate. The GT, with that oh so sweet sounding Coyote heart, is just a better car to own. It brings emotion to the fray, it exudes passion, it excites all the senses in ways that an Ecoboost simply can’t. It’s the right motor for a Mustang, and I wouldn’t have it any other way.