What is more American than a Ford Mustang? Back in the Spring, we were running into the waning phases of auto show season. And what is more synonymous with auto show season than Ford Test Drive offers. I was given the opportunity by Ford to go annoy one of their dealers and test drive one of their automobiles for only the price of my email soul.

Full Disclosure: Ford wanted me to drive one of their EcoBoost Mustang so badly that they offered me to bother one of there dealers to drive a car, they didn’t tell the dealers I was coming though. They were nice enough to build a EcoBoost Mustang and offer it wholesale to the dealer so that I could come in and drive it. They even provided enough gas for me to drive the car for 7 entire miles.

Whenever Ford offers these test drive opportunities, most people pick one of 3 vehicles: a Mustang, a F150 (usually a Raptor to which they are politely, but firmly asked to leave), or their own car as they just want the dealer info to get the gift card. This is not my first rodeo with Ford, and at this point, I probably need to report their gift cards as taxable income. As such, I have driven most all of the Ford lineup that is relevant to my interests.

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So now it was a matter of finding the car to drive. I came up with 2 options: the Edge ST, and the EcoBoost Mustang. The Edge ST is silly, a high performance “sport” utility vehicle that feature no sharp edges contrary to its name, and the EcoBoost Mustang simply because I wanted to make sure it wasn’t the second incarnation of the Mustang II.

What convinced me to pick the review saturated EcoBoost Mustang, well I was combing through the dealer websites looking for test drive candidates and stumbled upon a myriad of Edge STs and automatic EcoBoost Mustangs, but then out of the corner of the features section, I found this car. I peaked my interest because of its 6 user based speed selections.

Here are some basic details about the Mustang and my test drive...

  • Engine: Turbocharged 4 cylinder that I am told this time is not out of a 1970s houseboat
  • Transmission: 6 speed manual because Ford can’t let a human select from 10 speeds.
  • Environment: Suburban shopping and office district during rush hour - brilliant for manuals
  • Number of pedestrians struck during drive: 0

As for all of my reviews, they will be based off my patented subjective 5 point rating system which makes it nearly impossible to gain any consumer advice from this column as your experience may be completely different. The ratings are as follows...

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0 - I hate it

1 - I don’t like it

2 - meh

3 - I like it

4 - Great Scott!

There are 13 categories with a total score of 52 points possible.

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Exterior - 4

I like the look of this generation of Mustang. The lines are much more refined and it is pleasing to the eye. Previous generations of the Mustang softened its muscle car appearance and they have been steadily returning to its muscle car roots of sharp yet flowing edges.

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Interior - 2

The interior of the Mustang is not a bad place to be. Though the EcoBoost Mustang is thought to be the more economically friendly model of the Mustang lineup, the interior materials are pretty nice. The wheel and dash are wrapped in decent materials (not alcantara, but not beef jerky either). The toggle switches add some fun to selecting drive modes and other features. I remember sitting in the Mustang in 2005 when they made the initial retro redesign and thinking that it felt more like a family sedan than a muscle car. The interior proportions were too large and boxy feeling, not curved and sporty. This Mustang feels much more sporty. It sits a little lower to the ground, but I did not feel like my butt was dragging on the pavement.

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Acceleration - 3

Most people like the V8 Mustang for its power and sense of performance; many were worried that the 4 banger turbocharged Mustang would be a major disappointment in this department. I am happy to report that the EcoBoost does not disappoint; however, you should not expect the same type of performance as the V8. If you expect the same performance characteristics you will be disappointed. Objectively, the acceleration is pretty good. Not mind blowingly good, but it will gladly get you on the highway and have plenty of power to pass grandpa in their V6 Challenger. One thing I didn’t expect was that the turbo lag in the Mustang is substantial. It feels like they put a mid-range turbo in the Mustang and power doesn’t kick in until around 3000-3500 rpm. This means you need to put some foot in it for hoonage, but you also won’t be breaking the speed limit.

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Braking - 2

It has brakes, the car stops. This will certainly come in handy as you are hurtling towards a crowd..

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Ride - 2

It is stiffer because it is a sporty car; however, it is not unbearable. Most sports cars are quite stiff and you would be hard press to want to take it on a 200 mile road trip; however, the ride of the Mustang is nice enough that I could ride in it for a decent length road trip. It might be a bit claustrophobic after a while, but it is much better than sports cars of the past.

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Handling - 3

The EcoBoost Mustang has the advantage over the V8 in this category because it can turn. With just enough power to have some fun, but not overly much so you can power through a corner without the back-end coming around and striking the portrait mode film acquisition society gathered on the shoulder. The different drive modes in this car noticeably alter its performance characteristics. This is no Miata though, and it still handles more like its large displacement brethren. It is mildly disappointing, this was a great opportunity to use the lighter weight of the engine to increase handling and cornering. However, Ford decided to retain many of the characteristics of the big block muscle car and created a small displacement drag racer more so than a canyon carving sport tourer.

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Gearbox - 1

The transmission in this car wasn’t terrible, but is it too close a higher performance sports car. The clutch is fairly stiff with a narrow catch point. This is great for a Roush Mustang, but on a entry level, filthy casual manual performance car it is a bit obnoxious. A softer clutch would be better for daily driving which most people would use this car for. One thing that irritates me about many modern manuals is that there is no display in the gauge cluster about what gear you are actually in. I know I should just feel it (and in this car you can easily feel what gear you are in), but I would like to have that feedback in the display so that I have another avenue to verify that I am not about to spin the flywheel into the next galaxy. I also felt that the shifter just clunks into place, as if I was merely suggesting it go into that gear. However, this could just be because it is a short throw shifter, and I have no talent. I wouldn’t say the gearbox is a deal breaker, but experiencing it in rush hour city traffic, I didn’t like it. I prefer the shifters in the Focus ST and Fiesta ST.

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Audio/Infotainment - 3

This EcoBoost Mustang is equipped with the most current edition of Ford’s Sync system. The display was very clear, responsive, and easy to use. I didn’t get a chance to fully test its functionality, but I believe it is one of the easiest to use on the market. The radio was adequate, providing good audio quality, but not mind-blowing.

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Sound (Engine) - 3

It is difficult to review this portion because the noise is obviously fake. As you pull onto the interstate a deep rumble comes from the car which doesn’t seem tangible with the tiny engine in front of you. It is kinda cheesy, but really it is all about noise anyways so it makes you feel good. Exterior exhaust notes are not offensive. It doesn’t sound like a weed eater, but definitely does not have the V8 rumble.

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Dash - 2

The EcoBoost Mustang features an all digital dash which overall I like with the exception of 2 things. 1) the previously mentioned lack of gear notification and 2) the RPM gauge does this hokey start as a circle and then turn into a line above the dash thing. It is kinda stupid (and I am sure there is a way to change it if I looked at it for more than 12 seconds). It made eyeing shift points difficult. There is a fully digital tach readout to back it up though which is nice. The gauge display is very clear and easy to read otherwise, and is one of the best I have seen.

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Visibility - 3

I really wasn’t expecting much in this category, and the prime reason I gave it a 3 was because it was better than I expected. Minus the plethora of dealer stickers that obstructed the view (they should really not put those in the line of site of the passenger window), visibility around 3 sides of the car were really good. Rear visibility is completely garbage outside of the rear view mirror. The back up camera and accompanying beepers are great assistants for reversing.

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Utility Value - 2

The Mustang has great utility values for the sports car segment. The trunk is cavernous and you could pack a full weekends worth of clothes inside. You could use it to do many practical household tasks. However, 2 things kept me from giving this a 3. First, the back seats are pitiful (then again you aren’t buying this for them). Second, it is time to bring back the fastback with a lift back trunk. The new Buick Regal lift back greatly increases it utility value and makes it much easier to get stuff in and out. It is time for the fastback Mustang to return.

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Value - 2

The car I drove was being offered by the dealer on the internet for $33,000, which is not a bad price for the performance. It is a decent entry level price for those wanting a pony car. You get good enough performance to engage in the driving experience while also getting enough utilitarian value that you won’t have to rely on your roommate’s/spouse’s/friend’s car should you need to buy IKEA furniture.

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Total: 32/52 - 62%

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Summary

Yes, the EcoBoost Mustang is not the heart thumping V8 that everyone desires, but it certainly is not a disappointment. It is an alternative; a rework of the existing design to create something new. With other performance oriented cars, getting the lower displacement model seems like you are settling and just buying for the name and image (*cough* Challenger *cough*).

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That being said, I think Ford tried a little too hard to make the experience of the EcoBoost Mustang close to the muscular V8. This is especially true with the manual EcoBoost. Soften it up a little, no one is taking their 4 bangers to the drag strip or make it electronically adjustable to the drive modes (I don’t know if this is even possible). I don’t think they need to move too far, just open the tolerances a little to shift the balance a bit more toward daily driving versus weekend hooning.

The EcoBoost Mustang gives you a different experience than its V8 counterpart. However, it doesn’t feel like it leaves anything on the table. The performance plus gas mileage return makes the EcoBoost Mustang very attractive to those that want something fun and useful to daily drive. If I were to purchase one, I would take a convertible automatic and a sunset on the Pacific Coast Highway.