2016 Ford Mustang EcoBoost Premium Review

I'll get this bit out of the way up front and acknowledge a bias or two.  First, I am a Mustang guy.  I've owned half a dozen, and while my very first was a 2.3L, the rest of been V8s.  Which brings me to bias number two.  I'm in love with the V8.  It's what God intended, along with rear wheel drive.  So when Ford dropped off this non-V8 2.3L EcoBoost at my house for a week, I wasn't sure how to feel.  The best analogy I can come up with is how I felt at the end of Tokyo Drift, where they put that RB Nissan engine in the 1967 Mustang.  It's just not right.  Or is it?

Other folks here at RFD have already had a turn with the Mustang EcoBoost.  Justin found that, yes a Mustang EcoBoost will rally and that it also compares well to the Subaru BRZ.  Josh cruised around the Pacific Northwest in one and it made a very solid back road steed.   We also drove the new Mustang in GT guise, and were smitten. At least I was, I think even Josh was impressed.  But this is my first time in the boosted Mustang.  From the outside at least, it looks pretty much the same as the V8, save for the obviously smaller 18″ wheels.  So the rental car base model of yesterday is gone (although there is still a V6 option for the Mustang that is technically the “base” model).

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Exterior

Ford added a $395 paint job with Ruby Red Metallic paint.  Not my first choice, but it suits the shape of the car nicely.  I’m still not sold on the body colored cladding between the exhaust pipes, but at least the entire area isn’t ruby red.  The rest of the rear looks purposeful and aggressive with dual exhaust and a small lip spoiler atop the trunk.  Out front, the long hood rides high from inside the cockpit, I likened to looking out across a large dining room table.  The Mustang could easily seat half a dozen or more for Thanksgiving dinner.

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Interior

Speaking on inside, it feels quite similar to the GT we tested, save for the leather buckets vice Recaros.  Equip the turbo Stang with the premium package and you’ll get nicely bolstered ebony leather clad seats, with a mix of power and manual adjustment options.  The recline is still manual and I found it difficult to get locked into place occasionally resulting in a quick ratcheting of hte seat backwards.  Not something you ever enjoy while driving.  It’s like a surprise trust fall, except you could steer into a tree.

Across the dash, the materials used are easy on the eyes and the rest of your body.  Aside from the chrome ring around the automatic shifter, I didn’t find anything that I really disliked.  The aluminum looking material surrounding the HVAC vents is a particularly nice touch.  Bottom line, this feels like a $36,000 car.  Which is good because that’s about equal with the most expensive Mustang GT I purchased back in 2011.  So it needs to feel the part.

Like many new cars, there’s a honkin big touchscreen.  8 inches, which most folks would agree is more than adequate.  It features the latest generation of SYNC, and works pretty well.  I’ve had SYNC on various cars in my driveway and never really shared the hate that many have levied against the Microsoft system over the years.  This iteration is very “white” which was a little tough on the eyes, but incredibly functional and easy to use.

Performance

The real feeling comes from the mechanical bits though, and this turbo-4 pumps out an output about equal to the 2010 Mustang GT I owned.  Yes, I bought two GTs within a year, the changes for 2011 were hard to resist.  But I digress.  It’s hard not to compare this non-V8 Mustang with the recent non-V8 Camaro we tested.  Sure it’s convertible vs. coupe, but the bones are comparable.  The Chevy had a bit more power (25 hp) butnaturally because convertiblecarried more weight.  So the Ford feels equally as quick, if perhaps not quite as “fun”.

Our Mustang had the same toggle switches that allow you to adjust how the car behaves depending on how you feel.  Like the Camaro, it has a base setting with sets everything to “blah”, but click over into Sport or Sport+ mode and things start to liven up.  The shifts happen later, and even surprise you with an occasional dip down to 1st at low speeds, and the exhaust sounds noisier.  Not nearly as entertaining as the BRAP BRAP BRAP POP that the lunatic Chevy engineers dialed into the optional dual-mode exhaust however.  Ford offers an EcoBoost® Performance Package which unfortunately doesn’t address exhaust noises, but does focus nicely on chassis tuning.  Something you should certainly consider at just under $2000 if you are in the market for the EcoBoost fastback.

So is it fast?  Fast enough is my answer.  Like the Camaro, it will hustle you to illegal speeds quick enough to get in trouble.  Instrumented tests seem to have it in the 5.5 second to 60 range, at least that’s what Car & Driver found for identically engined 2015.  That’s not slow, but it’s nowhere near as quick as the 400+hp V8.

But that’s just straight line, the newest generation Mustang is meant for a worldwide audience.  Steering, like most new cars, is electric.  Boogey woogey woogey.  Which means it’s not great.  Ford, like in the GT, gives you a toggle to change the steering feel via various modes, from normal to sport, etc.  It does change the overall feel depending on your speed, but feels artificial.  Basically it gets heavier when you ramp up into enthusiast-focused modes, but lacks the feedback and feel of the old hydraulic steering setups.

Around the corners, this is not the Mustang of yore, something I hate to even say because older generation Mustangs handled quite well.  I have an autocross Street Touring X class season champion trophy to prove it, earned with a very lightly modified 2003 GT campaigned against much more handling focused cars.  But I digress, most of the hate towards Mustang handling comes from people who haven’t actually spent time in them and just perpetuate the myth that they are only meant for straight-line driving.  Wait, I’m still digressing.  The 2016 EcoBoost, even without the optional $2K in chassis mods, handles itself quite well.  The wide track tackles most on-and-off-ramp driving with aplomb.  This car is probably a set of shocks and springs away from being even more fun on the back roads.

Summary

So where does that leave us?  Or where does that leave me, the V8 purist?  For someone who doesn’t care how many cylinders their car has, and want a quick, great looking coupe, that’s more economical; this is your car.  Me, I’ll still have the V8.  It partially comes down to economics, this car as equipped rings it at $36,660 (full breakdown below).  I can spec a 2017 Mustang GT coupe with the $2500 GT Performance Pack, which includes

  • Strut-tower Brace
  • Larger Radiator
  • Unique Chassis Tuning
  • Upsized Rear Sway Bar
  • Heavy-Duty Front Springs
  • K-Brace
  • Brembo™ 6-Piston Front Brake Calipers with Larger Rotors
  • 19 X 9-inch (F) 19” X9.5” (R)Ebony Black-Painted Aluminum Wheels (Summer Tires Only)
  • Unique Stability Control, EPAS & ABS Tuning
  • 3.73 TORSEN® Rear Axle
  • Gauge Pack (Oil Pressure and Vacuum)
  • Spoiler Delete

That’s a lot of kit for the money, and replicating something similar would be difficult unless you can perform the install yourself.  That brings you to $35,790and even once I add the amazing Recaro seats for another $1595I’m still just cresting $37,000 for a track ready 435 hp Mustang.  Sold.

Specifications

Trim: Premium
Trans: 6-Speed Auto
Engine: 310hp 2.3L turbocharged and intercooled DOHC 16-valve inline-4 cylinder
Drive: RWD

Exterior: Ruby Red Metallic
Interior: Ebony Leather

 

MSRP: 29,300
Destination Fee: $900

Packages & Options

Equipment Group 201A – $1795

  • Shaker Pro Audio System
  • 12-Speakers

Ruby Red Metallic Paint – $395

6-Speed Automatic Transmission – $1195

Enhanced Security Package – $395
  • Active Anti-Theft System
  • Wheel Locking Kit

Adaptive Cruise Control – $1195

Premiere Trim with Color Accent Group – $395

Reverse Park Assist – $295

Voice Activated Navigation System – $795

Total MSRP: $36,660

Bonus Images

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