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Does halving the number of cylinders from eight to four in this Ford Mustang 2.3 Ecoboost Convertible halve your fun? After our first UK drive, we think so
15 March 2016

What is it?

If you’re a Ford Mustang fan, no doubt you’ll have consumed our reports on the V8 GT Fastback and discovered that we really rather like it. Yes, there’s a touch of the flawed genius about it, but it’s completely charming and wholly loveable.

A big part of that is because of the whopping great 5.0-litre V8 ‘charm pump’ that warbles away intoxicatingly up front, but here we have the lesser-spotted 2.3 Ecoboost with Ford's optional six-speed automatic gearbox in convertible guise.

We’ve already driven the 2.3 Convertible on the Continent, but this is our first opportunity to sample its delights on home soil. So, despite losing four cylinders and a roof, does it retain enough of the V8 Mustang’s charm to still make you smile?

What's it like?

It’s funny, isn’t it? In principle this should be a great engine, because it’s pretty much the same unit that powers the giant-slaying Focus RS, and we’ve loved every bit of that car’s raspy delights. However, in the Mustang the 2.3 Ecoboost is disappointingly anodyne.

Rev it off the line and it’s smooth, but there’s no character to it, no special noise to make your hairs, or your ears for that matter, stand to attention. If this motor were powering a saloon then it would be perfectly befitting. But it’s not; it’s powering a car that is synonymous with the V8, and its antiseptic whir seems to rip out the very essence of the Mustang’s tanginess, making it sound more like a meowing lion.

And the automatic gearbox doesn’t help matters. The manual version at least felt pokey, but the auto’s lethargy when kicking down and tardiness when you pull gears with the paddles not only rob the Mustang of pace but also subdue a great chunk of the car's sportiness. By way of balance, it pulls uniformly, and judged next to the competition it’s still quick. For example, the Mustang will blitz a BMW 420i Convertible away from the lights, even though it’s by far the cheaper option.

Beyond a simple drag race, it’ll struggle, though, because once the road gets twisty the Mustang Convertible feels a big old brute. The same can be said of the fastback, but the coupé feels more together, despite its size, and has that bit more precision.

Again, the drivetrain may have been a factor, but the convertible feels more ponderous and harder to hustle along. Steering feel has never been one of the Mustang’s strong points, but the convertible’s front end seems even less reactive and slower to settle than that of the fastback, with a greater tendency to scrub across the asphalt.

Once you get it turned in, you might imagine that the rear would be less lively thanks to a whole lot less torque, but you’d be wrong; it’s still awfully twitchy at the back, even with all the systems turned on.

Like the fastback, the convertible is firm but not uncomfortable, but the secondary ride, particularly on the motorway, is pretty hyperactive. The difference here is that, minus a fixed roof, the dreaded demon of scuttle shake adds an extra shimmy after the bump has been and gone, making the drop-top seem even less refined.

Obviously, there’s more cabin noise to add to that, but in general wind and road noise are still relatively well suppressed for a convertible with the roof up. The only issue with our particular car was noticeable boom and reverberation from around the roof which peaked at around 50mph.

With the roof down, refinement is relatively good; you can sit at 70mph with the windows up and you’ll receive a light buffeting, but you won’t step out at the end of your journey and get mistaken for Milton Jones.

Should I buy one?

I’ve perhaps made the Mustang Convertible sound a bit of a terror, which it’s not; apart from the ride, it actually plays the relaxing cruiser well. And on a nice, sunny day with the roof down, there’s still plenty to smile about as you gaze around the 1960s-effect cabin, then look down its vast bonnet.

However, the question remains: why would you buy one with this engine? I’d wager most people will be buying the convertible as an occasional toy and won’t be driving it on its door handles. In which case, forget fuel saving, live the dream and fit it with the full-fat engine. That way you can loaf about while relishing the V8's burble, and you won’t feel the need for a pre-emptive apology every time you give someone a lift.

Ford Mustang 2.3 Ecoboost Convertible auto

Location Surrey; On sale Now; Price £35,995; Engine 4 cyls, 2300cc, turbo, petrol; Power 313bhp at 5500rpm; Torque 319lb ft at 2500-4500rpm; Gearbox 6-spd automatic; Kerb weight 1718kg; Top speed 145mph; 0-62mph 5.9sec; Economy 28.8mpg (combined); CO2/tax band 225g/km, 37%

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Comments
16

15 March 2016

This or a 4 series? Depends on the discount from BMW, but I think I would stick with the more interesting option.

15 March 2016
superstevie wrote:

This or a 4 series? Depends on the discount from BMW, but I think I would stick with the more interesting option.

You mean 4 series right? You gotta have a screw loose somewhere to get one of these.

15 March 2016

People quite often lean towards the cheaper option when performance isn't everything. After all a sub 6.0 second isn't to be sniffed at.

 

Hydrogen cars just went POP

15 March 2016

@Winnie

I would much rather have the Mustang than the BMW 4-Series, depending on the figures. It isn't perfect, but I like that it isn't. I'd prefer the V8 option. But never gonna happen for me. Neither are practical enough for a printer engineer's car

15 March 2016

A couple of years ago my partner and I rented a low spec previous generation Mustang convertible for a three week touring holiday in California and Nevada. We thoroughly enjoyed the relaxed easy-going character of the car, which was eminently well suited to the long distances and wide open spaces we encountered. Unfortunately, these qualities simply do not translate to our narrow congested roads where the Mustang's width and imprecise handling really make its straight-line performance largely academic in most real world driving situations. Consequently, I doubt that this could keep pace with a 4-series under such conditions. On an aesthetic point, is it just me or is this yet another example of black alloys making a car look under-wheeled and over-bodied?

15 March 2016

I did the same and what you said is spot on. I would be less polite about the car though and say such roads are just more forgiving. A 4 series would acquit itself just as well on those US roads as the Mustang. I could understand someone in the US buying a Mustang over a 4 series because the roads are much less challenging and therefore drivable with a less well engineered car, but the Mustang is definitely less sophisticated and less well engineered than a 4 series. On European roads, I think anything including a German diesel shitbox (as a Mustang fancier put it) with 2/3rds of the power output would run rings around this. Not sure about the black alloys thing though.

15 March 2016

With only half the cylinders and less than half the cubic centimetres of the V8,the Ecoboost is still pretty impressive for a fiver under £31K even if you went for the V8, the auto & droptop add nothing to the Mustang experience. So I reckon £ for £ the Ecoboost is a pretty good punt against the opposition who charge a lot more for less

15 March 2016

With only half the cylinders and less than half the cubic centimetres of the V8,the Ecoboost is still pretty impressive for a fiver under £31K even if you went for the V8, the auto & droptop add nothing to the Mustang experience. So I reckon £ for £ the Ecoboost is a pretty good punt against the opposition who charge a lot more for less

15 March 2016

The reviewers here on Autocar need to be sent back to motoring school and get a heavy dose of reality, they tend to go into reviewing certain brands with a predetermined opinion or conclusion- I am not currently a Ford owner but have been in the past, I must say that I have driven most of the current crop as rentals and pool cars and have no doubt that had they been wearing a different badge, their appeal would've been different. The reviewer here comes across as the typical badge snub, and so sets out proving his predisposition. What happened to the days when each brand of car had it's own characteristics? It seems if you are not Germanic enough it is not good enough for Autocar....

15 March 2016

A cruiser not a bruiser. Pays your money and takes your choice - and like the Le Baron it looks tasty but doesnt go

what's life without imagination

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