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%