The 2016 Ford Mustang marks the return of the modern muscle car to Australia. It’s instantly recognisable and guaranteed to turn heads everywhere you go.
The Mustang line-up is straightforward: two body styles, two engines and two transmissions. There's the fastback and convertible, both available with a 5.0-litre V8 or a 2.3-litre turbo-four. The fastback comes with either a six-speed manual or six-speed automatic transmission, while the convertible is only available in an automatic.
The differences beyond that are few except for, most notably, the attention-grabbing thrum and extra output and performance of the V8 that’s obviously missing from the smaller EcoBoost engine.
For many Mustang purists, and certainly many in the CarAdvice editorial team, the EcoBoost despite its healthy outputs offers a watered-down version of a suitable heartbeat for such a dramatic looking car, and if a Mustang were on the shopping list the V8 would be their only option
However, the Mustang has long come with a choice of a V8 or smaller, less-powerful four- and six-cylinder options. For those who just like the look, the thrill could all be in the knowledge you're driving a Mustang, rather than in the noise and the power.
So if it's more about its eye-catching styling and visual presence then the EcoBoost could be a viable choice. You'd still be behind the wheel of what's unmistakably a Mustang, while saving some dollars and potentially reducing your chances of premature hearing loss in with the deal.
What sort of deal does the Ford Mustang EcoBoost present? At $54,990 before on-road costs, the turbocharged drop-top is a significant $11,500 more affordable than the eight-cylinder GT version ($66,490 plus on-roads). That said, opting for the convertible experience does come at a premium, given the fastbacks are both $9000 cheaper than their open-air siblings.
The 2.3-litre turbocharged engine produces 233kW of power and 432Nm of torque, which isn’t, on paper, an enormous penalty against the 5.0-litre V8’s 306kW and 530Nm. The EcoBoost variants also have numerous mechanical differences to the GTs, notably in the rear suspension, brakes and tyre sizes.
So is the EcoBoost convertible any good? And does the saving in the hip pocket translate into much detriment in the kind of experience you’d expect from the Mustang nameplate?
For a start, outside of mechanical difference, very little separates the Mustang breed in general specification – there’s essentially one trim level for all variants.
Key features include 19-inch wheels, heated and cooled six-way-powered front seats, leather accented trim, automatic HID headlights, LED tail-lights, heated mirrors, rain-sensing wipers, Sync 2 infotainment with an 8.0-inch touchscreen, Bluetooth and iPod connectivity, sat-nav, cruise control, keyless entry and go, dual-zone climate, reverse-view camera, and host of neat details including Mustang moniker puddle lights and MyColor settings, which allows you to configure the instrumentation to large number of different colour schemes. For a full rundown of specs see here.
It does, though, miss out on some key modern safety features such as blind-spot monitoring, lane departure warning or autonomous emergency braking. A nod to its predecessors? Probably not, but the design certainly pays homage to Mustang’s rich (if patchy in places) half-century heritage.
It has a dominant stance on the road, with sharp lines down the side, flared wheel arches and the distinctive vertical tail-light design adorning its 4784mm long, 1916mm wide and 1381mm tall frame.
Visually it’s tricky distinguishing the EcoBoost against pricier GTs. At the rear, the EcoBoost has a pony badge, while the GT has a GT badge and a 5.0 litre badge on the front guards, where the EcoBoost has none.
The roof is electric, but has a manual lock mechanism, which is a little clumsy to use. It's a large handle that is pulled down and twisted to release the roof before you can hit the button to open or close the roof. The cool-factor of the convertible roof takes a hit thanks to that manual lock.
The kicker is you have to be completely stationary. It doesn't matter if the car is in park, neutral or drive, but unlike many other convertibles on the market these days such as the Audi A3 Cabriolet, where the roof can be deployed at up to 50km/h, the Mustang design won't work even if you're just idling along slowly in heavy traffic.
In cities with tunnels or driving in Melbourne with its split-second weather changes, having to find somewhere to pull over to prevent washing the inside of your car isn't always going to be convenient.
On the plus side, the electric mechanism is fast, we timed it at just eight seconds. Being a rag-top it also doesn't take up too much extra space in the boot. Rear cargo space is 324 litres, which is quite decent considering it’s a four-seat convertible.
What you see is what you get though. The rear seats don't fold forward to allow boot access, unlike the Audi A3 Cabriolet or Fiat 500 convertible (ok, not exactly pound-for-pound rivals, but still...) and there's no ski-port. You could, however, comfortably fit enough luggage for a weekend away.
When the roof is up, getting into the back is certainly not an elegant procedure. It's a two-phase process, flick the back of the front seat forward then use the electric toggle to slide the base forward...slowly. So you have to lean over and hold the button, then climb awkwardly in. The awkward climb in is not unique to this particular convertible, but it could be better facilitated. Another solution is to put the roof down; it's far easier to get in the car with just the front seat back flipped forward when you don't have to contend with the low roof.
There’s just enough room in the back for two adults, though their comfort level would be infinitely improved if the driver and passenger can give a little bit of leeway as legroom is a little tight.
The seats themselves are a strange combination of firmness and flexibility; it feels almost like a heavy memory foam, supportive yet supple. If you’re going to have four seats in a convertible, at least make them useable and as comfortable as possible, and the Mustang just scrapes through in this regard.
In the driver's seat looking around the cabin it feels sporty with the right dash of flash. Ford’s Sync 2 system clearly lays out phone, information, entertainment and climate on the touchscreen, and each category has its own corner of the screen so you can easily access what you need without complicated menus.
The rear-view camera comes in handy when the roof hinders rear visibility and it has a tyre pressure monitoring system. There’s no digital speedo, though, which is a bit of a disappointment.
The low driving position takes a little bit of getting used to, while the electric seat adjustable is slow moving. The ventilation function was much appreciated after being out in the sun for a while.
The cup holders are in a terrible spot. It’s not so bad in the automatic, but having previously driven the manual-equipped fastback, anything in them is right where your elbow would be during gear-changes. Even in the automatic I had to be careful not to bump the lid off my coffee while popping it into reverse, and I just gave up trying to leave a water bottle in there.
Out on the road it's obvious that this is a lot quieter than the GT V8, and that it doesn't have that signature audible presence. The long, sloping bonnet is a key part of the design, however it's best to avoid hills with a steep gradient as it creates a huge blind spot over crests.
Whether the roof is on or off, there’s noticeable shimmying through the windscreen over bumps and it transfers effectively though the rear-view mirror in scuttle-shake. This means body rigidity could be better.
The ride, though, is quite comfortable. It’s on the firm side but not as rigid as some other convertibles. You will feel the movement in the structure reflecting the different road surfaces but it absorbs larger undulations without too many complaints.
If you put your foot down, instead of relying on torque, the engine will call on the transmission to swap down a ratio or two and the auto can be a little slow to react when self-shifting, and can thump when going from reverse to drive.
But the steering is good. The electric power assistance feels quite well-calibrated, and it can be adjusted through three modes: Normal, Comfort and Sport, varying the weighting from light to heavy. Even in Normal it’s quite hefty, though this suits the overall feel of the car. Its leisurely 12.2-metre turning circle, too, makes it sometimes feel like trying to manoeuvre a cruise ship in a bathtub.
There are flight-deck-inspired toggle switches at the bottom of the centre stack to change the drive mode and steering feel. I did spend a lot of time cruising around in normal mode, but you can also choose from Normal, Snow/Wet, Sport and Track. Sport is a bit of fun but be careful swapping to track mode because it does turn traction control off. You can also toggle through comfort, sport and normal steering modes.
What’s a little eye-opening, given the lacklustre soundtrack, is just how quick the EcoBoost can be. It’s quite a responsive engine, without much in the way of perceivable turbo lag, and has a decent mid-range kick that doesn’t relent through to redline. It’s at its most responsive in Sport, of course, but its no slouch turning up the pace on command in Normal drive mode either.
Conversely, it’s a tractable and effortless cruiser; ideal given than many buyers will undoubtedly be tapping its moderate-pace character more often than attempting to extract its outright performance capabilities. There’s certainly little in the way of rough edges when it comes to all-round drivability and on-road friendliness.
Fuel economy is a claimed 9.4-litres per 100km for the six-speed automatic, and after driving as sedately as possible it did manage an average of 10.6L/100km over 600 kilometres. When it comes to ongoing fuel costs, as well as being more fuel-efficient, the EcoBoost runs on 91RON compared to the GT's thirst for a minimum of 95RON.
The Ford Mustang EcoBoost convertible comes with a three-year/100,000km warranty and capped price servicing for the life of the vehicle at very reasonable prices. Ford also offers a free loan car while yours is getting serviced so despite the warranty not being overly impressive, you’re looked after when it comes to servicing.
Skim milk has a place in the mugs of dairy drinkers, and the EcoBoost is a viable option for those who like the look and the functionality of the four-seat convertible and aren't fazed at missing that thumping V8 in favour of saving thousands up front.
Despite lacking the sound you expect when you look at it, or the V8 fury once you sink the right foot, the EcoBoost Convertible is a lot of good fun.
The package is convincingly more complete as it certainly turns heads, has a host of neat features you use most in your daily driving, feels delivers a suitably sporty drive when you engage the appropriate modes.
The Mustang is all about the look and its presence on the road that you might be convinced that it almost doesn’t matter what’s under the bonnet.