Boost. Spool. Wastegate. These are not words generally associated with Ford's iconic Pony car. But since the sixth-generation Ford Mustang launched locally in January 2016, the Blue Oval has offered buyers a choice: 'atmo' V8 or turbocharged-four.
And while the naturally-aspirated 5.0-litre Coyote V8 engine might be the big dog on campus – with its standard 306kW of power and 530Nm of torque – the more affordable turbo alternative ain’t a bad thing.
Developing 233kW of power at 5700rpm and 432Nm of torque at 3000rpm, the turbocharged 2.3-litre EcoBoost four-cylinder engine gives open-minded buyers keen to slide behind the leather-wrapped steering wheel of a new Ford Mustang an entry point into the iconic Pony car that’s $11,500 cheaper than those fixated on ‘cubes’.
Kicking off at $45,990 (before on-road costs) for the EcoBoost Fastback and $54,990 (before on-road costs) for the EcoBoost Convertible, the turbo ’Stang shouldn’t be overlooked as a genuine sports-car proposition in its own right.
If, however, you remain unconvinced, consider the car tested here.
Effectively ‘re-launching’ in late 2016 with a raft of factory-supported modification packs for the ever-popular Ford Ranger, Tickford now offers upgraded components and full kits for the Ford Ranger, Ford Everest, and both the V8 and four-cylinder Ford Mustang.
Based on a standard six-speed manual EcoBoost Mustang Fastback, Tickford’s Lightning Blue ‘270 Power Pack’ demo car has had most boxes ticked.
That means, in total, you’re looking at $61,470 worth of turbocharged rear-wheel-drive entertainment.
What boxes are we talking about?
Firstly, there’s the headline 270 Power Pack, which claims to boost outputs by 37kW and 88Nm to 270kW and 520Nm.
Priced at $6990 (installed and including GST), the 270 Power Pack comprises a recalibrated Tickford-tuned engine control unit (ECU), cold-air intake, 2.5-inch mandrel-bent stainless-steel quad-exit Tickford cat-back exhaust system with carbon-wrapped tips, Tickford rear diffuser, specific numbered build plate, and ‘Tickford Enhanced’ tailgate garnish badge.
Next up we have Tickford-tuned suspension, which the brand says has been “set up to maximise performance and comfort for Australian road conditions”.
Retailing for $3990 (installed and including GST), the setup features coilover-type front suspension, with a more conventional spring-and-damper-type configuration reserved for the rear.
Despite being pre-set from Tickford to sit the Mustang 25mm lower to the ground than standard, the suspension – developed in partnership with German ride and handling gurus, H&R – remains ride-height adjustable, giving owners even greater flexibility.
Stance is nothing without a good set of wheels, though. So next, Tickford threw on a wheel and tyre package it values at $4500 (installed and including GST).
Pairing a staggered set of 9.5-inch-wide front and 11-inch-wide rear 10-spoke, 20-inch satin-black semi-forged alloy wheels with Dunlop SP Sport Maxx GT tyres (265/35s up front and 295/30s out back), the pack also includes chrome wheel nuts and ‘Tickford’-branded centre caps.
Tickford additionally offers a re-trimmed interior for $4490 (including GST) – combining Charcoal Black ‘Tickford’-embossed front and rear leather seats with a suede and leather centre console bin lid and a centre-stack ‘Tickford’ badge – however, this was not fitted to our blue Tickford tester.
For peace of mind, the 270 Power Pack is accompanied by a driveline warranty for the balance of the Mustang’s three-year/100,000km new-car warranty, with Tickford covering any failures that occur “as a direct result of the functionality and fitment” of their products. There’s also a 12-month parts warranty on all exhaust, suspension, wheels, and re-trimmed interior components.
So with $15,480 thrown at it, what’s the 270 Power Pack EcoBoost Mustang like?
Well, sitting lower to the ground on decently menacing-looking wheels, Tickford’s turbo ’Stang definitely has presence.
All the regular car’s gamut of standard equipment remains, meaning keyless entry and a push-button start, daytime running lights and automatic HID headlights, and a rear-view camera and rear parking sensors are all there, as are cruise control, heated and semi-powered front seats, an auto-dimming rear-view mirror, tyre pressure monitoring, four-pot front brake calipers, and a limited-slip rear differential.
The standard nine-speaker stereo remains too, buddied up to an 8.0-inch infotainment touchscreen with Sync 3, satellite navigation, and support for Apple CarPlay and Android Auto – although being based on an earlier Mustang, the Tickford tester was only equipped with Sync 2.
Although fairly similar to its base EcoBoost Mustang in terms of styling and core attributes, put aside the slightly odd feeling associated with driving a turbocharged version of an American muscle-car icon, and the Tickford 270 Power Pack Mustang is excellent fun.
Like all sixth-gen Mustangs – and likely a number of those that came before it – the Tickford ’Stang is a wee bit tail-happy… particularly if roads are damp.
Take this as a positive or a negative as you wish, but regardless, be aware that on a slippery section of road, you’ll easily find yourself reasonably sideways and catching a slide well before the car’s electronic stability control system has even started to curb the action.
So, if you’re looking for a sports car that ‘does it all for you’, the Mustang is probably not for you. On the other hand, if you’re after a new car that feels notably old school in its approach and execution, the Mustang is a car that will leave you grinning ear to ear. And in the case of the Tickford-tuned EcoBoost, that effect is multiplied.
With audible induction noise and some wastgate ‘chatter’ on throttle lifts coming from the front end, it can all feel a touch Fast and Furious-spec. But while the fixed, non-variable exhaust is ‘on’ all the time, it’s neither too loud nor overly droney.
Due to the exhaust system’s relative simplicity though, you do miss out on the sort of exhaust-pipe theatrics and shenanigans common to a number of sports car offerings from hot hatches through to supercars.
Attached to quite a bassy note, the exhaust makes the EcoBoost Mustang’s 2.3-litre turbo-four sound remarkably similar to a turbocharged 2.0-litre four-cylinder SR20 Nissan Silvia engine – smooth and rounded in its note, rather than raspy or buzzy.
Compared with the standard Mustang suspension, the Tickford-tuned setup is firmer, but not by much, yet avoids being harsh or overly crashy.
More importantly, thanks to its extra tautness and better body control, it settles much quicker than the standard suspension, too.
More than 70kg lighter than its V8-powered counterpart, the standard EcoBoost Mustang not only feels the more nimble of the two, it also inspires more confidence, changing direction with less fuss and less fight.
And, apart from its lower ride height mandating slightly more care and patience when negotiating speed humps and driveways and the like, the Tickford Mustang is, broadly speaking, better than the standard car.
I say 'broadly', because there is one area where the turbo Tickford Mustang falls short of its stock donor car.
Best described as a ‘dead hole’ in the engine tune, put your foot down in first gear when traffic lights go green, and, for a brief second or two, nothing much happens except for some gagging and spluttering as the ECU tries to work out just how much air and fuel should be thrown into the mix.
A potential consequence of messing with a car’s factory-standard setup – be it an ECU remap or even a change to the intake or exhaust – these types of tune ‘dead holes’ can sometimes be inadvertently created, causing small hesitation points in the rev range where things don’t quite work how they should.
Anyone who’s ever owned or driven a modified car will likely know exactly the issue I’m talking about, and, albeit in a minor way, the EcoBoost Tickford Mustang suffers from what appears to be the same thing. On several occasions, we also experienced an identical ‘hole’ in power delivery at low revs in second gear.
It’s a shame too because you tend to drive the EcoBoost Mustang rather differently to the way you do the V8.
Whereas in the 5.0-litre Mustang you tend to be happy enough cruising around at minimal engine revolutions, bolt a turbo up to the smaller capacity four-cylinder engine, and you tend to sink the boot in harder and more often just to get those boost-related kicks.
This means, for everyday driving, you sit around 2000-3000rpm, instead of 1250-1500rpm as you’re more likely to do in the V8.
By default, in the turbocharged Mustang you also keep revs a little higher to ensure you get the best response and pickup available at any given time – and better avoid those nasty tuning 'dead hole' gremlins.
Tuning hiccups aside, Tickford’s 270 Power Pack gives the standard EcoBoost Ford Mustang some extra and very welcome ponies, with additional performance coming in the form of the uprated suspension and rolling stock.
Sadly, what remains unchanged, is the standard Mustang’s mixed build and fit-and-finish quality and the model’s much maligned two-star ANCAP safety rating.
Modifying your brand-new Ford Mustang might not be everyone’s cup of tea. That said, if you don’t have to have – or can’t afford – the V8, the 2017 Tickford 270 Power Pack Ford Mustang EcoBoost could very well be a relative sweet spot between the standard turbocharged Pony car and the naturally-aspirated 5.0-litre V8. Plus, if you’ve always wanted to drop an SR20 into a Ford Mustang, this is the car for you.
Click on the Gallery tab for more 2017 Tickford Ford Mustang EcoBoost images by Tom Fraser.