Words: Calvin Chan
Photography: Calvin Chan
Published: September 28, 2018
I recently drove the 2018 Ford Mustang GT with its reworked V8 engine and new exhaust system, and while it did sound incredible, and having a naturally aspirated motor in 2018 is a rarity, it lacked the driving dynamics and cornering abilities that I expected from a fully loaded $50,000 muscle car of its calibre. But now I’m testing the less powerful, less expensive, and less shouty looking Mustang Ecoboost Convertible - talk about inconspicuous in bright yellow - hoping that it will prove to be less of a handful and more of a straight shooter than its hormonal sibling. They told me I should have started with the EcoBoost and made my way up to the GT so I don’t get spoiled with V8 power but we don’t always get what we want. And to be frank, I think I prefer this Ecoboost engine anyways. It’s not trying as hard to prove itself in the field.
In fact, my Mustang was spec'd in a way that makes it slower than most. I’m talking about its smaller, diminutive, direct-injected 2.3-litre turbocharged-four, which lives in the shadow of the fire-breathing V8 but still manages to produce a healthy 310 hp and 350 lb-ft, 30 lb-ft more than before thanks to software calibrations that it learned from the Focus RS. It is also a convertible, which not only adds weight but decreases structural rigidity because, you know, no roof. Oh, and it has an automatic with a $1,500 price tag and 47 kg penalty over the manual. It’s the new 10-speed transmission that Ford co-developed with General Motors, and we enjoyed its quick shifting antics in the Chevrolet Camaro so we have our fingers crossed that Ford’s sings a similar tune.
First impressions weren’t bad. Instead of trying to push the limits of this Mustang and eek out every inch of performance, I took a more relaxed approach in evaluation, taking into consideration its limits yet enjoying this Mustang’s calmer demeanor. There’s proper boost from that turbo motor but I did notice a lot of delay before all hands were on deck. It doesn’t help that this drop-top weighs a ton and drives like it’s got a bag of bricks in the trunk, hampering initial forward propulsion.
When power does manage to translate to the tarmac, it pounces forward rather quickly but without the same kind of wallop and ferocity as an engine with more cylinders. It may be worthy to note that the base 3.7-litre naturally aspirated V6 has been axed due to poor sales. Be that as it may, this tail-happy muscle car will punish you if you aren’t careful, and requires a bit of finesse if going full throttle on switchback roads. The EcoBoost may not be as much of a handful as the GT but I still found it difficult to gather any rhythm. I felt more confident behind the wheel of other vehicles in this segment like the Chevrolet Camaro V6 Convertible and Nissan 370Z Roadster.
While I expected much out of the 10-speed automatic, I came out of my week-long drive disappointed. Specifically in low gears and during upshifts, the gearbox consistently causes the vehicle to lunge forward and it’s more prominent the faster you drive. These awkward and rather unexpected lurches between shifts makes for anything but a smooth journey to the top gear, and keep in mind there are ten gears to row through. The shifts do get much more polished after fifth, and it does seem to know what gear to be in and what gear to hold when driving spiritedly, but it’s safe to say that Ford still has some tweaking to do.
Like the Mustang GT, the steering is too light, overboosted under rotation, and isn’t organic feeling at all. There are three different steering modes to choose from, each varying in weight but I didn’t find any I particularly enjoyed. The EcoBoost engine doesn’t sound very good either and nowhere near as satisfying as the GT, but you do hear the turbo whistles and whooshes on acceleration, and it is even more pronounced with the top down. There is a performance exhaust available ($1,000) but ours was not equipped with it. On a side note, EcoBoost models now get the Line-Lock function as standard so you can do wheelies and burn some rubber with your pals.
As mentioned in my Mustang GT review, the seating position is excellent and the steering wheel can be telescoped a fair amount to reach that optimal spot. The seats are exceptionally comfortable - plush, wide, and downright slippery - these leather seats are as supple as your living room couch. It’s not the nicest leather, but at this price bracket it’s perfectly acceptable.
The cabin is littered with plastic panels and lacks the same fit and finish you would find in the Camaro. From afar, those toggle switches under the screen appear attractive and are inspired by airplanes, but get up close in person, flick them, and they feel like they’re being held on by glue and will snap if you push too hard. They don’t feel expensive at all, and I shouldn’t expect them to be at this price point but it’s a missed opportunity to shine above the competition.
You can’t operate the fabric roof at speed so if you feel the rain start trickling on your forearm, you have to make a full stop. Yes, the roof is electrically operated but you still have to manually unlatch and relatch the roof mechanism, and it takes a proper shove and pull to get it locked in place. To my annoyance, the systems won’t give a little charm or ping when the roof has finished its operation either, so you spend an extra second or two waiting for the auditory absence of whirring motors for your green light to keep driving.
If you must own a Mustang, the EcoBoost isn’t a bad choice. I do have to admit that it is one aggressive and handsome looking thing, and it makes for a comfortable daily driver without the plethora of compromises - visibility, fuel consumption, reliability - that muscle cars used to come with. But in its place is a docile vessel that’s friendlier than a dolphin. The new 10-speed automatic isn’t a terrible option if you can’t or don’t want to drive stick, but the unpredictable lurches during upshifts come off as bothersome and warrant a closer look at opting for the manual, or perhaps a stick-shift driving lesson. Nevertheless, the Mustang EcoBoost is a proper boulevard cruiser that carries enough aesthetic charm, brand history, and unisex appeal on its shoulders. Just don’t expect much refinement or performance. You may drive out of the showroom disappointed.
Model: 2018 Ford Mustang EcoBoost Convertible
Paint Type: Orange Fury
Base Price: $42,199
Length/Width/Height (mm): 4,789 / 1,916 / 1,394
Curb weight (kg): 1,949
Engine: 2.3-litre turbocharged inline-four
Horsepower: 310 hp @ 5,500 rpm
Torque: 350 lb-ft @ 3,000 rpm
Transmission: 10-speed automatic
Engine & Drive Configuration: Front engine, RWD
Fuel Consumption ( City / Highway / Combined ) L/100km: 11.8 / 8.2 / 10.2
Observed Fuel Consumption (L/100km): 13.3
Tires: Pirelli P Zero