2016 Ford Mustang V8 and EcoBoost car review
Robert Pepper’s launch-based 2016 Ford Mustang V8 and EcoBoost review with pricing, specs, ride and handling, safety, verdict and rating.
In a nutshell: The mustang is a large, rear-drive coupe that should deliver every owner a special driving experience – which one that is is up to them.
FORD HAS GOT thousands of confirmed orders for the new Mustang, so it must be doing something right. As it stands now, you’d need to wait until at least 2017 if you ordered one today, although some lucky customers who pre-ordered already have their cars since deliveries began in December last year. Ford say Australia is the third-largest market for the Mustang, behind the USA and Europe including the UK which gets its launch later this year in their summer. Demand far exceeds supply, and one reason is lack of parts for right-hand drive models, in particular exhaust manifolds.
So what is the attraction? Certainly there’s a lot to the name. The Mustang has been in production for 50 years, over nine million have been sold, and it is estimated the car has made appearances in over 3000 films and TV series. Ford says the Mustang stands for freedom, sportiness, the open round and a sense of uplift – which is why people seem to love it. The age of the nameplate gives a heritage too – it’s the car your father’s father had and you remembered when you were young. In a rare display of humour Ford says there are two demographics who buy the Mustang – under 40, and over 40 – so there appears to be no specific set of people the car appeals to, but Ford was careful to consult with hundreds of Mustang clubs, including the Australian club. Ford say 50 percent of Mustang owners live outside the USA.
Today’s sixth-generation Mustang is available in just one trim specification, but there’s a choice of two engines – EcoBoost 2.3L turbo 4-cylinder, and 5.0L naturally aspirated V8. The automatic and manual are both six-speed, and there are convertible versions of both engines but only with automatics. There are various performance packs available overseas, but Aussie models already have pretty much all of the fruit bolted on. The launch of the Mustang is another addition to Ford’s performance lineup which will soon be Fiesta ST, Focus ST, Focus RS and Mustang.
Mustang design and tech
The big challenge for the design team was creating the flat rear roof back with the flared haunches over the rear wheels. This was achieved by giving the Mustang a much wider track at the back than the front. Track is the distance between the centre of two wheels on an axle, and on the Mustang it’s 1597mm at the front, with another 61mm at the rear to make 1658. On the EcoBoost the tyres are 255/40/19 front and rear, but the V8s have 255/40/19 at the front, with 275/40/19 at the rear which are 20mm wider and about 16mm taller.
It is hard to think of a Mustang without a V8, but emissions standards across the world are becoming tougher and tougher. Carl Widmann is the chief engineer for the Mustang programme, and he told me there’s a bit of life in the V8 yet, and when I asked if we could ever see a hybrid Mustang he said “sure”. Ford as a company have a target to have 40 percent of their fleet hybrid, although the timeframe for that is not clear.
There is a V6 engine, but we don’t get it in Australia. Ford says the reason is that the EcoBoost offers better value, efficiency and is a much more advanced engine. They are also keen to point out that the 2.3L EcoBoost with its turbocharger delivers very similar outputs to the previous Australian model of 2001, but that’s not quite a fair comparison. While the EcoBoost is good for 233kW and 432Nm and the old 4.6L V8 managed a comparable 240kW and 430Nm the older car weighed less than 1600kg, in contrast to the EcoBoost which starts at 1666kg.
The EcoBoost has a twin-scroll turbo. Turbochargers work by spinning a fan (turbine) in the exhaust gas, which drives a compressor that forces more air into the cylinder so you get a bigger bang and more power. But the cylinders in an engine do not push out a steady stream of exhuast gas, it’s more like a pulse as the piston goes up and down, and to make the engine run smoothly each piston in the cylinder is set to run at a different cycle so they produce power and exhaust at different times.
The Mustang, like most modern sportscars, has a variety of modes. You can change:
- Stability and traction control – via the ESC switch, and the driving modes also affect it. The sport modes also reduce the stability control intervention.
- Driving mode – changes the throttle response to be sharper in sport modes, and for automatics delays upshifts and makes downshifts earlier. In Race/Track mode the engine sound is also changed.
- Steering mode – changes the effort required for the electric power steering.
This is a summary of the different driving modes and what they do:
|Selected drive mode
|Powertrain control map (throttle response and auto shift points)
(electronic power assist steering)
There are three stability control settings. One is for normal driving and quickly corrects understeer and oversteer. TCS off is a short press and disables traction control but not stability control (read this for the difference) and a long press disables both TCS and stability control (ESC). Here’s what you see on the dash:
The little helmet icon indicates you’re in Race/Track mode.
Here’s what switch does what:
So with all of these options how do you set the car up? Your choice, but here’s one view. On public roads there’s absolutely no need to disable stability control and plenty of reasons to leave it on, such as making it to your next birthday. The electronics certainly don’t get in the way, and for manuals you may as well leave the driving mode in Normal as in the Sport setting throttle response doesn’t make much difference. For autos you do need to select Sport mode (in the driving mode, as well as the gear shifter) as that sharpens up both the throttle and the shifting. When off the public roads Race mode is fine as it allows more than enough slip for fun – any more and you’re slow – yet it’s there to help if needs be. Stability control only really needs disabling if you want to actually drift.
Aerodynamics played a big part in the Mustang’s development, and Carl told me that the front of the car is designed not to lift so at speeds over around 160km/h the front end remains planted. There are special cooling intakes at the front which let just the right amount of air into the engine and no more, as otherwise drag would be needlessly increased. Wheels are also a major source of drag as they rotate, so the ideal solution is to entirely enclose them. But that’s not a great look, so Ford created “aero curtains” – slots channel air from the front of the car across the surface of the wheel, acting much like a skirt to reduce drag.
Room and practicality
The front seats of the Mustang are nicely configurable and comfortable – the steering wheel is reach/tilt adjustable, there’s a good range of other adjustments and plenty of room. Even the largest of drivers should be comfortable. There’s a little storage compartment on the driver’s side, a centre console, tiny door pockets and a phone cubby. The door pockets are odd because they include a hidden tunnel reaching back towards the second row, handy for storing extra gear but hard to get to. There is no sunnies holder but there are enough other storage places instead.
One annoyance is that Ford have left the handbrake on the left of the car, which is slightly awkward to get to, quite workable but it is a reminder they just could not be bothered changing it, not what you want in a desire car like a Mustang. It gets worse because with the handbrake that side you have to rest your left elbow on the drinks holder which is not comfortable.
The second row seats are comfortable but lack headrests and headroom. They are not for adults taller than average. Small front-row people will leave sufficient legroom for the second row, larger front-row occupants will need to negotiate use of space with the people behind. Ingress and egress could be better, with the seatbelt clip needing to be moved out of the way. It’s all workable, but it’s not an ideal daily-drive rear-seater…but that’s not really what the Mustang is all about. It is handy that there are dual seat pockets on the back of the front seats.
The boot is reasonably capacious and there is a spare wheel well (space saver optional on EcoBoost, otherwise you get goo and an air compressor). There is a little light, but no tie-down points. A nice touch is that the second row seats in the fastbacks are a 50/50 split and fold forwards – in the convertible the seatback is fixed. Ford says the boot can take two golf bags, the standard measurement for sportscar capacity.
The convertible roof is three-stage; you unlock it with a handle then operate the electric system to stow it or open it which requires the car to be almost stopped. There are two plastic trim pieces that have to be attached once the roof is down, and removed before it can be opened. This is a bit of a pain as you need to get out to do it, and there’s no handy place to store them when they are removed. There are many other convertibles that are easier to use, and Ford’s claim of seven seconds to operate is rather optimistic.
Our two-day event was held in January with nicely hot NSW weather, so it can be said the aircon is effective and the cooled seats most welcome. The brace of air vents up top work well to direct air just where you want it. We’ll just assume the seats heat as well as they cool.
The secondary controls are a bit fiddly, with Ford falling into the common trap of not using simple and clear dials, instead opting for toggle switches to change the temperature on the split-cycle airconditioning, and the fan speed control is small. The infotainment unit is one of Ford’s modern ones which means it’s brilliant – clear, easy to use, responsive and the satnav works very well as does the voice control. There are plenty of fuel consumption data displays which the typical owner is likely to ignore. However, as Mustang owners tend to not let anyone else drive their babies then becoming quickly familiar with controls is not really an issue.
The interior is well finished, decent quality and distinctive enough to be pleasing without really getting in the way of usability, but you wouldn’t call it a top-end premium vehicle.
Overall, this is a far more practical coupe than many, and has real daily-driver credentials. A couple could easily go on an extended roadtrip, or comfortably nick down to the shops.
On the road
First up was the 2.3L convertible (only available in automatic) out of Sydney and up the freeway towards Newcastle. At speed, the convertible is quiet and comfortable. It doesn’t have a sense of immediate urgency when you accelerate, even above 5000rpm as the engine takes a little while to get its act together and shift the car. Ford says they’ve spent a long time on the EcoBoost’s synthetic soundtrack… well, they may have done, but the engine note sounds a bit out of sync to what’s happening with the car; it’s fairly clearly artificial and is a constant reminder it’s not the engine you’re hearing, it’s just noise.
Any notion that Mustangs are just straight-line cruisers is dispelled by the first corner. This car can handle, it is fun and very rapid progress can be made, but the 2.3 auto just lacks that sharper edge in the powertrain to rival the best sporting vehicles.
Next was the 5.0L V8 manual. Now this is the Mustang keen drivers will want. There is an abundance of smoothly building power albeit little under 3000rpm, and the car has the immediate urgent response to throttle input you want in a roadgoing sportscar. Acceleration is strong rather than savage, and there is a lovely, robust engine note but not a sound that can compare with the heart-quickening roar of an Audi, AMG or Jaguar. The car feels balanced and in short it’s a very enjoyable drive on country roads. It does however suffer from the standard problem with big, heavy cars which is that they are almost too fast for public roads, unlike say a lighter, smaller and slower car which needs more work to progress at a given speed.
Moving into the 5.0L V8 auto and we find it has a much more pleasing throttle response than its 2.3L equivalent, but otherwise is much the same as the manual. The automatic shifter is not bad, but the occasional use of manual controls pays dividends. There is no way to change gears on the autos using the shifter, the only option is the paddle shift.
Finally, the 2.3L manual, and the good news here is that after the V8s it is clear the 2.3s ride a fraction smoother than the V8s. The 2.3L manual has a far more pleasing throttle response than the equivalent automatic – press the right pedal and there’s an immediate response whereas the auto is slow and doughy in comparison. You feel as if the 2.3 is doing its very best to move a slightly too heavy car, whereas in the auto you feel the engine isn’t quite trying hard enough.
The cruise control is simple to use and shows the target speed on the dash. It does its best to keep the car’s speed at target on downhills by changing down a gear, but it’s not perfect and will run away on the steeper freeway stretches. The suspension on all the cars must be singled out for special praise, dispatching uneven roads and bumps with measured control.
So in summary the 2.3L auto should be considered a comfortable cruiser that’s not a bad handler. The 2.3L manual is more of an involving and exciting drive, but if that’s all what you want there are other, cheaper options that are better (MX-5, 86, BRZ). The V8 auto is a much more interesting drive, more power, better response and far superior engine note that is authentic – you won’t find better anywhere near the price. Both the manuals qualify as driver’s cars , and the choice there is whether you prefer surfing torque with a V8 or working the shifter harder with the 4-cylinder and enjoying a slightly lighter, better riding and nimbler vehicle. You’ll make the same progress across country, it’s just different types of fun. Personally, I’d go the V8 as if you’re going to do the big coupe thing, do it properly, but the EcoBoost certainly has charm.
Carl Widmann told me that the Mustang is designed for track work, and Ford tests the car to survive four flat-out laps. The vehicle has a range of self-preservation checks to ensure nothing overheats, and the primary issue seems not to be the brakes, but the temperature of the rear axle and the engine. So to see how the car worked Ford gave us the opportunity to drive four variants of the Mustang back-to-back on a short, twisty hillclimb style course, mostly second gear but with two changes into third gear. We had free choice of settings, so I chose Race mode but left traction and stability control enabled.
Any sportscar is going to be fun on a track like that and the Mustang was no exception. The question is what sort of fun it was. It’s a relatively big, heavy car so you aren’t going to get the sort of playfree chuckability you find with lighter cars. It is however precise and rewarding for its size – the steering has decent feel, the brakes are progressive and confidence-inspiring, the seats grip and it’s very much a car you can enjoy on a track. Ideally, you’d want stiffer suspension which would just tighten the drive up a fraction, but then you’d compromise its real-world capability, so the car is best as it is.
There are differences between the EcoBoost and V8. The extra weight of the V8 tells in the twisties, as you have to be that little bit more patient to get the nose around. However, the V8 has an ace up its sleeve as the extra power means you can more easily apply a bit of throttle to help rotate the nose on exit, which you can do in Race mode before the electronics stop the fun. Of course, in a straight line, the V8 rules – it goes quicker and sounds much better. The EcoBoost is, and feels slower than the V8, not only because of the lower power but the soundtrack isn’t quite as resonant or real.
I’d suggest serious drivers opt only for the manuals as they offer much more involvement. The self-shifting computers were unable to keep up with the quick and tight corners, even in sport mode so you’d need to resort to the paddle shifters. The 2.3’s lack of immediacy on the throttle is less of a problem when you’re flowing around a track.
All up, it can be confidently said that the Mustang will be a good track car, but perhaps not a great one and out of the range the 5.0L V8 manual would certainly be my pick.
2016 Ford Mustang V8 and ECOboost pricing and specifications
|2.3L 4 cylinder twin-scroll turbo
|233kW @ 5600-5700rpm
|306kW @ 6500rpm
|432Nm @ 3000rpm
|530Nm @ 4250rpm
|Kg per kW
|Turning circle (m)
|Front brakes (mm)
|Disc, 352 x 32 discs, 4 x 46mm pistons
|Disc, 380 x 32 discs, 6 x 36mm pistons
|Rear brakes (mm)
|Disc, 330 x 25, 1 x 45mm piston
|Disc, 330 x 25 discs, 1 x 45mm piston
|255/40/19 tyres, 19×9 wheels
|255/40/19, 19×9 wheels
|255/40/19 tyres, 19×9 wheels
|275/40/19, 19×9.5 wheels
|Top speed (km/h)
|Fuel tank size (L)
|Fuel consumption (2)
|4784 / 1956 (mirrors in), 2080 (mirrors out)
|Track front/rear (mm)
|Rear headroom (mm)
|Rear legroom (mm)
|Cargo volume (l)
‘Over the top’ Racing Stripes*
$650 / $845 (GT Convertible)
Black Painted Roof
19” Premium Wheel with Luster Nickel Finish
(1) Price excludes onroad costs
(2) Fuel consumption set using 95RON fuel
- The Mustang is not rated for towing.
- Prices have increased by $1000 for the EcoBoost and $2500 for the V8s since Ford’s initial announcement, so those that got in early should be smiling.
- *Ford’s policy is not to disclose 0-100 times or top speeds for Australian models so we have used the European data.
The Mustang has all the basics such as stability control but no advanced safety aids like lane departure warning or AEB. There is no ANCAP rating as yet, but there is a 5-star NHTSA (USA) rating for the coupe, with the convertible untested. There are two ISOFIX child restraints.
There is a MyKey system that allows an owner to disable or reduce features such as the top speed, use of driving modes other than normal, set the low fuel light to come on earlier and even limit the stereo volume to 45% of maximum. Clearly, this is aimed at parents with children who want to borrow the car.
2016 Ford Mustang V8 and EcoBoost equipment
There’s only one trim grade across all six models – the differences between EcoBoost and V8 are mechanical, and the convertibles obviously have the folding roof. Here’s what you get:
- Auto HID headlights
- Heated wingmirrors
- LED tail lamps
- Daytime running lamps (DRLs)
- Front foglamps
- Tyre pressure monitoring (TPMS)
- Rain sensing wipers
- Reversing camera
- Dual zone climate control
- Leather covered handbrake and steering wheel
- Nine-speaker sound system
- 6-way electric seats, driver and passenger
- 8″ touchscreen with SYNC2 voice control
- Track Apps – accelerometer, acceleration timer, brake performance, lap timer and V8 only – launch control
- Active anti-theft system with perimeter alarm
- Electronic locking centre console
- Emergency assistance
- ISOFIX points
- MyKey personalisation restriction system