Driving a rear-drive, turbocharged car in the winter is usually an exercise in gentle throttle control coupled with self-restraint. And it’s tough when you lack both of those traits.
Past experiences with this kind of car tend to follow a typical pattern. Enter a turn, lift the throttle to unsettle the rear of the car, get back on the gas. Wait, wait, wait for the turbo to spool up (if you’re in something like a Volvo 700 or 900-Series wagon) and then *BAM*, get hit with a fist-full of boost. No wonder Gordon Murray always championed the naturally aspirated engine.
But it looks like things have changed.
This week, we’ve got a brand new 2015 Ford Mustang Ecoboost, in the exact same spec as the one pictured above. A spell of crappy weather and a lack of plowed side streets has let me explore the dynamics of a boosted RWD car without really trying. The 2.3L turbocharged four-cylinder is impossibly smooth. Too smooth in fact. There’s virtually zero perceptible turbo lag. Like most small-displacement four-cylinder turbo motors, it pulls strongly through the low end of the rev range, but runs out of breath towards the top. It feels quick, but not that quick, even though it would probably show its tail lights to a Mod Motor SN95. To me at least, it doesn’t really feel like a Mustang.
What it does feel like is the best Audi A5, BMW 228i, 428i, Hyundai Genesis Coupe, Nissan 370Z or 240SX you’ve ever driven. The seating position and sightlines no longer feel like the “large and in charge” Mustangs of yesterday, where you’re sitting bolt upright over a big, blocky hood, grasping a bent shifter and a yacht-like steering wheel.
The chassis is tighter than a yoga instructor’s glutes, the ride is *too* firm, the Brembo brakes are brilliant and the electric steering’s got plenty of feedback and feel even in “normal” mode. But when you mash the throttle, it sounds like a Focus SE. The automatic transmission in our car may be hampering some of the performance, but even sound clips where the car has an upgraded exhaust still sound…off. Like hearing Radu Marian sing an aria when you’re expecting a tenor. I’m sure that with the new Ford Racing ProCal and an uncorked exhaust system, this thing will be an absolute riot on the street at a significant discount to the five-point-oh.
But that’s not good enough for me. If I’m buying a pony car, I want the full pony car experience, and that means 8 cylinders of unholy torque and the soundtrack to match. As petty and vain as it may be, I would never be happy not having the “5.0” badge, the NASCAR soundtrack and not having to explain to everyone that “it’s a 4-cylinder, but it’s actually lighter and better balanced and Immakingexcusesfornotgettingthebigboymustang”.
Well, not quite. If I lived in Calgary or Denver or somewhere at altitude, I could see how a tuned-up Ecoboost would be a hell of a car on a brisk drive through the mountains. When the V8 would be huffing and puffing its way up the mountain, the 2.3L would be whistling a sweet turbo tune. A barely audible one at that.
The Speedhunters blog recently compared the Mustang EB to the never-produced S16 version of the Nissan Silvia, one of Japan’s most iconic cars. I’d have to agree. It’s got all the right elements to the successor to one of the best sport compacts of all time. The only problem is, it’s a pony car.