Performance: Doing More With Less

todd-kaho-leftSome cars leave an impression that lasts a lifetime. The Ford Mustang is one of those cars for me. As a kid, I was blessed with a dad who always had something unique in the driveway, from a Morris Minor to a Triumph Herald. None were exotic or expensive, but they were fun and more than a little quirky.

So, when the first generation Mustang came out, Dad had to have one and in the summer of 1964 there was a 1964 1/2 Mustang convertible in our driveway. It was copper with a white interior and white top. Powered by a 289 V-8 and a ‘three-at-the-knee shifted manual transmission. Detroit was producing big iron at the time and this car seemed lean, efficient, and mean. Many happy hours were enjoyed in that first generation Mustang.

When Ford offered to let me drive a 2015 Mustang not long ago, I was understandably thrilled. Then I read the specs. The car would be a four-cylinder with an automatic transmission. No, really?

If you want to know how far the automotive industry has advanced in the last 50 years, go drive the new 2.3-liter EcoBoost four-cylinder Mustang. For those of us of a certain vintage let me clarify, this is not a Pinto engine. This 2.3 is a beast. The first time I pushed the start button, the raspy growl made it clear that the EcoBoost means business. This engine, produces 310 horsepower and 320 lb-ft torque. At just 137.5 cubic inches it’s less than half the displacement of Dad’s 289 V-8.

For perspective, consider that this new four-cylinder also makes more horsepower than the 2005 Mustang GT 4.6-liter V-8 of just 10 years ago. EcoBoost uses smaller, more efficient engine designs aided by turbocharging to do more with less. It’s not a new idea, but Ford has been refining it for years with impressive results. The 2.3 Mustang engine uses a twin-scroll turbo with split exhaust runners to feed immediate boost. It produces low-end power more like a V-6 or V-8 than a four, delivering a very satisfying driving experience.

2015 Mustang Media Drive in L.A.I’ve always preferred manual transmissions, but the six-speed auto in the Mustang was quite nice. It can be manually shifted with paddle controls on the steering wheel for more control and fun.

The best part about this whole equation is that the EcoBoost engine is lighter than V-6 and V-8 counterparts. That makes all vehicle dynamics simply work better. Everything from acceleration to handling and braking are improved. The car literally feels lighter and is more nimble, which makes it a joy to drive.

Now for the ‘green’ part. The EcoBoost Mustang has an EPA highway fuel economy rating of 32 mpg. This car is quick and will spring from 0-60 mph is 5.6 seconds. But we also decided to push it in the other direction and see how it would do in economy cruise mode. At legal speeds, mid-to upper 30 mpg averages are easily obtainable. You can use this car as a daily commuter and not break the bank.

It’s an interesting and compelling contrast to look back 50 years to the first Mustang, and even 10 years to the last generation Mustang. But what I love most is that this iconic car still has swagger and will stir emotions. I’ll take that over an automotive appliance any day.