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Test driving the new Ford Mustang Ecoboost

Horsepower and muscle seem like relative terms till you drive a Ford Mustang

Muscle cars are a touchy topic. While some swear by them, others dismiss them as heavy vehicles disguised as cars which change direction as easily as getting that horse to drink water. While that may have been true in the early years, what with petrol and drag races going hand-in-hand, things have now changed.

 

The latest Mustang is different, and new. It has a more aggressive design, new engines and even an all-new suspension. The big, intimidating front grille, the bulges on the bonnet and the muscular profile make this reminiscent of the classic fastback, but appear more modern at the same time. The striking Mustang logo, and not the blue oval, graces the grille.

The inside gets a makeover with a chunky steering wheel, again with the stripes and logo adorning it. The information console doles out the required numbers on good ol' analogue meters. Since this was the automatic version, I had paddle-shifters behind the steering wheel, which control the six speeds that funnel the power to the rear.

Now, I realise that a four-cylinder muscle-car might seem like a scene out of a cartoon where they blow into one hand and the fist grows bigger — there's just one bank of four cylinders when you'd expect two — but the technology going into it ensures you get your money's worth of power. The 2,300-cc in-line four uses direct injection and turbocharging to deliver old-school V8 like output figures: 314 PS and 434 Nm, but with lower emissions; rated CO2 is just 179 g/km. Brilliant! Time to get a move on, then.

The cabin is rather inviting. Pics/ Courtesy Ford
The cabin is rather inviting. Pics/ Courtesy Ford 

One of the greatest banes of muscle-cars was their handling. True, they rocketed forward in a straight line, but when there was a turn to make, they rocketed right past it too, usually with unsavoury results. Thus, when the new Mustang was closing in on its launch, there was a spanner in the works. Yes, the handling could have been better, they said. And, thus, began the reworking of the suspension system with just about 700 days to go to the global reveal.

The makers were on a tight deadline when it came to unveiling the car, and, in those few hundred days, it was completely reincarnated. Gone was the archaic rear suspension and in came the new independent rear suspension. The potential of the car went up so dramatically that the under-performing front suspension went on to be replaced in favour of an independent MacPherson Strut with a stabiliser bar. Let's also not forget the electric power steering. How did all of these changes benefit the car? Well, there's nothing like a tight and winding track in the heart of Germany to try it out.

Ford is using its award-winning EcoBoost technology to power the new Mustang
Ford is using its award-winning EcoBoost technology to power the new Mustang 

The Mustang growled as the new EcoBoost engine came to life. It sure looked mean, and now, it sounded mean. I was hoping it wasn't going to be mean to me as I set off. Turning right to enter the track, I stepped on the throttle and the motor whirred and whistled as the needle climbed; the power was evident. It did feel quite heavy, and there was a bit of body-roll, but the suspension was working hard and the car held its line, staying taut and reassuring. I floored it again on the back straight, going past the ton in a jiff.

Braking hard into the left-hander again, with a part-throttle exit, I gunned it on the approach to the main straight. The Mustang stayed composed and I was really beginning to enjoy the harmony of the whole package — engine roar and tyre squeal with the whistle being the icing on the cake.

 

Hard on the brakes for the '30 zone and the Mustang shed speed quickly. There are 320-mm ventilated discs all-round as standard, but the optional 'Performance Package' replaces those with a pair of 352s at the front and 330s at the rear. More bite is always a good thing, especially for this 1.6-tonne horse. There was no way to test the fuel economy, but the dial display didn't drop all that rapidly, so the claimed overall figure of 10 km/l seems reasonable.

The Mustang EcoBoost is now available in right-hand-drive in the UK, as is the Mustang GT, with the big V8. Fingers crossed. We're hoping the both of them make it here. If wishes were horses, we'd sure have a lot of horsepower.

Who wants a V8?
The EcoBoost isn't the only Mustang we expect to see here. Staying true to its roots is the Mustang GT with a new 5.0-litre V8 making 418 PS and 524 Nm. The car has been spotted in the import list and in the testing bunker at the Automotive Research Association of India (ARAI) in Pune. We're looking at a tag of around R80 lakh. Of course, if you want the V8, and have the deep pockets to acquire and run the iconic American muscle-car, that shouldn't be a problem, should it?

Need to know
Ford Mustang Ecoboost
Engine: 2,300 cc, in-line four, turbocharged, direct injection, petrol
Max Power: 314 PS @5,500 rpm
Max Torque: 434 Nm @2,500-4,500 rpm
Transmission: Six-speed, twin-clutch automatic, RWD
Price: Rs 70 lakh (estimated, ex-showroom)

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