Review: The Mustang Fastback is still a blast to drive

This Mustang is about more than the roar.

ARE LOOKS DECEIVING? You’d expect this Mustang to growl; instead it gets the job done quietly.
ARE LOOKS DECEIVING? You’d expect this Mustang to growl; instead it gets the job done quietly. –Bill Griffith

English can be a confusing language with many words having multiple meanings.

Naturally, that leads to all sorts of fun for those of us who like to make puns.

So here’s some wordplay we’ll use in discussing today’s test car, a 2016 Ford Mustang fastback coupe.

If I were choosing a Mustang these days, there would be a significant amount of consideration between making a sound buying decision and a sound decision in the audio sense of the word.

There also would be the realization—with apologies to the vegetable juice maker—that “Wow! I could have had a V-8.”

Advertisement

OK, some explaining.

Today’s test car is the EcoBoost Premium trim level, just a notch below the top level GT trims.

It’s powered with the optional 2.3-liter, 4-cylinder EcoBoost (turbo) engine. Ours also had a 6-speed manual transmission.

The EcoBoost engine is a step up from the to-be-discontinued-in-2018 base V-6, but the MSRP still starts well below the starting $33,195 for a V-8 powered GT.

Our test vehicle was the premium trim level, which brought the MSRP to $30,200 (with destination). Another $7,340 of options brought the bottom line to $37,540.

Those options included:

  • A $1795 basic equipment group with a Shaker pro audio system; 3 memory settings for the driver’s seat, mirrors, and ambient lighting; and blind spot information with cross-traffic alert.
  • EcoBoost performance package ($1,995). This adds a 3.55 limited-slip rear axle; 19-inch ebony wheels; aluminum-trimmed instrument panel with high-mounted oil pressure and turbo boost gauges; heavy duty front springs and brakes; larger radiator; tighter chassis tuning with a larger rear sway bar; and different steering, ABS, and stability control tuning.
  • Adaptive cruise control ($1,195).
  • Over the Top racing stripes ($475)
  • Premier trim ($395)
  • Reverse park assist ($295)
  • Voice-activated navigation ($795)

About the only thing missing is the unmistakable sound of a 5.0-liter, 435-horsepower Mustang V-8.

So, while buying the EcoBoost version could be a sound decision from an overall performance and economy perspective, it would also be a sound (audio type) decision to go for the V-8.

The folks at Ford obviously realize this because they recently announced the 2018 Mustang V-8s will have an active exhaust valve control so drivers can choose just how much of that iconic Mustang sound to unleash.

The valve is an option the EcoBoost version could use—or at least give the owner the option for some piped-in engine noise. Despite its twin exhaust outlets, our Mustang was plenty quiet. That was good for interior conversation and hearing both the radio and phone calls through the entertainment system.

Advertisement

We got to drive the Mustang in Florida where Mustangs—and Mustang convertibles—are as common as all-wheel-drive Subarus back in New England.

Even running silently, our Competition Orange fastback got lots of attention, especially with its combination of ebony wheels and the Over the Top black racing stripes that fade back to body color at the front of the hood and back lip of the trunk lid.

The Mustang still is going strong in its 52nd year.

UPSCALE AND NOSTALGIC: Our Mustang’s interior was filled with styling cues from its predecessors, but the technology is up-to-date. —Bill Griffith

The lack of a V-8 isn’t a big drawback once you get used to the EcoBoost engine’s abilities. Two switches at the bottom of the center stack have a lot to say about how this Mustang handles.

One of the switches controls steering. Select Sport, as opposed to Normal or Comfort, and the steering, thanks to an electronically assisted setup, tightens up noticeably.

The other switch controls engine mode. Selections are Normal, Sport+, Track, and snow/ice.

Normal is very much an economy mode, leaving the Mustang as a Prius-like performer.

Switch to Sport+ and things change significantly. Suddenly you’re driving a real Mustang.

Going to Track turns performance up a bit more, and also turns off traction control.

The EcoBoost version is EPA rated at 22 miles per gallon in city driving, 31 on the highway, and 25 combined. It speaks to how we drove the car that we averaged just 23.6 mpg.

Mrs. G always has been a fan of Mustangs but particularly liked this one for its striking exterior looks and upscale interior.

Advertisement

“A lot of sporty cars are low and hard to get in and out of,” she says. “Not the Mustang. The door opens wide and there’s plenty of legroom.”

That legroom, however, doesn’t extend to the rear seat.

Even though the Mustang technically is a four-passenger car, about the only person who would fit back there would be an infant in a car seat. However, those rear seats do fold flat to expand the already adequate trunk space.

A neighbor who works in real estate was eyeballing our fastback and concluded that he could fit both golf clubs and real estate accoutrements such as Open House signs inside.

Usually, I make it a point to get in the back seat to check legroom. That wasn’t even worth trying in this case, but I did crawl back for another reason.

New cars’ windows tend to get a hazy film on their inner surface.  Our test vehicle fell into that category. So I moved the driver’s seat all the way forward, then tilted the seatback all the way forward and made an all-out attempt to clean said window.

It wasn’t easy because it’s all but impossible to get a cloth into the tight angle where that rear glass meets the rear shelf. But the cleaning effort was nothing compared to trying to get turned around and then to extricate myself. You can sort of fall back in there; climbing and squeezing out is a bit more difficult.

All of which means it’s a sound idea to enjoy the driver’s seat.

2016 Ford Mustang 2.3 EcoBoost Fastback

THE BASICS

Price, base/as tested (with destination): $30,200 / $37,540. Fuel economy, EPA estimated: 22 city/31 highway/25 combined. Fuel economy, Globe observed: 23.6 mpg. Drivetrain: 2.3-liter EcoBoost 4-cylinder, 6-speed manual transmission, rear-wheel-drive. Body: 4-passenger fastback coupe. 

THE SPECIFICS

Horsepower: 310. Torque: 320 lb.-ft. Overall length: 188.3 in. Wheelbase: 107.1 in. Height: 54.4 in. Width: 75.4 in. Curb weight: 3,532 lbs.

THE GOOD

Refined overall package with interesting and engaging EcoBoost engine and smooth manual transmission; good quality interior and user-friendly electronics.

THE BAD

Cramped rear seat, missing the distinctive Mustang sound.

THE BOTTOM LINE

Many people yearn to drive a classic Mustang. Here’s one with the looks and a modern-day driving experience.

ALSO CONSIDER

Chevrolet Camaro, Dodge Challenger.

Bill Griffith can be reached at wgriff@gmail.com. Follow him on Twitter @MrAutoWriter.