Ford Mustang 5.0 V8 Mach 1 2dr Auto
There is a distinct difference between the two Mustang body styles, the Fastback coupe and convertible, in how they drive. Technically, there are no major suspension differences between open or closed versions, just some tweaks to take account of the different weights and different tyres depending on the engine under the bonnet (Michelins for the V8, Pirellis for the EcoBoost).
We started with a 5.0 V8 convertible and, easing it through early morning traffic towards mountain roads, two things were immediately apparent. One, the new ten-speed auto, while not quite as smooth as some of the best rival units, is still very impressive, and has no trouble juggling its multiples of ratios. Two, the Mustang’s V8 isn’t lazy — in fact, you need to rev it high, hard and loud to get the best from it, so you’d better move away from populated areas with single-glazed windows or you’re going to get in trouble.
Once the road gets interesting, the Mustang conforms to all our Yank-Tank prejudices. Thanks to the loss of the roof, the convertible wobbles and shakes quite a bit, often right in the middle of a quickly taken corner. It never feels like it’s going to snap or bite you, but this is a big, soft, American car that’s out of its depth on European roads. Even the Magneride dampers, which can read the road and adjust their stiffness 1,000 times a second, don’t seem to help much.
The V8 is both hero and villain here. It sounds unutterably wonderful and goes like the clappers once you build the revs beyond 2,500rpm, but it’s a hefty donkey of an engine to have stuck out over the front wheels when you’ve got tight corners to deal with.
The 2.3-litre EcoBoost engine has mysteriously lost around 20bhp from the last generation, now recording an official 286bhp. Ford says that the number is to do with retesting the car for WLTP purposes (the new fuel economy test standard), plus the addition of a particulate trap for the exhaust, but it records the same performance figures as before. Odd.
It’s also around 90kg lighter than the V8 model. Plus, the Fastback body is stiffer than the convertible’s and, suddenly, the Mustang feels more precise, more poised. The EcoBoost engine is always going to be a let-down after the V8, but it’s still a very rapid machine, capable of covering ground at a serious lick. And if you hadn’t just stepped out of the V8, it would sound just fine. So, the choice seems to be V8 convertible for posing, EcoBoost Fastback for driving.
What about a V8 Coupe, then? Certainly, it feels far more precise than the convertible, but you’re still dealing with the extra weight in the nose, so it comes down to a choice between power and precision. Get the V8 if you want the noise and serious forward thrust. Get the EcoBoost if tight and twisty roads form your daily commute.
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