Driven: 2018 Ford Mustang EcoBoost

Written by: 
Justin Kaehler
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It’s got one turbo, four cylinders and ten speeds. Yes, it’s an automatic Mustang, and it may very well be the last-ever car Ford will sell to you.

Hyperbolic opener aside, it’s no secret that Ford is killing its entire passenger car lineup – save for the Mustang – to focus entirely on trucks, crossovers and SUVs. And as car makers are striving for efficiencies – both in terms of MPG/MPGe and in manufacturing costs – killing “old” technologies like V8s and manual transmissions can do a lot to help a company improve its bottom line. Like it or not, turbocharging and automatics are the future of the internal combustion engine, so it kinda makes sense for the Mustang to get on board.

It’s no secret that Ford’s replacement for displacement is turbocharging, using “small” EcoBoost engines to power everything from the Raptor to its Ford GT. So it’s no surprise that the Mustang EcoBoost’s 2.3-liter turbo four is pretty awesome right out of the box. In stock form, it puts 310-hp and 350 lb-ft of torque under your right foot. And as for that 10-speed automatic transmission, well, it’s simply faster than the manual – and more efficient, too.

What’s more, it’s a highly tunable package, with simple mods producing significant power gains. The hotboi crowd has already embraced the car, meaning that it can easily be outfitted to be more like an old D1GP Silvia than a boomer’s fantasy. And as for the rest of the car, it’s a Mustang, so you can count on aftermarket support to continue until long after the eventual heat death of the universe.

But we’re not driving a tuned version – our Mustang EcoBoost tester is bone stock. But it does have the EcoBoost Performance Package which, well, does add quite a bit of tuner-inspired goodness. This package includes a 3.55 Torsen limited-slip rear axle, 19-inch wheels wrapped in summer rubber, heavier front springs, larger front brake rotors with four-piston calipers, unique chassis and electronic nanny tuning, and a larger rear sway bar. It also gives you oil and boost gauges, an aluminum instrument panel, and a unique rear wing. In addition, our tester is equipped with the optional MagneRide system, which automatically makes 1,000 adjustments per second per damper so as to optimize handling.

Add in all the other niceties – like the leather seating, touch-screen nav system and more – and you get a four-cylinder Mustang that clocks in at just a hair under $40,000. So yeah… with a sticker that high, buying those hotboi parts will have to wait. Thankfully, the car is a solid drive as-is.

Ford’s engineers understand that people buy a Mustang expecting a certain savagery to the drive; Mustang drivers want a car that feels wild, brutal and free. Fiddling with the buttons to put the car into Track or Race mode does this and then some; with the computer holding onto lower gears for what feels like too long a time, with a distinct and violent slam accompanying each and every upshift. It’s fun, it’s visceral, and it’s everything everyone wants from a muscle car. And it’s a bit of a pain in the ass to use when driving on the street.

Good thing this turbo Mustang also has a “regular” sport mode, which honestly is the only mode you need. It provides the right balance of sharpened throttle response, weightier steering that doesn’t feel too artificially heavy, and “just right” gearshifts that make it perfect for cruising to Starbucks or taking on your local touge. Sure, you can also put the car in manual mode, but with 10 gears to try and cycle through, playing with the paddles becomes more frustrating than fun. We prefer to just set it, forget it, and focus on the drive.

Inside things are clean and functional. Its fully digital gauge pod configures on the fly to match your drive mode; the Sync infotainment system features Apple CarPlay and is overall pretty easy to use, and the inclusion of buttons, knobs and toggle switches means we don’t have to dive through a ton of menus just to turn on the defroster. We’d like to see our car’s interior feel more like it’s worthy of its $40,000 sticker vs. the $26k starting price, but that’s just us.

Overall, the Ford Mustang EcoBoost Fastback is one awesome ride, and would serve as a fitting swan song to Ford’s lineup of passenger cars. That said, we’re thankful that the manual V8 versions still exist – for now, anyway. With Ford itself teasing an electric Mustang-inspired SUV, who knows what will happen to the badge? Better buy a real pony car now before they go extinct.