Automotive fanatics are sure to tell you that the only sort of engine that belongs under the hood of a performance car like the Ford Mustang is a traditional V8. According to them, anything less is simply unacceptable.
But in the 21st century, efficiency and responsibility matter more than ever. Gasoline isn’t getting any cheaper plus environmental concerns are top of mind as industry, governments, and private citizens alike work to use natural resources more responsibly.
And if those reasons weren’t enough, not everyone needs the awe-inspiring power dished out by a V8, nor do they want to spend more money up front or on insurance. Responding to this situation, Ford chose to offer an efficient EcoBoost four-banger in the S550 Mustang when it launched several years ago, giving customers an engine option that’s still plenty capable but more in step with modern times.
Sacrilegious or Shrewd?
Despite an acute lack of cylinders, Dearborn’s 2.3-liter turbo is well behaved and surprisingly robust, rated at 310 horsepower and 320 pound-feet of twist. Further improving performance, it’s been bolstered for model-year 2018, with torque output swelling to 350.
It goes without saying, or, as the case may be here, reading, that EcoBoost powerplant is not as stirring as what’s found between the front fenders of GT models, but it’s still pleasant enough you won’t feel like you cheaped-out and bought some cut-rate generic brand.
For those who went the sensible route and acquired a four-cylinder Mustang, you needn’t leave it the way it came from the factory. The go-fast goons at Ford Performance offer a passel of aftermarket parts that enhance this model’s look, feel and expedite its already respectable acceleration.
Even though an updated 2018 version has already launched, the folks in Dearborn were looking to highlight the aftermarket goodies available for their venerable pony car. To this end, they dressed up a ’17 model-year coupe with a range of components with the goal of taking an already good machine and making it even better.
To highlight what’s available in the vast Ford Performance parts catalog, which includes a huge range of items from crankshafts and wheels to overhaul kits and turnkey engines, the Mustang reviewed here was gussied up with nearly $4,600 (est. $5,911 CDN) in EcoBoost-specific goodies, though it’s important to note that installation is not included in that figure. Prices vary based on where you live and who’s doing the work, so make sure to factor that into your budget if you decide to upgrade your car.
Running down the list of aftermarket parts, this Mustang is equipped with things like a strut-tower brace, radiator cover and new wheel center caps. But most the most important changes are functional, including a $1,520 (est. $1,953 CDN) track-handling suspension kit, Ford’s $1,549 (est. $1,991 CDN) cat-back exhaust system as well as a retuned engine-control computer and open-element air filter, a combo that checks out at $725 (est. $932 CDN).
If you’re curious, these components were installed on a very base Mustang, one equipped with just three options: an automatic transmission, a wheel and stripe package, as well as White Platinum paint. Out the door, it cost a very reasonable $29,680 including $900 for destination and delivery (est. $40,000 CDN).
So, what do all those upgrades get you? The tune and intake add 25 horses and 70 pound-feet of torque, bringing those totals to 335 and 390, respectively. While no performance bump is mentioned, the freer-breathing cat-back exhaust system could add a skosh to those totals as well.
Naturally, those increases are welcome, but perhaps best of all this vehicle’s three-year/36,000-mile factory warranty is unaffected by these enhancements, provided the parts are properly installed.
Also of note, these upgrades are legal in all 50 states, even California, where fun has been outlawed for decades. Also, they’re available at most Ford dealers and from many third-party distributors so getting your hands on them should be no trouble.
But focusing on this car’s upgrades, one of the first things you notice is the engine sound… it actually makes some! Stock EcoBoost Mustangs quietly grumble as they go about their business, but in comparison, every time you goose the throttle here, you’re rewarded with a burst of throaty intake rumble, though you’ll still never confuse it with proper V8 music.
Focusing on the opposite end, the freer-breathing exhaust system is also more assertive. It gives the car some bark to match its bite, all without droning annoyingly or getting tiresome on long drives. In short, it’s tastefully aggressive.
Acceleration, even when equipped with a six-speed automatic transmission, is fast. The torque in this modified Mustang starts low and hits hard, surging you ahead. No, it doesn’t have the explosive top-end pull of Ford’s 5.0-liter V8, but around town, it pulls like a diesel. During my week with the car, I even had a bit of trouble getting traction in cold weather since there’s so much twist on tap. Remember, 390 pound-feet is only 10 less than provided by a 2017 GT model.
Further enhancing performance, the gearbox’s performance has been optimized with firmer, faster-feeling shifts.
Naturally, with this package fuel economy will take a hit since the engine is making more power and you’ll undoubtedly be dipping deeper into the throttle more often, but according to the trip computerI averaged more than 21 mpg in heavy-footed driving, just three less than what the window stickersays this car should deliver.
I was pleasantly surprised by this Mustang’s overall performance, but one part of it that’s not quite as nice is the chassis. It drives remarkably well, but I just found it too stiff for use on weather-beaten Midwestern roads. There’s no need for such a starchy suspension setup unless you live on Mulholland Drive or go racing every weekend. I would have been fine with a touch more compliance, though the one-inch drop does give the car an aggressive stance.
For drivers like me, Ford also offers a street-handling suspension kit. It’s a few hundred bucks cheaper ($1,119 [est. $1,438 CDN]), lowers the car about the same amount and is a touch softer for better day-to-day livability.
The assortment of Ford Performance parts highlighted here breaths a little more excitement into Dearborn’s four-cylinder pony car. And that’s good news for owners of 2015 to 2017 EcoBoostMustangs because all these components install without issue. As for the substantially updated 2018 model that just launched, it’s unclear right now what enhancements will be offered, but stay tuned.
Feeling like a cohesive package, I’ve been pleasantly surprised by this suite of factory-backed upgrades, especially the engine recalibration kit. If you’ve got a four-cylinder Mustang, I’d recommend grabbing that tune and Ford’s cat-back exhaust system to enjoy a faster, more finessed car. Hell, these changes might even be enough to make dyed-in-the-wool gearheads think twice about getting a V8.