The handling is the saving grace for this open-top pony car.
The Ford Mustang, a household name in North America, created a bit of controversy when the 3.7-litre V6 base engine was dropped, and Ford began the four-cylinder EcoBoost engine became the new entry-level model. Ford Mustang V6s have been mocked for not having the traditional V8 engine, and Mustang EcoBoost owners have had to endure criticism ever since the car was launched in 2015. A quick look at the online Mustang forums will show you how little love this turbocharged pony car receives (largely by those who have never driven one).
On paper, the Mustang EcoBoost looks like it can be a respectable sports car. The 2.3-litre turbocharged four-cylinder produces 310 horsepower at 5,500RPM and 350 lb-ft. of torque at 3,000RPM if you put in 93-grade octane fuel. My theory is that the Mustang EcoBoost could be a good choice for people who are looking for a good looking sports car for the daily commute with no plans to hit the racetrack or a drag strip, and they would especially enjoy it in convertible form.
To prove my theory, we borrowed a 2018 Ford Mustang EcoBoost Convertible for a week. I was delighted to see it painted in a vivid Triple Yellow Tri-Coat, which is easily one of the most iconic colours for a Mustang Convertible. The design of the sixth-generation Mustang Convertible is brilliant. It is unmistakable as classic Mustangs were; yet it manages to look modern and not at all outdated.
Its edgy bodylines, athletic stance, and functional hood vents scream muscle car. I especially love the look and proportions of the Mustang in an open-top form. The American convertible does not remind onlookers that it was originally designed as a coupe; it looks well proportioned and just grabs positive attention everywhere it goes.
When it comes to any Mustangs equipped with the EcoBoost engine, the elephant in the room is always how the engine performs and whether any of its muscle car spirits can be felt. Unfortunately, I found the 2.3L EcoBoost engine to be a bit of a disappointment during our test week. The turbocharged engine felt choppy throughout the rev range, with loads of torque arriving almost instantly when you hit the throttle, followed by a drop-off in power between 3,000 and 5,000RPM before surging again to its 6,500RPM redline.
What makes matters worse is the 10-speed automatic gearbox that it was paired with. The gearbox has a tendency to hunt for the highest gear, making for a jerky ride when you want to catch up in traffic requiring many downshifts before settling in for one. My personal choice would be to opt for the six-speed manual transmission, allowing the driver to row for a smoother drive at city speeds. On the highway, the 10-speed is just fine, eagerly downshifting for passes and behaving smoothly.
The main reason auto manufacturers have moved towards boosted four-cylinder engines and transmissions with more gears is in order to achieve better fuel consumption. Surprisingly, the Mustang averaged 11.8L/100km over our weekly commute. This figure matches with Ford Canada’s estimate in the city. On the highway however, this car is easily able to achieve the 8.2L/100km estimate, and we observed it actually slightly bettering this number.
Although the Mustang EcoBoost Convertible’s power and fuel consumption were disappointing, it is far from a poor choice. The handling is the saving grace for this open-top pony car. The front double-ball-joint MacPherson strut and rear integral-link independent suspension does a great job directing the car into and out of corners. My test car’s handling was enhanced by the optional EcoBoost Performance Package, which includes at 3.55 TORSEN Limited-Slip Rear Axle, 19” gloss black wheels with summer tires, along with many other goodies.
Our tester was also equipped with the optional MagneRide Damping System, which allows for 1,000 responses per second per damper to adjust to changing road conditions. The electric power-assisted steering is precise and offers some road feel. Steering weight can be adjusted through various driving modes, and the best part is that it can also be individually adjusted using a toggle switch right in front of the shifter.
The four-piston front brakes are excellent as well, providing consistent and assuring feel. The Mustang has come a long way to shred its straight line-only image, and the handling of the current generation is on par, if not better than many sports cars in the same price range. Competitors that immediately come to mind include the Chevrolet Camaro, Nissan 370Z Roadster (reviewed here) and to some degree, the Dodge Challenger.
Interior comfort is another area that the Mustang shines. The heated and cooled leather front seats are comfortable even for long journeys. My tester was equipped with standard SYNC 3 infotainment system, with Apple CarPlay and Android Auto. The driving position is superb with great visibility even when the top is up. The Mustang is now available with the Safe & Smart Package, which includes adaptive cruise control, auto high beams, lane-keeping alert, pre-collision assist with pedestrian detection, and rain-sensing windshield wipers.
Pricing of the base 2018 Ford Mustang EcoBoost Convertible starts at $31,994. Our test car was the Premium, which starts at $43,699. On top of this, factor in $1,500 for the 10-speed automatic transmission, $3,000 for the EcoBoost Performance Package, $2,000 for the MagneRide Damping system, $1,500 for the Ford Safe & Smart Package; bringing the as-tested total to $51,699.
The 2018 Ford Mustang EcoBoost Convertible represents an interesting choice for shoppers who are looking for a handsome cruiser. The engine is not perfect, but the experience driving around town with the top down on a beautiful summer day would make the cost of entry worth it for many. Those who would prefer a more traditional muscle car experience can just look across the lot and pick the Ford Mustang GT (reviewed here) with the V8 engine. You will not regret it – the GT is one of the best muscle cars on the market today.