by Gerhard Horn
A large part of the Ford Mustang's appeal is muscle car performance and iconic looks at an affordable price. Traditionally, this meant a V8 engine like the 4.6-liter mule used in the previous-generation car. It was a terrible engine with outputs a modern-day entry-level hot hatch would laugh at, but it had the V8 growl, and that's all that mattered.
To achieve the same affordability levels in the current Mustang, Ford had to resort to engine sharing. It needed an engine that was already developed and in production that could easily slot into the Mustang's front. Such an engine existed, but it was *pause for dramatic effect* a turbocharged four-cylinder. Now, pick grandma up off the floor, and let's continue this road test.
Most of us want a GT or Bullitt, but the budget only allows for four-cylinders. Considering the 2.3-liter EcoBoost engine delivers 310 horsepower in the base model, that's not necessarily a bad thing. The previous 4.6-liter V8 could only dream of those figures.
The truth is, even with a four-cylinder engine, the Mustang Coupe is better than ever before and can easily grapple with the Chevrolet Camaro.
The big news is the return of the Mach 1, which we review separately. As for the more sedate models, Ford is making Co-Pilot 360 standard across the entire range. This package consists of auto high-beam headlights, a rearview camera, blind-spot monitoring, lane-keep assist, pre-collision assist, auto emergency braking with pedestrian detection, and dynamic brake support.
See trim levels and configurations:
It's important to remember that the Mustang is a sports car first and foremost, so in this department, it truly shines. It now famously has independent suspension at every wheel, front and rear roll bars, and a steering rack that's both quick and provides loads of feedback. You can further enhance the experience by adding the Handling Package ($1,995), which comes with Pirelli Corsa tires, a Torsen limited-slip differential, magnetic damping, and premium brakes. The High-Performance package also adds heavy-duty front springs, larger brakes and radiator, and unique tuning for the ABS and stability control. This Package is only available on the Fastback Premium.
The Mustang offers a compliant, controlled, and confidence-inspiring ride. In fact, we actually prefer the ride and handling of the four-pot with the above options included over the standard V8 GT. It might not provide an awe-inspiring soundtrack, but you can feel the weight saving when you push the EcoBoost Mustang through a series of corners. The four-pot engine weighs 200 lbs less than the V8, making it less prone to understeer. The four-cylinder Mustang also feels more nimble and agile.
If you spend a lot of time at the track, we urge you to drive both models back-to-back. You'd be surprised at how better suited the basic four-cylinder is to track duty.
No doubt. This American icon remains a good car, even when equipped with a turbocharged four-cylinder engine. You most likely clicked on this review hoping that we'd confirm your suspicions that a four-pot Mustang is a perfectly reasonable choice, and we can confirm. The only thing you're losing out on is the V8 soundtrack. Granted, an angry noise plays a significant role in performance, but we think the light-footed handling and improved fuel consumption are a worthy trade.
The Mustang ticks all the right boxes associated with a decent daily car. It's comfortable, well-equipped, fun to drive, and much safer than before. The only thing that counts against it is a lack of rear space, but we're willing to bet you weren't interested in that anyway.
Ford's EcoBoost Mustang can wear that famous logo on its steering wheel with pride.
Chevrolet followed the same recipe with the Camaro as Ford did with the Mustang by fitting the base model with a turbocharged four-cylinder engine. However, in the Camaro, you only get 275 hp. Still, the Chevy is excellent in the handling department, making the most of the available horses.
The Camaro is just as impractical as the Ford, though it comes with more comfort and convenience features as standard. Ford hits back hard by offering a comprehensive safety suite as standard. If rumors are to be believed, the Camaro will be declared dead in 2023. With that in mind, we'd rather spend our money on the Mustang.
With a name like Challenger, you'd expect the Dodge to be a worthy adversary. And on paper, it seems to be a better car. You get a semi-decent 3.6-liter V6 engine, which should at least prove to be more characterful than the turbocharged four-cylinder. Alas, the Ford comfortably beats the Dodge, even without the High-Performance Package. The two cars have similar power outputs, but the older naturally aspirated Chevy engine just can't keep up with a new turbocharged engine.
The Dodge is bigger and, therefore, more practical, but that hardly matters in this segment. It does come with more creature comforts as standard, though. As a daily car, the Dodge is perhaps a better buy, but the Ford has a way of turning every trip into an event, and surely that's the purpose of owning a car like this?
The most popular competitors of 2021 Ford Mustang Coupe: