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AMERICAN FORK — Engine size matters less in the automotive world today than it ever has. Manufacturers are pumping out more power, with better gas mileage, thanks to smaller turbo and supercharged engines.
This fact won't stop purists from denouncing a 2.3-liter turbo-four powered Ford Mustang, despite the fact that it puts out an impressive 310 horsepower and 350 foot-pounds of torque.
According to Zach Madsen, fleet manager for Ken Garff Ford in American Fork, skepticism about the new powerplant runs high.
"I had my doubts about the four-cylinder EcoBoost, same as most people, but I was surprised by the performance. The car is just flat out fun to drive," Madsen said.
The 2019 Mustang EcoBoost is available with a six-speed manual transmission and a new 10-speed automatic, making it even more fun to drive. I wasn't sure whether a turbo-four could move the big pony car in a way that would thrill.
The interior is the best yet, and hearkens to Mustangs of the past. Toggle switches and gauges pay homage to the P-51 fighter plane, for which the car was originally named.
There are still some subpar hard plastics that disappoint, and fake metal parts that could be made from actual metal without adding substantial weight. But overall, the interior looks good and is well laid out.
The biggest surprise for me? I loved the cloth seats — both for support in the corners and comfort in the cold and heat. Leather may just be overrated.
The exterior styling is very similar to its GT big brother, and only those in the know could spot the difference at a glance. The Mustang is an aggressive and attractive package.
The views from the cabin are stellar; and the hood is long, low and aggressive, while the rear fenders flare prominently. Even the fastback rear deck is a throwback to the past.
Ford's Sync 3 infotainment system is a good one, especially the stock stereo system. Sync 3 is easy to use and includes Apple Car Play, Android Auto and Sirius XM Radio. The system does lag at times, and I had to use Android Auto to force the system to recognize phone apps that should have been recognized automatically.
As far as handling goes, modern Mustangs do it better than ever, thanks to independent rear suspensions and limited slip differentials. The Mustang makes an easy transition from GT cruiser to canyon carver. The optional Performance Pack brake and suspension package makes the Mustang more track-capable than ever.
Overall, the Mustang is beautifully styled, but the retro feel of some of the design elements miss more than others. The analog guages are perfect for a car like this, but the font on the guages is plain and uninspiring. The toggle switches for steering and driving modes, along with the hazard lights, is made of a chrome-looking plastic that isn't worthy of the aircraft-inspired look Ford was going for.
The electrically assisted steering means more power goes to the rear wheels compared to a hydraulic setup, but the steering feel is light and unresponsive unless the driver is in sport plus mode and beyond. The steering mode can be set separately from the drive mode, however, which is handy for long freeway drives.
The six-speed manual transmission is laid out well and offers short throws. However, third gear, in particular, is clunky — especially when the transmission is cold. A huge shout out to any manufacturer still offering a manual tranny, but this one doesn't always inspire confidence.
Mustang is a better daily driver than its main competitor: the Chevrolet Camaro. Visibility is excellent, and is enhanced by built-in blind spot sections in the rearview mirrors. The cockpit is also roomier and less restrictive than the Chevy's, yet very supportive and sporty.
While trunk space isn't always a priority for sport and muscle car drivers, the Mustang's trunk opening is much more user friendly than the Camaro's (which can be a puzzle to solve).
The trick in evaluating the EcoBoost Mustang objectively is to not compare it to V-8 powered Mustangs. This is difficult to do when the familiar roar of a Mustang V-8 engine and exhaust is sadly absent at the startup.
Compared to other four-cylinder competitors, the Mustang sounds great, though Ford did include piped-in engine noise via an underdash speaker. To Ford's credit, however, they are real engine sounds and not a fake soundtrack.
The Ecoboost accelerates well and performs better than any competitor in its price range. Unfortunately, the power band taps out long before the nearly 7,000 rpm redline. Ford claims the manual-equipped EcoBoost is capable of just under 5 second zero-to-60 runs.
Ford has also left plenty of meat on the bone of the four banger, and the engine is mod and tuner friendly. Ford Performance offers a warranty-friendly tune that fills out the gaps in the power band and adds healthy doses of peak torque and horsepower, for as little as $600 installed.
Ultimately, there is a lot to love about the EcoBoost when compared to turbo-four competitors. I can't think of a sports car — yes, modern Mustangs are sports cars — in this price range that offers a better combo of performance, iconic styling and daily driving.
With a few inexpensive add-ons, the Ecoboost is only made better. No amount of add-ons, however, will make it sound like a V-8.
Vehicle type: front engine, rear-wheel drive, fastback, 2+2 coupe
Engine: turbocharged and intercooled 2.3-liter four-cylinder, 16-valve inline
Transmission: six-speed manual or optional 10-speed automatic
Power: 310 horsepower and 350 foot-pounds of torque
Wheelbase: 107.1 inches
Performance: 5 seconds zero-to-60 mph; standing quarter mile 13.4 seconds at 107 mph
EPA fuel economy: combined/city/highway 27/24/34 miles per gallon
Price as tested: $29,835