The previous-generation Ford Mustang, codenamed S550, was the first in more than two decades to offer a turbocharged inline-four alongside the legendary 5.0-liter V8. And while the EcoBoost 2.3-liter found its way into more than a few coastal rental fleets and raised eyebrows among the Mustang muscle crowd, it nonetheless brought a new level of nimbleness and sporty efficiency to the four-seater.
Ford isn’t interested in abandoning the momentum it gained on its base-model coupe, which is why the 2024 Mustang EcoBoost has several added technology and performance features to give it broad appeal, from autocross to Avis. Unfortunately, the six-speed manual gearbox is gone, replaced with a mandatory 10-speed automatic, so if you want to DIY, you’d better pony up (ahem) for the V8-powered GT model – stay tuned for that review tomorrow morning. But even with the slushbox, the 2024 EcoBoost is a fun and feisty iteration of the Mustang formula.
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|Quick Stats||2024 Ford Mustang EcoBoost|
|Engine||Turbocharged 2.3-Liter I4|
|Output||315 Horsepower / 350 Pound-Feet|
|Drive Type||Rear-Wheel Drive|
|Price As Tested||$48,185|
Gallery: 2024 Ford Mustang EcoBoost First Drive
Today’s EcoBoost 2.3 makes a respectable 315 horsepower – five more than last year's EB – and 350 pound-feet of torque. The new engine is built on Ford’s Modular Power Cylinder architecture that’s shared with the 1.5-liter and 2.0-liter inline-fours in the automaker’s lineup, but for Mustang duty, the mill gets a twin-scroll, low-inertia turbocharger for quicker, more efficient operation. A port- and direct-injection fuel system helps balance performance, emissions, and economy depending on the driver’s needs, as well.
In spite of those changes, I think this new engine feels and sounds similar to the one it replaces. Throttle response is a bit lazy, even when you’ve got the drive modes toggled to their most aggressive, but the exhaust is delightfully snorty once the tach starts to sweep toward the EcoBoost’s 5,500-rpm power peak. And with the paddle shifters bundled in the optional High Performance Package (HPP), the 10-speed automatic transmission obeyed my driver inputs with reasonable urgency, making it easy to drop a few gears and giddyap out of town.
Coming in at 3,588 pounds, the 2024 Mustang EcoBoost fastback is 250 pounds lighter than its GT sibling, with most of that weight coming off the front axle. That gives the four-banger some genuine verve on a tight handling circuit, such as the autocross course Ford set up at Irwindale Speedway. Steering is light and completely numb, but admittedly quick and accurate, so slicing through esses and chicanes is still an enjoyable experience. And the High Performance Pack also gets a Torsen limited-slip differential, allowing me to put all 350 pound-feet to the pavement on corner exit and rush to the next braking zone.
That LSD will be of even more value to the Mustang customer who chooses to enter drift events, where the wacky new Drift Brake feature will also come in handy. The HPP converts the regular ‘Stang’s button-operated electric parking brake into a conventional-looking handle, which does a decent imitation of a hydraulic rear brake to help initiate drifts, but requiring the driver to time brake and throttle application appropriately.
On the obligatory closed course where I sampled it, the drift brake allowed me to execute hilarious 180-degree spins worthy of a 1970s police procedural. I couldn’t quite nail the timing, but better drivers than me were able to seamlessly release the handbrake and replace it with judicious throttle to create lurid, controlled slides. Vaughn Gittin, Jr. would be proud – he helped engineer the feature, after all.
And even on public roads in less aggressive driving situations, the EcoBoost is a worthy sports coupe. Ride quality is good, whether you go for the fixed-rate dampers or the adaptive MagneRide system that can be added to the HPP. Unfortunately, I found the optional active exhaust to be quite annoying on freeway slogs, throbbing and droning under part-throttle; I wasn’t able to drive a standard exhaust to compare the two. And predictably, the convertible model I took for a spin had some additional wind noise that the hardtop is missing. An acceptable sacrifice to Sol, Tonatiuh, Ra, and Apollo for those who worship the sun.
As the cheapest model in the lineup with a starting price of $32,515, the Mustang EcoBoost will likely have a higher proportion of younger and conquest buyers. Even so, every 2024 pony car will come standard with an extensively reconfigurable 12.3-inch digital instrument cluster and similarly sized center infotainment stack. Opt for the EcoBoost Premium and the touchscreen grows to 13.2 inches and connects with the gauge display in one beveled monolith. Thanks to the Unreal gaming engine, touch response is instantaneous, and the fun graphics that appear when swapping drive modes are brilliantly and smoothly rendered.
Also standard across the Mustang lineup is Ford Co-Pilot360, with blind spot monitoring, automatic emergency braking, and lane centering tech. Drop $1,295 for Co-Pilot Assist and you’ll also get adaptive cruise control with traffic jam functionality and connected navigation, as well as evasive steering assistance. And in less practical matters, the available B&O Play audio system helps protect a tradition of bumping bass that dates back to the old Mach 460 audio in the old SN95 ‘Stang.
Dressing For Dressage
Although still clearly identifiable as a Mustang, the 2024 model has been nipped and tucked relative to its predecessor for a sharper, more modern appearance. Tri-bar LED headlights echo the taillight motif that’s been a Mustang staple since 1964, and the leading edge of the hood is lower and crisper, dovetailing into a subtle set of bodyside creases that underscore the ‘Stang’s rear-drive layout. The front bumper of the EcoBoost is handsome and unadorned – perfect for autocrossers who wanna stay under the radar – though familiarity will breed contempt as the fascia starts clogging Southern California beach cities once it hits Hertz.
Around back, the new Mustang has shorter taillights that reside underneath a cliff of a rear lip spoiler. The negative space on the pony car’s rear fascia is inspired by the sculpted rump of the 1967 fastback, and the lip casts big shadows that make the Mustang look lower and wider. There’s some Transformers-era Camaro in the sculpted rear fenders, but otherwise, the new Ford sports car looks like a modern branch of its family tree – from the outside at least.
Inside, the 2024 Mustang has a totally new design that shares little with any of its predecessors. Gone is the retro twin-cowl design that’s been a Mustang staple since 1994 (and from 1964 to 1973 before that), replaced by the new car’s tech-forward, beveled interior. A carryover center console design is the 2024 model’s only link to its predecessor. But while I bemoan the loss of tradition, I can’t deny that Ford designers have done an excellent job dressing up the new interior with some nice materials.
The door panels are soft, as is the dashboard knee pad. Meanwhile, hard plastic molded in a woven pattern appears around the door handles and across the dash, doing a great imitation of unfinished carbon fiber – a detail I loved. As far as comfort is concerned, the standard seats are okay for daily driving, though the seating position is too high. The optional Recaro buckets are a must for any enthusiast, providing both a lower hip point and incredible lateral support. The backseat is pretty inhospitable, but that’s par for the course in this class. More impressive is the coupe’s 13.3 cubic feet of cargo space and split-folding rear seats.
Unfortunately for pony car fans, pricing for the 2024 Mustang is up across the board. The base EcoBoost fastback is $1,350 more than its predecessor, and prices rise in a decidedly German way when you get to the options. The Premium model I drove demands $38,040, and my tester’s total damage was a staggering $48,185 as tested thanks to the $3,475 performance package; $1,750 magnetic dampers; $1,225 active exhaust; and a $3,000 option pack that includes Co-Pilot Assist, B&O audio, customizable ambient lighting, and driver seat memory.
By showing some self-control at the options buffet, it’s possible to build a sporty Mustang EcoBoost fastback with HPP and nothing else for $35,990. Go all in with a convertible top and every option, however, and a $60k four-cylinder isn’t out of the question.
The Toyota GR86 and Subaru BRZ start at less than $30,000, rising to 35 grand or so fully equipped, but they have far less power and technological wizardry than the Mustang. Meanwhile, the not-long-for-this-world Chevrolet Camaro starts at about 30 grand and can’t match the Mustang’s interior features, but its Alpha-platform handing verve isn’t to be trifled with. Then again, 40 large will also get you a couple seductive two-seaters, the Toyota Supra 2.0 and Nissan Z.
Those alternatives each have their pros and cons, but in spite of some robust competition, only one sporty coupe dominates the sales charts – the original pony car. And after a full day hooning it on road and track, it’s not hard to understand why. The 2024 Ford Mustang EcoBoost is a genuinely enjoyable sporty coupe that offers loads of tech, a personable powertrain, and some neo-SVO personality – as long as you don’t need a manual gearbox or retro cabin styling.
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