2016 Ford Mustang 2.3L EcoBoost Premium Review

Muscle car looks minus some of the muscle car experience

Amos Kwon, Editor-In-Chief

Positives: Head-turning looks, excellent steering, great front seats, superb SYNC 3 infotainment system, minimal turbo lag, serious acceleration
Negatives: Engine sounds like an angry sewing machine, interior is busy and overstyled, too much odd novelty, lacks muscle car sound and feel
Bottom Line: A compromise but not a terrible one. The 4-banger is undoubtedly fast but is missing the power and feel of a real muscle car like its V8 brother. What you do get is respectable gas mileage, a beautiful fastback coupe and no angry looks from the neighbors.
Ford has done some weird contradictory things with the Mustang. Not all of it makes complete sense to us, but piece it all together and it starts to get cleared up. First of all, they did what all of us were waiting for (at least most of us who care about more than straight-line speed) by removing the very dated and wheel-hopping solid rear axle and replacing with an independent rear suspension setup. Brilliant move. Then they slotted in a 2.3-liter 4-cylinder turbocharged EcoBoost engine in their lineup, an engine pulled from the high-revving hot hatch Focus RS but seemingly unfit for an iconic American muscle car. Both moves signify the change toward making the Mustang a global car, something it's never been before. In order for the Asian and Europen markets to get one, it has to be specially imported, and that's no easy feat.

What the EcoBoost version of the Mustang communicates is a bit confusing, at least for us. First of all, it's meant to spread a wider appeal for the Mustang that's more economical but still powerful. It happens to deliver good performance without the consumption of a big bore car, since the turbocharged version calls for significantly less fuel than the V8 version. But it also wants to be loved for seemingly contradictory reasons. We drove it for a week, and came away with some mixed emotions.

Driving Experience



We never really got to hammer the car on local roads, as much as we would've liked to. Our sense was that the EcoBoost Mustang is truly a quick car but somehow lacks the experience we'd been hoping for in a muscle car. It's speed and handling isn't visceral by any means, but it's also not exactly controlled.

Ride Quality: Firm but not bone-jarring. The Mustang rides comfortably every day and handles bumps and gaps without being unsettling.

Acceleration: Though the accompanying engine sound doesn't make the car feel quick, the throttle is responsive with only minor turbo lag. This is a very fast car.

Braking: Good, progressive brakes with solid pedal feel.

Steering: The feedback is a bit on the numb side, but the Mustang turns in sharply and quickly.

Handling: The EcoBoost Mustang provides an interesting sensation of a long hood that makes the car seem vague in turns, but it lines up beautifully upon exit with very little hint of body roll. Just don't go hard into the turn since the tail end kicks out all too easily with a very intrusive traction control system.




The highlight of the car's tech (aside from the novel engine) is the new SYNC 3 system. It works beautifully and is probably America's best infotainment system, a total change from the Microsoft-based first MyFordTouch SYNC system that was about as awful as anything we'd used. The change to the (of all things) Blackberry-based system on the SYNC 3 is a wonder to use. It's clear, crisp and has all the right audio cues that make it easy to operate while driving. It might just be the clearest screen we've used to date.

Infotainment System:The Ford SYNC 3 system is eons better than the previous version with clear readability, excellent responsiveness and intuitive controls. It's one of the best aspects of the car.

Controls: Most everything was decent in terms of ergonomics but not spectacular. They look cool but don't exactly make utility a priority. For example, the toggle switches on the center stack look great but are hard to decipher as to what functions they control.

Bluetooth Pairing: No issues with pairing. Pretty seamless via SYNC 3.

Voice Call Quality: Good call quality on multiple phone calls. We like the chimes on the SYNC 3 that signal the end of the call.




When Ford designed the current Mustang, it must've been a big challenge. Though there were certainly ardent fans of the last Mustang, there was also a fair amount of criticism that the car had poorly evolved and only rested on its design laurels from previous generations. How to keep the car distinctly Mustang while moving in the direction of a muscle car the world would love (and break free from the stodgy past at the same time) was a tall order. But we think Ford pulled it off. The Mustang looks great from just about every angle and keeps the ethos of the iconic car. Its interior could use a bit more development and design fluidity, but it's not so bad that it ruins the Americana experience.

Front: Though the new maw is a bit more sophisticated than the all-American and very aggressive last-gen 'stang, it's still unmistakable as a Mustang. The triple, angled LED driving lights look fantastic during the day and at night. The dark honeycomb grille is just about perfect.

Rear: The fastback rear of the car is one of the better angles in the car industry. The piano black between the taillights won't hold up well over time and feels cheap. The sequential taillights are too gimmicky for our tastes but the taillights overall are a well-designed nod to the original.

Profile: Overall, the Mustang looks good in profile with a bit of a bulbous nose section. The blacked out wheels give it a strong presence.

Cabin: Ford seems to like novelty when it comes to the Mustang's interior. Though the seats look great, not much else does to us. It's got a lot of metallic-looking plastic and myriad surface angles and treatments that make it look too busy. Please, Ford, get rid of the cheesy "Groundspeed" lettering on the speedometer. As if we'd mistake this for the P-51 Mustang fighter plane from WWII.




Aside from the nearly perfect seats, we didn't really enjoy the Mustang's interior, which comes across as overwrought and busy. Sometimes in the effort to be distinctly American, we come across as overly American because of the "more is more" mentality. It's true that this is a global car that overseas owners want to recognize and appreciate as American, but it's so bulky in places that it just comes across as clumsy. The metallic plastic looks machine-turned, but is missing something--we're not sure what. And the interior just isn't very ergonomic. We'd like to see something more refined without looking German.

Front Seats: To compare these with the seats from the '90s Mustang is like comparing a luxury lear jet to a WWI biplane. They're comfy, supportive and look fantastic.

Rear Seats: Useless for adults. Only for kids and nearly impossible to get to. These are an afterthought, but no one who buys a Mustang gives a crap, anyway.

NVH (noise/vibration/harshness): We experienced some inconsistent rattling while driving. It seemed like cowl shake, but we weren't exactly sure.

Visibility: This is not a good car for untrammeled visibility. The long, bulging hood and the big rear haunches and small rear window make it a challenge.

Climate: The climate controls were a bit difficult, but the air conditioning and ventilated seats worked quite well.




The Mustang provides basic levels of safety and gets five-star crash ratings from the NHTSA and mostly good ratings from the IIHS.

IIHS Rating: The Mustang earns mostly good crash ratings and an acceptable in the front offset crash test, but it fails to attain the top ratings for safety by the IIHS.

Standard Tech: ABS, stability control, traction control, seatbelt pretensioners, and additional overhead and knee airbags for increased protection.

Optional Tech: blind spot monitoring with rear-cross traffic alert, adaptive cruise control..




There's not much to speak of in terms of real world practicality. The Mustang wasn't meant to haul a lot of stuff anyway, but we could've used a real cubby to store phones, keys, etc. Don't look to haul anything short of a few bags of groceries since the trunk isn't what we'd call big. That's okay, though. At least the Mustang looks good rushing home to unload the smallish amount of cargo it can hold.

Storage Space: No one buys a Mustang for practical reasons, really, and the storage options reflect that. The small center console armest isn't especially large and provides just a small amount of storage space. There's no convenient cubby in front of the shift knob for smaller items, so you end up tossing your phone into the big cupholders. Door pockets are decent but on the shallow side.

Cargo Room: You'll end up using the rear seats for storage since the trunk doesn't hold a lot. We tried to temporarily shove a baby seat in the trunk and had to fuss with it a lot to make it fit. There's a paltry 13.5 cubic feet of space, and it's not very tall.

Fuel Economy



The EcoBoost mill is better at fuel economy than its bigger brothers, but it's still less than stellar when it comes to everyday driving mpg numbers. It doesn't seem proportional in mileage gains than it does inversely with power. The V8 GT gets 16 city / 25 highway (EPA estimated), and the EcoBoost gets 22/31. For half the cylinders, that doesn't seem correct, does it?

Observed: 24 mpg

Driving Factors: We drove a combination of highway and local roads over the course of seven days. We took advantage of the six-speed manual and drove semi-aggressively when the opportunity presented itself. Normal driving would've easily attained better mileage numbers.




We didn't spend a lot of time listening to the Mustang's 12-speaker Shaker audio system. Even though it was the premium upgrade via the 201A Equipment Group, it wasn't as good as we thought it would be. That's too bad since a muscle car should have a rockin' system. This one needs more clarity and fullness.

Our feelings about the EcoBoost Mustang are about as mixed as they can get for a car. While it's certainly quick, it's not what you expect in terms of how the car drives and feels. There's zero shock and awe, and only a modicum of driving satisfaction. We imagine it's a tough car to drive hard because of the intrusive systems and the somewhat numb steering, but that doesn't mean it's not fun on occasion. The interior could use more work, too, since it lacks cohesive style and ease of use. In terms of bang for your buck, we think there are better cars out there that are more fun to drive and don't even try to be a muscle car.
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