Ford Mustang review – engine and transmission
The 5.0 V8 is thirsty, but brilliant at embracing the muscle car vibe, whereas the 2.3-litre EcoBoost turbocharged variant doesn't provide the performance, fuel economy or soul needed to upstage its bigger brother
The 5-litre ‘Coyote’ V8 that powers the current Mustang has been in use by Ford since 2011, replacing the ancient artifact that was the 4.6-litre ‘Windsor’ that went before. On its first application in the current-gen Mustang, it produced a reasonable 410bhp. After its mid-life update last year, that figure has jumped to a 992 Porsche 911 Carrera S-matching 444bhp, giving the latest Mustang plenty of bite to match its considerable V8 bark.
As mentioned before, the 2.3-litre turbocharged four-cylinder EcoBoost is the entry point in the range, with a far more pedestrian 286bhp. Not only is this figure comparatively low, it’s also produced sky-high in the rev range at 5600rpm, giving you a fair idea as to the amount of turbo lag that must be fought against in reaching that number.
Transmission choices are between a six-speed manual ’box, and a new ten-speed automatic. The manual has a satisfyingly hefty shift, in keeping with its rough-and-ready image. Shifts aren’t always clean though, and rush through shifts and it can feel a little cumbersome and clunky. The Bullitt’s white shiftknob is especially lovely though, replicating the pool ball topper from the original 1968 film car.
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But we now come to the automatic transmission. Launched alongside the mid-life update last year, the all-new ten-speed torque converter automatic was co-developed with General Motors in a rare show of bipartisanship between the two arch rival companies. Spread throughout both model ranges in everything from giant F-150 pickups to the mad 600bhp Camaro ZL1, you might say that this is a troubled transmission.
To start with there is the sheer amount of ratios to choose between. Ten gears is just too many, the car shifting so frequently that the engine barely has time to breathe. A similar murmur could be said against other ten-speed boxes, but the Ford’s slow, slurring shifts and overactive torque converter makes it feel like the car is rarely ever fully engaged in a gear. Take control with the paddle shifters and the transmission’s convoluted software is less obvious, but the car still suffers from shudderingly slow shifts, leaving you totally unaware of whether a gear is engaged, causing the revs to flare if you apply throttle during the constant stream of shifts, then surging forward as a gear does eventually engage. It knocks your confidence in the car, never giving you any assurance that the 444bhp under your right foot is connected to the road or hidden away in the driveline.
In its home market two other engines are also offered in the Mustang: a 3.7-litre V6 that serves as the entry-level model to the range, and a startling 5.2-litre ‘Voodoo’ V8 with a flat-plane crankshaft, as used in the Shelby GT350 and GT350R. It develops 526bhp. Ford’s new flagship GT500 model has also just been announced, packing over 700bhp from a supercharged version of the GT350’s 5.2-litre V8. Power is sent to the same Tremec seven-speed dual-clutch transmission as the Ford GT supercar. No manual transmission is available.
If that still doesn’t sound powerful enough, then there are plenty of tuners who will help eke out much more power from the Mustang’s 5-litre V8. One of those firms is Sutton Bespoke, which offers a range of power upgrades from remaps to supercharger conversions. We’ve tested the CS700 and CS800, both supercharged and both put out a lot more power than standard; 690bhp and 825bhp respectively. Despite significantly more power neither seems as phenomenally fast as their output might suggest, but the engine, chassis and visual upgrades do make the Mustang more desirable and give it real presence.