It comes as little surprise to say right away that a V8 engine is imperative for the Mustang. The 2.3-litre turbocharged four-cylinder EcoBoost unit is not only at loggerheads with the very ideology of the Ford Mustang, but it’s also objectively rough, slow, laggy and wholly unsuited to it. Not that you’ll need to know, but the EcoBoost Mustang takes a glacial 5.8sec to reach 62mph when fitted to the manual transmission, with the automatic shaving 0.3sec off that time thanks to the short gearing.
Don’t go thinking then that this might be a lower, rear-drive Focus RS, and trust us, stick to the V8. When you do, the naturally aspirated 5-litre ‘Coyote’ unit is everything you might reasonably expect of an American V8. Performance is impressive, since its mid-life update, picking up some extra power and torque. It’s high kerb weight does take the sting out of the mid-range, but work the boisterous engine and it absolutely feels its power figure, hitting 62mph in just 4.3sec when fitted with the automatic gearbox, and 4.6sec with the manual. Convertibles add 0.2 of a sec to the respective transmissions, thanks to a little extra weight.
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Ford has also released a Mustang Bullitt as well, available exclusively with a V8 engine and manual transmission. Despite an extra 9bhp over the standard V8, its slight weight gain means it doesn’t improve on the manual V8’s performance times.
The Shelby GT350 reaches 60mph from a standstill in 4.3sec, and although it certainly hasn’t been designed to simply win drag races, it will certainly go fast in a straight line.
The flat-plane crank V8 produces a fascinating noise; it’s gruff and rumbly low down, then from 2000 to 4000rpm there’s a Subaru-like burble before sounding like a sonorous V8 up to 6500rpm. During the final 2500rpm, up to its 8250rpm limit, you almost hear a VTEC timbre – a slight vibrato that’s unexpectedly harsh.
Initially the natural point at which to change gear seems around 6000rpm, rather than waiting until the red line. When you do brave the final quarter of revs it’s almost intimidating. The 5.2 doesn’t possess the screaming, free-revving top end like one of Maranello’s flat-plane crank V8s, and so it’s better to revel in the natural-feeling band between 4000 and 6000rpm.