Parkers overall rating: 4 out of 5 4.0
  • Only a pair of powerful petrols on offer
  • 2.3 EcoBoost shared with the Focus RS
  • If you can afford to fuel it, go for the V8

Ford Mustang Fastback: which engines does it have?

It doesn’t really matter which model you buy, the performance served up by the Ford Mustang Fastback is impressive regardless of whether you choose the 2.3-litre four-cylinder EcoBoost engine or the 5.0-litre V8.

Each European Mustang comes with a standard Performance Pack with uprated brakes (four-piston callipers up-front) and a revised cooling system developed for high speed driving. You’ll also find on-board selectable driving modes comprising of Normal, Sport (automatics only), Sport+, Track and Snow/Wet settings.

Track Apps, controlled from the steering wheel and displayed between the main instruments, include an accelerometer, timer and a braking performance monitor.

Ford Mustang 2.3-litre EcoBoost performance

A version of this four-cylinder engine appears in the riotous Ford Focus RS, and here develops a considerable 317hp and 434Nm of torque. Impressive figures, on paper at least, with the peak power figure produced at 5,500rpm and the torque at just 3,000rpm.

It makes for relatively lazy performance, and the manual gearboxed 2.3-litre Mustang can accelerate from 0-62mph in 5.8 seconds and on to a top speed of 145mph. The automatic reaches the same limit, but Ford doesn’t quote a 0-62mph time for it.

It doesn’t particularly relish being revved though, with no change in its general lethargy as you near the redline, nor is there much aural or physical reward for working it hard.

And there’s no getting away from the four-cylinder soundtrack, the Fastback’s noise-cancelling technology fails to overlay the motor’s rasp and turbocharged intake whistle via its synthesised system. Curiously it sounds much more appealing in the Focus RS.

Brawnier 5.0-litre V8

Naturally, the V8’s faster than its four-cylinder sibling thanks to its 416hp developed at 6,500rpm and peak torque of 524Nm at 4,250rpm. Those figures don’t tell the real story though, as wherever you are in the rev range there’s ample urgency on demand and the V8 feels perfectly flexible in daily life.

Both manual and automatic V8s can reach a top speed of 155mph, but while – again – Ford doesn’t quote a 0-62mph time for the self-shifter, the manual dispatches the benchmark sprint test in 4.6 seconds and it sounds great while it’s doing it.

It’s not all rosy in the V8 garden, though. Truth is that bumbling around at urban speeds, the 5.0-litre lump doesn’t sound especially captivating. That familiar rumble’s there, but it’s in the background, muted until you rev the engine higher – then at least your ears aren’t disappointed.

It doesn’t have the metallic, hard-edged back note found in something like a Mercedes-AMG C 63, but the thunder from the exhaust pipes is certainly very ‘muscle car’. Pity it can’t be a bit lounder all of the time.

Those Mustang V8 party pieces

There are a couple of tricks up the V8’s sleeve that the 2.3-litre Mustang’s not privy to: the Line Lock and Launch Control systems.

The former is for warming your tyres, pre-launch, and is derived from an aftermarket kit often seen on American drag racers.

Find a perfectly flat piece of private ground (the authorities take a dim view of this on public highways), activate Line Lock through the steering wheel buttons, pressurise the brakes to lock the front wheels solid for fifteen seconds, engage a forward gear and stamp on the throttle.

Ford Mustang UK 5.0 

The result? You’ll perform the smokiest burnout you’ll ever see, torturing your rear tyres in the process. Release the system and you’ll roll forward still smoking your rear rubber.

Essentially pointless for normal road driving, but gloriously cool as a consequence.

Launch control is more familiar, allowing you to preselect a holding spot in the rev range between 3,000 and 4,500rpm before you dump the clutch in first gear and accelerate off towards the horizon leaving a trail of tyre marks behind you as your tyres spin along the tarmac.

It’s pure hooliganism, and although most Mustang customers are unlikely to find it genuinely useful, it’s fun nonetheless.

At least until you need to pay for a new set of rear tyres.

Manual and automatic gearboxes

At launch, both gearboxes were six-speed, and those who want to get more engrossed in the Mustang experience were likely to favour the manual. It has a pleasant enough, if weighty, shift that suits the car. It’s not the most precise gait though, and it’s not a gearbox that likes to be hurried.

The automatic’s more of a mixed bag. During gentle driving it’s perfectly adept at slipping effortless between ratios, but press on and it can’t make its mind up, often electing to down-changed mid-corner and delivering a surge of torque to the rear wheels just when you don’t want it. At least you can counter this with the steering wheel paddles.

More power and 10-speed automatic gearbox on 2018 facelift

When the Mustang was updated in 2018, the V8 got a power hike to 450hp (or 459hp in the case of the Bullitt limited edition) with 529Nm of torque and a new 10-speed automatic gearbox was introduced. The former combined with the latter makes for a 0-62mph sprint in 4.3 seconds. With the manual gearbox, the same dash takes 4.6 seconds.

At the same time Ford slightly reduced the 2.3-litre EcoBoost's output to a still-lusty 290hp.

The V8’s hike in performance has had a positive effect on the noise the Mustang makes, too. Its exhaust sounds more aggressive than ever, which is presumably why Ford’s engineers have designed a ‘Quiet Neighbour Mode’ that quietens things down for early morning starts.

We found the 10-speed gearbox to be a big improvement on the old six-speed. It’s far quicker to change gears, yet doesn’t seem as over-active as you may expect when driven enthusiastically. In Normal drive mode it’s a smooth and hassle-free experience, while selecting Sport livens the whole experience up with lightning-quick shifts. It’s at its best when using the paddles on the back of the steering wheel, though we do wish these felt of a better quality.

Ford has added a rev-matching function to the six-speed manual gearbox too, which automatically blips the throttle on downchanges to match the engine’s speed with the wheels’, keeping the car stable under braking. The cars we drove on the launch event in France didn’t have this installed, though, so we’ll have to wait to try it in the UK to see what it’s like. 

  • Mustang has surprisingly agility…
  • Magnetic suspension on post-facelift cars a must
  • You’re never not aware of its girth

Ford Mustang Fastback: how does it drive?

Whichever Ford Mustang Fastback you choose, it’ll weigh in at over 1,600kg, and there’s no doubt in your mind as soon as you move off this car is something of a heavyweight – you can feel it in the meaty controls.

On tighter British roads there’s no escaping this car’s girth either, and it always feels like a large car. It is about the same size on the road as a large European executive saloon.

But, unlike previous generations of the Mustang that were essentially designed to solely serve North American audiences, this car isn’t simply built for straight-line speed, it corners better than you’d expect too.

There’s a number of drive modes to select from, and what Ford calls a Selectable Effort Electric Power Steering System – this allows you to alter the weighting from Comfort through Normal and into Sport.

The latter simply adds weight, the former makes it too light and, while not perfect, the middle-ground Normal is the most pleasing of the lot. There’s certainly an argument to suggest the car doesn’t need the system at all, but we suspect that wouldn’t please the marketing department.

Not the most engaging of sports cars

It takes longer to feel confident pressing on through corners in the Mustang than it does in say a 4 Series or C-Class Coupe. You know the grip’s there – although the rear end is prone to twitching mid-corner if you’re not smooth with your throttle application – but the Mustang feels softer and wallowier than its Germanic rivals, so the communication between tyres and driver is fuzzier and less engaging.

Once you’ve taken command of this and learned to have more faith in the Ford’s agility, it becomes more fun, albeit in an unconventional sense. With that high bonnet line and the Fastback’s width, it can feel like you’re hauling a low-slung SUV through a series of corners.

Both engine options come with the same suspension system, but the V8 features the superior Monotube dampers for a faster response. In comparison, the EcoBoost-engined Mustang can feel like it’s struggling for composure on undulating B-roads.

All come with a standard Limited Slip Differential (LSD) so those who want to play at hooliganism on the race track can slide the rear end of the Mustang to their heart’s content. For those less sure of their abilities a three-stage Electronic Stability Control (ESC) can be used to rein things in.

Ford Mustang 2018-on handling

We were surprised at the improvement we felt when first sampling the post-facelift 2018 Ford Mustang’s handling. There are a few reasons for this: the cars we drove were on £1,600 magnetic suspension, and the wheels were shod in sticky Michelin Pilot Sport 4 tyres.

These two features equate to a far better drive. We found the weighty Mustang cornered far flatter – the body control is vastly improved because the suspension is able to adapt 1,000 times per second to absorb bumps almost instantaneously. It really is an impressive set-up, and in our mind worth every bit of the premium.

The tyres play a part too, because not only do they make for fantastic grip (in the dry, at least – we’ve not tried them in the wet) but we noticed extra feel through the steering wheel, meaning extra driver confidence, and a more progressive body reaction on initial turn-in. We suspect that last is because the sidewalls flex a little less than the Pirelli rubber on pre-facelift cars.

And the other advantage of this suspension is that it’s adaptive, meaning Ford’s chassis engineers have been able to configure drive modes geared for comfort or for sportier driving.

There’s even one for drag racing, which softens at the rear to allow the car to ‘squat’ over the back wheels for better traction. Quite how many people will use this on the road in the UK remains to be seen, but it would be an impressive way to pull off from a toll booth on the M25…