Sacrilege. That's what the Mustang Ecoboost is to some people. This isn't the first turbocharged, four cylinder Mustang in the car's history, but to some rabid fanboys of the V8 model(s), this car shouldn't exist. Or should it?

The Ecoboost Mustang makes a lot of sense—the downsized engine means better fuel economy, and the turbocharged nature means you can easily tune it to squeeze out more power. A lot of people don't want the fire-breathing, V8 powered GT, so the new Ecoboost makes a lot of sense for those who want a Mustang for the name or the looks.

Small but mighty: The Ecoboost’s 2.3 L engine produces 310 horsepower and 320 lb-ft on 93 octane (Amou “Joe” Seto/USC Annenberg Media)
Small but mighty: The Ecoboost’s 2.3 L engine produces 310 horsepower and 320 lb-ft on 93 octane (Amou “Joe” Seto/USC Annenberg Media)

The Ecoboost is significantly cheaper than the GT and due to the abundance of aftermarket parts you could make it just as fast if you wanted. But this isn't a first drive of some Cobb Stage 3 tuned monster—rather, it's the completely stock Ecoboost, with the exception of an additional Performance package.

Now the big question—Is it fast stock?

Well, it certainly isn't slow, but I really wouldn't call it phenomenal, either. It's sort of in the middle of the road—not slow, but not that fast either. There's a surprising amount of torque in the bottom end up to the midrange, but all the power seems to drop off as you head toward the top of the rev range. If you're the type of person who enjoys revving the engine outright up to the limit then changing gear, you won't get a lot of satisfaction wringing this one out.

Thanks to a twin scroll turbo, the engine reacts to throttle blips fairly quickly; however, it's not as responsive as the GT's naturally aspirated mill. The gearbox feels exactly the same as the unit in the GT, as does the clutch—a stiff, mechanical shift feel and and a fairly light, easy clutch.

Although it's not slow, if I were to purchase one I would definitely look for aftermarket tunes to squeeze more power out of the thing.

Despite the identical interior, you will notice that you’re driving an Ecoboost and not a GT. (Amou “Joe” Seto/USC Annenberg Media)
Despite the identical interior, you will notice that you’re driving an Ecoboost and not a GT. (Amou “Joe” Seto/USC Annenberg Media)

Opting for the performance pack gives you an array of upgrades such as a larger rear sway bar (fastback only), unique chassis tuning, bigger brakes, 19" aluminum wheels, a gauge package, heavy duty front springs (fastback only), larger radiator and a 3.55 limited slip rear diff.

This is a good car, but it's a really different car from the GT. The GT makes a nicer noise, has more power, and there's more pantomime in the GT. The V8's presence really makes it stand out, whereas the ecoboost doesn't. As a result, the character that the GT has isn't in the Ecoboost. Now, I'm not saying that the Ecoboost has no character—believe me, it does. It's just not as charismatic as the GT. I drove the Ecoboost before I drove the GT and actually had to re-drive the Ecoboost after I drove the GT because the Ecoboost felt so terrible in comparison after my initial drive.

Unlike the GT, the mustang’s iconic galloping horse serves as the trunklid badge (Amou “Joe” Seto/USC Annenberg Media)
Unlike the GT, the mustang’s iconic galloping horse serves as the trunklid badge (Amou “Joe” Seto/USC Annenberg Media)

Because this is still a Mustang, you still get the usual annoyances that come with other models. There's no auxiliary input for your iPod on the Shaker system, which I might add doesn't sound nearly as good as the Sony systems Ford uses in their other vehicles. The power seats only have power movement for lumbar support and moving your seat backwards/forward and up/down; you'll have to do the tilt adjustment yourself. The glass roof option from the last generation is gone, and, unlike the Chevy Camaro, you can't get a sunroof.

As I mentioned earlier, the huge price gulf between the two models represents huge savings, so much so that you can ignore a lot of the shortcomings of the Ecoboost, especially if you're the type to void the warranty within a week of ownership. If you're looking for a great modding platform for the engine and chassis on a rear drive car, this is one of the best choices out there.

At-A-Glance Specifications:

MSRP: From $26,545

Engine: 2.3L turbocharged DOHC 16V turbocharged 4-cylinder w/ direct injection

Horsepower: 310 @ 5,500 (93 octane fuel)

Torque: 320 lb-ft. @ 3,000 RPM (93 octane fuel)

Transmission: 6-speed manual (tested) or 6-speed automatic

Curb Weight: 3,532 (manual)

Tire Size: 255/40ZR19 (square setup)

Tire: Pirelli P Zero

Overall MPG: Not enough data

EPA Estimated MPG (city/highway/combined): 22/32/25

Fuel capacity: 15.5 gal

Cargo Capacity: 13.5 cu. ft

Reach Staff Reporter Joe Seto here. Follow him on Twitter here.