Spare the horses – Ford Mustang 2.3L

‘Home James, and don’t spare the horses’ Most people know what it means – get us home as fast as you can and without regard to the horses (or nowadays horsepower) and many people use just the ‘home James’ abbreviation but I wonder how many of you have thought about its origin? From what I’ve found out, it is an idiom that has been (falsely) connected to Queen Victoria – she had apparently said this to her coachmen, whom (like most of the Aristocrats dating back to the 1600’s) would call them James rather than learn their real names. Anyway, Books, Movies, and even songs have made reference to this saying and although it’s almost impossible to say who and when truly coined the phrase – I like the idea of me spouting Queen Vic phrases.

So what has this got to do with the Ford Mustang I hear you say? Well ever since I took their 5L manual out for a week I’ve been itching to get behind the wheel of their 2.3L EcoBoost – I agree, straight off the bat that doesn’t sound right – A 2.3L Mustang Muscle car.

Mustang 2.3Ford loaned me a big red fastback version with an Auto gear box (aside from the colour) it’s possibly the least mean version, no wait, there’s a convertible. The first thing I noticed was that they (5.0 & 2.3) looked identical. You still get the aggressive long face and the tapering fast back. You get the menacing headlights, dual chrome tip exhaust and the 19” Alloys however; you do lose the GT badge off the rear.

Mustang 2.3The similarities continue as you move inside too – The pony projection puddle lamps (under the side mirrors), the same space inside (it’s a questionable 4 seater), Leather seats with perforated inserts (and 6 way adjustable for the driver), 8” colour touch screen with Sync 2, 9 speaker sound system, Voice control, Satellite Navigation, I could go on…

Mustang 2.3You even get the same push button start – but that’s when the real difference comes to the fore.

There is no V8 roar, no burble no fierceness, no drama, no testosterone oozing sound. It’s what this American icon is all about, its V8ness. The 2.3l EcoBoost (I’m going to try not to keep saying that) has 73 less kW’s (down to 233kW) and 98 less Nm (down to 432Nm) however both come in earlier – 5,600 and 3,000 respectively – but it doesn’t have the V8 burble. The 2.3L has a Twin Scroll turbo charger will get you up to 100 in around 5.5 seconds (the 5l will apparently do it in a shade under 5s but I only got the mid 5’s when I tried) but it doesn’t have the V8 burble. They both have track app’s but the 2.3 doesn’t have the V8 burble.

Personally I like the sound of a roaring V8 and I have to say I thoroughly enjoyed the manual gearbox of the GT fastback – but I am a bit of a dinosaur. However, I do admit that in day to day commuting and daily driving an Auto is easier and changes gear just as quick (or quicker) than a manual. I also admit that (being a mere journalist) the less I pay at the pump (for driving enjoyment) the better – so maybe Ford are on to something.

Mustang 2.3I put the 2.3 into drive and hit the road, and immediately hit traffic – EcoBoost (sorry) territory. The 6 speed select shift kept the revs down low and the auto start/stop killed the engine when stopped – the combined effect was 9.3L/100k’s efficiency (vs the 13.1l/100k’s of the V8). So less time looking on Sync 2 for gas stations and more time driving this good looking beast. With traffic easing, I could open her up – Ford have done their best to give it some grunty notes and on any other day (and in any other car) it would be sufficient – but not today and if I’m honest not in this. It didn’t take me long to turn on my favorite tunes and enjoy the AC/DC Mustang mix. Free of buildings, it was time to embrace the rural corners; and embrace them it did. The 2.3 has a lost nigh on 100kg’s from its V8 sibling and it seems to have all been dropped from the front end. The 2.3 felt more balanced and manageable, it picked up the torque earlier too so you can carry more speed in to the bends and pick it up quicker at the other end. Don’t get me wrong; this is still not a low slung sports car but it is a very enjoyable ride.

I found a deserted road to play with the traction controls, I can report that the 2.3 will happily wag its tail when required and track apps will time your speed. It didn’t have the launch control of the 5.0 (or line lock) but it’s certainly not sluggish.

Mustang 2.3There is no denying that the (near 100) less horses is 100 less testosterone points, as is the lack of V8 sound. But and this is a big BUT, most people you pass by in the congestion that is NZ city roads will have no idea. The look is the same, the feel is the same and therefore the admiring glances are the same. The differences you will notice will be at the pump and in the corners – so unless you have a fat wallet and don’t like music (preferring only a V8 soundtrack) – I say ‘Home James – and thanks for sparing the Horses!’

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