The sixth-generation Ford Mustang has a mixed reputation in Australia. Most Aussies love it thanks to its masculine good looks, snarling V8 power and on-track successes as Ford’s current Supercars competitor. Others see it as emblematic of the demise of local Australian car manufacturing, or as an uncouth, overhyped ‘Yank tank’.
Even more controversial is the Ford Mustang High Performance 2.3L, which is what the Blue Oval calls the turbocharged four-cylinder version of their popular pony car. A Mustang without a V8 is considered sacrilegious by many revheads – how can you have a muscle car without a big donk? It’s not a real Mustang, etcetera etcetera.
Convertibles also have a mixed reputation Down Under. Anyone who’s ever driven one knows that nothing quite compares to the joys of driving with the top down in the middle of summer. Yet, at the same time, convertibles are often seen by blokes as ‘chick’s cars’ or something that only wankers drive… Because enjoying the sun is apparently feminine or self-indulgent?
Mix these three concepts together – Mustang, convertible, four-cylinder – and you might have the most divisive car in Australia. Which is exactly why I wanted to drive one.
My take? Not only is the Ford Mustang High Performance 2.3L Convertible very much a real Mustang, but it might actually be the pick of the litter. Add a convertible top into the equation, and you might just have, pound for pound, one of the most fun cars on the market.
First, let’s crunch some numbers. The Ford Mustang High Performance is powered by the high-output turbocharged 2.3L inline-4 engine from the highly acclaimed Ford Focus RS, just mounted in a longitudinal configuration and slightly detuned. It’s good for 236kW, 448Nm of torque and does 0-100km/h in 5.5 seconds, with convertibles going around 0.2sec slower than the hardtop.
That’s perhaps not as impressive as the Mustang GT and its 5.0L V8, which makes 336kW/556Nm and 0-100 in 4.3secs… But when you consider that the 2.3L is $12,700 cheaper than the V8 ($14,235 if you’re comparing convertible specs), you’re getting a lot of performance; a lot of car for the money.
Because that’s what you have to keep in mind: the Mustang 2.3L, especially in convertible form, isn’t competing with the GT or other muscle cars. It’s competing with other style-oriented, luxury/performance cars like the Audi TT, BMW Z4, MINI John Cooper Works and lower specs of the Porsche 718. And against that competition, it weighs up very well. It’s cheaper, faster, and just as good looking.
Sure, it’s more expensive than the Abarth 595C, Mazda MX-5 or the Subaru BRZ/Toyota 86 twins (the latter of which I’ll point out don’t come with drop-tops), but we’d argue that it more than makes up for it in the looks stakes. Especially in the ‘Yellow Peel’ our press car arrived in.
Seriously, I’ve never had more people ask me about the car I’m driving – friends, family, passers-by – and I’ve driven exotics worth hundreds of thousands of dollars more than the Mustang 2.3L. And that’s the point. The Mustang 2.3L, especially in convertible form, is one of the most fun cars you can drive for the money.
It doesn’t just look good, either. The engine might not sound as meaty as a V8 but it still sounds pretty good – turbo flutters hold their own pleasures, too. The 2.3L also has a slightly different, stiffer suspension tune than the V8, so it handles rather well, especially in Sport+ mode. It’s also plenty fast, especially from 0-50km/h.
The convertible top is easy to use, deploys quickly and really takes the car to the next level. The American movies are right: there’s something special about driving a drop-top Mustang in summer (even during a La Niña summer). I reckon the 2.3L even looks better than the V8, thanks to its unique asymmetrical grille design with its offset, retro-style tribar pony badge. Having people look at you whilst you drive by is addicting.
Is it a perfect car? No. The quality of American-made cars has made leaps and bounds in recent years but some of the plastics in the interior are a bit on the cheap side… And for most muscle car stalwarts, the V8’s auditory and performance qualities will be more than enough to justify dropping another five figures for the Mustang GT.
But for those with an open mind, a keen eye for value, and who love feeling the wind in their hair, the Ford Mustang High Performance 2.3L Convertible is a bloody fun car. Check out its full specs at pricing at Ford Australia’s online showroom here.