With its timeless fastback profile, muscular haunches, uber-cool heritage and film star good looks, the Ford Mustang is as iconic as it is popular. But what happens when you mess with its winning formula and replace its V8 roar with a whistle? Well, quite a lot actually.
I can already hear the Mustang purists bolting for the door and in many ways, certainly emotionally, I’m right behind them. But hold your horses, I’m here to tell you that this is no ordinary whistle.
Under the Mustang high-performance’s sculpted and ventilated bonnet lies Ford’s impressive ‘performance-developed’ 2.3L turbocharged powertrain. It develops 236kW at 6200rpm and 448Nm of torque at 3800rpm which, listen very carefully, is the highest output for a road-going production Ford four-cylinder in history, yes history!
What’s more, rather than have a heavy V8 weighing down the nose, it has an aluminium alloy block and high-performance head, so the turbocharged Mustang’s powerplant contributes to a well-balanced, corner-embracing 53/47 front-to-rear weight distribution.
But the joys of this large 63mm twin-scroll turbocharged engine don’t stop there. It has a broader torque curve that delivers 90 per cent of peak torque between 2,500 and 5,300 rpm and the horsepower holds stronger up to the 6,500-rpm redline, simply put, it has more usable power and torque.
Ford has married this revised power source to their 10-speed automatic transmission and shortened the gear ratios while they were at it to further improve agility and driver engagement. Having that many gears up its sleeve means that you get the drive you want in any of the variety of drive modes, from Normal, to Sport, to Track and to Drag race.
But wait, there’s more. In addition to its improved weight distribution, it has a thicker 32mm front stabiliser bar for greater control and compliance and the rear stabiliser bar has increased in size from 21.7mm to 24mm. Its 19-inch alloy wheels are shod in Pirelli P Zero Corsa tyres, which are 9.0-inch wide on the front for a more responsive, lightweight steering feel and 9.5-inch wide at the rear for greater traction and power delivery.
Now that I have your attention. The model I had been given, came dressed in ‘Twister’ Orange. It’s not exactly subtle but then again, nor should it be. The mesh grille up-front came with a Triband Pony badge, the bumper had been re-profiled and the bonnet had black ‘go faster’ stripes (as if it needed it).
The front wings boast 2.3L badges while the rear came with a slither of a boot lid spoiler or ‘magnetic blade’, four exhaust tips that are actually functional and another triband pony badge, it’s a handsome beast.
The interior is relatively or is that virtually unchanged from its V8 sibling and that’s not a bad thing. Sync 3 controls the infotainment, the instrument cluster is digital and can be set up to your own personal preference. The sounds are powerful (with a hefty sub in the boot) and the driver assists are aplenty, with Autonomous Emergency Braking (AEB) with Pedestrian Detection, as well as Lane Departure Warning with Lane-Keeping Assist, and Adaptive Cruise Control. I’m a big fan of the Recaro seats and there’s another 2.3L high-performance badge above the glove box, to let you know you are in something special.
And special it is. The feel behind the wheel is proper muscle car, even if it’s not quite true. The cabin is a pleasing mix of gruffness and modern, exciting both sides of the brain. A stamp on the accelerator has the digital needles racing north (even in Normal) and should you find yourself in a suitably ‘track’ orientated location, the Track or Drag modes really turn run into gallop.
The Mustang HP feels quick off the mark and more nimble in the corners, its drivetrain, chassis and suspension set-up really showcasing the brand’s performance pedigree. The V8 roar may not be present, but I sure as hell whistled along with the turbo.