2 things could raise a few concerns: non alcoholic beer and four cylinder Mustangs. Beer should get you drunk and Mustangs should get you pumped, I should say. It is without question that an unmistakable staccato-burble is directly proportional to an American car as an hamburger is to beer. After these lines, please don’t drink and drive. However, there are things that need other things, and the Mustang needs V8 engines in our vision.
This conservative thought was in everybody’s mind as the new generation Mustang was launched in 2014, 50 years after its breakthrough introduction on the American market. Icons are purveyors of tradition, but they’re not immune to the passing of time. Turbocharging and hybrids will be the future, so it is legitimate to fear whether the burbly V8 will be soon a thing of the past. In all honesty, I do hope not, just as much I do hope that vegans will never ever take over In-n’-Out restaurants in the near future!
Nevermind, we all need to be conscious of emissions and if a 2.3 liter turbocharged straight 4 engine will help the Mustang stay alive, well…let it be. Allow me to settle the debate about the number of cylinders by saying that the Mustang was born with a mid-mounted V4 engine. Yes, a V4. Despite such an engine never went into production, the six cylinder and for a while a four cylinder were among the most economical choices for the pocket conscious customers. 8 Cylinders have always been offered except for the annus horribilis 1974, when a 2.8 liter V6 replaced the venerable production Windsor small blocks. Yes, for a year the only choice for America’s Pony Car was either a 2.3 four or a 2.8 liter six.
2016 ain’t 1974 and this means that wimpy engines are no longer part of a “performance car” option list. While seemingly outraged by the new 2.3 liter Ecoboost four banger, the car enthusiast community seemed to have forgotten another similar Mustang: the 1984 SVO. The new ‘Stang isn’t the first to be turbocharged as back in the flamboyant 80ies Ford performance department, namely SVO, introduced a compact yet punchy Fastback which was able to take corners faster than any other Pony has ever done. Such a car was Ford’s attempt to make force fed Mustangs forget about the sloppy Turbo GT’s that have been first put on sale in 1979, with the newly presented Mustang III. Ford engineers stuffed a Garrett AiResearch T3 turbo, added fuel injection an electronic-controlled wastegate and the greatly appreciated SVO was on its way to conquer both drag-strips and twisty roads. Coincidentally, the Ecoboost and the SVO have the same displacement, yet Ford claims that the new car has nothing to do with its older sister.
For the new Pony, the Blue Oval went for forged internals, a flat crank, a twin scroll turbo, direct injection and other modern day fancy trickeries: the Mustang had to be ready for the new Century. Being more powerful and torque than the previous 3.8 liter v6, the Ecoboost has the right credentials to be an affordable, off-the-shelf new pony car, aimed at those who want killer looks and still preserve their money on gasoline.
Taking a day off the rigors of being free lance journalists at Pebble Beach, we took our Miami Yellow Ecoboost Convertible to escape from the foggy coast of Monterey to the scenic views of the Yosemite National Park and back. A Pony car eco friendly: could be and the oldest National park in the States is the right place to prove it.
California is a kaleidoscope of landscapes and sceneries. Most people only think of it as a Surfer’s paradise and the home state of Apple, but it is so much more than that. The trip from Monterey through the Route 140 and 120 right to the Tioga Pass was absolute a magic experience. Nothing like we’ll ever see in Europe.
From the fog and cold of Monterey we took the road inwards to Merced, the capital of the homonymous County and of the tenth University of California. It’s a small town for American standards and its life revolves around the College: the vast majority of the town’s activities revolve around education. Students will populate the entire town which is relatively peaceful and quiet. The landscapes surrounding it leave no clue whatsoever regarding the beauty that lies 85 miles north-east: dried hills, deserts and mostly flat scenery. The light of sunset gives the burnt fields a lovely golden brown color that lights up a rather desolate landscape. The straight, long and seemingly endless roads are a testing ground of the 2.3 liter Ecoboost engine, as it cruises down the road with good mid-range power yet fuel economy worse than expected. Plush ride and a non-quick automatic are not the most exciting features, if you think the car as an outright sportscar, but they’re good enough for daily driving. It may have only been the car or the fuel we used but performance felt a little inconsistent: horses came and went, leaving us wonder about the effectiveness of the Ecoboost. However it wasn’t 100% disappointing as the car comes together as a pretty interesting package perfectly suited for the European market as well. We’re not ashamed to tell that we rather stick with the old Essex 3.8 liter V6.
After Merced, we pointed the nose of the Mustang up north by running through the Route 140 up to the Western entrance of the Yosemite Park. Driving wise, the Park is a paradise: good tarmac, windy roads and great scenery but strict speed limits cut out the fun and for a good reason. Wild animals could cross the road at any time and in the Yosemite they’re as precious as gold. As soon as the night fell we stopped for a big hamburger stuffed with bacon, cheese, mushrooms and grilled-to-perfection onions and buried ourselves in bed, resting for the next day.
The next morning we take the Route 140 and leave for the 120 to visit the attractions for which the Yosemite is famous for: the Half Dome and El Capitain. Immense rock structure that are centuries old that still represent the identity of the region. Both giants are not far way from each other and the region is up in elevation. We greeted the two rocky Giants to go to the Tioga Pass and then reach Nevada and the Eastern entrance to the Park. With the sign welcoming us to Nevada we decided to go back and finish off our “work” at Pebble.
Another box in our bucket list has been ticked and added another pleasant memory. It’s one of the truest Escapes: the fog at Pebble Beach, the lust for a genuine motoring adventure and the will to drive a new Mustang. Leave out the fact that it is a four cylinder car, but it served the trip right even if it wasn’t exactly what we expected.
Ph. by F.Bajetti & Mikael Masoero