2024 Ford Mustang EcoBoost First Drive Review: Fun, Functional, Four-Cylinder Foal

The latest turbo-four ‘Stang has been modernized and refined but remains a hoot to throw around.

byPeter Nelson|
Peter Nelson
Peter Nelson.

The Ford Mustang enters its seventh generation for 2024 and other than the electric Mach-E crossover, the Blue Oval’s muscle car has always stayed true to its roots: low slung good looks paired to a front engine, rear-drive layout. Likely to slightly irk the purists, though, is the fact that the new entry-level Mustang continues to use a 2.3-liter turbo-four. No, the EcoBoost may not have the horsepower or thunderous exhaust note of the joyous Coyote V8-powered Mustang GT—stay tuned for my review of that version in the very near future—but those in the know, know: Between Ford's activities in IMSA and Trans Am way back in the day, the Fox-body SVO, and, yes, the previous-gen EcoBoost, Ford knows how the make the most out of less. 

For this latest iteration, the Dearborn brand made a laundry list of upgrades and refinements to the new pony car, including some refreshed styling and technological additions to keep it fresh and relevant, especially in the eyes of a younger demographic. 

Peter Nelson

2024 Ford Mustang EcoBoost Specs

  • Base Price (as tested): $32,515 ($43,875)
  • Powertrain: 2.3-liter turbo-four | 10-speed automatic | rear-wheel drive
  • Horsepower: 315 @ 5,500 rpm 
  • Torque: 350 @ 3,000 rpm
  • Curb weight: 3,588 pounds
  • Seating capacity: 4
  • Cargo capacity: 13.3 cubic feet
  • EPA fuel economy: 22 mpg city | 33 highway | 26 combined
  • Quick take: Ford hit all of its marks, but I'll miss the manual transmission.
  • Score: 8/10

The Basics

Kicking off this laundry list is the new 'Stang's looks. The outgoing S550 was one of the best-looking Mustang generations ever, so the new S650 had some pretty massive shoes to fill. I think Ford did OK; sure, it might look vaguely Camaro-like from some angles, it’s longer and more flattened-out than the S550, and the body creases between the rear fender and door are a little awkward, but on the whole, it's an inoffensive, good-looking, muscular sports car. I wasn't sure about the headlights at first, but up close, they really do nicely adorn the EcoBoost's determined face and overall brawny figure.

Peter Nelson

Inside, there are some bits carried over from the S550. The center tunnel, armrest, storage compartment, as well as the cupholders and their surrounding plastic, seemed to be the same, as is Ford's unique Eau de Flat Rock new car smell. 

In terms of new interior fare, though, there's plenty. First and foremost are its screens, which measure 13.2 inches in the center and 12.4 inches behind the wheel. The center screen is aimed 10 degrees toward the driver and is very high-res. Ford's latest Sync 4 infotainment software was very easy to get to grips with and possessed minimal lag and a very intuitive layout. It's really customizable, and I especially dug the ability to summon different gauge styles, including Fox-body-emulating faces.

Peter Nelson

Similar to a few other recent Ford products, the company has gone hard in the paint in making the most of cheaper materials. The dash plastics are hard but possess an interesting, carbon-fiber-like pattern and are joined by faux stitched leather. Elsewhere, the main touchpoints are soft and felt of good quality for the price point.

Refreshingly, the Mustang remains very tall-folk-friendly. It was easy to lug my six-foot-three self in and out, and the interior felt generally more roomy than the S550’s. The seating position felt higher than before, but not enough to spoil the low-slung sports car feel. I already had plenty of headroom with the base seats, but the Performance Package's Recaros provided even more space. 

Driving Experience

Rolling across sun-beaten tarmac in San Gabriel Valley's industrial corridor, the passively damped Mustang EcoBoost Premium rode very well. It soaked up the rougher stuff yet maintained a solid, sports car-like character as if Ford bumped overall chassis rigidity and left the rough stuff exclusively to the dampers. Once the road gained more twist, the ride remained comfortable with some roll through some fast sweepers, but it never felt too soft. The brakes felt adequate as well, with good-enough pedal feel and stopping power. Though, anyone after more would be wise to upgrade to the Performance Package's six-piston front/four-piston rear Brembo package.

Later, I swapped keys for a Performance Package and had the opportunity to feel out this more enthusiast-centric version on both a short drift course and an autocross circuit. This $3,475 add-on encompasses a Torsen LSD, 19-inch gray wheels on summer tires, a strut-tower brace, the drift brake, heavy-duty front springs, Brembos, paddle shifters, a bigger rear sway bar, as well as different chassis, steering, and stability control tuning. Going for the Performance Pack also unlocks the ability to give Ford another $1,750 for MagneRide adaptive dampers. Ford personnel said they summoned all of their development know-how from the previous generation to refine these even further, and body roll was virtually nowhere to be found in Sport and Track modes.

Another neat trick up the Performance Package's sleeve is that new drift brake—a cable-less hand brake that electronically actuates the rear brakes to help induce skids. It's a neat piece of tech but was a little odd to get the hang of—I've always been more of a just-stab-the-gas kind of hooligan. Whether or not it can be trusted with the general public in an age of takeovers and Cars & Coffee carnage is a whole 'nother discussion altogether. Get the popcorn ready.

Peter Nelson

Saving the best for last, the new EcoBoost has a quicker 15.5:1 steering ratio compared to the outgoing model's 16:1, with an all-new steering rack that's significantly more rigid than before. According to Vehicle Dynamics Engineer Adam Brecher, it didn't take much to achieve this.

"We've reduced compliance in the steering column, it's stiffer torsionally," Brecher said. "We've removed a rubber isolator in the shaft, and it's a splined shaft instead of a clover-leaf shaft. That's that right-there, on-center immediate response, and as you start to build [steering angle], that's the quicker ratio." Steering feel was decent, and while weight was slightly too light for my taste, it was forgivable thanks to the EcoBoost's lighter, more turn-in-happy front-end and new very fast, very fun ratio.

Sprightly Propulsion

I'm not going to lie, I'm bummed that the EcoBoost Mustang is no longer sold with a manual transmission. I know, the MT-82 six-speed manual in the S550 felt like stirring gravel with a rusty piece of rebar compared to the Tremec 'box found in the Mach 1 and Shelby, but even the crappiest manual transmissions beat the vast majority of automatics. This is especially true when the automatic in question is Ford’s 10-speed which isn’t particularly impressive in the Ranger, Bronco, or outgoing Mustang. 

Peter Nelson

However, Ford tuned the transmission well in the new EcoBoost Mustang: while it shuddered a tad down low in the revs, the correct gear is selected with minimal lag when booking it in and out of fun corners in Sport and Track modes, while shifts are smooth and dual clutch-like when just tooling around through suburban streets. Unfortunately, the ability to shift gears yourself is only available on models equipped with the Performance Package, but the full-auto logic was sound enough for twisty roads. 

Ripping through the autocross course at the helm of a Performance Pack model with paddle shifters, though, there was some occasional, pronounced lag when I took control and shifted from first to second up high in the rev range.

Peter Nelson

In front of this 10-speed's bell housing is Ford's new fourth-generation 2.3-liter turbocharged four-cylinder, sporting a new twin-scroll turbo, port and direct fuel injection, all-aluminum construction, and a 10.6:1 compression ratio. It pumps out 315 hp and 350 lb-ft of torque, slightly more than the current version’s 310 and 330, though not quite as much as the '23 EcoBoost High Performance Package's 330 hp. Power is sent to the rear wheels via a standard limited-slip differential and 3.15:1 final drive ratio, whereas the Performance Package’s upgraded Torsen gets a higher 3.55:1 ratio.

Ford isn’t offering an official figure just yet, but a mid-five-second zero-to-60-mph time seems doable.

As for how it sounds, the S650's exhaust note is more refined than the S550’s. While the outgoing car’s four-banger was on the coarse side, this one sounds a bit more smooth and balanced, and I genuinely enjoyed it. 

Ford Mustang EcoBoost Features, Options, and Competition

To hop into a base Ford Mustang EcoBoost, press the start button, and spool off into the sunset, it'll cost $32,515. Cloth seats, six speakers, 17-inch wheels, single-zone climate control, and a black interior are standard.

Moving up to the Premium package will cost a hearty $38,040 but adds on niceties such as dual-zone climate control, heated and ventilated faux-leather seats, satellite radio, Bang & Olufsen audio, a six-way power adjustable driver seat, and a heated steering wheel. Speccing the EcoBoost to the gills with performance options pushes it well over $40,000—in fact, my ideal build comes out to over $46,000. Not a small figure.

Peter Nelson Peter Nelson

As far as what the new EcoBoost stacks up against, its longtime rival in the turbo-four Camaro is being discontinued. This means it's only really sparring with a handful of rear-wheel-drive options: the Toyobaru twins, the 2.0-liter Toyota Supra, and BMW’s 230i. The Subaru BRZ and Toyota GR86 start at $31,115 and $29,495, respectively, whereas the Supra starts at $44,635 and 2er commands $38,395. All three make their cases on various aesthetic and performance fronts, but none have optional adaptive dampers, and the BMW-powered latter two only come in automatic. Even though it weighs more than 1,000 pounds less and is significantly smaller, the Mazda MX-5 might be another consideration for someone after enthusiastic rear-wheel-drive thrills and starts at just $29,215.

The Early Verdict

Per Brecher, much of this new EcoBoost’s suspension development took place at Grattan Raceway. Ask any Michigander who makes the most of the Midwest's warm season by attending track days and club racing events: This is one of the most underrated tracks in North America. It's got everything—a fast straightaway, elevation changes, major compressions, off-camber sections—and is extremely technical in some areas. The fact that the Mustang was perfected here is a good sign that it'll put a smile on almost anyone's face in the twisties.

As for downsides, I don't think it quite has its direct predecessor beat in terms of all-around looks, but it's not ugly, either. It's also a shame that the six-speed manual is no longer in the equation, but at least the new drift brake on Performance Package models will keep drivers' right arms busy. Though, more S550 buyers should've opted for the stick in the first place, but that's a soapbox for another day.

Peter Nelson

All in all, though, the 2024 Ford Mustang EcoBoost is a good next step for the badge. It's modernized enough in terms of styling and tech to keep up with the times, refined in other places to make it a better-than-ever daily sports car, and remains great fun to rip between the cones and huck across roller coaster-like mountain-top tarmac.

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