Why Ford Should Revive the SVO Name for Its Mustang EcoBoost
With the 350 or so horsepower Ford Focus RS set to arrive on dealership lots in the near future, the Mustang EcoBoost is bound to lose a bit of its appeal. Though they both use the same 2.3-liter turbocharged four-cylinder engine, the EcoBoost ‘Stang falls 35 horsepower short of its new Blue Oval sibling.
When the sixth generation Mustang was redesigned for the 2015 model year, Ford added the EcoBoost four-cylinder as a third powertrain option for those looking for the perfect blend of performance and fuel-efficiency.
Surprisingly, the proven 3.7-liter V6 was demoted to the base engine, and the new EcoBoost four-cylinder is being marketed as a premium powertrain offering on the Mustang. With a 10 horsepower and 40 pound-foot advantage over the Duratec six-cylinder, the EcoBoost definitely packs a bigger punch. Performance aside, its fuel economy ratings (21 city/32 highway) are also far better than the Mustang V6 (19 city/28 highway).
At the time of its release, the Mustang EcoBoost was certainly generating a fair share of buzz in the pony car segment. But it has since quickly died down — partly due the auto industry’s fixation on the Focus RS. Make no mistake, the attention is well deserved and the RS is certainly a car worth waiting for.
But you can’t help but question Ford’s decision to make its four-door hatchback faster than its halo pony car. Since the Focus RS is proof that the technology already exists to further increase the 2.3-liter’s output, Ford should offer a high-performance version of the EcoBoost Mustang and revive the SVO moniker that was last used in the mid-1980s.
Mustang enthusiasts would certainly be overcome with nostalgia if Ford decided to pay homage to the turbocharged Fox Bodies that were decades ahead of their time. Developed by Ford’s Special Vehicle Operations Department, the SVO was also powered by a turbocharged four-cylinder engine with the same 2.3-liter displacement. In 1984, the SVO debuted with 175 horsepower and 210 pound-feet of torque. Midway through its second year of production, output was further increased to 205 horsepower and 248 pound-feet.
Surprisingly, the SVO offered comparable straight-line performance to the V8-powered GT model with only half the cylinder count. But the lighter SVO was a far superior handler with its adjustable Koni shock-absorbers, forged lower control arms and specially tuned springs, bushings and anti-sway bars. Four-wheel disc brakes were also an exclusive SVO feature not found on any other Mustang. While the GT was geared more toward the drag racing crowd, the SVO was a born road racer designed to compete against European sports cars.
But perhaps the biggest selling point was the SVO’s excellent fuel efficiency — ironically rated at the same 21 city/32 highway as the new Mustang EcoBoost. Rightfully so, the SVO’s Euro-spec handling and unmatched fuel economy did come at a steep price. The SVO’s near $16,000 base price was $6,000 more than the starting price of a GT.
An SVO Mustang today likely wouldn’t match the price of a GT, but it could depending on far Ford is willing to push the envelope. An SVO worthy of production would need to offer comparable performance to the Focus RS with its impressive 345 horsepower and 347 pound-feet of torque. Obviously, increasing the EcoBoost four-cylinder’s output isn’t too much to ask as the RS has already shown this is possible with a low-inertia twin scroll turbocharger, a less restrictive intake design, and larger intercooler to maximize charge density.
While simply increasing output is the most likely and cost-effective option, it would be nothing short of glorious to see the SVO stay true to its road coarse roots by incorporating the same suspension, chassis, and braking systems found in the Shelby GT350. MagneRide dampers, six-pot Brembo calipers and sticky Michelin rubber would enable SVO owners to drive their car straight from the showroom floor to the racetrack spoolin’ to their hearts’ desire.
Dreaming aside, if Ford really wants to market its EcoBoost engine as a premium powertrain offering in the Mustang, then bringing back the SVO name with improved performance will certainly be a step in the right direction.
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