Ford may offer a third engine in the Mustang

Looks like the Ford Mustang is getting a new engine to slot in between the eco-friendly four-banger and the performance-oriented V-8.

Everyone in Dearborn is keeping mum for now—a spokesman said only that the company “is always elevating Mustang and will share more exciting news this spring”—but Ford provided a glimpse of its plan with a recent National Highway Traffic Safety Administration vehicle identification number filing. The paperwork, one of the documents Ford has started filing for vehicles coming in the 2020 model year, shows the company may once again offer three engines in any Mustang without a Shelby badge.

That’s significant, because Ford dropped the V-6 from the base Mustang for the 2018 model after deciding the 2.3-liter EcoBoost four provided better power for just $1000 more. That left the four-banger and the V-8, which carried a $9000 premium, as consumers’ only choices.

Both are fine engines, but that’s quite a gap in power, performance, and price. Ford found itself in a bind even after cutting the price of the base model by $1000 because Chevrolet continued offering three engines in the Camaro. Although Ford’s turbo four beats the Camaro’s turbo four, it falls a full 25 horsepower short of the Chevy’s six.

Uh-oh. Consumers who wanted a little more oomph but didn’t want to step up to the GT were stuck. Safe to assume many of them gave the V-6 Camaro a good long look.

The filing published this week the NHTSA website provides VIN decoder information for a handful of 2020 Ford models, including the  Mustang. It lists data for many of the familiar Mustang engines and trim levels along with not one but two engine codes for the 2.3-liter turbocharged engine.

Ford vin decoder EcoBoost engine

The second listing lists horsepower as “TBD,” but sources at Ford say we’re looking at a new, higher-powered version of the turbocharged engine. Exact figures remain a mystery, but it seems likely that Ford will aim for exceeding the 335 ponies produced by the Camaro’s V-6. It could even go as high as 350, given that’s what you get from the 2.3-liter EcoBoost four in the wild Focus RS. That wouldn’t be difficult, given that the Mustang’s engine already shares its crank, rods, pistons, camshafts and valvetrain with the engine in the Focus RS. The biggest differences are in the engine block and cylinder head castings and engine tune.

Whatever the final horsepower figure is, Ford won’t have to mess with the gearbox, since it bolts the same MT-82 six-speed manual to both the four- and eight-cylinder engines. The added power might require a beefier clutch than you get with the base model, but that’s an easy change.

Should all this come to pass, expect to pay a few grand more over base for the mid-level Mustang. The EcoBoost Performance Package already available on the base Mustang could be offered as well, perhaps with some customized chassis tuning. That would make the mid-level Mustang a solid competitor against the Camaro V-6 1LE.

At least until Chevrolet decides how to respond.

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