It’s been 21 years since the Mustang was available with a 4-cyl. engine, and Mustang Vehicle Engineering Manager Tom Barnes says the new 2.3L will not tarnish the car’s performance pedigree.

He says the 2.3L is loosely derived from the 2.0L EcoBoost I-4 available throughout the Ford vehicle lineup, “but really amped up.” A detuned version of the 2.3L also will appear in the Lincoln MKC CUV, in transverse orientation for front-wheel drive.

Ford engineers worked extensively in tuning the low-inertia twin-scroll turbocharger (Ford’s first) to mitigate lag at step-off.

“We wanted very quick time-to-torque,” Barnes says, adding the torque curve, which hasn’t been released yet, will illustrate the objective was met. “It’s flat across at 100%,” he says. “We wanted to make the torque available early on, and we got that.”

The automatic and manual transmissions also have been upgraded and mate well with the 2.3L, Barnes says.

He is convinced Mustang loyalists will love the 2.3L, although he admits no amount of exhaust tuning will allow it to replicate the guttural note from the 5.0L, which has the advantage of twice as many pistons and more than twice the displacement.

During our short time with the car, the 2.3L exhaust sounds plenty aggressive and resonates more deeply than just about any other mainstream 4-cyl. engine on the road today.

Ford says the new Mustang will use audio technology similar to the electronically controlled “sound symposer” to amplify throaty intake frequencies in the Focus ST and Fiesta ST. More details will be coming on that front.

But engineers continue tweaking the exhaust system, so what was experienced here may not end up in production.

“Sound is hugely important in the Mustang – there’s emotional response,” Barnes says. “We are paying close attention to making sure the experience is right. We didn’t go for something that’s just, ‘Zing zing!’ We wanted it to be Mustang, so we actually have low-frequency sound. But it’s not like we are trying to fake it out. It’s not a V-8.”