I wasn’t always a Mustang fan. In fact, I used to rip on those cars every chance I got. Then by an odd twist of fate, I was offered a job at a Ford dealership. Back then I was a HUGE import guy, but I guess we all change at some point. Don’t get me wrong, I still love my imports but these muscle cars….nothing is quite like them. The V-8 rumble, their presence on the road, the good ol’ American formula of rear-wheel drive and a massive V-8 up front, their “I don’t give a damn” mentality, it was all very raw and pure.
My hate, as I had learned, wasn’t the car’s fault but the fault of their owners and my own ignorance. Like I said, we all change. Well, apparently, cars change too as evidenced by the transformation of the Mustang from an iconic pony car to a well-rounded GT car. The exclamation on that is the 2015 Ford Mustang EcoBoost can be optioned with a, wait for it, a 4-cylinder! For those of you who have trouble reading I’ll put it in caps; A 4-CYLINDER MUSTANG!
I’m sure many of you die-hard fans probably flipped over a table or two by now. Your outrage is understandable as there can be nothing better than a V-8. However, if you are the few who are intrigued by this concept or have calmed down from your table flipping, you may find this new Mustang quite interesting.
While we normally break down our reviews into sections, where I write about the exterior, interior and performance in that order, we’re going to switch it up a bit. Every professional internet racer lives by stats and numbers so here they are; an EcoBoost 2.3L turbocharged 4-cylinder engine with 310 horsepower at 5,500 rpm, 320 lb.-ft. of torque at 3,000 rpm, with your choice of a 6-speed manual or automatic transmission powering the rear wheels.
Here’s where it stings the most; the EcoBoost 4-cylinder puts out more horsepower and more torque than the 4.6L V-8 put out from just a couple generations ago. “Well, it’s still not a V-8!” You can thank technological progress. By now, I’m sure you’ve seen videos or read about its times in the ¼ mile and if you are Dom Torretto, that is all you care about. However, for those of us who can drive in more than just a straight line, this car is quite the package.
Driving this car in traffic or in town is about as exciting as driving an automatic ’97 Corolla. You almost forget that you are in a Mustang as the 4-cylinder just doles away. It isn’t a great sound and it is almost annoying in some cases, especially when you are driving slowly in 25 mph traffic. Even the throttle response and shifting is lethargic and you feel positively frustrated. You decide how responsive the car is with one of four settings by clicking through a toggle switch on the center stack. Normal, provides the aforementioned Corolla responsiveness.
Snow/Wet are for slippery conditions and to be honest, I didn’t even bother selecting it. I skipped over Sport as well and went straight to Track. Once the road clears up and you hit a nice windy backroad, turn everything into Track, turn off all the safety systems and the car feels completely different. It is almost a Jekyll-Hyde personality in that in a flick of a switch, the car is just more aggressive, more responsive and so playful. It wasn’t until I got to some empty backroads in Northwestern Connecticut that I really enjoyed the car. It is sensitive to inputs and the engine responds best when you are in a groove.
The engine is playful and willing to rev out, the torque is great from corner to corner acceleration, the brakes could bite hard, the body motions are well controlled and best of all the independent rear suspension doesn’t let road imperfections bother the car. If anything it feels like an old 240SX to me (please send hate mail to firstname.lastname@example.org) and that is a very good thing. The car is predictable enough that you can anticipate its movements and adjust if you need to but it isn’t a telepathic connection.
The fully independent front and rear suspension does a great job of keeping the car planted in almost any situation. The car ride is stiffer than I had hoped but motions are well controlled and is hard to upset. The rear axle doesn’t have a mind of its own and hop all over when it encounters a not-so-nice road which inspires confidence as you mash away at the throttle. Transitioning from one turn to the next is fuss free as the rear end just sets as you give it more gas and traction is fantastic even with the all-season tires.
Burnouts are easy and the EcoBoost will happily light up the rear tires because let’s face it, what else do you do in a Mustang? Sand sprinkled country backroads in the winter are great because it makes the tail just that much more playful and with proper throttle control you can get the car to do almost anything you want. The limited slip differential helps a ton too but you can tell just how much the car is going to rotate on you.
In Mustangs past, I have always felt as though there was a disconnect between the front and rear axles and that the rear just was just never on board with what you wanted to do unless it involved going straight. Thankfully, things have changed for the better. Turn the front wheels and the rear is only happy to oblige to your commands. While a set of stickier tires will provide more grip, the all-seasons make the car a bit more playful as you can approach the limits a little easier. Due to the lack of feedback from the wheel, you don’t really know when the front tires are going to give out but you can correct it with over steer very easily as you give it more gas.
Does it sound any better in Track? I don’t think it does but I’ve never really liked the sound of 4-cylinder engines. You can hear some slight turbo spool which is always fun but the exhaust note isn’t anything to write home about. Ford uses some trickery here to allow more engine sound to enter into the cabin but it only makes things more awkward.
My complaint regarding the automatic transmission goes away when in Track too as it sharpens up and quickens the shifting. The transmission will hold gears until redline and won’t shift unless you tell it to. Shifting the gears yourself can be done via the plastic paddles fixed to the steering wheel or pushing the shifter forward or backward when it is in manual mode. That faster shifts don’t ruin the smoothness of the transition in gears and the car just feels more natural than it does in Normal.
In Normal mode, the transmission seems to take its time to shift into a gear and goes for the highest gear as soon as possible to save you on gas. I’d rather the car have the faster shifts even when it is the tame Normal. Maybe that is the purpose of the car; to be the dull white collar commuter when you need it to be and the hard partying frat boy on the weekends.
I had an interesting time in the Mustang on a trip from Stamford, CT to the Litchfield Hills on a snowy Thursday afternoon. I left Stamford at 2:30 PM to arrive home just after 7 PM. Mother Nature was generous enough to send us some snow and freezing rain my way. The going was slow and the only trouble I had was in Stamford when I slid about a foot near a traffic light. The trip up the Merritt Parkway and up Route 8 was slow but I never felt like I was going to lose control.
My traction control systems were on but they only turned on twice, one of which was my own doing, the other going up a hill. On Route 8 I was stuck behind someone in the fast lane and there was a long line. None of the other lanes were plowed so everyone was in the left. I got a bit too overconfident and ventured out to the right to pass and was having trouble gaining traction up the hill but the car was very easy to control and I was able to get back into the left lane. I was travelling faster than most as well and was thankful that the car was predictable and easy to control. Those tires were great too.
Just as the Ecoboost engine option is controversial, so too was the styling. Many thought that the American icon became too European along with the rest of Ford’s lineup sans the trucks. I’ve heard everything from “nice a Fusion coupe!” to “is that a Honda Accord with a Mustang logo?” Say what you will but a complete redesign was needed. The Mustang looks longer and sleeker now and thanks to some nice metal work, the car looks more muscular and broader in the hips. Ford stuck with some retro cues which give off traditional American Muscle vibes but it is more subtle. I wasn’t a fan of the front fascia as it didn’t look as aggressive as I thought it should. The front grille and shark-like forward slant of the nose is unmistakably Mustang but the headlights wouldn’t look out of place on a Ford Fusion.
The hood has two sharp and rather high creases that give off an aggressive vibe but I think the front end neutralizes the effect somewhat. I preferred the outgoing style a bit more due to its “angrier” appearance. The front has definitely gone softer but the rest of the body has sharp creases and sensual curves especially on the rear quarter panel. The rear has gotten mixed reviews but I like it. I think it is rather modern and the sequential turn signals are too cool. The rear bumper has dual exhaust outlets and sitting between them is a body colored diffuser. My test car came with the standard 18” machined aluminum wheels wrapped in the aforementioned all-season rubber. While the wheel design works, Ford offers some more aggressive looking wheels as options.
The interior was heavily updated with a new design that is more modern and sporty. The cockpit is very functional and styled to be more functional for the driver. The three spoke steering wheel is meaty and the dual gauge cluster is easily visible despite being recessed into the gauge hood. Straddling between the tachometer and speedometer is your trip “computer” which shows everything from navigation, radio stations, car vitals, and trick readouts for performance metrics. Our Premium Package test car came with Sync and MyFord Touch which is really neat.
Just about everything can be controlled or change through voice commands which allows you to keep both hands on the wheel. I found it to be easy and intuitive to use but as with all systems, there is a learning curve with it. Standard equipment included dual-zone electronic automatic climate control, ambient lighting, heated, cooled and powered driver and passenger seats, and the premium sound system. While the layout was functional and utilitarian, the material choices irked me.
I was hoping for less plastics and more soft touch materials in the new generation but I was let down a bit. Hard textured plastics are found everywhere and the toggle switches at the bottom of the center stack that control steering feel, the car’s settings, and traction control are cheap shiny plastic. The faux aluminum colored plastics on the dash and steering wheel didn’t help the Mustang’s case either. I was expecting the next level in refinement not the same level as the previous generation.
Getting cozy in the Mustang is an easy affair. The steering wheel can be tilted and telescopes and the front seats are 6-way adjustable. Once situated, the view out into the rest of the world gets distracted by the two large creases in the hood. I think they look rather cool and help place the car as the right edge of the road lines up with the right crease perfectly.
You don’t realize how long the hood of the car is until you sit in the Mustang. It is a long coupe and it doesn’t try to hide its proportions either. The thick A-pillar can obstruct your view to the left in some turns but overall visibility is fantastic. Blind spots are minimal and rearward visibility is great. I cannot provide any information on the rear seats because they’re a joke for anyone. All I used it for is tossing my book bag in the back.
Unfortunately, I do not have any pricing information for you. My test car was a “pre-production model” so pricing and EPA estimates were not established when the car was built. Here’s a breakdown to get a good idea. The test car was a Premium Coupe with the optional add-ons being the 6-speed automatic, the Enhanced Security Package, adaptive cruise control, reverse park assist, and the voice activated navigation system.
I’ll leave you to determine the price yourselves. I would personally recommend the manual even if the automatic isn’t a bad option only because there isn’t anything that is a whole lot better than throwing your own gears. Everything else is a very solid package that provides for a very nice modification platform.
The allure for me is that the EcoBoost Mustang is a rear-wheel drive turbocharged 4-cylinder coupe. It is what a lot of enthusiasts have wanted from import automakers since the 240SX but it is quite funny that a domestic automaker had made what we all cried out for. Sure it has its faults, but those imports did too and part of that is why we loved them. The tuning world has taken a liking to the EcoBoost Mustang, and rightfully so. Sure we’d all rather have V-8s but there is nothing wrong with a 4-cylinder Mustang either. Ford finally made a true GT car and I think that is something we can all appreciate.
Photo Credit: Copyright 2015 Garry Gulledge / Car Fanatics Blog