Essentially an all-new car, the 2015 Ford Mustang has been refined and modernized like no Mustang to come before it. One new wrinkle ushered in with the introduction of the new car is a revised powertrain lineup. Along with V6 and V8 engines, a new turbocharged four-cylinder engine is now available in the Mustang EcoBoost model.
What Is It?
This big coupe shares its wheelbase with the outgoing Mustang, and it sits a bit lower and wider and has a broader track width. However, hardwarewise the 2015 Mustang shares very little with the outgoing car.
Another milestone for this Mustang is that an independent suspension has been fitted to the base model, relegating its live rear axle to the scrap heap of history. That might not sound like a big deal since, well, every other rear-wheel-drive car on the road did the same years ago, but in Mustang Land, it's significant.
The multi-link rear end underpins the new chassis and is joined by a revised MacPherson strut front suspension and an expanded powertrain lineup. Another side benefit of the independent rear suspension is that it allowed the chassis to be inherently stiffer. Elsewhere, the new car's interior has been thoroughly updated while retaining traditional Mustang cues.
Where Does the Four-Cylinder Fit in?
In the past the Mustang could be had with a V6 or a V8. That's still the case with the new car, as you can choose a 3.7-liter V6 or a 5.0-liter V8. However, sitting between the V6 and the V8 in the pecking order is a new 2.3-liter turbocharged and direct-injected four-cylinder engine. Called EcoBoost, the four-cylinder engine is designed to attract buyers who otherwise may not have considered a Mustang.
It's an interesting option, generating 310 horsepower and 320 lb-ft of torque while delivering better fuel economy than the slightly less-powerful entry-level V6 offering. The EcoBoost four is broader-chested than the relatively peakier V6, generating its maximum torque over a wider portion of the rev range. Its twin-scroll turbo huffs a plateau of torque that reaches its max from 2,500 to 4,500 rpm, whereas the V6's torque climbs progressively up to its peak at 4,000 rpm.
There is one catch, however: the EcoBoost engine needs premium fuel to deliver its peak horsepower ratings. Put in regular gas and the EcoBoost can only muster 270 horsepower, although its torque output remains unchanged according to the engineers at Ford.
All three engines are available with a six-speed manual transmission or a six-speed automatic. With the automatic, the EcoBoost is rated to return 25 mpg combined (21 city/32 highway) while the six-speed manual is rated to deliver 26 combined (22 city/31 highway).
What Body Styles and Trim Levels Is It Available in?
For now, all Mustangs are coupes, or "fastbacks" in Fordspeak. As always, it's rear-wheel drive, a conventional trunk, two doors and a backseat. In other words, it's a Mustang.
EcoBoost variants start at $25,995 while the base V6 models start at $24,425. The base price of the V8-powered GT is $32,925.
A Premium package is available for GT and EcoBoost models that adds a variety of features and brings the price up another $4,000.
Enthusiasts will gravitate toward the Performance package which is only available on the EcoBoost and GT models. It consists of stiffer springs, monotube dampers, a larger rear stabilizer bar, additional chassis braces, a shorter final drive ratio, bigger brakes and summer tires. Adding it to the EcoBoost model will add $1,995 to the bottom line.
A convertible version of the new Mustang will be available before the end of this year, probably in December.
How Well Does It Drive?
We spent some time driving a 2015 Ford Mustang EcoBoost equipped with the manual gearbox and optional Performance pack. If you ever plan on taking the new Mustang through a corner in anger, the Performance pack is a must-have. The handling improvement over the base suspension is immediately obvious even before exploring the outer limits of grip.
But before we get to that, we take in our surroundings. The telescoping steering wheel puts it in a better position than previous Mustangs, and it's no longer sized like a ship's tiller. The shifter moves through its gates positively, with short, slick throws, and the pedals are laid out well for heel-toe downshifting.
As for the turbo-four, it transitions into boost seamlessly even at part-throttle, giving the car robust thrust around town. There's no sogginess off boost. Plus, being 100 pounds lighter than the V8, the EcoBoost's front end feels more spry, turning in toward the apex of corners with more enthusiasm. Body roll is well contained and the summer tires' cling on the pavement is tenacious. The steering is quick-geared and builds effort in a natural way, though we'd prefer more information about what the front tires are up to.
Still, in EcoBoost guise the new Mustang is at its most agile, seeming to shrink significantly when you thread it through a canyon, despite its ample dimensions and 3,524-pound base curb weight. It's unfortunate that the new car didn't push the envelope in terms of weight savings, like a pony car version of the new all-aluminum F-150, but cost considerations were said to be paramount.
The independent rear end has given the new Mustang a big shot of refinement in the way it takes to the road, whether those surfaces are smooth or pocked with bumps. All the bump sensitivity and nose dive under hard braking of the old Mustang is gone. It's a Mustang that's gone to finishing school. A wise move considering the new Mustang is headed into overseas markets.
Ford engineers weren't shy about piping intake honk into the cabin. It's unabashedly a four-cylinder sound, and this will appeal to some people as much as it turns others off. The raucousness grows a bit tiresome if you hammer the EcoBoost near the rev limiter for a while, but around town the engine is muted, pleasant and mannerly. Despite the EcoBoost's solid torque, the grunt doesn't hit all at once when you pick up the throttle exiting a corner. In this respect the four-cylinder Mustang is less of a hooligan than it could be.
You can customize the driving experience by the toggle switches located across the bottom of the center stack. One of them changes the heft (but not the ratio) of the steering, though the differences here are not night and day. Really, the sport setting is all that's needed, providing reassuring heft that won't overwork anyone's forearms. Another switch toggles the traction and stability control on or off. Yet another alters the shift calibration for autobox-equipped Mustangs, the throttle sharpness and stability control in four steps (normal, wet/snow, sport and track).
Solid brakes are another pleasant surprise you'll find in driving the new Mustang. The pedal is firm, and has immediate response at the top of the pedal with no dead travel.
What Is the Interior Like?
There's a more spacious feel thanks to the new car's less-monolithic dashboard and more trim center console. Its materials have a more premium look and feel than ever before, too. Our tester was not equipped with a sunroof, and headroom was adequate for this 6-foot-plus driver.
The steering wheel's contoured grips and tidier size means it's far nicer to use than the old-school wheel in the outgoing Mustang. There's a soft elbow pad on the console as swell. Its gauges are actually legible now, and they don't reflect on the inside of the windshield like the old ones.
Visibility is reasonably good, certainly better than a Camaro or Challenger, though the thick C-pillars block everything over your shoulders. All models get a backup camera as standard equipment, and blind-spot monitoring and adaptive cruise control are available.
The EcoBoost has an oil pressure gauge and a boost gauge, but their usefulness is limited as the needles sweep across less than half of the gauges' faces. Finally, there's a row of toggle switches beneath the climate controls that sure look cool.
What Are Its Closest Competitors?
The Mustang EcoBoost carves out something of a niche among its coupe competition, as nobody else offers a four-cylinder.
Chevrolet Camaro V6: Pushing out 323 hp, the Camaro V6 is the most powerful entry-level offering in the segment, and it's available with a six-speed manual or a six-speed automatic transmission.
Dodge Challenger SXT: No manual transmission is available with the V6, but there is an eight-speed automatic, if you're into that sort of thing. A round of upgrades for 2015 have given the Challenger the same level of feel and features as the Mustang.
Why Should You Consider This Car?
The EcoBoost's wide, flat powerband combined with the efficiency of a four-cylinder makes it an intriguing, small-displacement alternative to the Mustang's traditional engines. Add the Performance pack and the EcoBoost will stomp all over a, say, Scion FR-S, for similar money. OK, a dollop more money.
Why Should You Think Twice About This Car?
If you like your sporting cars light in weight and casting a small shadow, the new Mustang might not be your first choice. Its need for premium fuel to make maximum power might also make it more expensive to own than it appears on paper.
Edmunds attended a manufacturer-sponsored event, to which selected members of the press were invited, to facilitate this report.
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