EngineTurbo 2.3L I4
Power310 HP / 320 LB-FT
0-60 Time5.1 Seconds (est)
Curb Weight3,524 LBS
MPG21 City / 32 HWY
As Tested Price$35,665
For the Mustang's 50th year in service, Ford went back to the drawing board, we think with the distinct goal of eliminating the stigma of the non-V8 Mustang. While the V6 is still being offered (your local Avis and Enterprise lots wouldn't be the same without them), it's best to think of the new, four-cylinder, turbocharged Mustang EcoBoost as the entry-level model.
But will the addition of forced induction – from an engine that will see action in the upcoming, enthusiast-centric Focus RS, no less – be enough to appease those pony car fans that believe that only Mustangs with eight cylinders are worthy of the galloping stallion badge? After a week at the helm, we certainly think it is.
The new Mustang's looks have been covered ad nauseam. Chances are good that you either love the fastback styling, or you think the original pony car now looks a lot like a Fusion Coupe. We'll ignore the bigger styling remarks for the 2015 Mustang, and instead, focus on what's done right with the EcoBoost model.
Like the V6 before it, certain boxes are correctly ticked. Dual exhausts? Check. 18-inch alloys? Check. (Our EcoBoost Premium model even shares its wheels with the base GT). HID headlamps? Check. Up front, there's a surprisingly meaty chin spoiler while the muscular lines of the 'Stang's long hood tie in nicely with the fastback shape, which terminates in a neat rear spoiler. There's even a body-colored diffuser at the back, between the chromed exhaust tips. The bottom line is, unless you're a true Mustang aficionado, you'll be hard pressed to tell the difference between the turbocharged car and its 435-horsepower brother.
Simply sitting in the redesigned cabin isn't enough to give the EcoBoost away, either. The leather-trimmed seats (standard on the Premium trim) are cozy and supportive, with plenty of bolstering to help keep both driver and passenger in place while the 'Stang exhibits its newly enhanced cornering abilities. For the first time in recent memory, dropping $1,595 for the optional Recaro seats is no longer a no-brainer, as we found these seats quite pleasing as the miles and Gs piled on. Regardless of trim, a leather-wrapped steering wheel is standard, with its small diameter and thicker rim making it a willing accomplice during our testing.
Of course, where the EcoBoost really stands out from the GT is in all the real estate under that long hood. The compact 2.3-liter mill doesn't take up that much space, despite delivering a robust 310 horsepower and 320 pound-feet of torque, available in full at 3,000 rpm. For those keeping track at home, that's more power than the old 4.6-liter Mustang GT. Hell, at just over 3,500 pounds, this four-cylinder Mustang is lighter and more powerful than a six-cylinder BMW 435i.
If you've driven a lot of last-generation Mustangs, prepare to be surprised by the EcoBoost car. The Mustang's linear power delivery is bookended by some turbo lag at lower revs and boost that drops somewhat as redline approaches. Keep these two issues in mind, though, and the relatively quick-spinning 2.3 is an able partner, with strong, accessible power at the heart of the rev range, between 2,500 and 6,000 rpm. Estimates that the run to 60 miles per hour takes just a shade over five seconds seem correct to us after some hard pulls from a standstill. Sport mode sharpened the throttle appreciably and made for more aggressive behavior from the six-speed automatic, although there was little to complain about in either category in Normal mode.
It is worth noting that the coupe's 6AT is no longer some dullard. Rather than fitting in the Mustang recipe like a pickle in a crème brulee, the addition of the auto trans is more like relish on a hot dog – not everyone's favorite thing, but something that will be quite palatable to many drivers.
The 6AT is smooth and reasonably fast to upshift and downshift in normal mode, and it does so without any histrionics or drama. It's a different beast in Sport mode, though, where you can really dig in to the Mustang's first ever set of steering-wheel-mounted paddles. The engine blips on downshifts and delivers a restrained burp on wide-open-throttle upshifts, while tiny paddles come packaged with a clicky action that makes working them out a smile-inducing experience. We can even praise the actual automatic shifter – it looks and feels great, particularly in the way the metal release on top of the right-sized knob functions. It feels like a very premium item. Oddly, though, you can't use the shifter to operate the manual mode.
If only we could ignore the way it sounded. Even with technology like Active Noise Control, the simple fact is that the 2.3-liter is more Adam Sandler's Opera Man than Pavarotti. It might be loud and bellicose, but there's an artificiality and hollow character to the soundtrack that we'd just rather not put up with. It also has a tendency to drone at speed, although that's a widely recognized problem with high-output four-cylinders and is far from exclusive to the Mustang. Here's hoping Ford adds to the selectable driving modes with a dedicated setting for the ANC and exhaust.
Of course, the EcoBoost's soundtrack could simply be ignored by buying the V8, right? Well, sure. But you'd be missing out on what is sure to be one of the hidden benefits of the turbocharged Mustang – its poise and handling.
Much ado has been made about the long-awaited inclusion of an independent rear suspension for the 2015 Mustang. Before we get on with the obligatory tongue-wagging over the impact modern suspension technology is having on the way the pony car drives, we need to take a minute to praise the impact this aluminum four-cylinder has on the Mustang's handling character.
The EcoBoost automatic is roughly 200 pounds lighter than the 5.0-liter with the same transmission, with the vast majority of the weight savings found under the hood. Based on plenty of experience with the big engine in the last-generation car, there's reason enough to believe the pointy, sharp handling character we experienced will be exclusive to the turbocharged 2015.
That's not to say any version of the new Mustang will be lacking in the bends, though. Everything you've read about the transformative effect the all-new rear suspension and stiff chassis have had on Ford's latest muscle car is 100-percent truth. The first proper turn we took in our EcoBoost tester was just the sort of thing that'd have given a 2014 Stang fits – it was a severely pockmarked exit ramp north of the Chrysler Technical Center in Auburn Hills that swings widely right, then left before merging seamlessly with the main road by way of a tight right-hand sweeper. It never so much as fazed the Mustang EcoBoost.
The lane-spanning road imperfections and potholes were basically ignored in the 2015, while a 2014 over the same stretch would have been side-stepping and shuddering itself to pieces. Instead, it was like the EcoBoost simply smiled and asked us to add on more speed. The light nose led to an even sharper turn-in than we were originally expecting, although the minimal body motions, particularly in regards to roll, had us questioning whether we were driving an American muscle car or something more... European. It's absolutely astonishing, particularly if your last Mustang experience involved a solid-rear axle.
It was the feedback that really impressed, though. Our tester was a charmer through the bends, but it'd have all been for naught had it been aloof and uncommunicative. Instead, we were easily able to interpret what each corner of the car was doing as we surged through the turns, with plenty of chatter through the ample seats and leather-wrapped steering wheel. Indeed, the last Mustang your author drove that was this talkative had "Boss 302" emblazoned on its fenders.
All the praise being heaped on the new suspension has had the unintended side effect of overshadowing another area of massive improvement for 2015: the steering. Like the last-generation Mustang, the new car's front axle is influenced by an electric power-assisted steering system, although as our own Jonathon Ramsey noted in our original review on the Mustang GT, similarities between the two systems are few and very far between.
The new steering is the biggest beneficiary of the lighter EcoBoost in the nose, as its already solid manners are amplified by the lack of fat over the front axle. The on-center dead zone that typified last year's car has been replaced by sharp and immediate turn-in, while weight builds linearly from lock to lock. Like the suspension, you'll need to glance at the pony badge on the nose and remind yourself you're driving a Mustang.
Generally, we'd mention the brakes at this point, although the standard binders on our tester hardly came up for either criticism or praise. The pedal was easy to modulate from tip-in into full on, and didn't deliver too much feel overall, while the 12.5-inch rotors at each corner had no issues bringing our tester to a halt. Frankly, this is one of those areas that people will either, A, not concern themselves with or, B, automatically select the Brembo stoppers (put us in the latter category, despite the basic goodness of the standard brakes).
Ford quotes the EcoBoost automatic hardtop at 21 miles per gallon in the city and 32 mpg on the highway. While your author's heavy foot shouldn't be taken as gospel, we imagine most owners will be matching the high teens we experienced during our week with the car. Those seeking a 32-mpg Mustang, meanwhile, better be spending all their time on the interstates.
While you can get a Mustang EcoBoost for $25,300, you'd be a fool to do so. Instead, you want the $29,300 Premium trim, which adds as standard Sync with MyFord Touch, Selectable Drive Modes, heated, vented and powered leather seats, dual-zone climate control, ambient lighting, a nine-speaker stereo with SiriusXM and HD radio and heated side mirrors. You'll also need to opt for the Premium if you want to add things like the twelve-speaker Shaker stereo, blind-spot monitoring or the 50 Years Appearance Package. Regardless of which EcoBoost trim you ultimately choose, plan on dropping $1,195 for the six-speed automatic gearbox, if that's your thing.
Our particular car rang up at $35,665, including an $825 destination charge. That includes the aforementioned Premium trim and automatic transmission, as well as $1,795 for the Rapid Spec 201A pack (Shaker audio, blind-spot monitoring and a memory function for the power seats), $1,195 for adaptive cruise control, $295 for rear parking sensors, $795 for navigation capability on MyFord Touch and $395 for the Enhanced Security Package (wheel locks and an anti-theft system). While the vehicle shown in these photos features the EcoBoost Performance Pack, the car we tested for this review did not have the $1,995 option group, which adds larger 19-inch wheels, a stiffer rear sway bar, firmer front springs, larger brakes, enhanced cooling systems and unique setups for the stability and traction control and steering.
For the first time in a long time, we can recommend, wholeheartedly, that you should buy a Mustang without the V8. It's very, very good. But more than that, it feels like something unique and exciting, rather than merely playing second fiddle to the 5.0-liter GT. People are still going to give you flak for buying the turbo rather than the V8. Just ignore them, though, because at the end of the day, you'll be driving a 3,500-pound, turbocharged, rear-drive coupe with 310 horsepower. The Mustang badge on the nose is just a bonus.