2015 Ford Mustang EcoBoost Built for Corners, Not Quarter Miles: Review
If you’re sick of the 2015 Ford Mustang before it even goes on sale, I don’t blame you. Ford has gone to unusual lengths to promote both the redesigned 2015 Mustang and the nameplate’s 50th anniversary for damn near a year now. It all started with a multiple-location reveal of the new car on December 5, 2013 that even included a live appearance on the Today show. Ford’s choice to reveal the car on a random December day instead of waiting to take the curtain off at the 2014 North American International Auto Show (NAIAS) in Detroit in January was odd enough for a company that’s based just minutes from the show’s Cobo Hall location in downtown Detroit. Ford followed that with a nod to the Mustang’s original 1964 launch by putting a 2015 Mustang atop the Empire State Building during the 2014 North American International Auto Show last spring. RELATED: See Photos of the 2015 Ford Mustang
After all the build-up and all the 50th birthday parties, Ford finally gave journalists their first crack at the ‘Stang in Los Angeles, giving those of us in attendance the chance to drive the top-line GT and the all-new EcoBoost turbocharged four-cylinder. No V6 models, which essentially serve as the base car in terms of features as well as engine power output, were available for testing. Nor were any convertibles—we’ll have to wait to drive those, sunny SoCal weather be damned.
The 2015 Mustang is new from the ground up, according to Ford, but it retains the car’s classic long hood/short deck form. Rear-wheel drive remains the only way for a Mustang to get power to the ground, and you can still order your Mustang with V8 power.
RELATED: See photos of the 2015 Ford Mustang GT
As Mustang fanboys undoubtedly know by now, the biggest change (other than the availability of a four-cylinder engine for the first time since Cheers ended and Frasier began) is the replacement of the live rear axle with an independent rear suspension (IRS). The front suspension gets changes, too (it’s a double-ball joint MacPherson strut setup, with a stabilizer bar), but the IRS brings the Mustang into the 21st century and in-line with its competitors, all in the name of better ride and handling.
Ford folks felt that they could no longer improve upon the live rear axle any more than they already had. Not to mention that the Mustang team had benchmarked the Boss 302 Mustang from a few years back as a handling target—they wanted the new Mustang to be better than that car. They felt they needed to go with an IRS to do so, despite any hue and cry that might erupt from Mustang purists.
RELATED: See photos of the 2015 Ford Mustang 50-Year Limited Edition
Other significant changes include a much-needed reworking of the previously neglected interior and the addition of creature comforts that were previously available on lesser Fords but not the Mustang (even the Fiesta subcompact, which serves as Ford’s entry-level car, has had an available push-button start). Ford PR spent a good chunk of the media presentation talking about the addition of a standard push-button start and the standard selectable drive modes, among other things, but it’s hard to get too excited about Ford giving the Mustang features it should have had years ago.
Yes, it’s true that car hasn’t had a major overhaul in damn near a decade and refreshes in 2010 and 2013 couldn’t fix everything, but it’s still odd that Mustang fans had to wait this long for features that are basic in most models.
There’s also an available line-lock feature that will hold the car still while doing a burnout in preparation for a drag-strip run, but I didn’t test it out, since I wanted to avoid any unnecessary attention from the California Highway Patrol.
RELATED: See photos of the 2015 Saleen Mustang S302
The exterior is redone, too. As noted above, it retains the basic proportions of the previous car, and it’s dimensionally similar in terms of length, although it’s about an inch and a half lower and an inch and a half wider. In pictures, it doesn’t look like a dramatic departure from contemporary Mustangs, despite the obvious styling differences. In person the contrast is much starker, and the car looks downright sinister thanks to its low stance and scowling headlights.
The 2015 has a cleaner look that Mustangs of yore, and those with an eye for detail will note a relative lack of badging. The EcoBoost just has a pony logo on the front and back. I liked the car’s low stance, which from the rear makes it look wide and squat, adding to the muscular image.
RELATED: See video of the 2015 Ford Mustang revving up
Slide inside, and the first thing you’ll notice is the aircraft-style toggle switches for the traction control, the drive-mode selectors, and the hazard lights. The push-button start is hard to miss, too, as is the badge in the cockpit marking the Mustang’s 50 years. Should you buy the EcoBoost with optional Performance Package (includes beefier brakes, blacked-out 19-inch wheels, and a 3.55:1 final drive ratio), you’ll get two additional gauges—including a boost gauge—to help you keep an eye on the turbo.
Even with the updates, though, the interior still looks and feels like that of the old car, but better. Materials generally feel nicer, and there are minor touches that improve the user experience, such as the offset cupholders that keep beverages out of the way when the driver is shifting gears. You do get stuck with Ford’s SYNC infotainment system, but you also get a rearview camera and real volume and tuning knobs. Storage space is increased, too. I also dug the “ground speed” indicator in the speedometer as a humorous touch. Headroom and legroom were more than adequate for my six-one frame, but the rear seat remains a kids-only space. I spent a few miles riding in the rear after an unfortunate encounter with a football-sized rock (more on that later), and I had to hunch over to fit.
RELATED: See video of a 2015 Ford Mustang driving on Route 66
While creature comforts and design changes matter, most Mustang buyers who spring for the EcoBoost or the GT only care about one thing: What’s the driving experience like?
In order to find out, I took to the mean streets of Hollywood before heading to the hills to try the car out on the Angeles Crest Highway, also known as California Highway 2. I drove an EcoBoost fitted with the six-speed automatic transmission (the transmission rev-matches when drivers downshift with the steering-wheel mounted paddles) and found it to be perfectly pleasant in L.A. traffic, while coming alive when faced with the tight corners up in the mountains. The “normal” steering and drive modes were fine in Hollywood traffic, with “comfort” noticeably lightening the steering during a freeway jaunt. When I switched to “sport” for steering and drive mode, the steering got significantly tighter.
The EcoBoost is pretty fleet off the line, thanks the 310 horsepower/320 lb-ft of torque from the 2.3-liter turbocharged four-banger, but a little patience is needed to let the turbo do its job before you feel the power in full.
Throw it into a corner, and the car complies with little drama. Mid-corner corrections were needed once or twice, but in general, the car cornered more accurately than Mustangs of the past. Stability is the order of the day here, and as I got further along the road, I gained confidence in the car and upped my cornering speeds accordingly.
Until I hit the aforementioned rock. Thanks to rain earlier in the week, a big ‘ole piece of the mountain had landed in the road, right after the apex of a blind corner. I braked hard and tried to steer around it, but time wasn’t on my side at the speed I was traveling at, and I shortly found myself on the side of the road with a flat tire and some suspension damage.
Ford was understanding and put us in another EcoBoost with the six-speed Getrag manual transmission and the Performance Package, but it was now my partner’s turn at the wheel, so I’d have to wait to give that combo a try.
Engines: 2.3-liter turbocharged four-cylinder
MPG: 21/32 (22/31 w/manual)
Price: $25,170 base
EcoBoost is performance bargain and a bit of a sleeper
Interior has finally caught up with the times
Handling is sure-footed
Backseat is for kids only
EcoBoost could use a bit more low-end torque
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