Finally we had the chance spend a week with the 2015 Ford Mustang EcoBoost to see what it’s truly like to drive on our favorite back roads. While we’ve driven both the Mustang GT and EcoBoost on many brief occasions, it’s nice to live with a car to really feel it out.
The 2015 Mustang was the long awaited replacement for the last generation pony car which had been around since 2005. While rumored it was going to lose the retro look and get vastly more modern and perhaps change for global tastes, that isn’t what happened at all.
Instead what arrived was a more modern take on the retro style that has made the Mustang an icon. It has gotten some ribbing for looking like a Fusion coupe, and that is a fair criticism. Luckily most agree the Fusion isn’t itself a bad looking car.
The 2015 Mustang is fractionally smaller than the one it replaces, losing nearly 2-inches in width and an inch in height. Overall it looks and feels just as much a tank as it has been for some time, and in the process it actually gained a little weight.
Our tester here came with the EcoBoost Performance Package which brings the glossy black 19-inch wheels and summer rubber. The package also deletes the rear spoiler, but you can option to put it back on. Not sure why they configured it that way.
The look will continue into 2016 will little or no change other than the fact you can get non-black wheels with the Performance Packages if you don’t like them. If you like black however, a new appearance package will give you a black roof and other trim elements to add to the wheels.
Inside the 2015 Mustang is where this pony rides like nothing that came before it. Our Premium trim grade cabin was further enhanced with the Premier Trim and Accent Group. This added improved trims on the door panels and dash, red accent stitching and special turned aluminum paneling
Our was also optioned with the Recaro leather seats, which are manual in adjustment. They raise the standard of grip on your body for those who really plan to take their car out hunting, but come at a cost which we’ll get to in a moment.
The rear seat is but a check-mark on a spec sheet. Like most Mustangs that have come before this one, it’s for small kids at best. If you plan to force your work mates in there to drive them to lunch, they’ll want to drive next time.
Looking down the console and up into the center stack is a pleasant thing as it’s very well conceived. Ford had said the design was aircraft inspired, not sure what that means here but it looks good and controls are well laid out. The extra gauges with the Performance Package rock too.
With the Premium trim grade you get the full size touch-screen infotainment with MyFord Touch. That system is replaced for 2016 with SYNC 3 which promises to be better. Here we also had the Shaker Pro Audio system and voice activated navigation added.
The audio quality is good overall, but not audiophile level. It gets loud, but thrashy at volume. There is a small place on the center console for smart phones, and both a USB and auxiliary port to go along with Bluetooth connectivity.
The instrument cluster’s design reaches into 1967 but has a nice modern center screen to make that ok. The steering wheel is a nice piece with more controls crammed into it than most automakers dare. It works well and is easy to navigate for infotainment as well as instrument cluster information displays.
Our Technologies score comes in at 4 of 5 stars even though I am no fan of MyFord Touch. Here, Ford doubled up on redundant hard controls for most used infotainment features so you don’t have to fuss with it, which reduces stress and anger issues immensely.
This is indeed the best interior any Mustang has ever had by every measure. A word of caution must be said for the optional Recaro seats however. They are indeed some of the best sport seats money can buy and they look awesome. But, they aren’t for everyone.
They grip you like a fist and are very firm. They lack the range of adjustability the stock seats offer, thus not everyone can fit well in them. If you are over 200 pounds or shorter than say 5′-6” they may not be for you. Additionally they lack the heating and ventilation, as well as power adjustment features of the stock seats.
The trunk is still plenty large for a sport coupe, and those rear seats will fold down so you can put larger things in. The opening however seems a bit smaller than it used to be, something Mustang guys cannot make fun of Camaro about anymore I don’t think.
If you option the shaker audio system, make room for its sub-woofer as it lives back here. And lastly, under the trunk floor is an emergency inflator instead of a spare which is fine if you have a slow leak, bad if you chopped your tire open on a curb. A mini-spare can be optioned for $195.
Under the hood is where all the attention has been for this car, the first turbocharged four-cylinder engine in a Mustang for decades. The 2.3 liter direct-injected EcoBoost four delivers up an impressive for its size 310 horsepower and 320 pound-feet of torque.
It’s available with both a six-speed automatic and six-speed manual transmission which is what our tester came equipped with. We’ve tested both transmission before, and in my opinion the manual is best for this engine.
Power from the EcoBoost engine comes on strong without much turbo lag with the manual transmission. Under full power its engineered sound is relatively decent but by no means as sexy as a V8 growl. At idle and in day to day mid-range acceleration it can however at times be rough and harsh.
Fuel economy was the catch here. The EPA rates the 2015 Mustang EcoBoost at 22 mpg city, 31 mpg highway and 26 mpg combined. In my week with it I worked hard to reach 21 mpg combined on its required Premium fuel.
The chassis is the sea change that has most Mustang aficionados talking. For decades past its prime, the Mustang had that solid rear axle which everyone except the bean counters at Ford and drag racers cussed. The modernists finally won out and gave us a proper independent rear suspension.
In the move Mustang also got a new dual ball-joint suspension up front which gives more room for larger brakes but also dials in more favorable variations in caster and camber when turning in which net improved grip and steering feel.
Handling on our roughly paved back roads showed the true strengths of the 2015 Mustang’s new chassis. The rear suspension pushed it forward around pot holed curves with aplomb. No drama, just a nice plant and forward motion. The front suspension took ruts and ripples well too with no kickback through the steering wheel.
On smoother roads, the car came alive in a way no Mustang I can remember ever has. It has a lively chassis that loves to be tossed around, a willing grip and response to inputs and a level of refinement that is pushing into territory BMW owns. It’s not completely there yet, but it’s far and above the car it replaces.
The 2015 Mustang also comes with a drive-mode selector which allows for Normal, Sport, Track and Snow settings. Modes change up the steering feel along with throttle input feel, transmission shifting with automatics, and the stability and traction control settings. And these are differences you can feel.
Our Performance Package had larger brakes, and quite stiff settings for springs and shocks to go with the summer tires. It rode rough and could be harsh, but overall the chassis earns 5 of 5 stars here. As I said it’s truly the best one yet under a Mustang.
Quality overall is still at long known Ford levels. Our tester did have a number of body fit and alignment gaffes and the interior had its share of intermittent rattles and squeaks.
When it comes to safety, the IIHS has not yet tested the 2015 Mustang in their full battery of tests to be eligible for a Top Safety Pick rating or not. It has been tested for the moderate overlap crash test in which it earned a Good rating as well as with the head restraint and seat performance.
Our 2015 Mustang EcoBoost Premium testers options included enhanced security system at $395, reverse parking assist at $295, adaptive cruise control for $1195, EcoBoost Performance Package at $1995, Premier Trim Accent Group for $395, Navigation at $795, Shaker Pro Audio at $1795 and Recaro leather seats at $1595 bringing the total MSRP to $38,585.
While this may well be a bargain compared to a BMW 4-Series or Audi A5 similarly equipped I think at this strata the 5.0 V8 powered Mustang GT with perhaps a few less options looks awfully tempting. After all, the fuel economy won’t be that much different and you get all that power and sound that has long defined the Mustang from day one.