When Ford announced it would offer its new Mustang with a four-cylinder turbocharged engine for the first time since the mid-’80s, it struck some as a curious move given that things didn’t go so well back then — the Mustang SVO was unceremoniously dumped after just three years on the market. While there are those who believe the controversial SVO was ahead of its turbo time, most agree it was a misstep. So is the world finally ready for a fuel-efficient, turbocharged Mustang? We wanted to find out, so we ordered up a 2015 Mustang EcoBoost to join our Four Seasons fleet.
Whereas the SVO looked out of place in the Mustang lineup, with its dual-tier rear spoiler and offset hood scoop, the EcoBoost version doesn’t deviate much visually from the rest of the stable. But our car’s Competition Orange paint got all sorts of attention, especially with the black 19-inch wheels that came with the $1,995 EcoBoost Performance Package, which also adds upgraded brakes, Pirelli P Zero summer tires, sport suspension, and a limited-slip differential. On top of the Premium model’s automatic HID headlights, keyless entry, satellite radio, and MyFord Touch with Sync 2, we ticked the boxes for navigation ($795), leather Recaro bucket seats ($1,595), and a 12-speaker Shaker audio system bundled with blind-spot monitoring ($1,795). All told our Mustang rang in at $36,700, roughly $3,000 north of a base Mustang GT. (The EcoBoost Premium starts at about $1,000 less than the GT.)
“This EcoBoost looks like a GT from every angle,” said daily news editor Conner Golden. “Can hardly fill up the gas tank without people asking me how I like the V-8, and then I have to let them down easy.” Editor complaints about the EcoBoost engine were numerous, most of them centering on the four-cylinder’s bland and toothless engine note. “Sounds just terrible,” said executive editor Mac Morrison. “There’s all kind of gear whine and induction noise. Too utilitarian for a sports car.” Editors echoed those sentiments over and over, even as more practical niggles about the EcoBoost started to surface; “wheezy,” “clunky,” “buzzy,” and “lazy” would make great understudy Disney dwarves instead of engine traits. The turbocharger alights at 3,000 rpm when the 2.3-liter EcoBoost’s 320 lb-ft of torque kicks in, but it can be a real slog getting there, especially in regular traffic. And if you do have room to let loose, boost subsides by the middle of the rev range, so there’s little muscle to chase toward its 6,600 rpm redline.
On the plus side of the ledger, the logbook was full of praise for the Mustang’s chassis and engaging six-speed manual. Detroit bureau chief Todd Lassa thought the Mustang’s transmission had “the best feel of any gearbox this side of a Honda or Mazda.” Editor-in-chief Mike Floyd felt similarly: “In L.A.’s stop and go, the clutch is easy to modulate, which my left leg especially appreciates. When things open up, it’s a blast to drop down a gear or two and wind the turbo pumpkin out.”
We put the Mustang’s dynamic capabilities to the test during two visits to GingerMan Raceway in South Haven, Michigan, and it impressed us with its immense grip and balance. The car exuded confidence in quick corners and never unexpectedly stepped out of line or lost composure. While its four-banger isn’t smooth, it had plenty of muscle to hustle the car; we easily whooshed our way past triple-digit speeds on both of the track’s long straights. “More than enough car to keep you entertained at the track, EcoBoost or not,” said one editor. “Fluid steering and strong brakes help, despite a bit of noticeable fade.”
“It’s interesting how you sit so far back from that high and imposing hood, even though it’s a four-cylinder.”
About those brakes. We should’ve replaced the worn pads before our second track day, but we didn’t and ended up paying the price: a whopping $1,814.26, to be precise. For that cash we got four new brake pads, two new front calipers, two new front rotors, and a brake fluid flush. Expensive lesson learned.
We enjoyed stretching the Mustang’s legs out on the open road as well, with editors snatching the keys for trips to Philadelphia, New York, the Poconos, Michigan’s Upper Peninsula, and even down to South Carolina to cut loose on the Tail of the Dragon. Before the Mustang made its biggest trip of the year — an epic journey from Detroit to Automobile HQ in Los Angeles — we swapped out the worn summer tires for high-performance Michelin Pilot Sport A/S 3 all-season rubber that came recommended from our friends at Tire Rack. We drove through snowstorms and over icy roads in Iowa and Colorado, and thankfully the rear-wheel-drive Mustang never got too squirrely along the way. We matched the car’s EPA-estimated 31 mpg on the highway, which meant easy cruising for more than 400 miles between fill-ups.
Packing for the cross-country escapade took very little forethought, seeing as how the Mustang’s foldable rear seats and reasonably wide trunk opening make the Camaro’s cargo area look like a mail slot. The Blue Oval ponycar also bests its Bow Tie competitor when it comes to visibility, according to contributing editor John Lamm: “It’s interesting how you sit so far back from that high and imposing hood, even though it’s a four-cylinder. Nonetheless you can actually see out of the Mustang, which is more than you can say for the Camaro with its bunker roof.” Editors also lauded the Recaros, which proved extremely supportive at the track and plenty comfortable during our longer trips.
Once in Los Angeles, the Mustang faced a lot more grueling city traffic during its daily grind. Editors enjoyed the Mustang far more once they broke free from the downtown slog and went flat out on California’s fantastic canyon roads. We finished our year with a healthy 29,228 miles on the Mustang’s odometer, but came up 2 mpg short of the EPA city/highway combined rating of 26 mpg. “Useful for the occasional large box or Fender Telecaster, but its fuel efficiency didn’t live up to expectations,” noted features editor Rory Jurnecka. “I struggled to break 20 mpg in my daily commute, despite the 22 mpg rating.”
Maybe the trap of an EcoBoost Mustang, especially with the optional Performance Package, is that it’s like the uncanny valley—something appears normal but is slightly different in a very nondescript way and thus causes uneasiness. The more a Mustang looks like a GT while boasting 310 hp as well as great fuel economy, the more we criticize it if or when it falls short of expectations. Ford’s new-world Mustang is, after all, better suited to its time than the SVO ever was. Even though the engine disappointed us at times, the EcoBoost Mustang proved itself to be a versatile and capable daily sports car that, with a few fixes, could hold a worthy place in Ford’s stable.
Pros & Cons
2015 Ford Mustang EcoBoost Premium Running Costs
5-yr/60,000-mi roadside assistance
10,052 mi: Oil change, oil filter, tire rotation, $0
18,902 mi: Oil change, oil filter,
tire rotation, $60.21
26,311 mi: Oil change, oil filter,
tire rotation, $64
9,693 mi: Purchase, mount, balance new summer tire to replace flat, $325.17
10,724 mi: Brake fluid flush before track day, $99.15
18,902 mi: Replace brake pads, front rotors, front calipers, flush brake fluid, $1,814.26; purchase, mount, balance Michelin Pilot Sport A/S 3 255/40R-19, $1,149.52
19,244 mi: Repair and repaint damaged front driver’s side wheel, $175.00
EPA city/highway/combined: 24/34/28 mpg
Observed: 24.09 mpg
Cost Per Mile
(Fuel, service, tires): $0.27
($0.76 including depreciation)
*Estimate based on information from Intellichoice
|Our Test Results|
|0–60 mph||6.0 sec|
|60-0 mph||108 ft|
|1/4–mile||14.3 sec @ 97.2 mph|