2015 Ford Mustang EcoBoost Review: A Small Engine Worth the Hype
When I first drove the 2015 Ford Mustang, it was of the GT variety, with the 5.0L V8 under the hood and for my money, a V8 is the only way to go with a muscle car like the mighty Mustang. I have owned a variety of V8-powered vehicles and, like many muscle car owners, I care more about big power and impressive acceleration numbers than I do fuel economy. However, there are plenty of prospective new car buyers out there who want the muscle car look without the hungry V8 engine, or the higher purchase price that goes along with the likes of the Mustang GT. This is why more than half of the Mustangs sold in the last decade came with a V6 engine, as those folks love the look of the Mustang, but they just don’t need the V8 power and they want better fuel economy.
Ultimately, those 2015 Ford Mustang buyers who are truly concerned with purchase price and appearance over all else can still order the 3.7L V6, but new for 2015 is the 2.3L EcoBoost 4-cylinder engine. This option costs a little more than the V6, but it packs a little more horsepower, a lot more torque and vastly superior fuel economy – making it the ideal choice for someone who wants the look of the new Mustang with better fuel economy than the V8, while still offering a far more enjoyable driving experience than what you get with the base V6.
Driving the EcoBoost Mustang
Ten years ago, had someone told me that Ford would have a new 4-cylinder Mustang, I would have been leery of the this car’s capacity to pack proper muscle car fun. However, that was before Ford had rolled out their EcoBoost engines and when you consider the success of the turbocharged 4-cylinder SVO Mustang from the Fox Body era, the company clearly knows how to make a good 4-cylinder muscle car.
Even with the SVO and Turbo GT models from the 1980s in mind, I was a touch skeptical of the 2015 Ford Mustang with the EcoBoost engine, as I am a lover of big power. Were I to buy a new Mustang, it would most certainly be of the GT variety, but with 310 horsepower and 320lb-ft of torque, the EcoBoost Mustang is more powerful than the 2009 Mustang GT (300hp, 320tq). On top of the extra horsepower, the new EcoBoost Mustang I spent a week driving was fitted with the 6-speed automatic transmission, which is superior in every way to the 5-speed automatic transmission found in a 2009 Mustang GT including gear ratios and shift quality, giving the new model an even bigger advantage on paper over the older Mustang GT, but would these advantages translate into a solid muscle car with a 4-cylinder?
Sure, the EcoBoost Mustang isn’t as quick as the new Mustang GT, but this is easily the best non-V8 automatic Mustang that Ford has ever offered. There is no noticeable boost lag on the bottom end and when you put the gas pedal to the floor, this 4-cylinder Mustang comes to life in a big hurry. Really, the only thing missing when comparing the new EcoBoost Mustang to the older Mustang GT with the 4.6L V8 is the grumble of the engine. I do have to admit that I don’t love the stock sound of the EcoBoost engine and were I to own one, I would quickly swap for a loud exhaust system like the one offered by Roush. If you are going to have a performance car – own it. Loud pipes save lives and having heard the EcoBoost with a big exhaust system, I like the 4-cylinder turbo roar. The stock EcoBoost Mustang does have a nice tone to it for a 4-cylinder, but Ford clearly muted the exhaust to avoid giving it too much of a 4-cylinder sound. However, I know that EcoBoost Mustang owners are already embracing that exhaust note, happily letting their turbo 4 clear its throat.
Sound aside, the EcoBoost Mustang is an awesome performance car. When you launch from a stop, the turbo quickly gets all 310hp flowing through the automatic transmission and while I would prefer a manual transmission simply for the ability to launch at a higher engine RPM, the 6-speed auto does a great job of getting through the gears quickly and crisply, with the steering wheel mounted paddle shifters providing plenty of gear control. The Mustang EcoBoost has a similar drive mode system to that of the Mustang GT, with stability control, traction control, throttle response and shift points becoming more aggressive when you toggle from normal to Sport to Track. Track provides the sharpest steering feel, the best throttle response and the hardest shifts, making this the quickest feeling and the most enjoyable drive mode, in my opinion. While I certainly sampled every mode, I spent the majority of my drive time in Track mode and I suspect that most owners who love to drive do the same. Also, when you hold down the traction control button, you can enable to full-off track mode where stability and traction control are both disabled – allowing you to have full control of how much the tires spin and the car can slide when pushing the EcoBoost Mustang to its limits.
Also, when you turn off all of the helpers, the EcoBoost Mustang will smoke the tires with the automatic transmission just as well as any Mustang GT…for those who are into that sort of thing.
When cruising, the EcoBoost Mustang has solid throttle response through the midrange with absolutely no delay from when you ask for that power – especially in Track mode and manual shift mode, where you can keep the EcoBoost engine perfectly in its ideal powerband. Mind you, it doesn’t offer the same power as the Mustang GT (which should be obvious), but in terms of a lower priced, more efficient model, this is without a doubt the most engaging engine that Ford has ever put in a Mustang that didn’t have 8 cylinders. It is strong off of the line, strong through the midrange and strong on the top end, pulling well past any posted speed limit in America without really breaking a sweat.
Best of all, for those folks who are buying the EcoBoost Mustang due to the fact that it is the most efficient muscle car in America, I found that when being driven gently – this car is very capable of hitting the EPA expected 32mpg on the highway and 25mpg combined. I was able to spend one day driving the car more reasonably and on a long highway trip, I was able to hit 32mpg on that trip, although I wasn’t able to stay out of the boost long enough to average better than 23mpg over a tank of fuel.
Other Advantages of the EcoBoost Mustang
While the purchase price, the power output and the fuel economy of the 2015 Ford Mustang EcoBoost package are the main reasons why it might be available to a prospective buyer who doesn’t put straight line performance first, the lightweight 4-cylinder engine also gives this Mustang a very unique feel compared to the Mustang GT. The weight difference over the front end is instantly noticeable when driving the EcoBoost model and in terms of both ride feel and cornering capabilities, the EcoBoost Mustang feels much lighter on its toes than the heavier Mustang GT. The 4-cylinder Mustang feels more nimble through tight turns with the improved weight distribution and when cutting back and forth through a slalom type series of turns, there is less feel of the weight transferring from one side to the other.
The Final Word
While the EcoBoost Mustang doesn’t pack the big power or the straight line performance of the Mustang GT, this powerful little 4-cylinder makes the 2015 Ford Mustang a total blast to drive on curvy roads and it gets incredible fuel economy in the process. This car can’t reasonably rival the performance of the GT package, but the EcoBoost model is very clearly designed for the buyer who isn’t concerned with having 435hp or running stock 12-second quarter miles. Most importantly, the EcoBoost Mustang is light years more fun to drive than the Mustang V6 package (any V6 package, ever). The EcoBoost Mustang is beautifully engineered in both handling and power output, so while the 2.3L 4-cylinder engine raises the purchase price by a few grand over the V6 – the added cost is worth every single cent.
If you love the look of the 2015 Ford Mustang, but you don’t want to pay the extra money for the 5.0L V8, the EcoBoost is the engine choice for you. What little price increase you face at the dealership will be repaid in both miles per gallon and smiles per gallon, allowing you to get better than 30mpg on the highway with levels of performance comparable to the V8-powered Mustang GT from just a few years back.
If you are already considering the 2015 Ford Mustang and you don’t plan to buy the V8, make sure that you drive the EcoBoost model before making your purchase. There is nothing wrong with the base V6, but this 4-cylinder turbo engine truly is worth all of the hype that it has received since hitting the market and I bet that anyone who drives this car will find a way to deal with the added cost over the V6. It is that good and I think that Ford would be wise to make this engine the base model mill in the next few years.