I’d like to believe that I’m a pretty opened minded person. I’ve watched more than one movie based on a Nicholas Sparks book, ordered sushi more than a days drive away from the ocean, I’ve even considered owning a Hyundai Genesis Coupe for a very, very brief moment. None of that compares to the internal struggle I faced when driving the 2015 EcoBoost Mustang.
Full Disclosure: Ford wanted me to drive the 2015 EcoBoost Mustang so bad that they put one in the Enterprise rental fleet in Phoenix where they knew I would be after accessing my email through a series of deep internet backdoor hacks. Then they made sure that I got a heavy discount so the Mustang would cost the same as the vehicle I was originally planning to get, thus eliminating any chance of me skipping over it. I’m not mad about it, frankly I’m impressed.
I want to be a progressive 21st century man, I want to be ok with a legendary American muscle car having a turbocharged 4 cyl as its power plant, really, I do. The fact is that I’m not and no one should be, at least not setup as this model is. Ford half assed the EcoBoost Mustang, they pulled out the soul of the car, hoped they could get away with it by saying things like “oh the aftermarket and tuning potential is huge” but that is the cop out of all cop outs. I don’t want to buy a new car just because it could be something great, I want a new car that IS great and could be even greater. The EcoBoost ‘Stang is not great, it’s not good, it is just OK.
To get it up to good you’ll need a CAI and full exhaust. To get it up to great you’ll need a down pipe, larger intercooler, larger turbo, stiffer engine mounts (more on that later) and a damn good set of tires, although that final issue could be addressed with addition of the Track Pack. The problem is that if you need to do all these upgrades just to give the damn thing an engaging driving experience, why not just get the 5.0 which has character to spare? Are there really that many people out there that are dying to have a relatively large car that screams “American Exceptionalism” in its styling but whispers “Foreign Compromise” in its performance?
I’d like to chat with someone who really wants the EcoBoost more than the 5.0, not someone who is getting it because it’s what they can afford but someone who would truly rather have the turbo. Maybe they’d be able to explain what it is about the car that makes it at all appealing because I just don’t get it. The Mustang needs a V8 like a Civic needs VTEC, without those things both cars just aren’t the same, they don’t live up to their expectations. Don’t get me wrong, there are many, many things to like about the new Mustang overall, the EcoBoost power train just isn’t one of them.
First off I think the exterior is fantastic, it’s hard to find a bad angle to look at the car from (although it is possible as we’ve seen) and at times I found myself really marveling at what a nice job the designers did of sprinkling in elements of the classic styling but overall making the car look fresh and modern. There has been plenty said about the design of the car both in print and online so I’ll simply say this, even the rental models seem more premium than the last generation so they must have done something right.
The inside of the Mustang is firmly now in “better than you’d expect” territory and that’s something to be proud of if you worship at the temple of the blue oval. Mustang interiors (like many other American performance cars) have been shit for years now and they’ve finally stepped up the quality of materials to a non-rage inducing level. We’ll have to wait a couple years to find out if they hold up better than the previous generation but in terms of initial satisfaction I’d rate the cabin very high.
I’m a sucker for toys and the EcoBoost Premium has a ton of them. Some are gimmicks, like the fully customizable interior lighting schemes and the Pony logo that shines on the ground when you open the door and some are “useful” like the 0-60 timer or lateral g meter. Additionally there are digital gauge readouts for all performance related information, oil-temp, air fuel mix, block temp, etc. etc. Basically if you know to know what’s going on under the hood of the car, there’s a menu there to tell you. Personally, I much prefer this to an A-pillar mounted gauge pod that lets everyone know you’re dying to ask the world “do you even race bro?”
Where the interior fails and fails miserably is being a place for more than two adult humans. I suspect that a child would be happy in the area behind the front seats but everyone else, not so much. It’s as if they finished the beautifully raked design and then someone said “what about rear seat headroom?” and then that person was promptly sacked. Clearly a last minute effort was made to allow for some comfort because the angle of the rear seat is extreme and you’re quite low but it’s just not enough. I was getting claustrophobic just being back there taking photos, I can’t imagine riding back there for any extended period of time. Major respect to my mother for doing so for about 45 minutes, on the freeway with me behind the wheel.
Bottom line, this generation of Mustang coupe is a true coupe in that it is best enjoyed by two people. If you’re looking to have fun with 3 friends, better get the drop top. Actually, I take that back, if you like the 2.3L EcoBoost motor and want to rocket around with a couple companions, just wait til next year when the Focus RS arrives because that’s the car this motor deserves.
Mustangs are supposed to be fun, they’re supposed to induce a child like sense of wonder about the world and how a car interacts with it. I got that feeling when I drove Puppyknuckles’ 2012 5.0 around Brooklyn at 5pm. I even got it when I drove a rental 2014 V6 Convertible (though that had more to do with my environment than the car) but when I drove this 2015 EcoBoost, I just kept wanting it to be better, more engaging, more Mustang-y. It handed the winding Arizona roads I took it on OK but not much better than your average family sedan would. However I don’t think it’s fair to pass final judgement on the handling prowess of the car given that it was running on rental fleet all season tires, so I’ll only comment on the things that are not effected by what kind of rubber it wore.
The brakes for instance, I thought they were good, quite good actually given that they were working with sub-par tires. I came around a corner to find a rather substantial piece of a cactus in the road and with a vehicle already occupying the other lane I had no choice but to stomp on the left pedal. Much to my pleasure I stopped short of the prickly plant and took a moment to appreciate the fact that the engineers at Ford didn’t cut corners when it came to stopping power. What’s more impressive is the Mustang didn’t dive as much as I thought it would under heaving braking. I thought back to my brief time on the auto-x course with the manual transmission EcoBoost car and recalled that those brakes also felt good, even after being thrashed all day. So if there is a mechanical bright spot for the EcoBoost Mustang, I’d say the brakes are it.
So if the brakes are the mechanical high, then the 6 spd automatic transmission is the low. In a car with significant turbo lag one would hope that it has an excellent transmission to make up for the wait time on the power. That is not the case here and through a recent event in my life I have the perfect way to describe the SelectShift® gearbox. As some of you may already know my girlfriend just got herself a new Golf 1.8T and I swear the automatic in that thing feels better than the one in the Mustang. Keep in mind the Golf doesn’t get VW’s DSG gearbox, it makes due with a run of the mill ‘ol fashioned tip tronic setup that is slow, like mid aughts Audi slow.
The Mustang’s gearbox is slower and more frustrating. You wait for shifts, when they do come they’re hardly noticeable and I do NOT mean that as a compliment. More than once I tapped the sad excuse for paddle shifters and waited for some indication that it had happened. Downshifting does nothing to slow the car down, you seriously cannot feel any difference in the behavior of the vehicle and maybe that’s why it has such good brakes. The only alert you get that downshift has in fact taken place is a slight variation in the high pitched 4 cyl whine coming from under the hood, no throttle blip, no exhaust bark, no nothing. This soggy transmission paired with the out of place motor makes for a wholly unenjoyable driving experience. Oh, I should mention that I experienced all of this in Track mode, Sport and Comfort were even worse.
Given that the EcoBoost Mustang isn’t fun to drive aggressively (at least not with an automatic transmission) and it’s not exactly a practical cruiser, I wonder what then is its purpose? The V6 model soldiers on as the go to for folks who want to get from point A to point B in a Mustang. The performance numbers are close, I actually prefer the power delivery of the V6 to the EcoBoost, at least there are no surprises with that motor. You know exactly what you’re getting and if you just want a Mustang for daily use and nothing else it’s well suited for the job.
The EcoBoost doesn’t seem to know what it wants to do, hell I found it odd that one was even in a rental fleet. I was downright giddy when I got into it, going out of the parking garage I was on and off the gas hoping to get some nice BOV acoustics like I got with the Fiesta ST but instead I got about 1/10th of the sound, presumably because the motor is so far away. Did I mention it feels like you’re piloting a cigarette boat when driving the new Mustang? Because it does and honestly the whole bulging hood thing is just ridiculous. To feel any type of connection to the road I had to have the drivers seat as low as it could go and in that position my 5’10 frame was quite comfortable but it came at the expense of road vision.
After my time with the car I began to wonder, is it me? Am I just not the right size for this car? Then I thought about my time with the 2015 Camaro ZL1 and realized no, I’m comfortable driving a large modern muscle car, it just has to be done right. As I said at the beginning, the EcoBoost Mustang feels like it was half assed, a good idea that just wasn’t executed properly.
I know Ford is in love with turbocharging right now and hey, they’ve got a right to be. The Fiesta ST and Focus ST are damn good cars that have earned every ounce of praise they’ve received. However a boosted power plant is the right fit for those cars, they make the most of them and the Mustang simply does not.
This Pony is lame and we all know what happens to lame Ponies...
they go live on a farm somewhere really nice, yeah that’s what happens.
The Good- Lots of toys, great seats, great brakes, overall handsome styling.
The Bad- Unfortunate combination of motor, transmission and size. 911-ish back seat.
Verdict- Get the V8 or get a different car.
Andrew Maness writes about cars because he has one and also has a computer. He’s been known to drunkenly tweet as @thisnicelife and upload photos to @theroadlessdriven. He also has a YouTube Channel and thinks talking about himself in the 3rd person is really weird but knows it’s necessary if he wants to be taken seriously as an automotive journalist.