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Automobiles

[REVIEW] 2015 Ford Mustang Ecoboost

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For the launch of the new Mustang, Ford conjured up a complicated stunt which placed their all-new 2015 model up at the top of another American icon, the Empire State Building. This wasn’t the first time that this stunt had been executed.

Back in 1964, the company did the very same thing as well by placing the original Mustang on the building’s Observation Deck.

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50 years have passed since the first Ford Mustang entered the chorus, creating the whole muscle car segment.

Today, the original pony car is facing some of the toughest competition ever from the re-launched Chevrolet Camaro and Dodge Challenger.

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There’s nothing that screams home grown American steed quite like the Mustang does. Millions have saddled up for rides in the past few decades and with this sixth generation version, Ford is hoping that customers will line up once again.

This prancing horse is now one that is designed for official global outreach. In fact, it’s the first Ford Mustang with true international sale intentions.

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New Engine Choices

The powertrain choices have broadened to reflect the company’s aspirations as well. In addition to the expected V6 and V8, there is a 2.3-litre 4-cylinder EcoBoost turbocharged engine now being offered that slots it in between the V6 and V8.

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This is not the first turbo-4 under the hood of a Mustang, as that would be the SVO Mustang from 1984-1986.

This new turbo couldn’t be any different from its predecessor though, using a high tech twin scroll turbo design to minimize turbo lag. It is direct-injected and rated for a robust 310 hp and 320 lbs-ft  (434 Nm).

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My test car was rated with this new EcoBoost engine which I thoroughly enjoyed.

If you’re used to the rumble and exhaust note of the Mustang’s V8, this engine will admittedly sound a bit tame. However, it still does sing when revved and the turbo noises are entertaining in their own right.

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All Mustangs, regardless of engine choice, are available with both 6-speed manual and 6-speed auto gearboxes. My car was fitted with the Row-It-Yourself manual, which had noticeably cleaner and lighter action compared to the meaty unit in the GT V8.

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As far as fuel consumption is concerned, it comes as no surprised that the Mustang EcoBoost returns 47 per cent better city fuel economy and 24 per cent better highway mileage than the new 5.0L V8.

Be gone, suspension from the horse and cart era

The other big news is the Mustang’s all-new independent rear suspension. Save for a limited number of Mustangs made by Ford’s SVT (Special Vehicle Team) in 1999/early 2000s, nearly all Mustangs have been fitted with live axles for the last 50 years.

This is great for durability on the drag strips, but the Mustang’s major Achilles heel when putting down power in the corners.

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The new setup uses an integral-link rear suspension based on the architecture of the current Ford Fusion. There are several unique parts including lighter aluminium knuckles, and the rear track of the Mustang is 2.5 inches (63.5 mm) wider than the Fusion sedan.

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Styling

Styling has always been a Mustang fan hot button. Ford decided to move a bit away from the retro look just enough that the car looks more upmarket and yet more aggressive.

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2015 marks the return of the fastback styling, which looks fantastic and complements the wider and lower stance.

The front end is a lot more subdued in person, adding a slight European flare to the design, to my eyes anyway.

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When the initial design renderings leaked onto the internet, the artwork had plenty of keyboard hot rodders up in arms. But in person, many of the classic Mustang owners were fans of the new design.

And so diehard pony car fans need not worry because there’s enough heritage in the styling to make them happy. There’s the familiar long hood profile, the blunt nose, and the trapezoidal grille opening, all tweaked to work with the new proportions.

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As before, there are HID Xenon headlamps and a fresh take on LED daytime running lights. It’s a pity that the fifth generation Mustang’s LED foglamps are now just smallish halogen units.

The new rear fascia includes an aggressive body-colour painted diffuser that is clearly more Euro in design as well. I like it!

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The trunk also includes an updated 3D metallised horse for V6 and Ecoboost 4-cylinder models, and GT V8s get their bespoke “GT” badges.

17” wheels are standard, with GT’s getting standard 18” wheels. My car was fitted with the optional 19” black painted aluminium alloy wheels fitted with sticky performance tires as part of the performance package.

Also included in this package was a set of huge Brembo brakes, and a slightly shorter 3.55:1 rear-axle ratio for quicker acceleration.

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Out back, the sequential flashing LED tri-bar taillights remain, but with even more of a 3D look than ever before. There’s no mistaking this car for anything other than a Mustang, especially at night.

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Inside

The classic pony car appearance continues inside, but with a modern take on the design. Despite being a little trimmer in dimensions, there is more space to be had for increased visibility and passenger comfort.

Okay, the rear seats are still pretty tight (mainly due to limited legroom) and really only suitable for kids or shorter adults, but they’re decently sculpted and surprisingly comfortable.

It’s a pity that Ford had to sacrificed the rear head restraints from the last generation Mustang in the name of rearward visibility, but I suppose that chances are that the car will normally be a single or double occupancy vehicle most of the time anyway.

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My Ecoboost model was also equipped with the optional Recaro bucket seats with aggressive lateral bolsters. They provided track-ready support, but there is a bit of a lack of lumbar support for my liking.

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Even base models are well-equipped, getting standard keyless entry and a rearview camera. Selectable drive modes are new, and include the ability to change steering wheel, engine performance, and the stability control’s aggressiveness depending on your mood and the road conditions.

Plus there is launch control and line lock (which locks only the front wheels) for those who want to warm up their rear tires for the drag strip, as well as a whole other host of goodies.

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Overall, the new Mustang has a quality fit and finish feel that reminds me of European Ford vehicles, which is a good thing. It’s not quite there, but very very close.

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Materials specs climb a couple of notches in design and quality despite the familiar basic layout. The double hooded dash is still clearly visible, as is the classic Mustang three-spoke steering wheel and air vents.

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The gauges, centre infotainment centre, are much more in the now. A slimmer lower dash that angles more aggressively away also creates more space for both the driver and passenger. There’s even more room in the glovebox.

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But yet despite increasing usable space, Ford’s engineers managed to add a front passenger knee airbag by developing a unique design where the airbag is mounted within the glove box door itself.

Instead of a traditional cloth airbag, there is an inflatable injection molded plastic bladder that is sandwiched between the inner and outer face of the glovebox.

This innovative new design means that the system is 75 per cent smaller and 65 per cent lighter than a conventional knee airbag system.

My only other criticism of the interior is that the gauges could use an anti-reflective coating as they can get quite washed out in bright sunlight.

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Ride and Handling

There is no question that this Mustang balances ride and handling better than any pony car that precedes it.

Despite its new independent rear setup, my Ecoboost model initially felt a bit under-dampened on rougher roads. When I first picked the car up, I didn’t particularly like the slightly rubbery feeling ride.

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However after a week of driving the car, I discovered just how much more stable, solid and capable the car is in corners. The harder you push the Mustang, the better it gets.

Good sports cars are all about confidence that they provide to their drivers and it’s clear that this new model inspires boatloads more than its predecessor.

Turn into a hard corner with some speed and instead of understeering and leaning over like a tall ship in the wind, the car bites down, hooks-up and carves the corner.

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Wrap-Up

With every new Mustang, there’re going to be those that love it or hate it. Ford has been very careful not to mess up their icon of a pony car. After all, muscle cars have always been about attitude, and the new Mustang definitely still has to carry on the same flare of its progenitor.

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This 6th generation car has a much more nimble/small car feel of than before, but make no mistake that no one will think it’s as go-kart like as a VW Golf GTI.

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With the newer and more fuel-efficient EcoBoost 4-cylinder engine, Mustang ownership is going to be a lot more affordable and appealing to a whole hoard of new customers. Those that care about owning a great looking muscle car that is now more socially responsible for the times.

This latest Ecoboost 4-cylinder engine option is sure to appeal to a new host of Mustang customers that don’t want the fuel consumption of the V8, but want more torque and performance than what is offered by the base V6 engine.

I’m glad to report that Ford’s latest cleaner/greener efforts have turned out a lot better than the downsized Mustang that came about due to the 1970’s fuel crisis.

And so a new generation of Mustang begins. Here’s to another 50 years of Mustangs! The legend of Mustang continues.

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Andrew Ling
Andrew is a proud car and tech geek who has worked in Surrey for over the last 10 years. He comes from a communications/marketing background and has worked for automotive-related companies such as Edmunds.com, BenzWorld.org since 1999. From track driving, to rally driving to autocross, he has done it all! When he’s not reading about the latest automotive news, he can be found outdoors snapping pictures at various events around town.
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