“So how does it sound?”
That’s the number one question people ask as soon as I tell them I’m driving a four-cylinder Mustang. Mind you, this isn’t an ordinary four-pot pony car. The last time a Mustang was powered by a 2.3L engine it was an embarrassing bargain-priced wheezer that mustered a measly 105 hp. It was also 1993, and the mighty 5.0 of the time (which actually displaced 4.9 litres) was the attainable performance benchmark with 225 horses galloping forth.
But for 2015, the humble 2.3 has undergone quite a transformation. In fact, it only shares its cylinder count and approximate displacement with that old donkey of a motor. Ford has made a brand of its EcoBoost direct-injected, turbocharged engines in three-, four-, and six-cylinder configurations, as optional power in everything from a Fiesta to an F-150, and the new-for-2015 Mustang now joins the fray.
Fear not, though, if the idea of a Mustang with a diminutive engine just doesn’t work for you, because the four-pot isn’t even the base engine anymore. That honour belongs to the Mustang V6, which starts at $25,349, or $3,000 less than the least expensive EcoBoost. And while we’re looking at engine options, it should be noted that a base 5.0 starts the bidding at $37,349.
It would be nice if engine selection is where the decisions stop, but the V6 and EcoBoost Mustangs cater to distinctly different customers. It’s not that the V6 is weak – indeed, at 300 hp and 280 lb-ft of torque, it’s a base engine that any owner could brag about – it’s just that the packaging of the EcoBoost is such that those looking for real performance will need to check this box if they want a platform on which to build. Case in point: our tester was equipped with the performance package, which is not available on the V6.
On the EcoBoost, this $3,000 upgrade nets stiffer suspenders, extra cooling for track days, a strut tower brace, performance-oriented driver assistance settings (steering assist, ABS, and stability control), gauges for oil pressure and boost, upgraded brakes (four piston in front), 19-inch alloys, and performance rubber. The GT performance pack gets even more in the form of six-piston Brembo brakes, a rear strut tower brace, and revised front aerodynamics to provide cooling to the front brakes.
The performance packs are icing on the cake that represents a fundamental change for all 2015 Mustangs in the form of an independent rear suspension. And that, folks, is the single biggest improvement 2015 sees. The dearly departed live rear axle in the old car was a feature I loved to hate, a nod to cost-saving measures that had finally overstayed its welcome. It’s about time, too, because last year’s Mustang handled mid-corner bumps with all the grace of an unloaded pickup truck rounding a bend on a washboard gravel road.
The independent suspenders in the new car, on the other hand, allow it to handle the pockmarked streets of Winnipeg gracefully without introducing a hint of cushy to the car’s handling repertoire. The front suspension has been redesigned with a new subframe up front to provide stiffer suspension mounting points. The result: a transformation of the car’s character without sacrificing its essence.