Written by: Calvin Chan
Photography by: Don Cheng
Turbos, four cylinders, and a Ford Mustang - these are words that don't go easy down the throat to most pony car enthusiasts. They like big engines, throaty exhaust notes and 0-100 km/h bragging rights. But in today's day and age of force-fed engines, we're going to see less of that. Enter the 2015 Ford Mustang, complete with a trifecta of engines: V6, V8, and most notably, the new 2.3-litre turbocharged Ecoboost engine that we're here to look at today. We're testing the V8-powered Mustang in a couple of weeks so stay tuned for that review.
Ford's big Ecoboost headliner isn't an entirely new engine per se. The 2.3-litre is heavily derived from the 2.0-litre engine found in the Ford Focus ST, and is also the same 2.3-litre used in the 2015 Lincoln MKC and the upcoming Focus RS, but the Mustang has it mounted longitudinally instead of transversely. So we've seen it before. What makes it so special now?
Well, a twin-scroll Honeywell turbocharger is bolted directly onto the exhaust manifold and along with direct injection, the new Ecoboost engine delivers an output of 310 hp and 320 lb-ft. of torque. That's 10 hp and 40 lb-ft. more than the 3.7-litre V6, and all that extra torque is available 1000 rpm earlier too. The Ecoboost engine also promises to suck up less fuel than the V6. Win, win? Not so fast. Adding a turbo comes with a few penalties: turbo lag and a slimmer rpm range. Yet, with the Mustang, turbo lag is almost imperceptible and the torque is spread out so well across the entire rpm range that the 320 lb-ft. will peak from as low as 3000 rpm.
Of course, the 2.3-litre Ecoboost engine is not going to be as rev-happy as the V6 or V8, and it does feel like you need to hold your foot down on the gas pedal longer to elicit a response. But the twin-scroll turbocharger masks the delay well and the engine amplifies the cabin experience by piping some extra engine noise through the audio speakers. Nevertheless, the exhaust falls short of an invigorating experience. Instead of a throaty deep exhaust note, it's replaced by a still-satisfying turbo-whoosh that can be heard when you roll down your window. Ford says this turbo four-banger will run just fine on 87-octane gasoline, but when filled up with 93-octane, the engine will truly open up and sing. It's more expensive, but I can vouch for them and say that it's worth every drop.
After spending a week with the Ecoboost-powered Mustang, I sort of get the feeling that there is no need for the V6 engine. Yes it's $3000 cheaper, but the Ecoboost is undoubtedly going to be the big seller - it has more horsepower, more torque, and it sips less fuel. To me, the V6 just feels like a placeholder so that Ford could market the Mustang downstream with a lower MSRP.
Now, if you're still asking why Ford decided to downsize the engine, you have good reason to. How could you possibly persuade a 2009 V8-powered Mustang GT owner to "downgrade" to a pony car with half the cylinders? The answer is fuel regulations and exportation - yes that's right. The Mustang is packing its suitcase and heading over to Asia and Europe this year. It's going to be sold overseas so it needs to cater to those specific audiences who demand tighter fuel numbers and more accessible performance. And they'll be delighted to hear that the Ecoboost engine is incredibly fuel-efficient. Official numbers put it at 10.6, 7.5, and 9.2 L/100km for city, highway, and combined, respectively. We got a slightly higher number, sitting on an average of 11.5 L/100km, but that's still better than most 300 hp+ coupes on the market today.
Power goes to the rear wheels via a revised Getrag 6-speed manual with new linkages and no longer feels like you're wrestling with the gear shifter every time you opt to change gears. The updated gearbox is actually one of my favourite parts of the new Mustang. It feels smooth, buttery, and downright easy to operate. It even comes with hill start assist, meaning if you're on an incline, it will hold the clutch for you so you don't roll back and ding another man's front bumper. It makes the Mustang a great beginner's car to learn how to drive stick, and though the clutch is still heavy as a rock, it'll definitely give your leg muscles a good workout.
A common complaint that plagued the previous generation Mustang was its use of a solid axle suspension that resulted in a rough and uncomfortable ride. For 2015, Ford has sent the solid axle into exile and replaced it with a modern independent rear suspension. Now you might be thinking, what in the world does that mean? Let me explain. Your car suspension does two things: absorb bumps on the road to keep the ride comfortable, and keep your tires planted on the ground for better grip and traction. Think of a solid axle like a seesaw. It's a rigid device that directly connects both rear wheels. When the right wheel hits a bump, the energy will flow to the left wheel as well and disturb the balance and traction. What an independent rear suspension does is allow both rear wheels to move independently of each other. When the right wheel hits a bump, the suspension will isolate it to that wheel only, so the left feels nothing and is free to move and keep spinning in the right direction.
The results are instantly noticeable. Acceleration out of corners with the new Mustang is remarkable and the new suspension keeps the rear wheels planted and pointed the right way. It's easy to manage bumps and road irregularities, and potholes become just another shrug off the shoulder. I'd even be obliged to take it as a long-distance cruiser, it's that comfortable. Also worth noting is the Ecoboost Performance Package ($3000) that is also equipped on our tester. The Mustang gets bigger brakes, a stiffer chassis and springs, blacked-out 19-inch wheels, a larger radiator, interior gauges that display oil pressure and boost, and a 3.55 limited slip rear axle for better acceleration.
The weight of the steering can be adjusted via a button mounted on the center console - perks of an electric powered steering - between Comfort, Normal and Sport modes. Comfort felt too liquid, Normal was a bit too numb, but Sport felt just right. It's accurate, direct, and goes where you point it with an impressively tight turning circle. The 2015 Mustang has gained a little bit of weight over the last-gen model mainly due to the new suspension, but ironically it feels much lighter and nimbler as a result of it. Our tester came equipped with Pirelli Sottozeros that stuck to the ground like glue, but unfortunately there was no snow on the ground to test out these snow tires. The Mustang will still fishtail for some tire-shredding fun, but you really have to force it.
People tell me that the new 'Stang doesn't look like a $35,000 car. I asked a few non-car enthusiasts to guess how much it really cost and they all ball parked it around $50,000-$60,000. Though the modern-retro looks are still instantly recognizable as a pony car with it's three-slat taillights and wide piano-black panel that separates the left from right, it's now got a touch of Italian and European flair with a sleeker roofline and chiseled front-end. I'd think of it as a refreshed take on the same classic formula, a re-make or remastered version of an old movie. Some Mustang owners I've talked to have told me they hated the new looks and emphasized how Ford has ridden down the wrong path away from the true essence of muscle cars. But then again you have to remember that the 2015 Mustang has to be sold on the other side of the pond, and needed to be designed with a wider audience in mind - the same foresight that sparked the ideas for a smaller engine and suppler suspension.
The interior has also been thoughtfully designed and is a huge step-up for Ford. The materials used are grainy but soft, and everything feels less "plasticky" than before. You'll also notice that the cabin looks fairly symmetrical as well from the left to right, probably a method to keep the costs down when building right-hand drive models for Asia and Europe. Note that our specific Mustang tester is almost bare-bone stock, loaded with almost zero luxury amenities. There's no auto climate control, no heated seats, and no heated steering wheel. There is however, a high-quality rear view camera and Bluetooth phone connectivity, two standard options that I believe are essentials in any vehicle in today's market. One of the only options equipped on our tester was the Recaro cloth seats ($1500) that bolster you down incredibly well and keep you nice and snug. In fact, wider people might find it a little too snug and it lacks any heated seat option as well. Some owners have told me the standard leather seats are just as good, but I really enjoy the track-focused vibe of the Recaros. I also love peeking through the windows and seeing those bold white RECARO letters stamped on the seat - it screams fast and furious.
It's easy to find a comfortable driving position. The steering wheel tilts and telescopes into almost any position, the seats can be lowered right to the base, and the short-throw shifter is at the perfect arm's distance. A little disclaimer, the rear seats aren't meant to seat full-grown adults, but little elves will fit just fine, so will your duffle bag. Cargo room however is fairly impressive. Being tasked to drive my friends to the airport for their 3-week long journey to Asia, I was able to fit two large suitcases in the trunk with room to spare for bags and purses. I also told them to keep an eye out for the Mustang's Asian twin.
We'll dive into more details in regards to the tried and true Coyote V8 Mustang when we test it in the coming weeks, but for now it's safe to say that turbocharging the Mustang should be seen in the positive light. What made pony cars so attractive fifty years ago was its price and accessibility. Our Ecoboost tester starts at $28,349 and rings out at $34,249. It holds a $3000 premium over the V6 but is also $9000 cheaper than the V8, putting the Ecoboost in the sweet spot. It's also dirt cheap when compared to other 300 hp+ German performance coupes - BMW 435i ($44,900), Audi S5 ($57,800) - and those are only the starting prices without options.
In this new era of turbocharging, the four cylinder downsize and modernized Euro-styling was a logistic move, one that was bound to be snared at for being different and not "true" to its pony car heritage. But it's bound to attract a wider market; those that don't like it will flock to the V8. I personally love every aspect about the new Ecoboost engine. It's fun, easy to drive, and downright affordable. Our tester was spec'ed just the way I like it too. Bare bone stock and track focused with only the essentials. It's one of the few cars that I've stepped out of and thought to myself, "Darn, I'd actually buy one of these."
型号 Model: 2015 Ford Mustang Ecoboost Fastback
顏色 Paint Type: Deep Impact Blue ($200)
廠方建議售價 Base Price: $28,349
試車售價 Price as Tested: $34,249
軸距 Wheelbase(mm): 2,720
長闊 Length/Width/Height (mm): 4,783 / 2,080 / 1,382
車重 Curb weight (kg): 1,602
引擎 Engine: 2.3L Ecoboost twin-scroll turbocharged I-4
最大馬力 Horsepower: 310 hp @ 5500 rpm
最高扭力 Torque: 320 lb-ft @ 3000 rpm
波箱 Transmission: 6-speed manual
擺佈 Engine & Drive Configuration: Front engine, RWD
前懸 Suspension-Front: Double-ball-joint MacPherson strut with stabilizer bar
後懸 Suspension-Rear: Integral-link independent with coil springs and stabilizer bar
煞制-前 Brakes-Front: 4-wheel disc
煞制-後 Brakes-Rear: 4-wheel disc
油耗 Fuel Consumption (City/Highway/Combined)- L/100 km: 10.6 / 7.5 / 9.2
輪胎尺碼 Tires: Pirelli SottoZero 255/40R19