CHARLOTTE, North Carolina — Let’s not make too much of this. We spent about five minutes riding in the 2015 Ford Mustang 2.3 EcoBoost during a recent Ford Racing event at Lowe’s Motor Speedway in Charlotte, North Carolina. This is about the same amount of time that you spend on a roller coaster ride.
So it’s no surprise that we learned about as much as you would on an amusement park roller coaster. Even so, the ride made us pretty happy. In fact, the small gaggle of Mustang engineers swirling around the two cars in which we rode was awfully happy, too. They were practically jumping into the air every few seconds, just like ten year olds.
In all the childlike excitement, the Ford people told us a few things about the 2.3 EcoBoost version that make us look forward to the official introduction of the 2015 Ford Mustang in September 2014 with even more eagerness.
The 2015 Ford Mustang 2.3 EcoBoost is not a dog
First, let us assure you that the new Mustang 2.3 EcoBoost is nothing like the 1986 Ford Mustang 2.3 SVO, a car that we drove when it was new. We still remember the look of disappointment on the face of SVO president Michael Kranefuss as we gave him our initial impressions of the Fox-platform Mustang with its turbocharged, 200-hp Pinto engine.
The 2.3-liter EcoBoost four-cylinder with a twin-scroll turbocharger, direct fuel injection, and variable valve timing is expected to make 305 hp and 300 lb-ft of torque. This is an impressive amount of power that should help justify Ford’s decision to identify the engine as a premium application in the 2015 Mustang, slotted between the standard 3.7-liter V-6 and 5.0-liter V-8. (We expect the premium to be somewhere between the $995 option price for the 2.0-liter EcoBoost four in the Taurus and the $2395 price of the EcoBoost V-6 in the F-150.) The Mustang’s 2.3 sure sounds like a premium engine, winding up with a sonorous warble as the boost gauge in the instrument binnacle tickles 18 psi during full-throttle acceleration before settling at 15 psi under normal operation.
Other applications of turbocharged four-cylinder engines in premium cars are often meant to deliver mpg rather than mph, even high-output ones that we’ve seen in the Cadillac CTS and Jaguar XF. And while mpg is certainly part of the program for the Mustang EcoBoost, this turbo four feels lively, and it reduces the amount of weight sitting on the front tires, which is a fine thing to cut.
Flip the switches for speed
The Mustang 2.3-liter EcoBoost will come with either a six-speed automatic transmission or a six-speed manual, and our ride had the automatic, just as you’d expect in a pre-production car. The 2015 Ford Mustang will come with electronic chassis calibration featuring four modes: normal, sport, track and snow/wet. The Mustang’s automatic also has shift paddles on the steering wheel, and when you select sport mode, a throttle blip helps quicken the gear engagement for every downshift.
Naturally, the four chassis modes determine throttle response, shift points, and stability-control calibration. In addition, the electric-assist rack-and-pinion steering also has different modes: comfort, normal, and sport. We did our little loops around a short autocross circuit behind some infield grandstands at Lowe’s Motor Speedway, and the engineer at the wheel did his best to show us the quickness with which the transmission can react in sport mode and the unobtrusive permissiveness of the stability control.
Chassis control comes at a slight extra cost
The two cars at Charlotte were both equipped with the Performance Package, which enhanced the goodness of the Mustang EcoBoost.
The performance package features chassis braces for more structural rigidity, harder suspension bushings for quicker handling response, firmer springs and firmer monotube dampers, and stiffer (by five percent) anti-roll bars. Moreover, the Mustang’s standard 12.6-inch disc brakes are replaced with the Mustang V-8’s 13.9-inch front rotors with fixed four-piston calipers and 13.0-inch vented rear rotors with sliding-piston calipers. Finally, 19 x 9.0-inch cast-aluminum wheels carry 255/40YR-19 Pirelli PZero summer performance tires, replacing the standard 17-inch wheels and 235/55WR-17s.
The most important bit of hardware in the performance package is probably the shorter rear-axle ratio, a 3.55:1 setup that replaces the standard 3.33:1 hardware, one more reason why this particular 2015 Ford Mustang 2.3 EcoBoost felt so lively.
At the same time, we were most aware that this new chassis also felt remarkably supple for a car with a performance-oriented suspension setup. It turns out that the engineers have dialed in twice as much anti-dive, anti-lift, and anti-squat into the suspension geometry as before to make the Mustang chassis more stable under acceleration and braking. As a result, there’s no need to use especially stiff spring rates to prop up the chassis, and the result seems to be a very composed, modern sort of handling dynamic from the car. The old, familiar Mustang hop and shudder didn’t seem to be in evidence.
We were told that line lock will come as standard equipment for the manual transmission model of the 2015 Mustang, so you can engage the brakes on the starting line at the drag strip and be able to concentrate on the throttle and clutch for a good getaway.
Yes, it’s only a thrill ride
So we can’t really report much hard news about the new Mustang 2.3 EcoBoost. After all, three loops around a simplified autocross course in each of two cars don’t add up to much. But maybe it’s enough that we had a good time, just like we would on a roller coaster ride.
It’s looking like the 2015 Ford Mustang is going to be fun. And when you cut through all the palaver about the Mustang’s new technology, new independent rear suspension, new styling, and new models – all the stuff that Ford tells us will ensure that this car is the Mustang that will sustain the nameplate for the next 50 years – fun is the thing that matters the most.
And if we’ve discovered how much fun the new Mustang is going to be, then maybe we’ve done something pretty important after all.
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