SENIOR MOTORSPORTS EDITOR MAC MORRISON: I definitely would like more seat time in the new Ford Mustang. My drive came in very cold, at times snowy, conditions, so my take on its dynamic prowess will have to wait a bit longer. It does feel reasonably well-balanced though, and certainly a noticeable step up over its predecessor in normal driving conditions in terms of noise and ride quality.

This car’s interior is a nice little evolution but nothing astounding. Positives include a smaller diameter steering wheel, which also finally telescopes, something that I find a must-have in most cars. Overall comfort is improved greatly. At 6-1, I was not always comfortable in the previous generation car, and struggled at times to find a satisfactory seating position. That all goes away with the larger and redesigned cockpit, and even these standard seats are quite supportive and sporty.

Most of my driving occurred on highways, and the ride quality is nice, and if I recall the old car, cabin noise levels are noticeably improved as well. The turbo 2.3-liter, based on the 2.0-liter found in the Ford Focus ST, makes nice power and torque (though it’s far from overwhelming or adrenaline pumping) especially when revs climb above 2,700 rpm or so. Look at what tuners are doing to the Focus engine to easily get significantly more power and torque out of it; expect plenty of that to carryover to this larger four cylinder as well.

Plenty of people will notice: it is strange to fire the ignition and hear these turbocharged four-cylinder sounds coming from under a Mustang’s hood. The soundtrack is reminiscent of Audi’s forced induction small engines, and it takes some getting used to. Not that the experience is unpleasant, other than some buzziness at high rpm; rather, it just seems … wrong in a pony car. Admittedly, that smacks of hypocrisy on my part. Many of us have for years pined for a more European-esque Mustang, and to complain about it on the flipside now that we have one is deserving of a hard poke in the eye. I legitimately began to laugh at myself when these thoughts went through my mind when I got in the car.

Finally -- and this is the big one -- even without an opportunity to put the hammer down and really attack a long series of corners in nice weather conditions, the new suspension and stiffer body are noticeably better controlled than any previous Mustang. There’s far less bump steer or skittishness now, and I immediately found myself more confident in tossing this car hard into a curve without wondering exactly how it was going to respond to surface changes, cracks and bumps. The brakes seem better, too, in both feel and initial bite.

Indeed, I’m looking forward to getting to know this new Mustang. Add the performance package with revised suspension settings that this car did not have, and a manual gearbox, and I see a lot of potential here, perhaps more than I realize so far. 

2015 Ford Mustang EcoBoost first drive

Yesterday we told you about driving the new 2015 Ford Mustang GT with its mighty 5.0-liter V8. That was fun. Right after we parked the V8, we got into the four-cylinder version of the new Ford Mustang ...

. In short, get the V8-powered GT if your goal is stop-light drag racing dominance and get the EcoBoost four if you want to autocross or canyon carve. But in either case, get the Performance Pack, it’s worth its weight in reinforced parts.

WEST COAST EDITOR MARK VAUGHN: I loved the new Ford Mustang when I went on the press intro a little bit ago. But sometimes an interval of time reveals horrifying shortcomings you couldn’t see when you were smitten and blinded by your first glance at the car. So how do I feel on my second Mustang drive? I love it even more.

Out here in California, I had a 2.3-liter turbocharged four with a manual, and I loved the power and torque. I loved the suspension, for the most part. And once I remembered to adjust the steering boost, I loved the steering. It’s a really good package that can give Subaru BRZ/Scion FR-S buyers another option in the sporty coupe sports car category.

The Mustang is still fun to drive on twisting mountain roads. I know this because I just did it. You can leave it in whatever gear it happens to be in and not worry about downsifting as long as the engine speed is above 2,000 rpm. Not many small four-bangers will let you do that. While it’s one thing to get horsepower out of a four-cylinder, getting a broad torque curve is another thing entirely. There is a useable amount of torque down low in the new Mustang Ecoboost four. If you’re going for a lap time or racing someone, then sure, you’ll downshift more. But when I traversed the entire Santa Monica Mountains National Recreation Area on a recent afternoon, followed by a good portion of the Los Padres National Forest, I did most of at just between 2,000 and 3,500 rpm.

At first I thought I didn’t like the steering. It felt too overboosted and a little too unfeeling. Then I remembered, of course, that you can adjust the steering boost in this rig and I started scanning the switchgear. There it was, third toggle from the left: normal, sport and comfort. I’d been in normal. I toggled to sport and the steering instantly felt much better. It still wasn’t as good as I’d like it to be, especially since I was hitting a lot of tight, second-gear turns. But it was sporty-useable and didn’t get in the way of a fun day. And that engine! Did I say I love the engine? So broad a torque curve, so much power. I could get used to an engine like this.

Likewise, on a long nighttime freeway haul, I found myself going way fast over the empty lanes. The car invites and encourages speed. It revels in it. So will owners. When I try to think of things I don’t like about the Mustang, I can’t come up with much. The visibility is good, with even that little quarter-window in the back doing its part to let you see out. Gas mileage is 22/31, which is good, especially for a performance car. Looks? It looks good, not as good as the 1967, but what is? Ah, here’s one: The back seat isn’t very useable; especially if real people are sitting in front and have slid their seats back a ways. You wouldn’t want this if you had a family to haul in it. But the trunk’s big.

What else might you buy? The Mustang starts at around $26,000 or so, same as the BRZ/FR-S and a grand under the Hyundai Genesis coupe. I like all those and I can’t decide whether I like the Mustang or the BRZ/FR-S twins better, even if the car’s sole task was to drive up and down twisting mountain passes all day. I might honestly take the Ford.

The Mustang has traditionally been a drag racer’s car that some owners saw as sports cars. Now the sports car percentage has gone way up. I was not looking forward to giving this thing back.

While this engine is shared with the Lincoln MKC, where it sits transversely, it is refined to take advantage of its longitudinal orientation in the Mustang, with longer intake runners.

EDITOR WES RAYNAL: With visions of the Mustang II dancing in my head, I wasn’t expecting much out of this 2015 Ford Mustang Ecoboost. But I got to say, I was impressed.

Ford loves to tout this four-cylinder, and I can see why: 310 hp is a stout, stout number out of such a car. There’s little to no turbo lag, and off the lights the car gets right down the road. Refinement seems to me the new Mustang’s biggest improvement. The car is quiet; the suspension soaks up road irregularities nicely -- impressive. Smooth with good body control. I’m thinking the independent rear suspension has a lot to do with that. If I have one beef with the engine it’s the sound. It sounds like -- you guessed it -- a four cylinder. Not what people are necessarily looking for in their sports coupe.

I need more seat time in all the Mustangs, but it’s hard not to notice the improved build quality. Materials are upgraded, as is fit and finish.

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