2015 Ford Mustang I-4 Coupe Premium review: Well grounded at speed

 

2015 Ford Mustang I-4 Coupe Premium

2015 Ford Mustang I-4 Coupe Premium

Perhaps it’s not the way one should begin a review of the 2015 Ford Mustang, but it is a lot about the car and the technology of the times. Open the hood of the 2015 Mustang I-4 Coupe powered by the 2.3-liter Ecoboost four-cylinder and to be seen, in addition to the engine, the ground.

There was a time when that was common, looking down into an engine compartment, to see pavement. But of late there have been more tube, hoses and wires, not to mention assorted appurtenances and assorted mechanical bits, and often great expanses of plastic that not only cover the engine but any chance of seeing Mother Earth.

2015 Ford Mustang engine

The turbocharger nestles close to the cylinder head in the 2015 Ford Mustang engine. And look, you can see the ground. (click to enlarge)

Which is why the 2015 Ford Mustang with the turbocharged direct-injected four-cylinder is special. With a mere 2.3-liters, it produces 310 horsepower and 320 lb-ft of torque. That’s more than the 300 horses of the Mustang with the 3.7-liter V-6, and what’s more, the little four-cylinder has its torque peak from 2500 to 4500 rpm. That gives the four flexibility around town or on a winding road, where the low rpm punch is a welcome bonus. It’s not, of course, the 5.0-liter V-8, and although its torque peak is 4250 rpm, it’s producing 400 lb-ft of torque up there and still a bunch down low.

The 2.3-liter Ecoboost engine, as the name indicates has turbocharging and direct injection, along with twin independent variable camshaft timing. The 2.3’s low-inertia twin-scroll turbocharger sees its first application in a Ford vehicle, and it’s largely responsible for the Mustang Turbo’s quick throttle response. The cylinder head has integrated exhaust ports that merge the outer cylinders and the inner two cylinders into separate outlets which feed directly into the two inlet ports of the turbo.

2015 Ford Mustang dash

The small plaque on the dash reads, “Mustang: Since 1964”. (click to enlarge)

All three engines come standard with a six-speed manual transmission, though with ratios selected for their respective powerplants. A six-speed automatic is optional—with the same gear ratios and final drive ratios. Standard across the board is a 3.15:1, with a 3.55 optional with all three engines as well, 3.31:1 available with the four. The higher ratios, of course, give quicker acceleration but with higher engine revs, fuel economy suffers.

When Ford says the 2015 is all new, it’s actually newer than the 1965 Ford Mustang, which was essentially a Ford Falcon compact sedan with a new body. The 2015 Mustang, however, breaks with a tradition that goes back to the beginning. The rear live axle, perhaps the last such primitive technology in a car anywhere in the world, is replaced by integral-length Independent rear suspension.

And here’s what that means. The rear end stays planted over bumps and road seams for better traction in a straight line and less hopping around a curve. For a sports car, or at least a sporty car, to have an old crude suspension layout was an anomaly that had to be fixed with the new generation. And it was.

2015 Ford Mustang back seat

One thing hasn’t changed about the 2015 Ford Mustang: a painfully small back seat. (click to enlarge–photo)

The front suspension is new as well. The previous generation had conventional MacPherson strut suspension. The new suspension rides on a new perimeter subframe which makes the chassis stiffer and is lighter as well. A more solid mounting means the suspension movement can be more precise, with the same result in steering and handling and improving ride. New double-ball-joint front MacPherson strut system also enables the use of larger, more powerful brakes, the biggest ever for the Mustang lineup.

The suspension geometry was designed to have more anti-squat and anti-lift to keep reduce pitch front-to-rear to keep the body level under hard acceleration and braking.

The Mustang looks unmistakably like a Mustang, though everything’s changed. The large Mustang grille opening takes on a more hexagonal shape, more like other Fords (although we heard complaints that it looked too much like a Ford Fusion…which wasn’t appreciated by that Mustang enthusiast).

2015 Ford Mustang I-4 Coupe Premium

2015 Ford Mustang I-4 Coupe Premium (click to enlarge)

Within the grille opening, each engine has its own grille, designed for the amount of cooling air needed for each engine. The four-cylinder Mustangs have shutters that can completely close off the grille opening when cooling air isn’t need, improving aerodynamics by forcing the air to go around the car rather than through the engine bay.

Aerodynamics have been improved other ways as well. Ford engineers actually spent twice as much time in the windtunnel with the new Mustang than with its predecessor. The result is that the hood curves more downward and the windshield and rear glass are more steeply sloped, the rear of the lower roofline returning to a fastback contour. All Mustangs get a front spoiler/splitter at the bottom of the front end to keep air from under the car.

Ford takes a page out of the BMW playbook with its version of what the Germans call an AirCurtain (for example, with the BMW M4). Ford’s name is “aero curtains.” Scoops at the front corners direct air around the front wheels, forming an aerodynamic barrier between the spinning wheels and the air flowing alongside the car, good for a couple of points off the car’s coefficient of drag.

The 2015 has what Ford calls a “lower and wider stance,” with the rear track increased by 2.75 inches and the rear fenders to match. It not only looks brawnier but also improves handling.