2015 Ford Mustang EcoBoost road test: Neither wild horse nor old gray mare

2015 Ford Mustang EcoBoost Premium

2015 Ford Mustang EcoBoost Premium

By now, most enthusiasts have probably read everything they need to know about the all-new 2015 Ford Mustang. The bulk of their interest, no doubt, has centered on the exciting coupes and convertibles with powerful V-8 engines that will be taking on arch-enemies Chevy Camaro and Dodge Challenger.

But there is one model that takes the 50th anniversary Mustang in a new direction, one that many buyers may find suits their needs better than the muscular pony cars that can quickly drain the drivers’ adrenalin (and gas tanks) and easily attract the attention of the highway patrol.

It is called EcoBoost Premium and it slots above the standard V-6 and EcoBoost models and below the manufacturer’s V-8 offerings.

2015 FordMustang instrument panel

2015 Ford Mustang instrument panel

Powered by a peppy, 2.3-liter turbocharged four-cylinder engine, this Mustang is more elegant than edgy, more refined than rambunctious and, yes, more sensible than sensational.

But, it is certainly no dog. A far cry from the Mustang’s turbocharged 4-cylinder powerplants of nearly 40 years ago, this boosted four-banger generates a satisfying 310 horsepower and 320 pound-feet of torque. Yet, it can run on regular grade gasoline and will average between 21 and 32 miles per gallon for the driver whose right shoe is not filled with lead.

In my case, driving on relatively smooth and level roads with a light-weight sneaker on the accelerator, I averaged between 24 and 30 mpg over several hundred miles.

Of course, on those occasions when the need for speed could not be denied, the EcoBoost engine revealed its ability to run on the wild side. Teamed with a 6-speed automatic transmission and paddle shifters, the Mustang can go from a stop to 60 miles an hour in less than 6 seconds.

It should also be noted that, for those motorists who enjoy a more involved driving experience, a 6-speed manual transmission is also available.

Yes, there is one caveat. The 4-cylinder engine is a bit gritty, unable to match the smoothness of the V-8s or even the base V-6 models, which, too, can scoot along quickly with 300 horsepower on tap. It’s also true that the exhaust note is far from rip-snorting. It’s more 98-pound weakling than 250-pound body builder.

The Mustang logo emphasizes the coupe's sportiness.

The Mustang logo emphasizes the coupe’s sportiness.

But that would not be a deal breaker for me. I was more smitten by the new coupe’s more sophisticated, smooth-flowing lines (most noticeable in the styling of the new Mustang’s hind quarters) and a comfortable, leather-clad interior that feels surprisingly upscale for a car with a base price under $30,000.

And I was particularly impressed by the improvement in driving dynamics of the rear-wheel-drive coupe. Attribute this primarily to a new, independent rear suspension. This Mustang goes precisely where it is pointed, does not lurch over road imperfections, grips better in tight turns and has a much more comfortable ride than all of those previous Mustangs saddled with a solid rear axle.

The Mustang EcoBoost Premium driving experience can be personalized, too, with selectable modes that allow the steering to be set for normal, sport or comfort, and the suspension to be adjusted for normal, sport, track or snow/wet conditions.

In my week with the car I generally enjoyed the sport settings the most, although I would use the normal suspension setting for long highway drives.

The Mustang has a surprisingly spacious trunk.

The Mustang has a surprisingly spacious trunk.

For those who want to document their sportiest driving experiences there also are Track Apps. An accelerometer tracks gravitational forces during acceleration, turns and braking; acceleration is documented at 0-30, 0-60 and 0-100 mph and for the quarter mile; braking times can be recorded from 100 mph and 60 mph; and it’s even possible to record an all-time-best 0-60 mph run.

For you technophiles, there is Gauge Detail, which closely monitors a range of the turbo engine’s functions.

But that’s only part of the new Mustang’s story. The EcoBoost Mustang, as well as all the rest of the 50th anniversary models, is loaded with standard and optional features that literally put them in a class with more expensive luxury vehicles.

Included in the EcoBoost’s $29,300 base price are heated and cooled driver and front-passenger seats with 6-way power settings, dual-zone climate control, keyless lock and ignition, automatic on/off headlights, Sync voice-activated controls, and the MyTouch infotainment screen.

And let’s not forget one particularly cool feature that is just for fun. Open the doors at night, and a likeness of a galloping Mustang is automatically projected onto the road.

Engage the turn signal and the right or left tail lights beam sequentially.

Engage the turn signal and the right or left tail lights beam sequentially.

I was also surprised that for less than $6,000, the options list includes an excellent 12-speaker sound system ($1,795), the 6-speed automatic transmission with paddle shifters ($1,195), active anti-theft system with wheel locks ($395), adaptive cruise control ($1,195), reverse park assist ($295), and a voice-activated navigation system ($795).

Safety features, in addition to the options, include a full complement of seat belts and air bags, rear-view camera, blind-spot warning lights, post-crash alert, and a perimeter alarm to warn when the Mustang is getting to close to other objects.

Add everything up and the suggested retail price comes to $35,795.

All of that said, it’s a lot of car for the money, but a buyer must realize that it’s a specialty vehicle, not the car for everyone.

Just like all Mustangs since their creation in 1964, the new one yields substance to style. Adults and most children over the age of 7 will not want to occupy the two pinched rear seats. Passengers 5 feet, 9 inches or taller will also need to duck to avoid knocking their noggins on the low roofline.

Ford calls the new Mustang a sports car, and I think that is an accurate description of the muscular V-8s. But the EcoBoost comes across more as a sporty luxury coupe. It’s no family car, but it could fit the bill for singles, couples and empty nesters looking for a handsome vehicle that combines sportiness with luxury and efficiency.

For the right buyer, there’s certainly nothing wrong with that.

To read Buzzard boss John Matras’ take on the EcoBoost Mustang, click here.