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2015 Ford Mustang

2015Mustang_t5e8357

Base Price: $23,800
Price as Tested: $36,265

What self-respecting Ford Mustang would show its mug on Main Street with a four-cylinder engine under its hood? After all, there isn’t a brown-paper bag large enough to hide that embarrassed face. Talk about the other pony and muscle cars taking away your lunch money on a daily basis. These were all thoughts ricocheting around my car-guy brain when Ford dropped a 2015 Mustang in my driveway armed with a 2.3-liter four-cylinder engine.

I’ve always been more of a Chevy Camaro guy than a Mustang guy, but I have driven a few Mustangs I really liked. I certainly 2015Mustang_t5e8517didn’t expect my latest brush with the original pony car to expand that list. Boy, was I wrong!

Ford decided when redesigning Mustang for 2015, to include among the engine choices an uber fuel-efficient – well, at least by performance-car standards – four-banger. This isn’t the coupe’s entry-level grade, which is still powered by a 300-horsepower V6. Nope, the four-cylinder is the next step up the engine pecking order that also includes a 435-horsepower 5-liter V8.

At first blush, it’s easy to sell the four-cylinder short, but doing so is a mistake. A member of Ford’s EcoBoost engine family, Mustang’s 2.3-liter four is turbocharged, generating a very respectable 310 horsepower. Measured in pound-feet, torque is the oomph that gets the wheels turning. The higher the torque, the quicker the wheels get rolling. While the V6 has 280 lb-ft of torque, the 2.3L EcoBoost generates 320 lb-ft. To add a little more perspective, the 5L V8 makes 400 lb-ft.

2015Mustang_t6r8758Numbers are wonderful for discussions in the abstract, but the real test is when the rubber meets the road. Out on the street, the four is gloriously satisfying to drive. My test Mustang had the six-speed manual, adding to the fun. For an extra $1,195, you can opt for the six-speed, driver-shiftable automatic with steering wheel-mounted paddle shifters.

Sure there is something tremendously gratifying about having all those ponies straining against their traces and the sensation of that deep, throaty sound of the V8 exhaust burbling through its twin pipes; but when you distill it down, what most performance-car drivers are looking for is the joy provided by putting a quick, athletic machine through its paces. For all but the biggest-horsepower junkies, the EcoBoost four’s six-second sprint to 60 miles per hour from a standstill will elicit a grin or two.

The grin will grow even bigger as the EcoBoost four-equipped coupe passes by gas stations that the V8 Mustang can’t. With the manual tranny, the EcoBoost is good for a government-estimated 22 mpg city, 31 highway and 26 combined. The six-speed automatic improves the highway number by 1 mpg and loses 1 mpg in the city for a combined rating of 25 mpg. Compare this to the V8’s 15 mpg city/25 highway/19 combined with the manual transmission. The government estimates that each year it will cost $600 more to put fuel in the V8 than the EcoBoost four.

When you consider the $7,000 difference between the base prices of the EcoBoost Premium (like my test Mustang) and V8-equipped GT Premium, as well as other cost differences for insurance, taxes and the like, you just may find the four-banger 2015Mustang_t5e9756more than a bit easier to live with.

A new rear suspension provides a more refined ride; yet, handling feels more precise than previous versions.

Anyone homing in on Mustang as a possible purchase doesn’t need me to weigh in on the coupe’s dynamic good looks. The yellow paint on my test car cost an extra $495, and only added to its sporty appearance.

Historically Mustang hasn’t offered much of a backseat and the newest generation doesn’t stray from that tradition. Up front, though, there is gobs of space. The seats, covered in leather in my test car, provide lots of side support. Another traditional Mustang element, driver and front-seat passenger are situated in their own distinct areas. The dashboard isn’t quite as invasive as in past versions and the center console doesn’t take up as much room either. Otherwise, the cockpit has an air of familiarity.

Long and impressive, the standard equipment list in my EcoBoost Premium test car included features in the base model like a rearview camera, full power accessories, keyless ignition and Ford Sync system’s control with a multifunction display. It also had goodies like upgraded brakes, a system for tracking performance, dual-zone automatic climate control, heated/ventilated leather-covered front seats, eight-inch touchscreen, MyFord Touch systems interface and a nine-speaker audio system with iPod interface.

In addition to the extra-cost paint job, my Mustang had options totaling nearly $5,200, including a navigation system, adaptive cruise control and reverse parking assist among other add-ons.

Thoroughly impressed, I enjoyed my week with the Mustang EcoBoost Premium. It didn’t allow me to lord it over V8-powered performance machines; well, except in terms of cost to own. And that was fine with me.