2015 Ford Mustang Driving Impressions

Rarely is the word refined used to describe an American muscle car, but the Mustang manages to pull it off with its composed ride and handling and smooth power delivery.

We took test drives in Mustangs with the 2.3-liter Ecoboost four-cylinder engine and the 5.0-liter V8 and found both delightful in different ways. We have not tested a 3.7-liter V6-powered Mustang, however.

During our test drives in Mustangs with the 2.3-liter Ecoboost engine, we found acceleration smooth and plentiful, with plenty of low-end thrust on hand thanks to the twin-scroll turbocharger and barely perceptible turbo lag. We never would have known we were driving a four-cylinder engine except on a steep climb through winding neighborhood roads at slower speeds, and a few times up a mountain when passing slower traffic.

Still, we found the Ecoboost-powered Mustang is at its best at moderate- to higher speeds. The ride felt just a tad halting and constrained in morning stop-and-go commute traffic around Los Angeles. But once we were able to open it up, the car felt as if it breathed a sigh of relief.

The V8, of course, is a whole other animal. With its 420 hp and 390 lb.-ft. of torque, we had more than enough power in any driving condition. Though, as is typically for a naturally aspirated engine, power delivery is more linear and not as torquey on the low end like the turbocharged powerplant.

Both the automatic and manual transmissions are quite capable and help the Mustang reach its full potential. Our Ecoboost model was equipped with the automatic, which we found to be a good match for this engine. Even in normal mode, the transmission is geared on the sporty side, holding shifts longer and downshifting when our revs dropped. All automatics come with paddle shifters, for those who want to click through their own gears.

We found the Mustang GT equipped with the 6-speed manual satisfying to shift, with the right amount of feel through the gates, not too firm and not too sloppy.

An all-new independent rear suspension takes the 2015 Mustang to a whole new level. Mustangs of the past were rough-and-tumble around the corners (part of their appeal for some). Not so now. The suspension on the Ecoboost is firm yet comfortable, keeping all four wheels firmly planted. In the 5.0 GT, we felt more suspension rebound, presumably due to the V8 engine’s significant weight difference. In both cases, the chassis is stable and solid, with just enough perceptible body lean in the corners to give the driver feedback, while still feeling solid.

Driving modes change steering feel, throttle response and shift points (with the automatic transmission). Suspension setups are fixed; there are no fancy variable dampers or adjustable ride heights. That’s fine by us.

Standard wheels with the Ecoboost engine are 17-inch with all-season tires. The ride felt surprisingly aggressive on this base setup, and we did notice some noise coming from the tires. On our test car, we also noticed wind noise coming from the B-pillar at highway speeds. In other respects, though, the cabin was quiet.

The exhaust note of the Ecoboost engine isn’t as melodious as that of the V8, but it sounds much beefier than most turbocharged inline-4s, thanks in large part to careful sound engineering. Throatier, artificial engine noise is piped through the audio system’s speakers during acceleration and downshifting for more aural satisfaction.

The sound of the 5.0 GT, on the other hand, is the real deal, though sound is amplified into the cabin. While some complain the sound is too docile for the famous 5.0, we think it suited this more-refined generation perfectly.

Steering feel is authentic and provides just the right amount of effort. Unlike some steering systems that feel artificially heavy, the Mustang’s steering is always comfortable. Even in Normal mode, the steering is responsive. We prefer Sport mode, which gave us quick feedback without making our arms tired.

Standard wheels on V6 and Ecoboost models are 17-inch aluminum; the 5.0 gets 18-inch aluminum wheels. A Performance Package with summer tires is available on the Ecoboost and 5.0.

Four-wheel disc brakes come standard on every Mustang, with a choice of three brake packages. Brakes are firm and have a high point of engagement. The brake pedal on our Ecoboost car took a while to get used to, as we felt a small amount of travel, then into a firm bite; not as progressive we’d like. The braking setup in the GT was, expectedly also firm and aggressive, but felt more appropriate for the rest of the setup.

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