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Last year to the shock and dismay of many, it was announced that the Ford Mustang would once again be available with a four-cylinder engine.
FAST FACTS
Engine: 2.3 L turbocharged four-cylinder, 310 HP, 320 lb-ft.

Transmission: Six-speed manual

Fuel economy (US): 22 MPG city, 31 MPG highway

Fuel economy (CDN): 10.6 L/100 km city, 7.5 L/100 km highway

Price (US): Mustang EcoBoost begins at $26,125 after destination charges, $30,500 as tested

Price (CDN): Mustang EcoBoost begins at $29,599 after destination charges, $35,399 as tested.

How could Ford possibly do this to America’s Pony car? Well, it happened and after my first drive in the car, I came away impressed. But that was just a 20-minute drive during the press introduction in Los Angeles. What would I think of a four-cylinder turbocharged Mustang after living with it for a week in the dead of winter?

Let’s start with the facts. Making 310 HP and 320 lb-ft. of torque, the 2.3-liter turbocharged four-cylinder engine produces more power than the 2009 Ford Mustang GT V8. That’s also 40 lb-ft. more torque than the current 3.7-liter V6. Oh, and it can deliver all that power on regular gasoline at 22 MPG in the city and 31 MPG highway when equipped with the proper transmission: the six-speed manual.

What V6 Mustang?

The more I drive the EcoBoost, the more I wonder why that V6 even exists anymore. The EcoBoost behaves a lot like a Subaru turbo. There isn’t a ton of power down low, but mid-range and high RPM power is great once the boost builds. The car feels faster than the numbers suggest. Sixth gear passing on the highway is no problem as the turbocharged torque easily accelerates even in high gear.

Anyone who is sad about the demise of the Hyundai Genesis Coupe 2.0 turbo should take an EcoBoost Mustang out for a drive as it will quickly make them forget all about that Hyundai. Part of that has to do with the way this particular car is equipped. It’s a bit of an enthusiast special as the only options added are the performance package, Recaro seats, reverse park assist and the security package.

Best Performance Under $30,000?

MustangEngine2 MustangExterior8MustangExterior5

This all totals just $30,500 after destination charges. That puts the EcoBoost Mustang right in the heart of the affordable sports car market. And if we remove the park assist, this car would have qualified it for our under $30,000 sports car shootout we did this summer. I’m confident this car would have set the fastest lap time during that comparison and given the WRX a serious run for the overall title.

The reason for my bold claim has to the performance package. Having a ton of power is one thing, but if the rest of the car doesn’t match its performance, it’s wasted. The package includes a quicker accelerating, higher final gear ratio, upgraded brakes including four-piston front calipers and summer 255/40R19 performance tires.

Yes, You Can Winter Drive a Mustang

But I’m testing in the dead of winter and the summer tires have been swapped out for Pirelli winter rubber. Being high performance cold weather tires opposed to actual snow tires, the Pirelli’s aren’t the best in deeper snow. But on ice and frozen pavement, they perform well with lots of grip and reassurance.

Don’t think a mere set of winter tires will tame this wild stallion though. The 2015 Mustang’s chassis is clearly set-up to hustle around corners quickly. Earlier I mentioned that the EcoBoost makes more power than a 2009 Mustang GT. Even with a nearly 200 lbs. weight increase, the 3,532 lbs. EcoBoost with the performance package will also run circles around that old V8 ‘Stang.

But this comes with a caveat. The new independent rear-end suspension is dialed in a bit loose to help rotate the 2015 Mustang through apexes. During optimal warm weather, grip and handling prowess are downright excellent. If road surfaces are slippery though, the Mustang will hang its tail out, sometimes unexpectedly. The standard rear-limited slip differential does help control these slides, but make no mistake; four-cylinder or not, there’s more than enough power here for burnouts and tire-smoking drifts. In the winter, snowy donuts are fun, easy and irresistible.

But the engine noise is still an issue. I can’t trick my brain into going along with the fake sounds, no matter how good they sound. Ford should have opened up the exhaust a bit, especially when selecting the performance package and left the simulated sounds out of the equation.

Spartan in the Name of Performance

Inside, my Mustang test car is pretty barren, as most options have not been selected in the name of affordable performance. Everything is easy to use and even in base form; the new Mustang’s interior is quite stylish compared to a lot of affordable sports cars. Rear seat space is useless for most people over the age of twelve, but the trunk does offer a decent 13.5 cubic feet of storage space.

There are a few highlights inside worth noting, I do have the adjustable steering that allows the driver to cycle through three levels of feedback and force. As well, I love the feel of the optional Recaro seats as they fit my body type perfectly.

The Verdict

If you still don’t think a four-cylinder engine belongs in a Ford Mustang, get over it. The engine is here and equipped the right way, turns the Mustang into a fantastic performance bargain. Priced in line with other compact sports cars, it feels just as responsive and powerful as anything else around the $30,000 price point, while offering classic pony car style.

Read More here: 2015 Ford Mustang EcoBoost Review - AutoGuide.com News
 
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