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2015 Ford Mustang EcoBoost 2.3 Manual First Test

Pick Your Poison

Karla Sanchez
Mar 17, 2015
Photographers: Robert Guio
We assume you already know plenty about the 2015 Ford Mustang. If you're an enthusiast, then you know the 2.3-liter EcoBoost I-4 slots above the V-6 in the U.S. and makes more power. You know that it's lighter in weight, boasts better fuel economy, and puts out a respectable 320 lb-ft of torque. If you already have your heart set on this engine over the less powerful V-6 and the more expensive GT, you still have another important another decision to make: automatic or manual?
Aside from the six-speed manual transmission, our Racing Red EcoBoost Premium tester is pretty much the same car as the automatic-equipped EcoBoost Premium we already put through its paces. That car weighed 146 pounds less than the manual GT we tested, with 96 of those pounds off the nose. This car, on the other hand, weighs 150 pounds less than the manual GT, which means it's 4 pounds lighter than the automatic.
With the same 310-hp, 2.3-liter EcoBoost four-cylinder engine as the automatic, the manual put down nearly equal numbers. Both 'Stangs completed the 0-60 mph sprint in 5.6 seconds, though the manual slightly trailed the automatic in the quarter mile. Our tester got there in 14.4 seconds with a trap speed of 97.4 mph, and the automatic completed it a hair quicker in 14.1 seconds at 97.8 mph.
Photo 2/31   |   2015 Ford Mustang Ecoboost Manual Front Three Quarters
Because the auto was equipped with the $1,995 Performance Pack, which adds beefier braking hardware (13.9-inch rotors/four-piston calipers front and 13.0-inch rotors/single-piston calipers rear) and a larger-diameter rear anti-roll bar, the only performance test in which the automatic really outshined the manual was the braking test, where it stopped 2 feet shorter than the manual's 108 feet. It seems that the automatic's 255/40 Pirelli P Zero tires included in the performance package didn't make much of a difference around the figure eight, either, as the manual posted a 25.0-second lap time and 0.85g average versus the automatic's 25.5-second lap time and 0.80g average. That means it bested both the Subaru WRX and Hyundai Genesis Coupe by 0.5 second and the Volkswagen GTI by 0.1 second. At a 0.99g average laterally, the three-pedaled Mustang EcoBoost bested what we recorded from all three of those cars.
Photo 6/31   |   2015 Ford Mustang Ecoboost Manual Gear Shifter
Despite being heavier, it also bests the last-gen automatic-equipped Mustang V-6 performance pack in most tests. That car, with 305 hp and 280 lb-ft of torque, completed the 0-60-mph sprint 0.2 second slower than the EcoBoost manual. It also lagged in the figure eight, where it recorded a 25.5-second time with a 0.74g average. The only test in which the V-6 matched the EcoBoost's performance was the quarter mile, where both passed the mark in 14.4 seconds, though the V-6 did it with a faster trap speed of 98.5 mph. Associate online editor Benson Kong notes this could be because the EcoBoost's fourth gear sucks the acceleration out of the powerband. "There's a shift to fourth right before 90 mph, so we expect whatever rpm the EcoBoost engine lands on is a little lower than what's needed to hold the advantage over the V-6," he said. The V-6 pulled pretty consistently all the way to 100 mph, but the manual shifts in the EcoBoost take time.
Photo 7/31   |   2015 Ford Mustang Ecoboost Manual Interior Seats
Speaking of the manual transmission, Ford promised easier engagement and a more precise drive thanks to a new shift linkage design that definitely delivered a silky smooth feel. The clutch was easy on the calves in stop-and-go traffic, and hill hold assist held for a good amount of time, so I never felt like I was going to back up into the car behind me as soon as my foot left the brake. Driving all over town in the Mustang was rewarding thanks to its low rpm torque, which makes you want to take turns a bit more swiftly. Shifting the gears yourself also returns 1 mpg more in the city and combined mpg.
Even though you can hang onto a gear as long as you want in this EcoBoost model, you still won't find much excitement in the engine note. It's very subtle, and several times I forgot what exactly I was driving. It definitely didn't sound like a muscle car, and it didn't really look like one from the inside, either, but that's not a bad thing. The cabin is nicely appointed, though the display screen is mounted a bit lower into the dash than I prefer. Nicer additions on our tester included $1,595 Recaro seats and a $795 voice-activated navigation system that was much more intuitive than I expected. With a bunch of other goodies, including reverse park assist, adaptive cruise control, and 20-inch wheels, the grand total for our tester came out to $37,775. For that amount of money can buy you a bare-bones GT with $650 to spare.
More people seem to be splurging on the GT, as Ford says about 50 percent of sales are for the GT with the other 50 percent split between the EcoBoost and the V-6. Ford did note, however, that sales for the EcoBoost are starting to creep up. Although this Mustang makes the most sense as a daily driver, it all just depends on whether you like to sit back and enjoy the ride or do things for yourself.

2015 Ford Mustang EcoBoost 2.3 Manual
BASE PRICE $29,995
PRICE AS TESTED $37,755
VEHICLE LAYOUT front-engine, RWD, 4-pass, 2-door coupe
ENGINE 2.3L/310-hp/320-lb-ft turbo DOHC 16-valve I-4
TRANSMISSION 6-speed manual
CURB WEIGHT (F/R DIST) 3,654 lb (51/49%)
WHEELBASE 107.1 in
LENGTH x WIDTH x HEIGHT 188.3 x 75.4 x 54.4 in
0-60 MPH 5.6 sec
QUARTER MILE 14.4 sec @ 97.4 mph
BRAKING, 60-0 MPH 108 ft
LATERAL ACCELERATION 0.99 g (avg)
MT FIGURE EIGHT 25.0 sec @ 0.85 g (avg)
EPA CITY/HWY/COMB FUEL ECON 22/31/26 mpg
ENERGY CONS., CITY/HWY 153/109 kW-hrs/100 miles
CO2 EMISSIONS, COMB 0.77 lb/mile

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