Driving the 2015 Mustang: The Things You Want to Know

If you are looking for a typical car review that talks about the 2015 Mustang’s uprated 5.0 that produces 435 horsepower and 400 lb/ft of torque and its all new IRS rear suspension, this isn’t the place for you. If you are looking for a review of the 2015 Mustang with information you’re not going to find elsewhere, then read on…

This last Saturday we were invited to a short, four-hour-long media review of the 2015 Mustang. Placed in the cramped parking lot of the Carbon Beach Club in Malibu were over a dozen 2015 Mustangs, in which all had received a fair share of flogging from automotive journalists over the last week. There was the full gamut of vehicle options available in 5.0 and 2.3-liter EcoBoost form. Needless to say that when we spotted the fully loaded GT Premium with the Performance Package and Recaro seats, we knew where we needed to run to first. We even had a chance to drive around in the all new 2.3-liter EcoBoost automatic.

What’s Really Different on the new 5.0 Powerplant

The 2015 Mustang 5.0 receives a few upgrades to improve fuel economy, torque, and horsepower. Most notably is addition of Charge Motion Control Plates to the intake manifold, revised cylinder heads, and a stronger piston and rod combination.

Engine bay packaging on the 2015 Mustang is much tighter from the air box forward.

Charge Motion Control Plates

4.6-liter fans might cringe when they hear these words. Ford engineers worked hard on the 5.0 to create a system that does not impede air flow. Previous iterations acted like small throttle bodies for each runner that, even when open, still restricted air flow. The new 5.0 plates, which are now integrated into the intake manifold, fold flat to the roof of the top of the runner and will not create a restriction. These plates play a huge role in the 2+ mpg and 20 lb/ft increase over the 2011+ Mustangs by keeping the port velocity high under low RPM driving. Another side benefit is that the Charge Motion Control Plates really help smooth out the idle of the 5.0.

“They have the same intent as the 4.6-liter engine,” said Engineering Manager Brian Mazzella. “This time around was a real crusade of ours to design the plates to fold out of the way so they don’t pivot in the middle like a throttle body. When it folds into the runner it’s gone so you can’t see it at all and it doesn’t impede power whatsoever.  You’ll notice when you get in the car, if you have any experience with the 2011 and up cars, that idle is far better.  I mean just smooth as silk.”

The Charge Motion Control Valves fold flat to the runner side and don’t create a restriction.

Revised Cylinder Heads

Basically the 2015 5.0 cylinder head flows as good as the BOSS head, but in a cast form. – Adam Christian

Not huge changes on the cylinder heads, but some improvements have been made to create a straighter intake path. “The main difference is the intake valve is three tenths of a millimeter bigger, which doesn’t sound like much. But actually in terms of flow, it’s a easily a four percent increase,” said Adam Christian, ICE engineer (Intake, Combustion, and Exhaust). “The valve stays in the same place and the ports got a little bigger. What happens is that septum in the port (what we call the middle of the two runners) dropped way down.  So it’s almost just one port all the way down, then suddenly splits into two.”

Christian continued, “Basically the 2015 5.0 cylinder head flows as good as the BOSS head, but in a cast form. It also received the BOSS exhaust valve which is eighth tenths of a millimeter bigger.”

Block is the Same

Some have wondered if the 2015 Mustangs were going to receive a Sportsman-style block that helps strengthen the area around the bores by shrinking the water jackets to add more material. Ford has not adapted this change and the block’s architecture remains mostly unaltered, except for revisions to the oil filter mounting area.

Stronger Pistons and Rods

Cylinder compression loss is a known problem on boosted 5.0s as they get older. While the 2015s will not featured a Mahle forged piston like the BOSS 302, it will feature the same rod and a stronger cast piston with a revised ring package.

The 2.3-liter EcoBoost is a Stroked Focus ST 2.0 with a lot of Promise

The 310 horsepower and 320 lb/ft of torque 2.3-liter EcoBoost will be a game changer for Ford. With a simple set of bolt-ons – like an intake, tune, and exhaust – we have no reservations that the EcoBoost will run with a GT, all while being able to achieve 32+ miles per gallon. We’ve seen Focus ST’s pick up 30 horsepower and 50 lb/ft of torque to the wheels on just tunes. Our guess is that the 2.3-liter tune will be worth 40-50 horsepower and 60-70 lb/ft of torque to the wheels, meaning a tune alone will make as much (or more) torque than a new GT.

Since the 2.3-liter is largely built off the Focus ST's transverse-mounted FWD 2-liter, a crossover pipe for the coolant reroutes the flow from the back of the block to the front where it meets the radiator. The air intake system runs between the radiator and the front of the engine cover with plenty of space to keep the incoming air charge cool.

The 2.3 is built off the same family of architecture as the 2-iter so they go down the same line; they have the same machine centers. – Pete Pandolfi

“We have been working on the 2.3-liter EcoBoost for two and a half years,” said Pete Pandolfi, Engine Systems Supervisor. The 2.3 is built off the same family of architecture as the 2-liter so they go down the same line; they have the same machine centers. The 2.3 is a stroked version of the 2-liter, but it’s basically an all new engine.  It has a high pressure diecast block, steel crank, forged connecting rods, the all new three port Integrated Exhaust Manifold (IEM) cylinder head, and then really the key for this car is the twin scroll turbocharger.

“So one important part of a turbocharged I4 is pulse separation,” explained Pandolfi. “You have to separate exhaust pulses because when you have adjacent cylinders, you get feedback into another adjacent cylinder. When you’re in blow down, it is quite common to end up with flow going back up into an adjacent cylinder. So like on a traditional single port IEM, it’s just a big cavity where you get this turbulent flow and mixing within the IEM. Separating the cylinders down to the turbo helps reduce this. In the end you get good pulse energy right at the turbine wheel of the turbocharger.  You don’t get the losses that are associated with the mixing of the exhaust flow. So that is really the key to killing the turbo lag and getting great low end torque. Starting at about 2,000 rpm the power begins to come in and the torque curve just completely comes alive at 2,700 rpm and then torque peaks at 4,500 rpm.”

The Mode Selector Button – Normal, Sport Plus, Track

2012+ Mustang owners received simpler version of this option by only being able to firm up the steering feel. The new mode selector will change a plethora of functions within the Mustang, including steering feedback, throttle mapping, shift points in automatic-equipped cars, plus traction and stability control sensitivity. The Track mode fully disables traction control but retains a stability control program.

The mode selector button changes a slew of operations to better cater to your driving mood.

You Don’t NEED the Recaros

Ok, stay with us here. The Recaro seats are a nice upgrade but you might want to sit in a standard 2015 Mustang’s seats first. Revised bolstering in the standard seats keep your butt and back in place almost as well as the Recaros do. Also, the Recaro seats will not come with the air conditioning perforations, which is a big comfort factor for daily driving.

Driving Impressions

Simply put, the 2015 Mustang GT with the Performance Package handles almost exactly like a BOSS 302 Mustang. Where the 2015 inspires confidence above the BOSS 302 is that you don’t need to drive it hard on a road that’s smooth as glass. If any of you readers have driven an S197 hard on roads with potholes and uneven pavement, you will know what we are talking about. Being accustomed to the solid axle’s disjointed feeling over road bumps kept the pucker-factor high, that is until we became more confident driving the 2015 Mustang. The independent rear suspension does a remarkable job keeping the back of the Mustang pointed in the same direction as the front of the car, allowing the Mustang to easily flow through the turns.

The Performance Package 6-piston Brembo calipers with 15-inch rotors are carry-overs from the 2013 GT500. The standard GT brakes are 4-piston variants that appear as blank cast aluminum calipers, though are strikingly similar in appearance to a 4-piston Brembo caliper.

A revised intake sound tube reduces the amount of in-cabin rumble that one might expect and is considerably quieter inside that previous generation Coyote-powered S197 Mustangs.

While we weren’t able to launch the Mustang on a dragstrip quite yet, we can tell you that wheel hop on street launches were non existent during our attempts. Under full acceleration runs the 2015 5.0 feels the exact same as a 2011-14. It’s not going to be easy to feel the additional 10 horsepower and 20 lb/ft, especially since that additional power is offset by the Mustang’s weight gain.

The Getrag MT-82 transmission’s shifter no longer feels like a rubber band connected to a twig. The shifting experience is much tighter and feels far less disjointed than a typical remote shifted manual transmission.

The line lock function will be available 5.0 Mustangs only and most exports, though some countries like Australia that don’t allow vehicles to be equipped with such options will not be receiving them on their Mustangs.

The upgraded center console and steering wheel help make the 2015 Mustang's interior what it is.

Best of All – Interior Comfort

Perhaps our favorite part of the 2015 Mustang is the revised interior. The entire front portion of the cabin has been enlarged to increase legroom. Toggle switches are added for functions like hazard lights, driving mode, and steering mode. The center gauge display carries over the gauge displays (air/fuel ratio, temperatures, etc.), track timers, G-meter, and now features an all-time history for the track timers. Inside the Driver Assist section on equipped vehicles, blind spot detection, adaptive cruise control, and cross traffic detection can all be adjusted.

Looking Forward to More Seat Time

While our time was brief with the 2015 Mustang, we were impressed with what Ford has done with America’s pony car. We look forward to a more in-depth review with extended seat time in the near future!



About the author

Mark Gearhart

In 1995 Mark started photographing drag races at his once local track, Bradenton Motorsports Park. He became hooked and shot virtually every series at the track until 2007 until he moved to California and began working as a writer for Power Automedia. He was the founding editor for its first online magazines, and transitioned into the role of editorial director role in 2014. Retiring from the company in 2016, Mark continues to expand his career as a car builder, automotive enthusiast, and freelance journalist to provide featured content and technical expertise.
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