When it comes to muscle cars, it's hard to top the likes of the Ford Mustang. Sure, right now there's the Chevrolet Camaro and Dodge Challenger, but over the years we've seen them come and go as the Mustang has held strong.

After getting an all-new, retro makeover in the early 2000s, the Mustang was resurrected from several rather awful generations of design. This Mustang though reminded people of the much revered 1960s original with a modern twist. As the saying goes, "it sold like hot cakes."

2015 Ford Mustang

The problem is, of course, how do you follow up something like that? Although the vehicle was refreshed, it still had cues that were reminiscent of the original. This had to be Ford's toughest all-new design it had to top.

2015 Ford Mustang

**Please note: pictured below is the GT model.

This leads us to our subject, the all-new 2015 Ford Mustang. Boasting a new look, it's a new take on the Mustang that enhances much of the design without revolutionizing it. Take, for example, the prominent front grille. It's increased in size as its an industry trend and ensures the vehicle makes a statement going down your local boulevard — no surprise there. The headlights are swept back with integrated turn signals and the vehicle's greenhouse isn't as bulbous as it is more of a fastback design.

Said to be inspired by the 1970s Mustang, there's no question when you see the all-new car it is one of the Blue Oval's pony cars. Controversial design or not, this is clearly a Mustang. Mission accomplished.

Getting more comfortable inside, the all-new Ford is clearly proud of its heritage although it isn't afraid to take advantage of today's latest and greatest technology. Sure, the dash design harkens back to a simpler time period, but the multifunction steering wheel and large infotainment screen in the center stack are quick reminders that we're in the computer age.

While the space has some nice touches, I feel like the quality has actually downgraded from the last-gen product to this generation car. There are some suspect trim bits, which makes me wonder how the Fusion has such a lovely interior space and the Mustang gets relegated to some components that make you say "WTF?"

Take, for example, the emergency brake that looks and feels especially cheap. Not too far away is the hard plastic center console with integrated cup holders that looks like something you'd find in an economy car. But here's the funny thing: Ford made sure the center stack is flanked with leather/leatherette trim to dress up the interior. Why bother when this is less than a foot away?

One of my biggest irks is the faux aluminum dash trim. It certainly looks the part but when you touch it, your brain immediately processes that it's plastic imitating the real deal.

The good news, at least, is that the all-new Mustang has good touch points with a great feeling steering wheel and even better stock seats. In EcoBoost and GT trim you can upgrade them for a set of Recaros if need be. They'll cost you $1,595, but in all honesty when you sit in them you won't remember how much you paid for them.

2015 Ford Mustang

**Please note: pictured below is the GT model.

Aside from the vehicle's all-new look, this generation Mustang is actually a landmark for a couple reasons. First, and most important, is the vehicle's suspension that features an independent rear (IRS). While purists have long argued that the old-school set up that's been ditched is what gives the Mustang its character, Ford really did all it could with such an archaic set up. IRS is a huge deal. Second, Ford has brought back the four-cylinder motor. Though this isn't the first time we've seen a four-cylinder Mustang, this one is far from being underpowered and barely capable of getting out of its own way.

Making 310 horsepower and 320 lb.-ft. of torque, the four-cylidner turbocharged EcoBoost powerplant is not wimpy. In fact, the six-cylinder motor is now the base offering while the EcoBoost engine is the middler. Whether launching the car or at highway speed looking to pass, power is not an issue in this Mustang.

Coupled to my test car's engine was a six-speed automatic transmission. While many of today's autos are fast shifting and almost dual-clutch-like, this isn't one of them. While it's not completely lethargic, it could use a bit of fine tuning to make it shift with a bit more urgency, in my humble opinion.

But, there is one problem for me with the Mustang's all-new powertrain: It doesn't sound particularly good. While four-cylinder motors are not known for an evocative tone or being the most refined, some automakers have done some excellent tuning to make them passable. Volkswagen, for instance, has a fantastic four-cylinder in the all-new Golf GTI. Ford's 2.3-liter EcoBoost is far from it. Not only does it sound groggy, at best, it's also quite harsh as it sends vibrations through the cabin.

Instead of feeling like I am in a performance vehicle, I feel like I am driving an appliance. To me, that's a big part of the sports car experience.

There still is good news, however. That's because the fuel-sipping four-cylinder earned 22 mpg over a week of mixed driving. Considering it produces over 300 horsepower and does zero to 60 in about 5.5 seconds, that's not a bad figure.

As noted above, the biggest and most critical change though is its suspension. Rather than feel the car skipping over big bumps and road imperfections, now the Mustang feels planted. While I used to joke that the Mustang's name was applicable as it felt like a wild, bucking horse at full tilt, now it's much more tame and controlled. This means you can drive it much faster with more confidence that you will not wind up sideways or in a ditch. While I am sure purists will argue the character has been removed, I think most will agree that this is a welcome change.

Rather than feel truly awful shutters that jar passengers throughout the cabin, when you come across a minefield of potholes, you will not try to do a U-turn and re-route to your destination. Bumps are handled quite well.

Ford has never been known for how its vehicles steer and, to be straightforward, the all-new Mustang will not change that. It's not particularly responsive or communicative, however, I had zero expectation it would be any different so this is par for the course.

So, what have we learned with the all-new Ford Mustang? Its essentially doing the same thing it's always been good at but it isn't much of a revolution. Sure, the vehicle now features an IRS but this is something that should have been done years ago to stay at the cutting edge of performance vehicles. Yes, it is a welcome change but even I have to admit that the Mustang does lose a bit of what made it special. While this four-cylinder Mustang is far from being "the secretary's car," it still isn't the full banana like the V8 GT variant.

It's nice to see Ford up the ante and continue to create problems for the Chevrolet Camaro and Dodge Challenger.

The Good:

- Though it may be a four-cylinder motor, don't be fooled: this thing has power
- Finally! Ford equipped the vehicle with an IRS — planted feeling that inspires confidence and lets you push it to the limit without getting unpredictably bitten
- While I wasn't keen on its design originally, I will admit it's grown on me and looks very impressive from the back in the flesh

The Bad:

- Especially groggy and unrefined four-cylinder motor, Ford needs to go back and put this through some more noise, vibration and harshness (NVH) testing
- If NVH wasn't bad enough, the motor does not make an inspiring sound — very appliance-like
- The automatic transmission could use some fine tuning to make it shift with some urgency

The Lowdown:

This all-new, EcoBoost Ford Mustang has me torn. Although I want to say its a bred sports car, it really doesn't sound like one and it doesn't have the liveliness one would come to expect from a sporty product. It really feels like a well done grand tourer rather than a muscle car. That's not a bad thing, just don't expect the four-cylinder Mustang to get wild and go sideways when doing a burnout. It's a big improvement when it comes to ride quality, how controlled the body is when putting it through corners and being able to pick up speed. It may not be a revolution, but it is, overall, a significantly better product than the outgoing Mustang. I just hope when it gets refreshed the Blue Oval dresses up its interior a bit more.

2015 Ford Mustang

**Please note: pictured below is the GT model.

REVIEW: Can The Ford Mustang's EcoBoost Motor Hang With The Big Boys? Well, Yes AND No...

About the Author