The Ford Mustang GT, with its brawny 5.0-liter V8 engine, isn’t for everyone.
Starting at a price of $33,125 after destination charges, it’s out of the reach of some would-be sports car owners. Plus, it uses a lot of gas and comes with high insurance premiums, running the cost of ownership even higher.
So what do you do if you want a Mustang on a budget? For 2015, Ford has two solutions. As always, there is entry-level, 2015 Mustang V6 equipped with a 3.7-liter engine making 300 HP and 280 lb-ft. New this year though, there is another budget-conscious Mustang, the Ecoboost. Despite ditching two cylinders, the 2.3-liter four-cylinder engine comes equipped with a big, fat turbocharger to produce 310 HP and 320 lb-ft. of torque.
Options, Packages and Price
With a slight power advantage, the Ecoboost looks like the better choice for affordable performance. But add pricing and options into the mix and things get a bit muddier. The V6 Mustang starts at $24,625 after destination charges, which is $1,500 cheaper than the Ecoboost. But, the Ecoboost comes standard with a rear spoiler, power seats and LED fog lights.
These options are available on the V6 Mustang as part of the “051A equipment group” that also includes some nice 18-inch wheels. At a price of $25,620, that still makes the V6 $500 cheaper than the Ecoboost, but aside from some interior upgrades, not much else can be done to enhance the V6’s style or performance.
On the other hand, the Ecoboost can be had with superficial equipment like 19- or 20-inch wheels and a stripe package. But, there are two more options available for the boosted Mustang that should pique the interest of those obsessed with speed and performance.
Some Serious Performance Upgrades
Aptly named the performance package, this option transforms the Mustang with items like a larger rear sway bar, a larger radiator, heavy-duty front springs, larger brakes, revised suspension tuning, a 3.55 limited-slip rear axle and 19-inch wheels wearing 255/40R19 summer tires. To take things one step further, cloth Recaro seats can be selected to ensure front seat passengers stay in place while testing out the Mustang’s newfound capability.
This all adds up to a price of $29,715, which is just over $4,000 more than the less capable V6 Mustang. That raises a few questions. First, is the Ecoboost a better engine option than the V6 and second, does the performance package with the Recaro seats really add that much performance?
Naturally Aspirated vs. Turbocharging
To answer these questions, we grabbed a pair of deep impact blue Mustang coupes with manual transmissions. The V6 came equipped with the 051A option group and the Ecoboost had the Performance package, and Recaro seats.
Mustangs have always been about engines, so let’s begin there. Even with in excess of 300 HP, both engines can run on regular gas, but the Ecoboost won’t be at maximum performance at that point. Curiously, the Ecoboost comes fitted with a gas tank half a gallon smaller than the V6. That should be offset by fuel economy as the V6 is officially rated at 17 MPG city and 28 MPG highway compared to the Ecoboost’s ratings of 22 MPG city and 31 MPG highway.
With the performance package, the Ecoboost drops the standard manual transmission’s 3.31:1 final drive ratio for the more aggressive 3.55:1 ratio. That is significantly higher than the V6’s final drive ratio of 3.15:1, although it too can be had with 3.55:1 gears. The shorter gearing makes the Ecoboost accelerate faster, but it also hurts fuel economy. As tested, the Ecoboost did beat the V6, but not by much, posting a 22 MPG average vs 21.2 MPG.
Fast vs Feels Fast
Even if it is a bit slower and thirstier, the V6 is the smoother engine. Plus, it isn’t exactly slow; it’s just not as quick as the Ecoboost. In fact, from a dead stop, the V6 responds more readily to input. But once the boost builds in the four-cylinder, the shorter geared Mustang begins to pull away from the V6.
The V6 does provide a better soundtrack, not just because it’s an authentic noise, but more because of its lower, more guttural engine note. This helps create the illusion that the V6 Mustang is faster at times, even though the Ecoboost is the quicker car. On the highway, the higher gearing and plentiful boost makes sixth gear cruising a breeze in the Ecoboost while the V6 can struggle to build speeds when locked in top gear.
Performance Pack or Bust
The Performance Package is more than just gearing. All of its major mechanical components have been upgraded or tweaked. The car accelerates quicker, turns faster, brakes harder, has more grip and relays information to the driver more effectively. It livens up the whole mustang driving experience and is a must-have for anyone serious about the Pony Car’s performance.
The tires alone are a game changer. Not only do they provide ample lateral grip, but also oodles of acceleration traction. With the all-season tires on the V6 Mustang, it’s possible to slip the tires during the shift between first and second gear regularly and that isn’t the case with the wider summer rubber equipped to the more powerful Ecoboost Mustang. But, there is a bit of a caveat here. With so much potential, on the road the performance package can feel a bit too capable and lacks some of the sliding-around fun found in less equipped models. And, the performance suspension is harsher than the stock set-up.
The two cars couldn’t be much closer in weight. At 3,526 lbs., the V6 Mustang weighs a whopping five pounds less than the Ecoboost. Oddly, opt for the automatic transmission and the V6 Mustang suddenly out-weighs the Ecoboost by six pounds. And while on the topic of weight and transmissions, the clutch pedal in the Ecoboost is set much lighter than that of the older-school V6 ‘Stang that requires strong leg muscles.
The Verdict: 2015 Mustang V6 vs Mustang EcoBoost
With more power, better fuel economy and the optional performance package, it appears the Ecoboost is a no brainer over the V6. But it’s not that simple. Smoother, more comfortable and cheaper, there are advantages to the V6 model, especially in base trim.
It really comes down to a question of what exactly do you want in a Mustang. If it’s the style and presence of the iconic pony car, grab the more affordable V6 model. But if it’s more of a budget sports car you’re after, get the Ecoboost. Just be sure to spend the extra $1,995 on the performance package, as it truly makes the Mustang something special.
This story first appeared on AutoGuide.com