Category Archives: Mustang Adventures

Rental Review: 2015 Ford Mustang EcoBoost Premium

Last week, I had the chance to travel to Scottsdale, Arizona for a conference and, as is becoming my habit, the weather on the way out of town was terrible – I got up early to snowblow our driveway at 5:30 before heading to the airport and, four hours later, I found myself in 70° weather with the windows down, behind the wheel of a 2015 Ford Mustang EcoBoost® Premium Fastback.

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Not a bad day for mid-February…

In case you’ve never read my blog before, I’m the current owner of a 2011 Mustang GT, which I’ve owned for 3.5 years now. I’ve loved Mustangs since I was 14 so, while I’ll do my best to be objective, there’s no doubt I’m biased in favor of this car.

The 2015 (internal code S550) is the Mustang’s first all-new model since 2005 ( the S197). There’s been plenty of coverage about what’s new with it, so I won’t spend a ton of time on it, except to say the most significant things about it, to me, are:

  • It’s a world car, being sold throughout Europe, in China, and in other markets. The styling is more modern than it might have been otherwise, though that was needed regardless, in my opinion. For 10 model years (2005-2014), the best of the classic Mustang styling was evoked and there wasn’t much history left to exploit with another retro model, unless you wanted the  bloated ’71-73 car or the boring Mustang II to be the inspiration. Mustang needed to be more modern, as there aren’t nearly enough people my age buying the current car and Boomers aren’t going to be around forever.
  • The solid rear axle is finally, finally, finally gone. Drag racers and Mustang apologists have tried to pretend like Ford was the only car company on Earth that realized how good a solid rear axle still is, but there’s a reason nobody else had used one for 10+ years, other than a few trucks/SUV’s and the Ford Panther cars (Crown Vic, Lincoln Continental, etc.).

While I didn’t get to take the car on a long drive into the Arizona mountains like I might have wanted, I got the chance to drive it on the highway, in traffic and over a couple days and about 150 miles, and here’s my initial thoughts on it:

Pros

  • Styling: I’m still not crazy about the front of it, as the area between the headlights is still too wide & barren (I think the same about the S197 but the GT’s foglights fix that problem for me, which isn’t an option on the S550), but the rest of the car is beautiful. The side profile and the muscular rear flanks are gorgeous, as is the back of the car. It’s classic Mustang, but yet very modern. Considering all the factors that led to the styling, the team did well.
Such a great side profile, but still don't love the front end.
Such a great side profile, but still don’t love the front end.
Love this rear view
Love this rear view
  • The Motor: when news of the EcoBoost 4-cylinder replacing the only-4-years old 3.7 liter V6 came out, I was disappointed, as that V6 was a fantastic engine, making over 300 horsepower and getting 30+ mpg on the highway. It was (and still is) odd that Ford built that motor only to mothball it in less than five years. However, this 2.3 liter turbo four is fan-freaking-tastic. At idle, the sound isn’t much but, once underway, the turbo whistle and the motor’s smooth, quick-revving nature is addictive. (EDIT: I now realize that a lot of that sound was fake, generated through the stereo system as is common on cars from the BMW M3 to the F-150 EcoBoost. I would never have realized that if I hadn’t read about the feature, so it’s definitely well-tuned and subtle.) Anybody that’s driven a high-powered 4-cylinder car previously should immediately embrace the motor, though the sound will take some getting used to for die-hard V8 guys. No, it’s not nearly as good in the aural dept. but the low-end torque, wide powerband and overall 300+ horsepower should make believers out of them too. Even in 6th gear, at 70 MPH, barely putting my foot down accelerates the car quickly, thanks to that torque. Even better, Ford is offering warranty-backed reflashes of this motor to up the power ante! This motor was needed to make the car a legit competitor in Europe and elsewhere, but it’s damn good everywhere. Just as with the old V6, buyers of the entry-level Mustang no longer have to feel slighted. The old rental car low power, lousy gas mileage V6 motors are a distant memory now!
  • The Transmission: paired with that fantastic motor is an equally good 6-speed automatic transmission, finally with true paddle shifters to control it, rather than the silly rocker switch on the last generation cars. It shifts smoothly, quickly and is well-paired with the motor. Even in manual mode, it still downshifts for you, which can be nice at a stoplight but is a bit annoying to me since you never have full control of the shifting. If it were me, I’d still buy the real manual transmission, but this automatic is far, far better than the last gen automatic.
  • Interior Features: I like the interior of my Mustang fine but, again, this car feels more than 4 years newer than mine. It starts with the smaller steering wheel that finally tilts + telescopes, making getting comfortable to drive it easier for me. Then, there’s the MyFordTouch interface, which I’ve used in a Flex, Explorer and Escape without any problems. No, it doesn’t work as well as an Apple CarPlay or Android Auto one would and it’d be nice if it integrated with my device more…but it works fine and the Mustang has enough redundant controls built in for the radio/HVAC that it shouldn’t be an issue for nobody. I love the addition of the customizable screen between the tach and speedometer – you can have probably 20+ different things on that screen, including the traditional stuff and a lot of engine monitoring parameters that will be over the head of 90% of owners. The heated and cooled seats, with three levels for each, are a huge upgrade from the single level heated seats in my ’11.
Love this interior. That big strip of metal-looking stuff on the dash is real aluminum. Love that too.
Love this interior. That big strip of metal-looking stuff on the dash is real aluminum. Love that too.
Great, great seats, making the Recaros probably unnecessary
Great, great seats, making the Recaros probably unnecessary
Love this little detail too.
Love this little detail too.
  • Performance Features: There’s also TrackApps, which lets you record 0-30 and 0-60 acceleration times, braking and handling measures. I can’t believe Ford has those in this litigious world we live in, not to mention warranty claims, but it does! Since this is a rental car with 150 miles, I didn’t use any of them, much as I wanted to! In addition, the three options for steering feel and the four options for driving mode (Comfort, Normal, Sport+ and Snow/Ice) are pretty cool. Having them feels like a definite Premium feature and I could definitely feel the difference when going into Sport+ mode. I imagine the Snow/Ice mode would be really helpful in bad weather too.
  • Interior Comfort: combined with the tilt+telescoping wheel, the seats in the ’15 are fabulous. They’re more comfortable than the old car AND far more supportive, making the $1,600 upgrade to Recaro race seats a waste, especially when you consider you lose power adjustability, memory functionality (important when you’re 6’1″ and your wife is 5’4″!), plus the heat/cool option. At highway speed with the windows up, the car is quiet and rides well – a fantastic road trip car.
  • Mileage: in a pretty even mix of highway and city driving, I averaged almost 27 MPG with the ’15. When I was strictly on the highway, I was hitting 30 with ease going 70 MPH. Considering I was having some fun getting to know the car and it wasn’t even broken in yet, that’s pretty fantastic. I know there are constant complaints across Ford’s lineup right now that EcoBoost motors don’t deliver anywhere near their EPA mileage in the real world, but that’s not my experience. The Escape and the Mustang both got the stated mileage, or better, for me, and I wasn’t driving them like a grandparent.
  • Trunk Space: the trunk seems to be about the same width and length as the old car, but without the solid rear axle taking up space, the load floor is flat instead of having a big hump in the back. Much more usable and easy to fit vacation stuff or a decent shopping excursion too, as long as you weren’t shopping at IKEA for furniture!
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Little tough to see but a good sized trunk, even if the opening is a bit small due to the styling.

 

Cons

  • Interior Room: the overall seating room feels similar, but the roof height seems smaller than the old car. I’m 6’1 and, with the seat all the way down, it felt not quite as roomy inside from a headroom perspective. Not a big deal but something I noticed.
  • Interior Storage: one of the more annoying things about the old car really hasn’t been fixed that well. The cupholders are moved back so they get in the way of manual shifting less, but the center console is still just one big hole. The glovebox seems about the same, as do the too-small door storage pockets. If you want people to buy a 2-door car as a daily driver, not just a weekend toy, in today’s marketplace, it’s got to be as practical as possible and this feels like a missed opportunity to do that.
  • Visibility: though still overall pretty good for a coupe, the blind spot on the ’15 is bigger than my ’11. It’s still difficult to judge distances when parking in the front and out back, though the back is negated by the rearview camera that comes up immediately after shifting into reverse and works flawlessly.
Pony Projector Lamps became an option in '13 - can't decide if they're silly/cheesy or if I like 'em...
Pony Projector Lamps became an option in ’13 – can’t decide if they’re silly/cheesy or if I like ’em…
The key itself is pretty cool too, if a bit bigger and chunkier than I'd like.
The key itself is pretty cool too, if a bit bigger and chunkier than I’d like.

Overall

In late December, I happened to be at Baron BMW, Kansas City’s only BMW dealer, and they had a just-traded-in 2015 50th Anniversary Mustang GT. The previous owner traded it in with 160 miles on it (1/2 a tank of gas!!) because his girlfriend apparently didn’t like it, so he took a likely $6-8,000 bath on it and got a new BMW M4 instead. The $42,000 pricetag on that almost-new Mustang had me tempted to try and talk my wife into trading in my current Mustang.

After driving this ’15 EcoBoost, I’m kind of glad that 50th anniversary GT is no longer available because I’m even more impressed with the ’15 than I expected to be. It’s a fantastic redesign of an already-great car. It’s more refined, more comfortable, more modern and yet hasn’t lost any of its Mustang essence or appeal, to me. Again, I don’t love the front-end styling but I don’t dislike it enough that it offsets the fantastic total package of car. I can’t wait to see the GT-350 in person, and I can’t wait to hear how well it sells all over the globe. It needs no excuses based on price, heritage or being American – it’s worthy of its pricetag and the tough competition it’ll be up against all over the world. Can’t wait until I can buy another!

Note: my company bought me a cheap rental car and I paid the upgrade cost personally – thanks for having it available, Budget Rent-a-Car! I received nothing from Ford in exchange for this review, though I wish they’d give me something!

The Kansas City Auto Museum

Kansas City was one of the biggest markets in the country without an automotive museum, but that’s now been rectified thanks to the staff of the new Kansas City Auto Museum!  (Technically, there is the Armacost Museum in Grandview but it’s a private thing only open to selected people/groups.)

The museum just opened earlier in May and it’s current location is just north of 119th & Strang Line Road in Olathe. Yes, the location is not the most “Kansas City” of spots but the museum is clear that this is a temporary home and they have plans to be in a much larger facility in the next 4-5 years. I’d love to see it as part of Union Station but have no idea if there’s the kind of space available there that’s needed.

The Kansas City Auto Museum
Just north of 119th & Strang Line at 116th Street

Anyway, the Museum partnered with the Mustang Club of Greater Kansas City for an only-a-month-late 50th birthday party for the Mustang, so about 30 of us brought our cars out to display in the parking lot today, and we also got to check out the museum.

A WWII Jeep (built by Ford though) along with a gorgeous 1963 Buick
A WWII Jeep (built by Ford though) along with a gorgeous 1963 Buick

The museum houses approximately 30 cars on loan from private collectors, as well as from KC Vintage Cars. They don’t appear to own any of the cars, which is probably an advantage for them as this stage since they can easily switch out displays, etc. without having to worry about all the details of ownership at this point. The collection ranges in age from a Ford Model T, Stanley steam-powered car and a Hupmobile all the way up to a first-gen Dodge Viper.

But, to be frank, the collection isn’t much better than you can see at a lot of the different cruise nights found throughout the warm months here in KC. The coolest part about the Museum, to me, is all the Kansas City history they’ve collected and presented really, really well.

Just some of the great history
Just some of the great history

Above are just a few examples – the 2nd one from left is about KC’s earliest racetrack, a wooden oval on the site of what’s now the Bannister Federal Complex. The one on the far right is all about Greenlease Cadillac, one of the city’s earliest dealers (and the building is part of Union Hill today – seen here today and occupied by something far less interesting (a gym):

Greenlease Cadillac building
Right up McGee Trafficway from Hallmark/Crown Center is this cool old building

These boards are filled with fascinating KC automotive history, much of which I didn’t know. They’ve done a tremendous job researching and creating a compelling story, which is what they needed to do to get the Museum off the ground.

A wall full of ads for cars that were built in KC
A wall full of ads for cars that were built in KC

Above is another of my favorite parts of the museum – a large wall filled with ads for cars that were built right here in KC.

More of the museum collection, including a 1991 Callaway Twin Turbo Corvette
More of the museum collection, including a 1991 Callaway Twin Turbo Corvette

The museum also includes a kid’s interactive area, though adults are just as apt to play, considering they have four full racing wheel/seat/pedals setups running Forza Motorsport 4 for XBox 360. (I spent about 45 minutes running laps at Road America!) Plus there are some fun photo opportunities like this one:

Me "behind the wheel" of the #21 Ferrari driven by KC's own Masten Gregory to victory at LeMans in 1965, the last time a Ferrari visited Victory Lane at the famed racetrack.
Me “behind the wheel” of the #21 Ferrari driven by KC’s own Masten Gregory to victory at LeMans in 1965, the last time a Ferrari visited Victory Lane at the famed racetrack.

Maybe my favorite history lesson, however, was about the Ford Winchester Avenue plant. Opened in 1913, it was the first Ford plant built outside of Detroit, which is kind of a cool badge of honor for KC, considering how many other places in the country and the world have/had Ford plants. It was located at 1025 Winchester Avenue, on the east side of town, right off of 435 & Truman Road near the Truman Sports Complex. It was open until 1957, when Ford opened the newer, even bigger Claycomo plant that is still thriving today. What’s really cool though, is that the original smokestacks from the Winchester plant are still up, which inspired me to drive by there on the way home.

You can't get too close to 'em anymore; I couldn't even tell if this whole complex is still really in use.
You can’t get too close to ’em anymore; I couldn’t even tell if this whole complex is still really in use.
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But there they are – still with “Ford” clearly visible on ’em.

Final Thoughts

I’ve got to give huge credit to all the people involved in the Museum’s creation. It is not easy to raise funding for a museum like this, especially in the financial conditions of the past few years. But they’ve done it and the museum, in its current state, is a great start. There’s enough history for even car geeks like me, and enough different cars to look at to maintain the interest of almost anyone. I hope they can bring in enough business that the expansion plans continue, as I can imagine how cool the entire experience could be in the future.

If you’re at all interested in KC history, it’s well worth an hour or two of your time, plus it’s right up the street from Oklahoma Joe’s so there’s your lunch afterwards. If you’re passionate about cars, please go check it out and consider supporting the museum through a donation and/or volunteering. Cars are so important to the last 100 years of our history and I hope that story can keep being told!

The museum is open 10-5 every day of the week, except some holidays. Admission is $11 for adults, $9 for seniors/military and $8 for kids.

 

2011 Ford Mustang GT – the 60,000 mile review

It’s hard to believe that it’s been 945 days (a little over 2.5 years) since I fulfilled a dream I’d had since age 14. That dream was to own a Ford Mustang and I fulfilled that dream on September 2, 2011. Appropriately, I started that day by hearing a fantastic presentation by Ford’s social media maestro, Scott Monty, at a Social Media Club of Kansas City event at Union Station. Just after lunch, I flew out of KCI up to Milwaukee’s General Mitchell Int’l Airport where I met two guys from B&B Ford to pick up my dream car.

I’ve already posted a long entry about that day so I’ll leave it there. However, having driven Lucy a ton and being almost to 60,000 miles, I figured it was time to do a review from an ownership perspective. So, here we go:

The Pros

  • You’re part of something: by that, I mean you’re joining a massive group of enthusiasts, as the Mustang is probably the world’s most-loved car. Because of that, there’s awesome clubs like the Mustang Club of Greater Kansas City and shows, events, cruises, etc. going on every weekend all over the country. If you truly love cars and didn’t just buy a Mustang for the style, being part of a community like the Mustang one is a fun perk. I’ve been in three St. Patrick’s Day parades with this thing and the smiles, the kids screaming “rev the engine” and the envious looks from some are such fun. Or little moments like a five-year-old kid walking by the car holding hands with his Dad and hearing him ask “Daddy, can I have a Mustang like that someday?” You will never have that happen in your Accord or Camry.
Pretty cool to see this many kids crowded around my car - makes you remember what it was like to be in their shoes.
Pretty cool to see this many kids crowded around my car – makes you remember what it was like to be in their shoes.
  • The Attention: when you own a Mustang, it’s hard to be shy. No, it’s not like owning an exotic but for a car that’s as affordable as a Mustang, there’s nothing like it. So many people have stories to share about their experience with a Mustang in their youth, or questions to ask like “how’s that five liter run??” It’s fun to feel special even though you’re driving something that frequently costs less than the car the person you’re talking to is driving.
  • The Style: I still find myself looking back at Lucy as I walk away. I get compliments constantly. And even though the completely redesigned 2015 Mustang is coming soon, I don’t think my car will look dated too quickly, which you definitely couldn’t say about the ’87-’93 or ’94-98 cars when their replacements came along.
  • The Power: having 412 horsepower at your disposal in a daily-driven car that runs on 87 octane and gets good mileage was nothing but a fantasy 20 years ago but it’s reality with this car.
  • The Transmission/Shifter/Pedals: for anyone that drove a pre-2005 Mustang, this shifter and pedal setup is a revelation. Short, direct throws. Pedals set up well for heel & toeing. The only negative is that the stock shifter works terribly in cold weather, even after the TSB Ford issued to try and fix the problem. I want a MGW shifter but just haven’t saved the money to do it yet.
  • The Mileage: no, you don’t buy a Mustang for its practicality, but mileage doesn’t have to be the reason you don’t. My previous car, a 2003 Mazda6s, got 22 MPG average over the 90,000 miles I owned it. Not great, but pretty normal for a V6 4-door sedan from that era. In almost 50,000 miles of driving this car, I’m averaging 21.7 MPG. And I have 200 more horsepower and two more cylinders under the hood than I had in that Mazda. On the highway, it’ll do 25-28 MPG.
  • The Noise: it was ok stock, but when I added a Borla S-Type axle-back system to it, wow. Start at 3:09 of the clip below:


The great thing about the Borlas is that they’re loud when you want them to be, but on the highway cruising, they’re no louder than the stock mufflers and there is zero drone. None. Not a bit. That’s why they cost twice as much as some other aftermarket systems and that’s why they’re worth every penny.

  • The Comfort: I’ve daily driven this car since I bought it. I’ve driven it from Kansas City to Silverthorne, Colorado in a single day, comfortably. No, it doesn’t ride like a Lexus and yes, I have minor quibbles I’ll mention later but, overall, it’s a great car to drive every day.
  • The Cargo Room: for what it is, the Mustang has a pretty darn big trunk. With the fold-down rear seats, you can take home 8′ stuff from the hardware store if you need to. Yeah, the trunk opening is a bit small but that’s the tradeoff for the styling.
  • The Tech: I purposely found a car without the dual climate control, built-in navigation touchscreen version of this car. Didn’t want it. The most advanced tech this car has is electric power steering, heated seats, auto up & down windows, stability/traction control and the base Sync system, which I love. Yeah, I’m a bit bummed Ford hasn’t upgraded it one bit even though they keep promising to, but it works great with my iPhone via Bluetooth and my iPod via USB connection. And that’s all I need.
  • The Winter Driving: yes, I’m complimenting a Mustang on its performance in the snow…with the caveat that I have a set of dedicated winter tires (Bridgestone Blizzaks). For anybody that lives in an area with regular snowfall, they’re a great investment to make. With those tires and the traction/stability control, I’ve driven through three winters now without a problem. Handling and braking are excellent on snow and, as long as you’re gentle with the go pedal, acceleration is not an issue either.
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Yes, this car does just fine in the white stuff.

The Cons

    • The Solid Rear Axle: lots of Mustang guys are lamenting the fact that Ford is finally dumping the outdated solid rear axle (SRA) for the 2015 car. For non-gearheads, the only non-pickup truck you can still buy with a SRA is the Mustang. That’s it and there’s a reason for that; it’s an outdated technology kept alive in this car to save a few bucks and placate the tiny percentage of owners that drag race their cars. Not a drive in my car goes by that I don’t notice the SRA in a negative way. Whether the noise it makes going over bumps or the way your head gets jarred from side to side, it’s noticeable.
    • No telescoping steering wheel: my 2003 Mazda6 had it. My wife’s 2008 Mazda3 has it. For a car that cost $37,000 new to not have one is a bit ridiculous, in 2011. It would make the comfort level perfect for me.
    • Little Problems: here’s what’s gone wrong with my car so far. It’s not a ton but I wouldn’t call it bulletproof either.

19,967 miles: Check Engine Light (P0446) came on – Vapor Wire Circuit at Cannister Vent Solenoid corroded in two pieces. Replaced pigtail at the cannister vent. ($0)
25,014 miles: squealing noise from under the hood happened. Water pump replaced along with thermostat seal and clamp. ($0)
43,457 miles: Air bag light was on – Found B0028:13 in RCM hard fault. PP Test G found high resistance in airbag 4.780HM (passenger seat side airbag). Replaced RF seat side airbag and RF seat trim. ($0 cost but would have been $800+ if out of warranty)
51,653 miles: inconsistent starting problem diagnosed with two fixes – replacement of original battery and PCM programming update (TSB 11-3-32) ($350)
Unrepaired yet but broken since last fall: driver side power seat track in need of replacing. ($750 quoted cost)
Unrepaired as of yet: one of the blend door actuators in the dash is going bad. (Will fix myself for <$50>)
Unrepaired as of yet: Ford has had a ton of problems with lower control arms on these cars, to the point where they’ve created new part #’s for replacements three times so far, I think. I’m fairly certain the squeaking under braking I get from them means I’ve got bad ones too, but since I’m out of warranty, I’m avoiding that $800 repair as long as possible.

  • Cheap Details: one of the reasons this car is affordable is that savings have to be found somewhere. In this car, a lot of that is in interior trim. The stock floormats barely qualify as carpet. The carpet doesn’t go up high enough on the passenger footwell. The trunk carpet’s fit borders on laughable. It’s a $37,000 car with a hood prop. Minor things and not a big deal, but still.
  • Lack of Interior Storage: one thing I loved about my Mazda6 was the interior storage. The doors could hold bottles. The dashboard had a door that opened up to hold a ton of stuff at the top. The glovebox was big. The Mustang has a small center console that holds a lot but beyond that, there’s a small glovebox and that’s it. The storage in the doors is useless beyond holding trash and the cupholders work but only if you don’t need to shift the manual transmission much.

Final Thoughts

My boss asked me the other day if I still love this car like I thought I would and the answer is unequivocally yes. Every time I drive it, I smile. When I get it on an open road with the windows down and hear the motor roaring, I giggle like a little kid still. When I drive down the street, I still feel a little special. The few cons I listed above are so incredibly outweighed by the pros that they’re hardly worth quibbling over.

At some point, my wife and I are going to have kids. Yes, I’ll be able to fit a rear-facing child seat in on the passenger side, but it’ll be almost impossible for someone to sit in that front passenger seat. Forward-facing seats will be ok but still, it ain’t a family car. I’m already dreading that day and just hoping I’m financially able to keep the Mustang when I buy the Ford Flex I’m already eyeing for family duties.

I love my Mustang. It was worth the wait.

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Here’s that fun history part of it. This is my car next to my cousin-in-law’s 1967 Mustang GT – siblings separated by 44 years of history, but still with the same soul.
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Below the 12th Street bridge in KC
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Track touring at Road America – heading through turn 6 with a 911 and an Exige on my tail!
My uncle and I with our fast red cars - 2011 Mustang GT and 2001 Ferrari 360 Modena
My uncle and I with our fast red cars – 2011 Mustang GT and 2001 Ferrari 360 Modena – waiting to cross the Wisconsin River via the Merrimac Ferry.
Credit for this shot goes to Digo Rajbhandari (digoraj AT gmail.com)
In the midst of a Sports Car Club of America road rally. Credit for this shot goes to Digo Rajbhandari