2015 Mustang with 2.3-liter Engine Has the Same MPG as 1980 Mustang – Fact or Fiction?

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Mustang 1980 advert 1000

The 2015 Mustang with its base 2.3-liter, four-cylinder engine is modern and fast.  Can it top the 1980 2.3-liter base Mustang’s EPA estimated fuel economy rating?

The above advertisement is lifted from the December 22, 1980 People magazine.  That magazine has been saved in my family now for two generations because it was the tribute issue to John Lennon who was murdered that month.  If one can get past the somber main story, the advertisements are fun to read now that we have all lived through the Mad Men years.  Cigarette, hard alcohol, and cars adverts grabbed all the best advertising spots in the magazine.  The Mustang advert caught our eye because it shows a car that has eerily similar specifications to today’s 2015 Mustang.  Even the color that Ford uses to showcase the car is the same.

Mustang 2.3 advert

The 1980 Mustang with its base 2.3-liter four-cylinder engine was rated by the EPA using its old methodology at an impressive 34 MPG highway.  In 2008, the EPA changed its test methodology.  People were complaining that the estimates were too low.  Changes included factoring in air conditioning use, creating test parameters with faster speeds and acceleration and changing the ambient air temperature for the test.  The upshot was that fuel economy ratings dropped about five to seven percent on average with the new ratings.  So, if we apply that to the above Mustang rating of 34 MPG, we get an adjusted rating of 32 MPG, exactly what the current 2.3-liter automatic Mustang is rated at.  Progress?

Yes, progress.  The 1980 and 1981 Mustang are called by the Mustang News “The darkest years for Mustang relative to power, second only to 1974.”  The 2.3-liter that the advertisement is based on is not the carbureted turbo making 132 hp, but the lowly non-turbo 2.3 making just – you may want to sit down and brace yourself – 88 hp!  That isn’t the only consideration.  Cars from this era would fold like a pair of deuces in any crash situation and were so unreliable many loyal customers left the domestic brands for imports.

The current, 2015 Mustang 2.3 rocks 310 hp and has 320 ft-lb of torque.  The new Mustang also earns “good” ratings on all the current crash tests and can come with forward crash mitigation.  Much has changed with the base Mustang over the past 35 years, other than its fuel economy.