Times have changed, and the separation between a musclecar and sport car is becoming more and more difficult to define. Typically, we’ve seen “musclecars” with tons of power for straight-line shenanigans, but when it came to turning you were better off in an import. However, Ford has come to realize that if they want to keep the Pony car segment going, adding power wasn’t going to be the only saving grace. Case in point, the new Ecoboost Mustang.
Sporting a 2.3L turbocharged engine, the Ecoboost line of cars has been met with its fair share of criticism in other platforms, but placing a turbo’d four into a Mustang really ruffled the feathers of diehard Mustang fans who felt that a four banger in the ‘Stang was not okay. However, having a factory turbo opens up the door for tuners and bolt-on manufactures to spit out some pretty quick Ecoboost Mustangs like this Livernoise tuned one hitting 12’s almost immediately after they got their hands on it. Of course a turbo wasn’t the only new feature the Mustang picked up–it also received independent rear suspension (or IRS).
With independent rear suspension, the Mustang has finally upped its game when it comes to handling. What any track enthusiast will identify though, is how this opens the door to allow a much higher starting point when it comes to actual vehicle handling and potential improvements. Although the IRS and factory components out of the box might be enough for some, one Mustang owner was seeking more performance and adjustability.
Turning to Pedders Suspension, we called up Angel Robles to discuss the options in front of us for our 2015 Ford Mustang Ecoboost when it came to the suspension department.
his exclamation after the first test drive of ‘Frickin Glorious’ confirmed our opinions that the objective had been met. -Paul Glasby, Head of R&D at Pedders
With our mind made up on the Pedders coilovers, we also decided that while swapping out the suspension, we’d optimize the platform with the new sway bars Pedders offers. The combination of coilovers and swaybars will allow us to fine tune the handling of the Ecoboost Mustang and make for easy adjustments down the road, whether we’re commuting to and from work or hitting the track on the weekend.
Lining all the parts up on the table before installation to verify all the parts and pieces were there got us pretty excited–these Pedders Extreme XA coilovers look quite nice, and overall quality seems great. In the box we found the Extreme XA coilover kit (P/N: PED-160099) which includes full replacement of the front and rear shocks and struts meaning installation is a bolt-on affair and you won’t need a spring compressor.
Once installed, you will have full adjustability over spring preload, vehicle ride height, and 30 different levels of damping with easy-to-adjust knobs. Spring rates for the front and rear are 390 lb./in and 780 lb./in respectively. Although these are higher rate springs than your OEM suspension uses, the Pedders coilovers have been internally matched to ensure a firm, yet not punishing ride.
Although these coilovers come fully assembled and ready for install, there is an optional part that track rats and alignment connoisseurs will want to add on–Pedders adjustable camber plates (P/N 581095). These direct-fit camber plates for the Extrema XA coilovers allow you to dial in the exact amount of camber you need for optimal tire life and grip. The camber plates appeared to have had quality machine work put into them, along with small engraved notches for easy setting identification.
One important note during installation of the camber plates is that you must remove the rebound adjuster knobs, which is done by removing the nut directly below the knob itself. Once those are off, you can slide the camber plates into place and bolt everything down.
Since the suspension is being swapped out, it makes sense to add in some adjustable anti-roll bars as well. These bright red bars arrive complete with all bushings, grease, and endlinks required to replace the factory non-adjustable bars. Once installed, you’ll have an easy way to fine tune understeer and oversteer characteristics as you see fit. There are three holes on the ends of the sway bar, and attaching endlinks to various positions will change how stiff the rollbar is. Placing endlinks on the outer holes of the swaybar have the least resistance toward roll while moving inward will make the bar stiffer. Keep in mind that the left and right sides do not need to match, you can place one side at the stiffest setting, and the other side on the middle setting to further fine tune the anti-roll bars (or any combination you see fit). It is important to note that doing this will not make the car feel lopsided or uneven, as the roll resistance will be equal regardless of turning left or right.
Also–swaybars play an important roll to your handling, but will not affect how stiff the car is over bumps or dips. This allows you to run both coilovers and swaybars from Pedders without feeling like you’ve gone over the top or negatively impacted ride quality.
Catered more toward street and weekend track use, the Pedders coilovers for the Mustang can really improve the looks of your car, while adding much needed adjustability allowing you to dial in the exact alignment specs you need.
Alignment And Impressions
Once the new coilovers and swaybars had been installed, it was time to get an alignment and hit the local backroads for some feedback. The alignment came easy, as we now had fully adjustable suspension which made it easy to not only set the toe, but camber as well. When you choose lowering springs versus adjustable suspension, you are stuck with only limited factory adjustments and frequently disappointing alignment numbers. However, the easy-to-adjust Pedders coilovers gave us a huge range of adjustments that was incredibly easy to use and dial in perfectly for an aggressive daily driven setup.
To set the record straight, our Ecoboost Mustang had lowering springs prior to our coilover install, but they left a lot to be desired. With larger wheels and tires than what it left the dealer lot on, we noticed occasional rubbing on harder impacts and road imperfections. To top it off, we found the car to be less than snappy when changing direction and there was a noticeable delay between turning and actually having the car follow orders. This has seemingly been eliminated with the new suspension, however. The ride is still friendly, but it holds composure through road imperfections much better than before. Driving the car was a much more rewardable experience with ample feedback and a confidence inspiring ride.
To further play with the new gear, we tried changing the stiffness of the rear sway bar to see if we could detect any differences. In an effort to experience both extreme ends of the spectrum, we tried it at least firm setting (outer most holes) and stiffest settings (inner most holes) back to back. There was a discernible change in attitude from the response with the car toggling between the two settings. When set to the least firm setting, sawing back and forth on the wheel provided quick feedback from the body of the car, but it took a moment for the car to settle into place during a turn. Although we had the suspension change as well, this felt slightly more aggressive as compared to the stock swaybar stiffness.
On the other end of the spectrum was the stiffest setting, and naturally the vehicle felt more taut. Back and forth direction change was nearly instant, and the car happily complied to our quick direction changes without hesitation. We did not have the opportunity to try this on a track yet, but we’d love to see these out on a track where we could really put the car through its paces and fine tune the balance of the car to our driving style.
On to the coilovers. With 30 settings in rebound and compression, there was no shortage of fine tuning available on these coilovers no matter the environment. In addition to adjustable compression and rebound, the Extreme XA coilovers allow for height adjustment as well. As we mentioned earlier, this was important to allow us to dial in the suspension to keep full suspension travel and prevent rubbing.
Ultimately we settled on a ride height that was about a 1/2 inch higher than with the lowering springs. Combined with the stiffer suspension, we no longer experienced any concerning rubbing with our setup.
Driving the local back roads, we found the Pedders Extreme XA equipped Mustang to provide a firm ride that was predictable through the turns. Immediate feedback was evident to the driver, and it helped inspire confidence since we knew what the car was doing when it was doing it. One important change we need to note is stability during and right after full compression of the suspension. Since many tracks feature elevation change, knowing how the car will respond is important under these conditions since a bobble here will slow you down and make it downright hazardous.
There is a spot on one of the backroads that feature a diagonal water ditch that would cause near full suspension compression coupled with rough pavement following it, making for an unsettling ride when fitted with the oem parts. The stock suspension with lowering springs handled the dip in the road just fine, but after the car would shimmy and take a moment to recompose itself. Although this wouldn’t cause a crash on the track, it would prevent you from getting on the throttle sooner, negatively affecting your lap times.
When we drove through this same spot with the Extreme XA setup, and the car no longer had the unsure “shimmy” it had before. Equipped with the Extreme XA coilovers and swaybars, the Mustang felt it exhibited much more vehicle control during and after the bump. This indicates to us that we should be able to turn faster laps on track due to the increase in vehicle composure as well as the ability to get on the throttle sooner out of turns.