- Pretty new roofline
- Turbo four's fuel economy ratings
- V-8 is muscular as ever
- Tracks and rides so, so well
- Launch control, line lock, Recaros--score
- Not a striking exterior change
- Turbo four sounds artificial and buzzy
- V-8 doesn't snarl enough for our taste
- Not ponderous, but big
The 2015 Ford Mustang finally makes the rear-end switch—and the SVO's back, at least in spirit.
The 2015 Ford Mustang heralds the sixth generation of this icon, and for the pony-car faithful it's a watershed moment. The Mustang is now fresh, advanced, plush, and technical, with more safety, too—a fitting 50th-anniversary tribute for a car that's as much a part of America as the original Model T.
Now a luxury coupe of the first order, with enough performance on the order sheet to muscle up to sports-car territory, the 2015 Mustang is fully free of its plebeian beginnings.
The Mustang isn't quite a knockout from all angles, even if all the traditional Mustang cues were mashed into the new pony car. With a low and wide stance, the Mustang's pretty and graceful canopy rest on muscular haunches, but the some of the details are a little soggy—the tilted taillamp panel, the hashmarks that hashtag the headlamps. Inside, there is a distinct aviation-inspired theme. Large, clear instrumentation puts vehicle information right in front of the driver in the roomier cabin, while improved ergonomics and tactile switches and knobs provide better control. The cabin's solidly laid out and more youthful than just about any luxury coupe, and richer-looking than the Camaro's cabin.
The looks are an evolution, but what's underneath the Mustang's body panels is truly a magnitude shift. Its new turbocharged four-cylinder delivers strong performance even though it underwhelms in its soundtrack. The GT's intensely strong 435-hp V-8 hustles best when it's amped up with a Performance Pack that includes a Torsen limited-slip rear end, summer tires, Brembo brakes and extra body bracing.
Drive this and the last Mustang back to back, and the new car's overwhelming sense of ride control and tracking and stability thoroughly outclass any of its ancestors. Credit goes to a wider track, a new independent rear suspension design, and to a lot of engineers looking to eradicate all the negative Camaro comparisons. They've succeeded.
The ultimate gift to Mustang fans? Launch control and line lock. The former lets anyone knock off impeccable 0-60 mph times, while the latter enables NHRA-grade smoky burnouts.
The Mustang's a cathedral compared to the cramped Camaro, but it's still a 2+2 at heart even though it's nearly the size of a Ford Fusion. Front-seat room is generous and not just for the segment; Recaro seats are bound to be a popular upgrade over the standard sport seats, as good as they are. The back seats are token gestures, the trunk's about the size of the one in a Cadillac ATS (hint: not very large), but the Mustang's spacious enough for two, anytime.
Down the track will be a new Mustang Convertible. Buyers of the convertible will appreciate the standard multilayer insulated cloth top that gives the car a more upscale appearance and a quieter cabin, according to Ford. The new top also lowers twice as fast as before, and has a sleeker profile when down.
The 2015 Ford Mustang hasn't yet been crash-tested by the IIHS, although that agency has assigned a 'good' rating in front-impact protection. In federal testing the Mustang earns top five-star ratings in all primary categories. Its list of high-tech features includes driver-adjustable stability, steering systems, throttle and transmission systems; standard Bluetooth and a rearview camera; and options for blind-spot monitors, adaptive cruise control, and a forward-collision warning system.
Base V-6 models don't offer much in the way of fun options; you'll have to pay into the turbo four to get bigger wheels and tires and a Performance Pack. The V-8 is where we'll catch up to you, or vice versa: with its Performance Pack and options like Shaker Pro audio turn the mid-$20,000 pony car into a $40,000 sports car we'd be willing to drive daily. Is it the equivalent of a $65,000 BMW M4? It depends: can that extra $25,000 go directly into a tire budget?
2015 Ford Mustang
All the Mustang cues make the cut in the new pony car, but it's not a knockout from all angles.
With the 2015 Mustang, Ford has thoroughly revamped what keeps its pony car glued to the ground. From the outside, it doesn't explore that deeper meaning in radically different sheetmetal.
For better, mostly, the new Mustang's shape is a clear descendant of the fastbacks of recent vintage. It's not as fluent as the Sixties originals, but it's a purposefully styled car with a broad, imposing face, proudly swollen fenders, and a pretty canopy stretched over the passenger space, sloping gracefully toward the tail.
We don't think all the Mustang's angles play perfectly, though. The era-mashing fillips of the last-gen 'Stang worked together a little better. There's some disparity between the heft of the lower body and the thinness of the pillars that brings old Pontiac Grand Prix two-doors to mind. The black panel that surrounds the taillamps lays flatter than Mustangs have--it tends a little more Mopar-ish as a result. The tripled-up light pipes that slash at the grille have a distinct Miami Vice-era vibe.
Inside, the Mustang's aviation-themed cabin (see the "Groundspeed" markings on the speedo) is organized neatly and fitted better than any Mustang yet. Large, clear gauges are tucked in more deeply, and the tactile toggle switches and knobs provide better control. A metallic chin-up bar sweeps across the dash like a pull-up bar. It's effective at telegraphing strength, but it devolves the classic dual-binnacle look to a couple of eyebrows over the dash.
2015 Ford Mustang
The turbo four delivers strong performance but an underwhelming soundtrack; the GT with the Performance Pack hustles with its new independent rear.
Short of Shelbys and other post-Ford-tuned cars, the 2015 Mustang is the best performer it's ever built. One hedge: we haven't driven the base car powered by Ford's carryover 300-horsepower, 3.7-liter V-6. It was omitted from our first drive, and probably for good reason. Outside of rental fleets, it's not likely to win over any muscle-car fans who also drive the new turbocharged four-cylinder or, much less, the exciting V-8-powered GT.
The turbocharged four-cylinder engine is the Mustang's first since the days of the SVO, and it helps to underscore how much change has taken place under the 'Stang's sheetmetal. A direct-injected, twin-scroll-turbo unit, the 2.3-liter four is rated at 310 horsepower and 320 pound-feet of torque. Coupled to either a six-speed manual or the optional six-speed, paddle-shifted automatic that we used to drill through L.A. traffic and across the spines of some Malibu canyons, the turbocharged engine felt its most powerful once we clicked it through its newly available driving modes. The slower throttle and shift response cleared right up once the shifter was pulled down into S(port). The turbo four percolates nicely in its wide powerband, drops its laggy act.
The EcoBoost is no GT substitute, though it does give us permission to ignore the base V-6. And yet it's still a Mustang that will require some getting used to. It can crack off 0-60 mph times of less than six seconds, but its power delivery and most of all, its acoustic delivery, don't have the stock musclecar feel. The torque's fine--the noise that comes with it is flat, artificial, buzzy, entirely disconnected from what a musclecar sounds like. Ford amplifies and adds some engine noise via the car's speakers, and we'd suggest another round in the studio.
The best Mustang is, obviously, the most powerful one. In the GT, Ford's 5.0-liter V-8 is the lead singer that gets you interested in the entire act. The V-8 checks in at 435 horsepower and 400 pound-feet of torque. Zero-to-60 mph times are pegged at about 4.5 seconds, and top speed is set to 155 mph. As gutsy as it is, even the V-8 could use some more exhaustive work. There's a layer of isolation between the expected V-8 rumble and the quiet cabin--it could use a lot more of the crackly delight reeled off by Jaguar's similarly sized 5.0-liter eight.
The Getrag six-speed shifter sometimes vagues out lever feel--if anything it could be a notchy, gated affair--but it pairs with hill-start assist and keeps us from stalling out on the uphill climbs through the Hollywood hills.
Its cubic inches give full license to exercise the Mustang's wonderfully composed road manners car and to anticipate its huge track potential. It's true, there's no more live axle to kick around--the Mustang has a strut front suspension and an independent rear that finally ditches the setup that's hounded the Mustang ever since the revived Camaro and Challenger came to life. There's a limited-slip differential, and standard 18-inch wheels and tires, all tallying up to a curb weight of about 3,700 pounds or more--substantial heft, a moderate gain over the live-axle 'Stang.
Like the EcoBoost car, the Mustang GT works its new suspension and revamped electric steering for great effect. Smoothly damped and twice as capable at snuffing out dive and squat, both Mustangs have great ride isolation and steering precision, whether the rack's feel has been toggled to Comfort or Sport from Normal feel. Hurtle it down a straight, snub off speed with the GT's four-piston front brakes and thick treads, and the Mustang tucks in neatly, quickly into the next corner. No more crazy-schizo axle hop to disturb you or the chosen line--the attitude is flat and it's easy to nudge through corners with the throttle.
Flick more of the toggles, and the Mustang cycles through drive modes that set its throttle, steering, stability control, and automatic-trans shifts. Skip by wet/snow and normal for Sport's deft reflexes--or Track, for an intervention-free slide (not recommended in Malibu, where washouts and police are equally dangerous hazards).
You can press the Mustang to its max giggle loads two ways. The first one's $2,495 more than the base GT: the Performance Pack. It swaps out the limited-slip diff for a Torsen unit, skins the wheels with Pirelli P Zero tires (255/40R fronts, 275/40R rears), slaps on Brembo brakes, braces the strut towers, and stiffens up the sway bars, springs, and dampers. Almost a hundred miles in this GT setup didn't garner any vetoes: the ride's still compliant enough for everyday use, the Torsen sticks the rear end to the ground like it's got worms.
The second one: launch control and line lock. Knock off impeccable 0-60 mph runs with the former, smoke away as much tire as you can afford with the latter. Line lock only works on level ground with steering set straight ahead and takes a half-dozen button clicks to access, so practice makes perfect before you make your coffee-and-octane debut, word to the wise.
2015 Ford Mustang
Comfort & Quality
The Mustang's a cathedral compared to the cramped Camaro, but it's still a 2+2 at heart.
The new Mustang has a substantial feeling, most of it from better build quality but some of it from sheer size. It rides on a 107.1-inch wheelbase, and is 188.3 inches long, so it's now nearly as large as a Ford Fusion sedan.
The size works to its advantage, comparing it with the notoriously space-chintzy Camaro. The Mustang has a standard tilt and telescoping steering and at least in upper trim levels, well-shaped seats with lots of nice, firm bolstering. Head room is plentiful and tall drivers fit so much better than the Camaro, it's hardly a fair comparison. The passenger-side knee airbag has been compressed into the glovebox frame, freeing up lots of additional knee room. On the GT, both front buckets can be swapped up into optional Recaro seats, with tighter form-fitting shapes that conversely feel even more comfortable.
Good luck in wedging those same tall adults in the back seat. For anyone over five and a half feet tall, there's no chance at sitting upright. The roofline races to the 'Stang's shoulders quickly. The rear seats do fold down to pass through to the trunk, but the trunk itself will hold a couple of golf bags--somehow, that's become the universal gauge for acceptable storage space. The maximum of about 13 cubic feet of storage space in base cars goes down to about 11 cubic feet once the uplevel audio systems are installed.
In-car storage is fine, with cupholders and a mobile-phone bin sited perfectly--as is the USB port that stares out from behind the phone bin, unplugged, uncovered.
The Mustang's built to a higher standard than before, but the combination of surfaces and textures wasn't perfect on the cars we drove--not as good on a Flex crossover, at a similar price point. There's still enough hard plastic here to pad in future mid-cycle updates. And we wish there were something to upgrade the Mustang's drivetrain noise universally: the four-cylinders are boosted with artificial noise pumped into the cabin, and it's not pleasant or evocative of performance. The opposite's true of the V-8: what's there sounds lovely, but the big engine sounds like it's being suppressed for some political reason--like a forthcoming Shelby GT350.
2015 Ford Mustang
The Mustang already earns some impressive crash-test ratings, and it offers a standard rearview camera; blind-spot monitors and adaptive cruise are available.
The 2015 Ford Mustang hasn't yet been crash-tested by the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS), although that agency has assigned a 'good' rating to the new model for front impacts. In testing by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA), the Mustang earns top five-star ratings in all primary categories.
For the first time, this Mustang offers a standard rearview camera and standard Bluetooth connectivity. Reverse parking sensors are an option on most models--but to get the leading safety features like adaptive cruise control and blind-spot monitors, you have to be at least in mid-range EcoBoost territory before you can even tick that option box.
Visibility is a surprise in the Mustang. Sure, there are blind spots over shoulders, but turn halfway around and the big rear glass opens up the view more than expected. The Mustang has far more headroom than its rival, the Camaro, so it's also possible to see up and out over the hood without craning your neck into chiropractor-friendly knots.
2015 Ford Mustang
From the line lock to the touchscreen interface, the Mustang has something to please every driver.
The Mustang you want to drive is no longer the entry-level, prosaic little pony car it once was. And even if you choose the base V-6-powered Mustang fastback, you'll be locked out of the really interesting features Ford makes available only on four-cylinder and V-8-powered pony cars.
All Mustang fastbacks come with power windows, locks, and mirrors; air conditioning; cruise control; a 50/50 split-folding rear seat; an AM/FM/CD player with two USB ports and an auxiliary jack; Bluetooth with audio streaming and voice control; a rearview camera; and pushbutton start. A power driver seat, rear parking sensors and 18-inch wheels are options. Unavailable on the base model at all? Leather seating, HD and satellite radio, a power passenger seat, the Performance Pack, 19-inch wheels, and Recaro seats, as well as any of the advanced safety technology features (blind-spot monitors, adaptive cruise control, forward-collision warning system).
EcoBoost models add active noise cancellation and a power passenger seat. Options include the Performance Package; 18- or 19-inch wheels; and cloth Recaro seats. EcoBoost Premium models add satellite radio; more speakers; MyFord Touch; and pony projection lamps from the side rearview mirrors. A Shaker audio system is available in this version.
The basic GT shares the basic EcoBoost's equipment, while the Premium adds leather-trimmed seats; a universal garage door opener; ambient lighting; launch control; and line lock. The Performance Package is an option, as are 20-inch wheels; a 50th Anniversary package; adaptive cruise control, blind-spot monitors, and forward-collision warnings; voice-activated navigation; and leather Recaro seats.
Of all the options we consider essential, first and foremost is the Performance Package. It swaps out the limited-slip diff for a Torsen unit, skins the wheels with Pirelli P Zero tires (255/40R fronts, 275/40R rears), slaps on Brembo brakes, braces the strut towers, and stiffens up the sway bars, springs, and dampers.
But then, as always, there's pricing to consider. A base 2015 Mustang fastback coupe--the version we would skip--is equipped with a 3.7-liter V-6 and six-speed manual transmission and will set you back $24,425. The turbocharged, four-cylinder Mustang EcoBoost costs $25,995, and the V-8-powered Mustang GT runs $32,925 before that Performance Pack and any other goodies are factored in.
If you still have cash to spare, the Mustang GT Premium costs $36,925. A loaded GT runs easily in the mid-$40,000s.
2015 Ford Mustang
Fuel economy is very good with the turbo four, but the V-8's more down to earth about its appetites.
The EPA has certified the Mustang lineup as a whole, from 22/31/26 mpg for manual EcoBoost to 15/26/19 mpg for the GT manual.
There's not much surprise in the fact that the turbocharged four-cylinder Mustang earns the best numbers of the lineup, what with its active grille shutters and with Ford's skill at getting great EPA test figures from its latest EcoBoost offerings. The four-cylinder Mustang is rated at 22 miles per gallon city, 31 mpg highway, and 26 mpg combined for the automatic-equipped version; the manual is rated at 21/32 mpg, or 25 mpg combined.
The base V-6 Mustang is a disappointment, by those measures. It's rated at 19/28 mpg, or 22 mpg, with the automatic transmission. With the manual, the numbers fall to 17/28 mpg, or 21 mpg.
And, then there's the V-8. Given the sheer happiness its performance imparts, it's worth the middling 16/25-mpg rating, and its 19-mpg combined figure. Manuals are just a little bit lower at 15/25 mpg, and 19 mpg combined.