First Drive

FIRST DRIVE: 2015 Ford Mustang

Fifty years on, the 2015 Mustang remains true to its roots

2015 Ford Mustang

WEST HOLLYWOOD, CA – The Ford Mustang has remained true to its roots for more than 50 years – a two-door, four -seat, affordable sporty car. More than nine million Mustangs have hit the road during that period.

The Mustang turned 50 last April and Ford has big plans for the 50th anniversary edition, including a brand new model, not only heavily redesigned, but packed with upgrades that bring the decades-old platform into the modern era.

The sixth-generation Mustang will also be introduced to markets around the globe – on every continent except Antarctica – including the right-hand-drive markets in Japan, Australia, England and Japan.

With a lifespan of half a century it comes as no surprise that there are a couple repeats in this latest version – the first independent suspension since a very limited edition, SVT model a decade ago and the reappearance of a four-cylinder engine. The first appeared in 1974. Both these features, of course, are much more sophisticated and worthy than the earlier efforts.

The 2015 Mustang will come in hatchback and convertible body styles with a choice of four-, six- and eight-cylinder engines. The V-6 is exclusive to North America.

Retro-modern design

The new car has a retro, yet modern look with a "shark" like front end featuring slim HID headlights flanking a trapezoidal grille. The fastback roofline is another reminder of past efforts, complemented by a long hood, steeply raked windshield and lower roofline.

2015 Ford Mustang.jpgThe rear fenders have a distinct bulge to accommodate the wider rear track and wheels, adding to a more aggressive stance. At the rear, triple, sequential tail lights top a pair of chrome exhaust outlets and an aero-efficient lower valance.

While the 2015 Mustang has evolved from the same platform that began way back in 1979, there have been enough changes over the years to effectively make it new.

Changes for this 2015 version include additional stiffness to accommodate the new independent rear suspension. There was also a concerted effort to reduce weight, resulting in a 2015 Mustang that's almost 100 kilos lighter than the outgoing model.

Interior a step forward

The interior is a huge step forward with a degree of finish and craftsmanship unlike any previous Mustang. The overall effect is that of a cockpit and not only are fit and finish first rate, the quality of materials and degree of craftsmanship is at a level new to the brand.

2015 Ford Mustang.jpgThere are a couple of cute retro touches here as well – a galloping horse emblem on the steering wheel and a golf-ball size shift knob for the manual transmission.

There is more room inside than the old model thanks to the extra width, especially in the rear seat, which also benefits from the less-intrusive new independent rear suspension. Trunk space is also up slightly.

2015 Ford Mustang.jpgThe instrument panel has the typical Mustang look with a pair of hooded, large and clear analog gauges flanking a multi-configurable digital info panel. The background colours can be altered to your mood or whim.

The latest version of Ford’s voice-activated Sync infotainment system is standard as are tire pressure monitors for each wheel, a rear view camera, HID headlights, keyless access, push-button start, a 10-cm colour display and a pair of USB ports.

The option list includes: navigation with a 20-cm screen, adaptive cruise control, collision warning system and an upgraded blind spot information system with cross-traffic alert.

Three engines offered

The 2015 Mustang comes with a choice of three engines. Standard is a 3.7-litre V-6, with a turbocharged 2.3-litre four and a 5.0-litre V-8 also available. All three can be paired with a choice of six-speed transmissions, either automatic or manual.

The updated V-6 puts out 300 horsepower and 270 lb-ft of torque, the EcoBoost four, 310 horsepower and 320 lb-ft. The V-8 tops the chart at 435 horses and 400 lb-ft.

The four is the big news, allowing Ford to boast some impressive fuel economy numbers. But it is like other EcoBoost engines in that there is more boost than Eco when driven with anything less than fuel-sipping in mind.

The claimed numbers might be possible if you drive in flat country and/or avoid exercising the turbo. But let there be no doubt, it is a stout performer with gobs of readily-available low-end torque available at the mere mention of throttle pressure thanks to direct injection and variable cam timing.

This same engine appears in the new Lincoln MKC but has its first rear-drive application in the Mustang. On a personal note, I found the sound from the four unsuited to a car that looks so strong. The V-8, however, is a different story – glorious!

The bent eight benefits from some tricks that have bolstered both torque and horsepower, including new heads, valvetrain, intake manifold, pistons, rods and crankshaft.

The internals and linkage of the Getrag manual transmission have been massaged for smoother operation – and it worked, with slick shifts and clearly defined gates. The automatic gets a pair of steering-wheel-mounted shift paddles and boasts rev matching.

The new rear suspension is similar to that in the Australian Ford Falcon and imparts the Mustang with a new degree of civility on rough surfaces. The improvement over the old solid rear axle was so great, development was delayed slightly while the engineers made changes to the front suspension to match the newfound prowess at the rear.

The new front suspension with double ball joints is mounted to a stiffer sub frame and allowed larger brakes. There are three different brake packages including massive 15-inch rotors on the GT version.

Standard equipment on all models is a system of Selectable Drive modes that lets the driver quickly adjust steering, throttle response, shift action (automatic) and stability control settings by toggling between normal, snow-wet, sport and track modes.

On the road

So how does it drive? Vastly better than any Mustang before it. It is as if this Mustang was sent to finishing school.

The on-road ride is far better, smoother over rough surfaces without giving up any grip in the turns. There is little lean when pressed hard and understeer becomes evident only at very high limits.

2015 Ford Mustang GT.jpgComposed is a good way to describe the new Mustang after a day of thrashing around the Angeles Crest Highway and Big Tujunga Canyon roads.

I drove both the EcoBoost with the automatic transmission and the GT with the manual. No V-6 versions were available. The four has gobs of grunt and the V-8 even more.

On some models a "Track App" is available via steering-wheel-mounted buttons. It includes front-brake line-lock that allows one to burn through a set of rear tires in a jiffy and launch control for maximum off-the-line performance.

With tongue planted firmly in his cheek Mustang chief engineer Dave Pericak insisted we restrict using these feature until we were on a race track. None was included on the drive route, so it was necessary to find alternate locations – to prove the systems worked of course. They do!

The new Mustang hatchback arrives at Ford stores in November with the convertible to follow by about six weeks. Including delivery charges, the hatchback starts at $26,600 for the V-6, $29,600 for the EcoBoost and $38,600 for the GT. Convertible prices span the $31,600 - $43,600 range. Load up a GT and the tag could top $55,000.

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