The Mustang holds a cherished position in the pantheon of historic nameplates. With 50 years of heritage to build on, Ford unveiled the latest Mustang at the 2014 New York International Auto Show. To crown the achievement and hearken back to the original launch in 1964, Ford assembled a Mustang atop the Empire State Building. With the winter now well behind us, we saddled up with a 2015 Mustang GT Premium to find out if it was more than a one-trick pony.
In photos and on the show floor, the redesigned Mustang looked pretty good. On the street, where it belongs, it takes on a whole different appearance. Its noticeably longer, lower, and sleeker than before. The Mustang’s fastback silhouette is more pronounced than ever with a long hood and very short trunk lid. Wider hips and the shark-bite front fascia with trapezoidal grille give a menacing appearance. Does it have the guts to back up its sultry looks?
Under the hood of this GT Premium is a reworked 5.0L V8. Upgraded cylinder heads, improved valvetrain, and a new intake manifold boost output to 435 hp and 400 lb-ft torque. That’s not the biggest change in this new Mustang. Ford has developed a totally new independent rear suspension, the first of its kind on a Mustang. The good ol’ boys won’t like it, but the move away from a solid rear axle opens up a wealth of opportunity for Ford engineers to take advantage of. This means the new Mustang should be the best handling pony in the stable. Our GT Premium wasn’t optioned with the Performance Pack, but inclined buyers can check that box on EcoBoost or GT models to get retuned springs, bushings, and dampers, a stiffer rear sway bars, larger brakes, a front strut tower brace, and unique tuning for steering, braking, and stability systems.
Inside, the Mustang feels positively plush compared to the interior of any Camaro. Well bolstered buckets are standard, but optional Recaros are available. The GT Premium comes with SYNC and MyFord Touch as standard. Our tester also came equipped with one option you won’t need with 5 liters of displacement, the 12-speaker Shaker audio system. Beneath the touch screen and HVAC controls, a row of airplane style toggle switches control the drive modes, traction control, and hazard lights. Unfortunately the Mustang is saddled with a busy steering wheel. A total of four control pads clutter the wheel. We’d like Ford to learn a lesson or two from Porsche and let the steering wheel have a singular purpose. The second set of controls are somewhat recessed, but you still bump them occasionally. It is, overall, one of our biggest disappointments in the car.
If you get into the Mustang with the perception that it’s going to be a lumbering muscle car – fast in a straight line and a handful in the corners – you tend to treat it like one. And that’s easy to do. At first, the Mustang feels very long. The front end seems to stretch on. When you’ve finally gotten comfortable with the high cowl and long hood, there’s a moment when you realize how much you’ve been holding back. The Mustang is far more capable than you might think. Toggle into Track mode, where the helmet icon that some say may look a bit familiar appears, and the Mustang relaxes its traction control settings. Even in this mode, there’s very little drama. Ford has engineered a balance and finesse into the Mustang chassis that would make many European sport sedans blush. This isn’t a muscle car, it’s a sports car.
From a driver’s perspective, the Mustang is a treat. You can enjoy it like a GT car or you can treat it like the V8, RWD performance car that it is. The steering, brakes, and engine don’t seem fazed by any of it. The new chassis and suspension configuration offer plenty of grip and excellent feedback. Even the electric steering rack transmits the right information. Only the 6-speed SelectShift automatic transmission, which is slow and dim-witted even with paddles, can spoil the party. Leaving the transmission in Sport mode is an improvement, but holding a lower gear takes its toll on the Mustang’s efficiency. Over 375 miles, we averaged 18.2mpg. The engine burbles alluringly at idle, but not enough of the sound makes it back into the cabin. Even as the revs rise, the cabin stays too quiet for our liking.
50 years of expectation arrive with this new Mustang. You expect it to be a bit loud, a bit crass, and a bit unrefined. After all, these are the essence of the muscle car. Thundering V8, smoking rear tires, a cacophony of sound and fury should resonate off surrounding structures and shake all things around it. Generally, an NVH engineer’s nightmare incarnate. This new Mustang doesn’t have enough of that – at least our tester didn’t. It has all the right ingredients, but airs on the side of softness with its setup. It’s as if 435hp isn’t enough to challenge the Mustang’s abilities. Willing to nap all day but able to bury the competition with the crack of the whip, the Mustang is the Seabiscut of modern muscle cars. If there’s one impression that the Mustang left with us, it’s that Ford has engineered a spectacular performance car that hasn’t yet been stretched to its full potential.
|2015 Ford Mustang GT Premium
|Equipment Group 401A||$1,795|
|Ruby Red Metallic paint||$395|
|6-speed Select Shift Automatic Transmission||$1,195|
|Enhanced Security Package||$395|
|Adaptive Cruise Control||$1,195|
|Premier Trim w/ Color Accent||$3995|
|Reverse Park Assist||$295|
|As Tested MSRP||$52,560|
2015 Ford Mustang Reveal