All-new 2015 Ford Mustang flexes its modern muscle

FIRST DRIVE

All-new 2015 Ford Mustang flexes its modern muscle

310 turbocharged horses gallop around the Consumer Reports track

Published: September 17, 2014 12:00 PM

The arrival of a new version of an iconic automobile is greeted with equal measures of glee and dread. Will it be better, enthusiasts wonder, or has it been ruined?

As far as red-blooded Americana goes, there may be no greater symbol of affordable pony car performance than the Ford Mustang.

Whether unleashing doughnuts at midnight in the high school parking lot, or wind-in-the-hair freedom on a beachfront vacation, the Mustang has faithfully carried 50 years of tradition. (Ahem, we’ll let the 1970s Mustang II quietly leave the room.)

And while Ford introduced the new-look Mustang in December to much fervor from the faithful, the automaker waited until late 2014 to allow journalists to actually drive the car.

Rest easy, fellow enthusiasts. Based on our first crack at the 2015 Mustang, its place in our hearts and sneaker soles is safe.  

New skin, new tech

While the outgoing model ranks as our favorite in the basic muscle car category, the 2015’s styling brings a hint of modern sophistication without losing its homage to yesteryear. Fastback and convertible versions are offered, with the ragtop offering an insulated cloth roof to keep things quieter when the top is up.

Perhaps more important is what happens underneath the skin. For a half-century, Ford made drivers endure a solid-axle rear suspension—a technology familiar to those who recall Conestoga wagons in those old Western movies. While a solid axle has advantages in straight-line stability, no Mustang owner could ever brag about the car’s jittery cornering.

With a new independent rear suspension, the 2015 Mustang can finally take its place in the modern performance car arena. Our sample vehicle, borrowed for a fee from Ford, delivered a more comfortable ride, but it also was composed over rough surfaces.

Ford also made some changes in the engine bay, adding a 310-hp, 2.3-liter four-cylinder turbo. Packing as much punch as a V8 Mustang did not that long ago, the new engine gives the car a lighter, more agile and balanced feel than past GTs.  

The turbo four-cylinder weighs about the same and creates more horsepower than the traditional base 300-hp V6. But the EcoBoost version also carries a $1,570 price premium over the base model, which starts at $24,425 including destination charges.

Traditionalists will be relieved to hear that the 5.0-liter V8 engine is still offered—gaining 15 ponies to a rapturous 435 hp. All engines are available with six-speed manual or automatic transmissions.

Driving impressions

Our seat time was limited, but we’re thinking the four-cylinder turbo may have broad appeal, balancing power and efficiency. A thoroughly modern powertrain, the Mustang turbo accelerated quickly throughout the power band with no noticeable turbo lag, accompanied by a muscular growl that got throatier as the revs increased.

The turbo felt nimble on the track, compared to the nose-heavy tendencies of the past V8 Mustangs. The six-speed manual proved well-matched to the car, with well-spaced ratios, short throws, and precise shifter feel.

Inside the cabin

The interior is more spacious and decidedly less low-rent than the outgoing car. The big, round gauges and the dual-cowl dash remain, but for 2015, Ford used better materials and more soft-touch surfaces in place of hard plastic.

In spite of a lower roofline, there’s plenty of head and leg room, even for taller drivers. Our car’s firm, bolstered seats kept the driver and passenger in place during aggressive cornering.

New technology includes keyless entry, push-button start, the latest version of MyFord Touch, and new electronic safety systems, including active cruise control and blind-spot detection with cross-traffic alert.  

Even with the addition of MyFord Touch, most controls are straightforward and intuitive, with an assortment of conventional knobs and switches. It’s a nice retro touch that also prevents driver distraction.

Overall, we’re impressed. The new Mustang is a worthy evolution of the breed.

Jim Travers

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