This is not your father’s Mustang. The wild pony has grown into a refined, capable thoroughbred, updated with the latest engineering and technological advancements. But not to worry, the iconic muscle car hasn’t abandoned its roots. The 2015 Mustang is the logical evolution of a classic, with notable improvements in power, handling and interior features, while retaining every ounce of its visceral appeal. Without a doubt, the 2015 Ford Mustang is the best yet in the model’s 50-year history.
At first glance, the redesign of the 2015 Mustang is not revolutionary. Lines and proportions are unmistakable, long in front, short in rear. The new Mustang is lower and wider, with a wider rear track and rear fenders, giving it a more aggressive, hunkered appearance. In a nod to Mustangs past, coupes return to the fastback rear window. The new design helps the Mustang achieve a lower coefficient of drag, which helps it slip through the air more easily and perform more efficiently. New design cues include LED headlights and accent lights, as well as a new three-dimensional interpretation of the classic tri-bar tail lights.
Handling is vastly improved on the 2015 Mustang thanks to an all-new suspension. Up front is an independent MacPherson strut system that uses double ball joints, which also clears space for larger brakes. In back, the Mustang finally goes to an independent rear suspension (the setup of choice for most sports cars), using an integral-link setup that features retooled springs, dampers and bushings, as well as aluminum rear knuckles that reduce weight; this replaces the previous live rear axle.
Interior quality is improved in the 2015 Mustang, with soft-touch materials, comfortable seats and an attractive, logical dash layout. More features come standard, among them pushbutton start and Ford’s Sync voice recognition system. Small, thoughtful touches equate to more comfort, including a narrower center stack that leaves more knee room for the driver and front passenger, and the repositioned cupholders on the center console that leave a clear shifting path.
Though the 2015 Mustang shows improvement in nearly every way, it slips compared to the outgoing models when it comes to fuel economy. The most efficient is the new 2.3-liter Ecoboost engine, which achieves an EPA-estimated 22/31 mpg City/Highway with the manual transmission and 21/32 mpg City/Highway with the automatic. V6-powered Mustangs rate 17/28 mpg City/Highway with the manual and 19/28 mpg with the automatic. No surprise that the V8-powered 5.0 Mustang GT is the biggest gas guzzler, with an EPA rating of 15/25 mpg City/Highway with the manual and 16/25 mpg with the automatic.
Competitors to the 2015 Ford Mustang include the Chevrolet Camaro and Dodge Challenger, but we think the Mustang clearly outshines both of these when it comes to performance, drivability and value.
Although the sheet metal has been completely redesigned, the 2015 Ford Mustang is still instantly recognizable. The Mustang keeps its classic proportions, long in front and short in the rear. The new Mustang is lower and wider, with a wider rear track and rear fenders, giving it a more aggressive, hunkered-down appearance. In a nod to Mustangs past, coupes return to the fastback-style rear window. Convertibles get a new soft top that Ford says will lower and raise twice as fast as the old one.
In front, the 2015 Mustang gets a new interpretation of what Ford calls the Mustang’s shark bite front end, with a low, wide trapezoidal front grille with an integrated pony icon. It’s flanked by HID headlights with slanted tri-bar LED accent lights. Upper-level models get LED foglamps. Sharp hood creases give the front end a three-dimensional look.
From the side, the Mustang’s flat and upright front end is apparent. A straight, sharp crease runs from behind the front fender, through the door handle and just a head of the rear fender. Coupes get a sharply sloping fastback.
A variety of wheel designs are available, from the V6’s standard painted aluminum wheels, to the GT’s 19-inch alloys in gloss black; 20-inch rims are also available. Upper trim levels and the 5.0 GT also get a rear decklid spoiler.
From the rearview, the coupe’s large, sloping rear window pays homage to Mustang fastbacks of years past. Three-dimensional tri-bar LED taillights echo the front’s accent lighting. Dual exhaust pipes are integrated into the rear bumper, with bright chrome tips on GT models, and a rear diffuser on GT Premium trims.
Comfort and quality are greatly improved in the 2015 Mustang. Interior materials include soft-touch plastics and aluminum trim that feel good to the touch, not cheap or flimsy. More features come standard, such as pushbutton start and Ford’s Sync voice recognition system. Small, thoughtful touches equate to more comfort, like a narrower center stack that leaves more knee room for the driver and front passenger, and repositioned cupholders on the center console that leave a clear shifting path.
Analog gauges feature blue text on a black background, with an LCD in between that displays various vehicle data. A new steering wheel is smaller than before, and is beefy enough to get a good grip without feeling overstuffed. On the wheel are a variety of controls for easy access, including audio, phone and voice recognition functions.
On the center stack, a color touch screen sits beneath three round air vents. Controls are a mix of rotary knobs, hard buttons and a row of analog switches, which control the hazard lights and drive modes. On cars equipped with automatic climate control, hard buttons control most functions, though, to change the airflow (i.e. from face to floor), one must go into the menu on the touch screen, which takes more steps than it should.
Seats are comfortable and fit snug in the hips, perfect for a Brazilian racecar driver or a slim woman, but anyone bigger will find themselves sitting on top of the seat cushion bolstering. Other parts of the seats are proportioned for bigger people, like a long seat cushion that prevents the Brazilian driver or petite woman from bending his or her knees. Plenty of shoulder room between the supportive side bolsters. On our test car, our seats had power slide and lumbar functions, but reclined manually. Cloth upholstery comes standard on all but 5.0 GT models, with an optional upgraded Recaro sport cloth, which we preferred to the base. GT Premium trims get leather interior.
Storage in the cabin is minimal, but enough for anything but long road trips. A small tray below the analog switches on the center stack holds a smartphone or keys. Side door pockets are just wide enough to accommodate a standard-sized water bottle, but must be placed sideways. The center console has two cupholders, and there is moderate.
Forget about using the backseat for anything but storage space. It’s small and cramped, and even an average-sized driver will have the seat back far enough to pretty much eliminate any rear legroom. Plus, we found that the lever used to access the backseat is stiff and hard to use.
A six-speaker audio system with a single CD player comes standard, and produces average sound. The upgraded Shaker Pro system is better, but didn’t blow us away. We think Harman Kardon and Bose do a better job in this arena.
Ford offers a new free app, compatible with iPhone and Android-powered smartphones, to learn more about the 2015 Mustang. Users can access owner information, learn history about the Mustang brand, locate nearby racetracks and play games. An augmented reality feature uses the phone’s camera to shows hot spots inside the Mustang cabin, then lets users click their phone’s screen to find more info. We found the app promising, but many functions at this point are more novel than useful.
Visibility in the 2015 Mustang is remarkably good, especially compared to the blind-spot-laden Chevrolet Camaro. In most current cars, the A-pillar is so wide it hampers visibility, but the Mustang’s cleverly designed A-pillar is narrow enough to allow one to look through the corners. We could also see fine out the rear fastback window. Low profile rearview mirrors take some getting used to. We found the optional blind spot monitoring system helped to fill in the gaps.
Trunk space in the 2015 Ford Mustang measures 13.5 cubic feet in coupe variants, which is shy of the Dodge Challenger’s 16.2 cubic feet, but beats the Chevrolet Camaro’s paltry 11.3 cubic feet. Convertibles get 11.3 cubic feet of cargo space.
Rarely is the word refined used to describe an American muscle car, but the Mustang manages to pull it off with its composed ride and handling and smooth power delivery.
We took test drives in Mustangs with the 2.3-liter Ecoboost four-cylinder engine and the 5.0-liter V8 and found both delightful in different ways. We have not tested a 3.7-liter V6-powered Mustang, however.
During our test drives in Mustangs with the 2.3-liter Ecoboost engine, we found acceleration smooth and plentiful, with plenty of low-end thrust on hand thanks to the twin-scroll turbocharger and barely perceptible turbo lag. We never would have known we were driving a four-cylinder engine except on a steep climb through winding neighborhood roads at slower speeds, and a few times up a mountain when passing slower traffic.
Still, we found the Ecoboost-powered Mustang is at its best at moderate- to higher speeds. The ride felt just a tad halting and constrained in morning stop-and-go commute traffic around Los Angeles. But once we were able to open it up, the car felt as if it breathed a sigh of relief.
The V8, of course, is a whole other animal. With its 420 hp and 390 lb.-ft. of torque, we had more than enough power in any driving condition. Though, as is typically for a naturally aspirated engine, power delivery is more linear and not as torquey on the low end like the turbocharged powerplant.
Both the automatic and manual transmissions are quite capable and help the Mustang reach its full potential. Our Ecoboost model was equipped with the automatic, which we found to be a good match for this engine. Even in normal mode, the transmission is geared on the sporty side, holding shifts longer and downshifting when our revs dropped. All automatics come with paddle shifters, for those who want to click through their own gears.
We found the Mustang GT equipped with the 6-speed manual satisfying to shift, with the right amount of feel through the gates, not too firm and not too sloppy.
An all-new independent rear suspension takes the 2015 Mustang to a whole new level. Mustangs of the past were rough-and-tumble around the corners (part of their appeal for some). Not so now. The suspension on the Ecoboost is firm yet comfortable, keeping all four wheels firmly planted. In the 5.0 GT, we felt more suspension rebound, presumably due to the V8 engine’s significant weight difference. In both cases, the chassis is stable and solid, with just enough perceptible body lean in the corners to give the driver feedback, while still feeling solid.
Driving modes change steering feel, throttle response and shift points (with the automatic transmission). Suspension setups are fixed; there are no fancy variable dampers or adjustable ride heights. That’s fine by us.
Standard wheels with the Ecoboost engine are 17-inch with all-season tires. The ride felt surprisingly aggressive on this base setup, and we did notice some noise coming from the tires. On our test car, we also noticed wind noise coming from the B-pillar at highway speeds. In other respects, though, the cabin was quiet.
The exhaust note of the Ecoboost engine isn’t as melodious as that of the V8, but it sounds much beefier than most turbocharged inline-4s, thanks in large part to careful sound engineering. Throatier, artificial engine noise is piped through the audio system’s speakers during acceleration and downshifting for more aural satisfaction.
The sound of the 5.0 GT, on the other hand, is the real deal, though sound is amplified into the cabin. While some complain the sound is too docile for the famous 5.0, we think it suited this more-refined generation perfectly.
Steering feel is authentic and provides just the right amount of effort. Unlike some steering systems that feel artificially heavy, the Mustang’s steering is always comfortable. Even in Normal mode, the steering is responsive. We prefer Sport mode, which gave us quick feedback without making our arms tired.
Standard wheels on V6 and Ecoboost models are 17-inch aluminum; the 5.0 gets 18-inch aluminum wheels. A Performance Package with summer tires is available on the Ecoboost and 5.0.
Four-wheel disc brakes come standard on every Mustang, with a choice of three brake packages. Brakes are firm and have a high point of engagement. The brake pedal on our Ecoboost car took a while to get used to, as we felt a small amount of travel, then into a firm bite; not as progressive we’d like. The braking setup in the GT was, expectedly also firm and aggressive, but felt more appropriate for the rest of the setup.
The 2015 Ford Mustang is the best yet in the car’s 50-year history. With refined handling, plenty of power and an upgraded cabin, the Mustang is equally at home on the street and on the track. The new four-cylinder Ecoboost engine provides surprising power and is the most efficient of the bunch, while the 5.0 V8 continues to impress with its beefy V8 and throaty exhaust.
NewCarTestDrive.com correspondent Laura Burstein filed this report after driving the Ford Mustang in Los Angeles.