The new Mustang is better looking in person than in photos — waaay better, said all ages and demographics of admirers when I had the car on view at a big Mustang car show this month.
The re-engineered and restyled 2015 Mustang marks 50 years of production for this simple sports car that has a world following of owners, intenders and others who have a love story to share about their car.
Ford had plenty to risk in renewing this heirloom. But they got it right and made a contemporary, very drivable pony. It is the solid chassis that helps make this car so enjoyable. A rigid foundation helps the suspension work better. It makes the brakes - substantial four-wheel discs — more absolute in stopping power. The steering can be made quicker and more responsive. And a solidly built car is less likely to develop the squeaks and rattles that that have been endemic to Mustangs since the 1970s.
The exterior styling is clean and engaging with creases and character lines that carry from front to rear, across the roof and hood. It's not gimmicky, it's just satisfying to step back and take in all the subtle details.
For the first time in ages, the interior has plastics that match in color from upper portions of the cabin to the lower and they are of a quality appearance. There are soft-touch materials, handsome use of bright trim and some aircraft design influence in the "Ground Speed" typography in the speedometer to the metallic toggle switches to engage the selectable drive modes.
There can be a Mustang model for just about all grades of enthusiast with three power choices. The base model is a 300-horsepower, 3.7-liter V-6. The midrange EcoBoost, with twin-scroll turbo, has a 310-horsepower, 2.3-liter four-cylinder And the GT gets its giddy-up from a 435-horsepower, 5.0-liter V-8 with 400 foot-pounds of torque at 4,250 rpm.
Each power option can be equipped with a six-speed manual or six-speed automatic transmission.
The EcoBoost model gets its kick from 320 foot-pounds of torque, with a broad peak from 2,500 to 4,500 rpm. When Sport mode is engaged the performance is road-course edgy. The manual transmission is a pleasure to run through the gears. Each slots without notchiness and the clutch is no issue to control in traffic — and there's a hill holder for no-stress starts.
The new independent suspension eliminates that rear-end clunk for which Mustangs had an unfortunate reputation. And while an IRS adds some weight, its benefits are far more rewarding. Dive into a corner, heel-toe a couple of downshifts and the driver can reliably throttle steer through the turn. The handling is flat and predictable.
The stock four-wheel disc brakes have large, 12.6-inch vented front discs, 12.6-inch solid rear and they are integrated with ABS and stability and traction controls. The Performance package ($1,995 for EcoBoost and $2,495 GT) adds 13.9-inch vented front discs with four-piston calipers and 13-inch rear vented discs with a single piston caliper.
In standard mode, the performance is strong enough but tuned for fuel economy. With manual transmission, this engine is rated 22 mpg city, 31 highway and 26 mpg combined. I was averaging 24 to 28 mpg. The automatic is rated 21/32/25 mpg. Not that mileage matters all that much for a sporty car, but it's good to know that a run for fun won't flush the credit card. And all the engines run on 87 octane.
Deliveries are just beginning and will be in better supply by December. The convertible will arrive by year's end. Starting prices for the coupe range from $24,425 to $36,925 for the GT Premium. An automatic transmission adds $1,195. Pricing includes the $825 freight charge from Flat Rock, Mich.
Convertible pricing ranges from about $30,000-$43,000.
I tested the EcoBoost Premium model, which has a starting price of $29,995. With options, it stickered at $36,930. Among the extras were Recaro front seats ($1,595), which seemed overkill for this model and would be restrictive in comfort to hefty drivers.
The Rapid Spec 201A package ($1,795) includes the 12-speaker Shaker audio system, HD radio, memory preset for driver seat and mirrors and blind spot alert and cross-traffic alert. The stereo is strong and clear and I've now grown accustomed to having blind-spot and cross-traffic safety alerts.
Twenty-inch wheels added $1,295 and are worth it for how well they fill the fenders and strengthen the stance. Adaptive Cruise Control at $1,195 I can live without.
The Premier Trim with Color Accent Group ($395) is a definite yes for its charcoal black interior and color accented seats (a rich red in the Race Red test car), aluminum panel across the instrument panel and some dress-up door panels.
Everything that was right about the previous Mustang is still correct with the 2015: the trunk is usable at 13.5 cubic feet, the back seats will still hold a couple of adults for a run to the restaurant, the sightlines over the shoulder are functional and helped by the rearview camera. The turning circle is still manageable at 36.5 feet with 17-inch wheels and 37.8 with 18- and19-inchers. But the 20-inch wheels with the Performance pack push the circle to a three-point 40-foot turn.
I've commented in reviews for the last two generations of the Mustang — 2005 and 2010 — that if you've always wanted one, this is the year to buy. Now, the 2015 is not just the best Mustang to date, it's the best-made Ford passenger car in the current lineup.
2015 Mustang EcoBoost Premium
—Body style: compact, 4-passenger rear-wheel-drive coupe
—Engine: aluminum, 310-horsepower, direct-injection, turbocharged 2.3-liter 4-cylinder; 320 foot-pounds torque from 2,500-4,500 rpm
—Transmission: 6-speed manual with hill-start assist
—Fuel economy: 21/32 mpg city/highway; 87 octane
—Fuel tank: 15.5 gallons
—Trunk space: 13.5 cubic feet
—Front head/leg/shoulder room: 37.6/44.5/56.3 inches
—Rear head/leg/shoulder room: 34.8/30.6/52.2 inches
—Length/wheelbase: 188.3/107.1 inches
—Curb weight: 3,532 pounds
—Turning circle: 40 feet w/performance package and 20-inch wheels
—Standard equipment includes: smart-key locking and push-button ignition, rearview camera, selectable drive modes, track performance apps, leather-trimmed upholstery, heated and cooled front seats, 6-way power front seats, dual-zone automatic climate control, ambient lighting, premium sound system with Bluetooth and Pandora connectivity, tilt-telescopic steering column, cruise control, split folding back seat, carpeted front floor mats, power windows, power heated and folding side mirrors with turned signals and lighted pony puddle light, HID projector headlights, LED fog lights and taillights, dual exhaust tips, rear spoiler and diffuser
—Safety features include: 7 air bags, electronic stability and traction controls, 4-wheel disc brakes with 4-sensor, 4-channel ABS
—Base price: $29,995, including $825 freight charge; price as tested $36,930
—Options on test vehicle: Rapid Spec group $1,795; 20-inch alloy wheels $1,295; Security package $395; adaptive cruise control with collision mitigation $1,195; reverse park assist $295; voice-activated navigation system $795; Recaro leather seats $1,595; Premier trim and accent group $395
—Where assembled: Flat Rock, Mich.
—Warranty: 3-years/36,000-miles bumper to bumper; 5-years/60,000-miles powertrain with roadside assistance
Mark Maynard is online at [email protected] Find photo galleries and more news at Facebook.com/MaynardsGarage. To find out more about Mark Maynard and read features by other Creators Syndicate writers and cartoonists, visit the Creators Syndicate Web page at www.creators.com.