The engine start button – accented by a row of matte metallic toggle switches – is at the base of the center stack of the all-new 2015 Ford Mustang GT. Push up on the second toggle switch from the left and a message appears in the instrument panel’s display, notifying the driver that traction control is switched off.
Slide the manual gearbox lever into first, apply generous throttle, and release the clutch and you’ll enjoy a good-old American burnout — pony-car style. The experience is as exhilarating as it is obnoxious. It’s addictive as hell, too, like crack for car-lovers.
Depositing significant amounts of the Mustang’s rear tires on pavement is nothing new, though. The last 5.0-liter ‘Stang I drove – a fifth-generation, 2014 model – shredded rubber just as readily, eliciting similar aural delights of roaring engine, shrieking tires, and roller coaster g-forces.
The package here, though, is fresh and exciting. This latest Mustang is sexier than the last, with sleek, fastback styling, a modern interior. Most significantly for a car with such sporty intentions, though, the 2015 boasts a more refined suspension, which helps it tackle a twisty road course as neatly as it does a drag strip.
Not even a casual observer would mistake the new, sixth-gen car for its predecessor. The steeply raked rear glass and tapered tail give it away immediately. Squinty headlights flank a trapezoidal grille that, along with numerous other styling details, hark back to the original Mustang that first wooed enthusiasts five decades ago.
2015 boasts a more refined suspension, which helps it tackle a twisty road course as neatly as it does a drag strip.
A lower, wider profile contributes to the Mustang’s sporty look, and options on our test car like big, 19-inch black-painted wheels, Pirelli P-Zero tires and Brembo front brake calipers reveal its performance capabilities.
Another must-have option for the speed-obsessed driver is found in the cabin: a pair of $1,595 Recaro front seats with plenty of lateral support. Despite hampering entry and egress for this height-challenged driver, the manually adjustable Recaros are an excellent addition to the Mustang — well worth the extra coin.
Finding a comfortable driving position with good sightlines is simple, and controls are easy to reach. Interior finishes, though, look better than they feel. Real stitching on the dash and door panels is better than rental-fleet fare, but drivers expecting class-above finishes may be disappointed.
Any shortcomings in interior trappings fade quickly, though, when the 5.0-liter V8 growls. With 435 horsepower on tap – 15 more than the outgoing car – and a stout 400 pound-feet torque, the Mustang jumps forward with haste, almost regardless of engine speed or gear. The effect is deeply satisfying, reminding the driver of the advantages of a naturally breathing engine.
The six-speed is not as precise as a Porsche’s for example, and it lacks the rev-matching feature of some newer sports cars like the Nissan 370Z NISMO. But this pony loves to be flogged, and doing so is loads of fun. With so much power and a transmission that can handle it, speedy upshifts allow the driver to rip through the revs with ease.
Most big-motor Mustangs can sprint. It’s the new, independent rear suspension that endows this latest model with handling to match its quickness. Those optional Pirellis likely help, too. Despite a curb weight around 3,700 pounds, handling is nicely balanced, carving up even rough pavement without unsettling hops or bouncing. Power oversteer remains available, thanks to the big motor and instant-on torque.
On highway jaunts and everyday drives, the ride is firm but comfortable. I would not hesitate to drive the Mustang GT on an interstate trip, provided my crew consisted of no more than one passenger. The rear seat is tight, especially with a taller driver or passenger up front.
The test vehicle’s optional six-piston Brembo front brakes contribute to its handling prowess, too, arresting the Mustang’s speed quickly and controllably.
Ford’s track apps
Standard on the Mustang GT is a pair of features that allows the driver to ready the vehicle for a drag race and execute one like a pro. The electronic line-lock holds the front brakes during a smoky burnout. Launch control then modulates power off the line to limit wheel spin and optimize acceleration time.
While I didn’t get a chance to find a safe, flat stretch to test the launch control, I did try out the line-lock in my narrow driveway. It works as claimed, either to gently heat up the rear tires or to perform a full-blown, NHRA-style burnout.
Driver assistance features
The day has arrived when adaptive cruise control (ACC) and forward collision warning is available on a Mustang … what a time to be alive!
Despite some bargain-basement interior trim, the 2015 Mustang GT feels like a good value.
While some drivers may choose the Mustang as a special car reserved for weekend outings, most will depend on it for everyday needs. These features, therefore, add some convenience. No driver wants to crash his or her Mustang into the back of a truck after a long day at work.
Admittedly, this was the first time I’ve used ACC in a manual-transmission car. With loads of torque from the 5.0, in high gear the Mustang requires no downshift to accelerate back up to set speed, even from 45 mph. When I approached stop-and-go traffic, though, I just switched it off and monitored traffic with my own eyes.
Some drivers will need no time to choose between the Mustang and its competition. The Chevy-faithful have the Camaro, and dedicated Mopar fans have the Challenger. Still, some with no loyalty to a particular brand will cross-shop these models and choose the one that suits them best.
The Mustang has the advantage of newness while the Camaro and Challenger each boast high-performance models – the Camaro Z28 and ZL1 and Challenger Hellcat – with obscenely powerful motors and a host of go-fast upgrades. To combat these, Ford will soon offer the Shelby GT350 with more than 500 horsepower and an adaptive suspension.
On the other end of the spectrum, Ford allows potential Mustang buyers seeking a combination of power and efficiency to choose its 2.3-liter EcoBoost engine, a four-cylinder turbocharged powerplant. With an automatic transmission, Mustangs equipped with the EcoBoost motor will achieve 32 mpg on the highway or 25 mpg combined. For comparison, the GT clocked around 15 mpg in combined driving under my admittedly heavy foot.
Celebrating its 50th anniversary in 2014, the Mustang is in rare company. Cars like the Porsche 911, Chevrolet Corvette, and Mercedes-Benz SL are among the few that can claim such a long, uninterrupted history. All those years of building and refining the Mustang have paid off for Ford. The 2015 Mustang is better than ever.
My father, who turned 17 in 1964, once told me he’d have given his left eye for a new Mustang then. Today, he’s probably glad he didn’t. But plenty of 17-year-olds would probably take that same deal without batting a wrinkle-free eyelid.
Despite some bargain-basement interior trim, the 2015 Mustang GT feels like a good value. It certainly fulfills its pony-car mission, delivering big horsepower in a practical package.
If it were my money, I’d choose one over a two-seat sports car just for the rear seats, which are too small for adults on long drives. However, they’re big enough to tote the kids around town. If your tastes are similar, chances are you will be similarly smitten with the latest ‘Stang.
- Seductive fastback styling
- Burnout-ready V8 power
- Choice performance options
- Cramped rear seats
- Cheap interior finishes
- Weak fuel economy