A slippery shape helps the 2015 Ford Mustang balance style and efficiency

The 2015 Ford Mustang is the most different Blue Oval pony car in recent memory, and one of biggest changes is the car’s new styling.

Unlike its retro predecessors, the 2015 Mustang attempts to be sleek and modern, while still looking like a Mustang. Yet style wasn’t the only consideration when it came to shaping the body.

Aerodynamics are an important consideration for any performance car; the twin factors of traction-enabling downforce and speed-killing drag must be managed. It’s even more important now, as Ford tries to improve the Mustang’s fuel economy ahead of tightening government regulations.

To make the new Mustang slipperier without compromising its good looks, Ford engineers employed a few tricks that aren’t apparent at first glance.

Much of the work involved fine-tuning surfaces such as the front fascia and door-mounted mirrors. Engineers spent twice as much time running aerodynamic simulations and playing in the wind tunnel than they did with the last Mustang, Ford aerodynamics engineering manager Carl Widman said in a statement.

Rotating wheels generate a lot of drag, so Ford deployed “aero curtains”, a Mustang first. These slots on the outer edges of the front fascia channel air from the front of the car, and direct it around the outer edge of the wheel. This acts like a skirt, preventing air from getting caught in the wheel well.

Each new Mustang model also gets its own underbody aero package, including everything from splitters and air dams to brake-cooling channels, depending on the package. 

Under-hood airflow management is also model-specific. So while the 2.3-liter EcoBoost model features Focus-like active grille shutters, the 5.0-liter V8 GT gets macho hood vents, which are fully functional. Each engine is also paired with a slightly different grille design for optimized cooling.

That kind of attention to detail is what sets the 2015 Ford Mustang apart from previous models. As Ford moves to broaden the iconic car’s appeal, it will need all the help it can get to be more than just a muscle car.