Part new, part nostalgia, Ford’s redesigned 2015 Mustang is all muscle

After one of the leakiest news embargos in recent memory, the all-new 2015 Mustang is here. The brand-new pony car is not just one of the most important automotive debuts this decade, it might just be a really good car, too.

The new ‘Stang is an important step forward in the pony car’s history. It’s not that the previous Mustang was bad, but let’s just say that it wasn’t just the styling that was retro. The new Mustang is finally an up-to-date car, and it might just be able to restore a little pride in America’s car battle with our old axis foe, the Germans and Japanese.

But let’s not get ahead of ourselves.

Powerplant

Because this is an American car, it’s only fitting that we start with the engine. After all, if you don’t get a good motor from Detroit, what the hell is the point?

The iconic V8 is still there, in this case it’s the 5.0 liter ‘Coyote’ V8 carried over from the last generation. But the 2015 stallion is going to be even wilder because the Coyote driving it has a new valvetrain and cylinder heads good for 420 rampant, raging horsepower and 390 pound-feet of torque. That’s just eight more horses than you can get right now. But, supposedly, thanks to a new intake manifold, it will do slightly better at the pumps.

In addition to better fuel economy, the better fuel-air mix promised by the new intake will make the engine smoother at lower rpms, and reduce emissions. 

All together, Ford promises snappy back-road handling and more opportunities to enjoy all the power from the range of engines.

The V6, that most customers are likely to be saddled with, is slated to produce “at least 300 horsepower and 270 lb-ft of torque.” That sounds great, but what anyone with access to Ford’s own website can tell you is that the last iteration of the Duratec V6 puts out 305 hp. So it sounds like either Ford’s press people are getting awfully general or they just don’t want to tell us the dirty little secret, which is that they haven’t bothered to upgrade the V6 at all.

The engine option I am most interested in is the all new 2.3-liter EcoBoost four-cylinder. I know a four-banger in a Mustang sounds like sacrilege, but this turbocharged fire-breather is bad-to-the-bone. Ford says that it churns out 305 hp and 300 lb-ft of torque. The really cool thing about this engine is that the nearly-flat torque curve may actually surpass the power of the V8 in real-world driving but also the fuel economy. Ford accomplished this by tweaking the engine exhaust to maximize a constant flow of gas to the turbo. This provides maximum boost across the rev range. Should also provide a good turbo scream. 

Even if you aren’t interested in fuel economy, it’s important. If for no other reason than it’s a way to talk certain people, say, your spouse, into letting you buy a Mustang. Because, hey, if it gets good mileage, it’s got to be practical, right?

All of the engine options should get some boost in this battle for economy from Ford’s new automatic transmission. It can be placed into manual shift mode and operated via paddle shifters behind the steering wheel. Most of the transmissions like it are workable but still feel like a compromise. It does sound like Ford has done its best to make the transmission aggressive; the transmission rev matches the engine on down shifts for quicker more electric changes with the paddle shifters. 

For my money though, if you really want to drive your Mustang you will be better off with improved Getrag six-speed manual. The linkage is the new, giving the transmission a shorter throw and more precise feel. In a less technical, but more obvious improvement the shifter has been moved closer to the driver and away from the cup holders. Its sad that it took Ford so long to think of this, but it’s a big improvement. After all, the last thing you want when trying to manage a tricky downshift into a chicane is to knock your cup over and give yourself third degree coffee burns. 

Handling

We hope and expect that this is where the new Mustang is really going to shine. The last generation, like all previous Mustangs, had a fixed rear axle. This meant that the drive wheels were locked in tandem … like the ones on a horse cart.

Actually Ford managed to get an impressive amount of sporting performance out of an archaic set-up. But that’s sort of like saying that Mohammad Ali could have beat me up with one arm tied behind his back.

The new Mustang has independent rear suspension, just like European cars have had since the 1970s. Specifically, Ford has opted for a double-ball joint MacPherson strut system in the front, which you don’t need to understand to be able to appreciate. And a simpler but still light-years more advanced set-up in the rear. 

2015 ford mustang side

All this complicated suspension tech will be adjustable. Different traction, stability, suspension options will be available through Ford’s Selectable Drive Mode system. This isn’t exactly earth shattering, but it is a welcome breath of modernity to the Mustang.

All this goodness is enough to make me want to stand up and belt out the Star-Spangled Banner and then sit down and watch Patton beat the stuffing out of the Germans on the silver screen.

The fancy new suspension setup is mated to bigger brakes and a more rigid frame. All together, Ford promises snappy back-road handling and more opportunities to enjoy all the power from the range of engines.

Personally, I am looking forward to seeing what the steering is like. Other American performance cars have been let down by lack of steering feel and precision. It can seem like a small thing, but when a performance car doesn’t give you the confidence to explore its limits, then you may as well just get back in the Explorer.

Styling and Interior

Ford had it tough when it came to restyling the Mustang. No matter what they did they were going to make people mad. Too modern and you offend the older purists, too retro and you risk becoming a cliché and losing younger buyers.

I may be sad that Ford didn’t make more use of the awesome EVOS concept car, but ultimately it looks like Ford found something like a happy middle. The basic shape is the same, and many of the iconic details, like the taillights are readily visible.

However, don’t for a second think this is just a retro-mobile. The lines are sharper and more aggressive and the car is better proportioned with the wheels nearer the corners of the body. I particularly like the new front fascia and headlights. This car looks angry enough that I am wondering if I owe it money.

What it really reminds me of is the new Corvette Stingray: classic overtones but with a thoroughly modern take.

The interior might be one of the things that makes me the happiest. On the old car, the only worthwhile part of the interior design was the gauge cluster. Just about everything else looked like it could have come off of a first-generation Ford Escape.

The new interior is much more modern and attractive. It’s hard to say, until you see it and touch it in person, but it also looks like Ford used better materials and built to a higher standard.

The car will come with the full range of tech that you would expect. The centerpiece of Ford’s infotainment is the familiar Microsoft SYNC. It’s not the best of these systems, but it’s also far from the worst. And at least we already know it works.

First-look video

Conclusion

Until you drive a car you don’t truly know it, but I can confidently say the new Mustang looks promising. Everything from the styling to the transmission have been shaken up to add a bit more performance and a bit more refinement.

I would be more disappointed with the fact that V8 and V6 are nearly identical to the previous generation versions, if those engines hadn’t been the strongest point of the previous Mustang. And even that little disappointment is compensated for by my downright excitement for the new EcoBoost four.

Ultimately though, this car can’t just be judged on its own merits but how it stacks up with the competition. Personally, I hope Ford has built a stallion capable of beating the Germans and Japanese at their own game.

Update: The story has been updated to include additional technical details and engine information just released by Ford. 

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