I write stuff. A lot of it is about cars and motorcycles.

Pony Express

2015 Ford Mustang GT

Several months ago, I drove the 2014 Ford Mustang GT. It was…OK. The interior was cramped, and it didn’t feel as powerful to drive as you might expect from the paper specs. My knee also kept banging against the edge of the center console, which was painful and, eventually, enraging.

2015 Ford Mustang

The 2015 Ford Mustang is a totally new car. Well, except for the 5.0l V8 powerplant. That’s still the same, though it’s been tweaked a bit for more power. Other than that, though, the 2015 model is new inside and out. The really big deal is that, for the first time in the model’s history, the Mustang now comes standard with independent rear suspension. The live rear axle is gone, which means the 2015 Mustang should change from a straight-line performer to a car that’s also able to take corners.

How much of that expected improvement made it into the final car? Well, quite a bit, actually.

How it looks

The 2015 Mustang has been completely redesigned inside and out. From the outside, it’s still recognizably a Mustang, but not in the horrible, retro way the previous generation was. The new Mustang looks thoroughly modern, and I quite like it, mostly. The gaping maw of the previous generation’s front grill has been replaced with a more understated design that still looks muscular, but modern.

From the rear, the styling is a bit more controversial. The three-bar taillights are still there, but there’s little else to catch the eye from the back. You might expect that there’d be some futuristic LED light display, or some flashy badging, instead of what there is, which is…nothing. The rear looks somehow blank and unfinished. It slopes oddly, too. 

2015 Ford Mustang

What makes the empty-looking rear of the Mustang even odder is that, elsewhere, the Mustang is festooned with pony badges to within an inch of its life. There are no less than twenty-three ponies galloping about the thing. Plus, when you park, lights on the underside of the side mirrors project a pony onto the ground on each side of the car. There’s even a special feature that ensures that, on cold mornings, when condensation gathers on the hood of the car, it won’t gather on one, otherwise invisible, pony-shaped spot in the center of the hood.

OK, OK, it’s a Mustang. We get it.

Prior to its release, Ford was rumored to have made the 2015 Mustang about eight inches shorter and 400 lbs lighter, with various outlets estimating a curb weight of around 3,300 lbs. Sadly, this did not happen, and the new Mustang GT actually weighs in at about 80 lbs. heavier than the 2014 model it replaces. Having said that, the addition of an independent rear suspension certainly added weight, so, clearly, there was significant weight loss somewhere else on the vehicle. Curb weight for the manual transmission GT is 3,704 lbs., while the automatic version is 3,727 lbs.

Inside, the Mustang truly is an entirely new car. Ford’s new design philosophy for the Mustang is that everything on the aviation-inspired interior will be made of the material it’s supposed to look like, instead of a cheap, plastic imitation of it. That’s a huge stride forward from the plastics-heavy interior of the 2014 model. While there’s still plenty of plastic on the interior, it’s been relegated to a secondary place, while other materials, like the brushed aluminum that covers the front of the dash, are given pride of place.

The seats, if you get the leather seat option—which, of course, you should—are buttery soft, supportive, and comfortable, without being too aggressively bolstered. The center console is still big, so there’s very much a small-car feeling inside, but unlike the 2014 Mustang, it feels snug, rather than cramped. Except, of course, for the back seats, which are still more of a styling exercise to keep insurance rates down than they are an example of actual seating. So it’s fortunate, then that the rear seats of the Mustang can be folded down to expose a full pass-through from the already generous trunk. The extra space for cargo adds a fair amount of practicality to the Mustang, as long as you need to make a Costco run, rather than seat more than 2 adults.

2015 Ford Mustang Interior

The center console is dominated by a large color screen, which provides the display for the sat-nav, rear-view camera and Ford Sync entertainment system. Honestly, I’m not a big fan of the Sync system. No one, except maybe Kia, has yet fully figured out how the in-car computer user interface is supposed to work. The Sync system is far too confusing and irritating to use, much like every other user interface in every other car. I can’t believe that car manufacturers have been working on in-car computer user interfaces for over a decade, and still can’t get it right. It’s like they’ve never even heard of Apple.

The driver’s instrument cluster is much cleaner, incorporating the now-standard Ford setup of tachometer on the right, speedometer on the left, and color information screen in the middle. Buttons slathered all over the steering wheel control both the center console and driver’s screens. The steering wheel itself is leather-covered, and fully adjustable, and slathered, as I mentioned, by buttons. Many, many buttons. Perhaps it’s necessary to have all those buttons, what with the built-in Bluetooth, hands-free calling, sat, nav, cruise control, and stereo entertainment system options. Still, it’s really a lot of buttons. Ford has even tacked extra bits onto the steering wheel to house buttons.

Visibility on the 2015 Mustang GT is about the same as the previous generation, which is to say, not great, but far better than, say, a Chevrolet Camaro or Dodge Challenger. The rear-view mirrors on either side of the car, which look fantastic from every other angle, seem oddly small when viewed from the driver’s seat, where they are supposed to, you know, show you things. There are integrated passing mirrors, which, while useful, make the remaining mirror surface seem even smaller.

Whatever minor complaints one can find about the interior of the 2015 Mustang, though, it’s clear that this is a far superior interior than the one sported by the 2014 model. The owner of the average Camaro SS should be wondering who needs to be tarred and feathered at GM to get an interior as nice as the Mustang’s.

How it drives

Ford is offering three engines in the 2015 Mustang. There is the 5.0l V8 in the GT which outputs 435 HP, a V6 with horsepower figures that literally no one cares about for Mustangs in rental-car spec, and a new 310 HP 2.3l EcoBoost 4-cylinder for the rest of the line-up. But, what’s the point of buying any Mustang but the GT spec if you want to be anything other than a poser? Sure, getting 310 HP from a 2.3l straight-4 is an impressive technical accomplishment. Other, similarly impressive technical accomplishments include the Segway and Foursquare. “Ah,” one thinks, “So, that can be done. Interesting. Now, let’s get the V8 motor.”

2015 Ford Mustang GT

Because, the thing is, when you get the Mustang GT, there’s simply gobs of power in every gear with 435 HP and 400 lb.-ft. of torque on tap. Unlike the 2014 Mustang, which seemed to be struggling against some sort of restraint in 1st gear, the 2015 Mustang is eager to lunge forward when the accelerator is pressed sharply. 

Engine noise is noticeable but a bit muted, as the sound-proofing in the cabin is really quite good. Driving a 2006 GTO as my daily driver has gotten me used to the louder, more aggressive exhaust notes, with lots of grunting and popping from the LS2 motor’s exhaust when letting up on the gas from high RPMs. The Mustang has none of that, with the more civilized 5.0l providing strong acceleration when needed, and a noticeable lack of dramatics otherwise.

I would’ve preferred to drive the manual transmission version of the Mustang GT—I’m a fan of Ford’s manual gearbox for it’s short, fast, positive throws. Sadly, some jerk grabbed it first, so I ended up with the 6-speed, shiftable automatic. Putting the Mustang GT in Sports mode gives you working access to the flappy-paddle shifters on either side of the steering wheel, but there’s no true manual mode in the Mustang. If you forget to downshift, the automatic kicks in and does it for you. Upshifts, however, allow you to run straight to the 6,500 RPM redline, though, again, the automatic system will kick in if necessary. When you do manually shift, though, the transmission is fairly quick to implement your inputs, without the irritating lag that some other shiftable automatics have.

There’s nothing really wrong with the automatic gearbox. In fact, you’d probably be better off just letting the transmission handle the shifting duties if you get the automatic version. Which you shouldn’t. This is a car that’s made for Ford’s 6-speed manual transmission, so man up and buy that one.

One interesting feature in the 2015 Mustang is a line lock button on the center console, which implements an electronic line lock without having to modify the Mustang’s brakes.  The line lock allows you to lock up the front wheels and do burnouts with your Pirelli P-Zero tires, in case you need to throw away large amounts of money. The line lock, along with the factory launch control, also enables you to drag race the Mustang GT in stock form, in case you don’t want to keep that troublesome Ford warranty, which is voided by drag racing. It’s almost as if Ford is intentionally tempting you to void the warranty, though they are totally not doing that.

2015 Ford Mustang GT Interior

And, really, who cares about drag racing, now that the Mustang has independent rear suspension? Now that IRS is a thing on Mustangs, what you really want to know is whether it attacks the corners properly. Well, though my driving while at the wheel of the Mustang GT was, at all times, conducted in a safe and legal manner, I can tell you that it will, in fact, turn corners quite well, indeed. Actually, the last-gen Mustang handled far better than any car with a solid rear axle had any business handling, though that still wasn’t great, and was occasionally terrifying at the limit, or in the vicinity of bumps in the road. The new Mustang handles better. Much better.

The addition of a new multi-link rear suspension also dictated replacing the front suspension with new, double-ball joint MacPherson struts. This has transformed the Mustang into a true sports car that can not only handle curves, but can also handle road imperfections as well. Gone is the paralyzing fear of encountering a bump or pothole in mid-curve that will send you hurtling off a mountain road into the Canyon of Trees and Fire. The wheels all stay on the ground now, making the Mustang far less terrifying at the limit, and giving lateral grip of 0.95g on the skid pad. The handling is confidence-inspiring in exactly the way the 2014 Mustang’s wasn’t.

In fact, handling is one of two things that Ford has really dialed in well on the 2015. Body roll in the corners is kept well in hand, while the suspension soaks up road imperfections with aplomb. The usual trade-off one generally encounters with performance cars is a suspension that keeps the car steady and level in the corners, but provides a spine-crackingly stiff ride in daily driving. Audi S4, I’m looking at you. Ford, on the other hand, seems to have learned the key lesson that getting the chassis sorted means that you don’t have to have a suspension system that was created by pouring concrete over rebar.

2015 Ford Mustang GT

The second thing that Ford has dialed in is the steering. Honestly, if you didn’t know this was an electrically assisted unit, you’d think it was a hydraulic system, at least in Sport mode. There’s noticeable resistance at speed, and you get a firm sense that the car will go where you’re steering it. Where the last-gen Mustang’s steering was numb, the 2015 Mustang steers and feels the way a sports car should. Sure, it’s a simulacrum of real feel, but it’s a Star-Trek-Next-Generation-holodeck level of simulation.

Braking is pretty good on the Mustang GT, with 4-piston disk brakes all ‘round. There was no noticeable brake fade under heavy use, and the ABS system works very well. But, if you get the GT Performance Package, you’ll also get upgraded Brembo brakes that are even better, and a Torsen limited-slip diff.

What’s good about it

The 2015 Mustang GT is simply light-years ahead of the previous generation’s Mustang. A new, more rigid chassis, completely new suspension, and upgraded 5.0l motor make the 2015 model a joy to drive. It rides and handles like a modern car, which, no matter how much electronic help Ford stuffed it with, the previous Mustang failed at doing. This is a massive improvement over any previous Mustang. The new interior is far better as well, with a more modern and upscale feel. There’s a surprising amount of cargo space with the back seats folded down.

What’s bad about it

The back seats are laughably cramped. There are more pony badges than are, strictly speaking, necessary. It will not be rare or hold its value particularly well, because there will be many of them made. There’s no true manual mode for the automatic transmission’s flappy paddles. The rear-view side mirrors seem a bit too small. It’s a heavier car than I’d like it to be.

Conclusion

There is much to like about the 2015 Ford Mustang GT. While some deranged purists may miss the class-leading, World War One technology of the solid rear axle, the rest of us will be happy with a car that’s far less terrifying at the limit—and with higher limits, as well.

For the first time in decades, the Mustang is truly a modern sports car. It’s not the best sports car you can buy, but it’s very nearly the best sports car you can buy for the money. In a world of $60,000 Audis, $70,000 Mercedes (Mercedeses? Mercedii? What is the plural of “Mercedes”?), or even $53,000 Camaros, the 2015 Mustang GT offers a very attractive value proposition.

Driving one, of course, will never have the cachet of, say, a BMW M6. But if you don’t mind being just another blue-collar, road hoodlum with a cheap, powerful Mustang, the 2015 Model is where you’ll want to put your money.

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2 Responses to Pony Express

  • I can’t believe that car manufacturers have been working on in-car computer user interfaces for over a decade, and still can’t get it right. It’s like they’ve never even heard of Apple.

    Car manufacturers are still in the phase of marketing where they think people buy based on lots of features. And they have to stick the control interface for those features somewhere, so they throw Hick’s Law to the winds.

    Getting to the intuitive simplicity offered by Apple means, among other things, attacking feature bloat and only offering features people actually use. The iPod is the canonical example – the first consumer device that succeeded by offering fewer features than the competition but with superior ease of use and elegant design.

    Or, if things just have to get above a certain level of complexity, good design requires putting the subset of features people routinely use into an intuitive, up-front design, and de-emphasizing the rest to reduce clutter and confusion. This is actually pretty hard work. First, you have to discover what features people actually use and under what circumstances they tend to use them. Then you must come up with a variety of designs to compete against one another, in evaluation with real people.

    Often, the design people like best is more expensive to implement, and we know how car makers are about cost cutting.

    My intuition is that the majority of car people (especially American ones) will never get it right, and the ultimate solution with either be piggy-backing on some voice recognition command system, or driverless cars will take us into such a different world that the makers will focus on designs that don’t have to concern themselves so much with driver distraction.

  • ” The extra space for cargo adds a fair amount of practicality to the Mustang, as long as you need to make a Costco run,”

    Costco? You…COMMIE!