Here I am behind the wheel of the next generation 2015 Ford Mustang, driving on some of the most challenging canyon roads just outside of Los Angeles, and all I can think about is kicking that tail out and powersliding the 'Stang with white smoke filling up those rear arches. All this while the California Highway Patrol try to chase me down, hot pursuit-style.
Maybe watching Need For Speed just before driving this bad boy wasn't such a great idea after all.
Galloping through the years and to new markets
Let's rewind to December of 2013.
Ford has just held the simultaneous international reveal of the next generation Mustang; the sixth overall since the nameplate was conceived 50 years ago in Dearborn, Michigan.
The Ford Mustang raced on to become an automotive icon with sales reaching more than 9.2 million examples over 5 generations. This year the Mustang starts on an entirely new platform that will start the model's next half century as a proper modern sports coupe that pays homage to the iconic 'pony' with futuristic design cues, advanced technology and modern-day driving dynamics.
As part of its all-new platform, key elements include the new independent rear suspension and 4-cylinder EcoBoost engine option. We’re pretty sure the four-cylinder engine will certainly be subject to much debate on the new Mustang. What’s also particularly interesting about the sixth-generation Mustang is that it will also be available in right-hand-drive from the factory which means countries like the UK, Australia, and our ASEAN neighbors will get it for their markets.
For the global market, the Mustang will be available with two engines: one is a 2.3-liter EcoBoost while the other one is the classic 5.0-liter V8 for top-spec GT variants. Today we get to drive both.
As common as Mustangs are in Los Angeles (where we drove the cars), the new-generation lives up to the reputation of the previous models as attention go-getters. From a subtle thumbs up to people actually coming over to ask about the car and whipping out their smartphones to snap a photo or two, the sixth generation Mustang is one good looking pony.
The exterior was penned by Bosnian Kemal Curić, who was assigned Mustang Design Manager after his sketch won an internal design competition. It draws heavy inspiration from the Evos concept’s 'One Ford' design language launched at the 2011 Frankfurt Motor Show by former Design Chief J Mays; a team which Curic was also a part of.
Despite its seemingly larger size, the new Mustang is just as long as its predecessor and sits on the same 2720mm wheelbase. The car does get a mere 2mm extension in length, but the important detail is that Ford's pony car is significantly wider at 1915mm and sits lower at 1382mm.
The slimmer headlights with tri-bar LED daytime running lights complements the wider and lower car very well. More tri-bar LEDs are used for the tail lights which have a sequential function for signaling. Giving focus to that modern Mustang signature; during the day or especially at night.
Personally, I liked how the Mustang has evolved into a modern machine. Unusually there's a bit of a European vibe as evidenced by the slimmer front, the sharper edges, the low-slung stance and a strong character line that gives it an illusion of a longer body. What we liked are how the iconic Mustang features like the grill and tri-bar tail lamps remain with a few tweaks. The color-keyed rear diffuser does give that extra appeal from behind particularly on Mustangs painted in brighter colors like orange, red and yellow.
Again, judging by the reactions from the streets of Hollywood, Ford's new Mustang seems to be unanimously getting the seal of approval. And yes, especially from the ladies; and my co-driver seems to be enjoying the attention too, just don't tell his wife.
Don't forget to smile if you drive one of these.
The cockpit and cabin
As you settle in the driver’s seat you’ll be welcomed by an aircraft-inspired cockpit with the aptly-themed speedometer to boot. The modern design cues on the interior give quite the grand tourer feel but still evokes the signature ambience of the iconic pony car nameplate. The toggles and knobs could very well have been lifted from a vintage aircraft and are very well laid out.
Ergonomics were greatly improved and the seats seemed to be more 'internationalized' to accommodate people who aren't that gifted vertically (i.e. like myself). The standard seats were quite comfortable for the daily cruise and traffic ordeal. They weren't as bolstered as the optional Recaro leather sport seats for more spirited driving duties and track days.
Seating is still in a 2+2 configuration, although the American +2 does indeed fit 2 adults at the back, so don't expect an invitation from the Manila Sports Car Club just yet.
Of course Ford would not let their latest Mustang out of the stable without some high tech toys. The expected features are there like a smart key with push button ignition, the electronically selectable performance modes, and Track Apps, among others.
What is most intriguing is the drive mode selector, as it gives the driver a choice between Normal driving (for dawdling along in the city), Wet/Snow (for tricky conditions, aggressive traction/stability control), Sport (aggressive shifting and relaxed traction control), and Track (instant engine response, aggressive shifting for trackday use). Also, the electrically assisted steering can be adjusted in terms of “feel” to Normal, Comfort and Sport.
The most fun feature has to be the Track Apps, as it gives the driver an array of little electronic applications to play with while on a racetrack such as a virtual drag racing light system, measurements such as 0-60 mph, launch control and even electronic line lock for the Mustang GT variants.
There's also the new Active Noise Cancellation system which blocks out the frequency of excessive exterior wind and road noise, making sure you get to enjoy more of the sweet music from the engines that the Mustang has to offer.
The Ford SYNC system takes a bit of getting used to as I found it to be quite sluggish on response. While Ford has revealed earlier this year that they're ditching the SYNC-based systems in favor of the new Blackberry QNX, this won’t see fruition until maybe the updated version. With the numerous complaints about the voice command of other similarly equipped models, we didn’t bother to try this one out. The 'Shaker' system came with the EcoBoost and GT variants we drove; bias aside, the standard system on the 2013 Ford Ranger sounds just as nice even without a subwoofer.
For safety, it comes with a blind spot monitor, cross traffic alert, and adaptive cruise control in addition to the functions inherited from its predecessor, but really, are those the features you wanted us to talk about?
Let's get to what at the heart of Ford's thoroughbred then.
EcoBoost: This ain't My Little Pony
Depending on the market, the Mustang will have a maximum of three engine choices with either a 5.0-liter V8, a 3.7-liter V6 or a 2.3-liter EcoBoost engine, the last one being a key addition to the line.
For those who remember, the third generation Mustang (1979 to 1993) was made available with a turbocharged four-cylinder engine. Now, twenty years after that model, Ford brings back a new generation 2.3-liter inline-4 turbo for the Mustang.
We know what you're thinking: a four-cylinder would certainly send Mustang purists out crying foul, and call this sixth generation as 'My Little Pony', but take note, this EcoBoost pony does pack quite a punch.
The new direct-injection 4-cylinder comes hot on the heels of a successful EcoBoost lineup which powers models like the EcoSport, Explorer, and Fiesta. Ford says the 2.3-liter EcoBoost motor makes an impressive 314 PS at 5500 rpm and 434 Nm of torque at 3000 rpm with its Honeywell-supplied twin-scroll turbo and advanced direct injection. Based on our drive of it, it's got the power to offset the growl of the V6 and then some.
I prodded the throttle of the 2015 Mustang EcoBoost, and instantly the power was there. Despite having to propel a heavy car (when compared to, say, a Toyota 86), the Mustang EcoBoost was very responsive. We had this variant paired with a six-speed automatic going up the canyon roads up to Newcomb's Ranch and it surely did not disappoint.
The lighter powerplant and transmission (78 kg for the M/T, 93 kg for the A/T) was a definite plus, making the car more agile. The automatic does shift smoothly which is always well appreciated at low speed city driving conditions. It's not particularly bad either on the open road; but we really think they should have gone for gold and fitted a proper six-speed dual clutch automatic.
The twin-scroll turbo meant minimal spool-up time giving virtually lag free power, although it's not as seamless as a naturally aspirated big block V8 and guess what...
The Mustang V8 GT is up next.
V8: Toys for the Big Boys
Ford didn't just leave the Coyote 5.0-liter V8 engine as-is. Through further development, engineers have managed to extract 15 PS more power and 14 Nm more torque with various improvements. As a result, the new Mustang now makes 441 PS at 6500 rpm and 542 Nm at 4250 rpm. The best thing about this Mustang V8 that we're driving? It was paired with a six-speed manual gearbox.
As expected, the V8 GT has all the power and torque you'd want readily available on tap. With just a prod of the pedal you've got plenty of horses sprinting off the line and generating instant pull. And that sound you hear isn't some rice-rockety aftermarket muffler. All that growling is emanating from the engine bay as the air rushes into the cylinders, reminding you that you're driving real American muscle and not some Japanese sports coupe.
The clutch on the manual transmission felt a bit firm given the abuse these cars have been subjected to prior to our drive; we were the seventh and final batch of testers. While firm, it still isn't racing clutch hard and was bearable even in stop-and-go Los Angeles traffic.
Independent rear suspension: now a handler, no longer a handful
Perhaps one of the most revolutionary changes to the Mustang is in the back, as Ford has finally given in to pressure and adapted their traditionally live-axle steed to use modern independent rear suspension.
Ford's engineers also went on to introduce significant improvements to the front suspension with double ball joints and a host of other upgrades.
With this, the Mustang can now definitely be associated with the term 'carving corners' as it took on the bends going up and down the canyon roads we drove on. It would be interesting to note that ride comfort was not ignored as it handled bumps and uneven roads with ease. This upgrade in suspension will be the key ingredient that the 2015 Mustang needs to take on markets like Europe and Asia.
Performance pack option
While the exact specs for the Philippines hasn’t been finalized, we were given a preview of what the performance package option might look like. It gives Recaro sport seats, larger diameter brake rotors with 4-pot front calipers, stiffer chassis tuning, sport suspension, exclusive 19-inch 'Ebony black' wheels, re-tuned steering, ABS and stability control, close ratio rear axle with limited slip, 'spoiler delete', a gauge pack, and aluminum interior 'dinoc' trim. The GT additionally gets a Torsen rear LSD, and 6-pot Brembo calipers up front.
The big question: Turbo or V8?
A new question beckons: is the EcoBoost better than the V8?
Globally the EcoBoost 2.3-liter would be a very popular choice, even for the Philippines. Those into tuning in particular, as one of the engineers shared with us, is that Honeywell (through Garrett) is coming out with new aftermarket turbos specifically for the new Mustang. But you can't discount the hardcore Mustang buyers who'd want their V8 growl for true red, white and blue 'American Muscle' feel.
Sit on the driver's seat and press the start button and you'll definitely notice the lack of a better growl with the EcoBoost which gives a purr that sounds like a tuned Ford Focus when compared to the V8. But don't let the sound fool you; go full throttle and you'll see what we mean. Still, there's no replacement for displacement as the V8 doubles the growl at more than double the engine.
Either way you go with the 2015 Ford Mustang, you know you've made a winner of a choice... just be prepared to pay a bit more for speeding tickets.