The year 2014 was a lot of things. It was the year of sports vines, it was the year of the butt, it was the year of the red sneaker, and it was the year of Taylor Swift. It was also the year of the 2015 Ford Mustang. After the car debuted for the first time about a year ago, car writers like me were finally able to get behind the wheel of the completely redesigned effort from Ford. I had a full day with this beautiful new machine on the gorgeous twisty roads of California. Here are my observations:
LOVE: The Handling
The good people at Ford were smart enough to set up a drive route that included one of the most fantastic roads in the country: Angeles Crest Highway just outside of Los Angeles. And I was lucky enough to drive the GT model through said road. It was honestly one of the most incredibly fun driving experiences of my life. As with any new road I'm driving, I didn't go bonkers around the corners (No guard rails and steep cliffs? No thanks.), but I sat in third gear for most of the drive, maintaining around 50-60 mph. I also stayed in the stiffer "Sport" mode the entire time I was up in the mountains, and there wasn't a single moment when I thought I was in trouble.
This is a car that's going to give a lot of people confidence in their driving abilities. The steering is direct and spot-on responsive, I barely felt any body roll, and even in the stiffer mode, the new independent rear suspension made for a pretty smooth ride going over bumps. The car never felt like it was going to slip.
LOVE: The Position and Fit of the Cockpit
One of the worst parts of the Chevy Camaro is the fact that you kind of feel like you're getting swallowed inside. It's a larger, blocky car, and the seat positioning is not only low to the ground, it's low within the car itself. That's part of the reason, along with tiny windows, people complain about the visibility in Camaros. The Mustang didn't feel bulky at all. The seats are extremely comfortable for a sports car, the steering wheel is a great size, and the natural resting space for your right arm in relation to the shifter is damn near perfect. As a result of Ford making the car more "global," the size is sleeker, it's less upright, and that comes through in the driving position feeling more planted.
LOVE: The New Interior Styling
Much like the Chevrolet Corvette was a fantastic work of machinery with an interior that lagged behind the car's performance, the Mustang's interior up to this point has been somewhat blah. It was fine, but it wasn't the most pleasant place to spend a lot of time. The 2015 model is welcoming. It's more upscale but maintains a simplicity that some sports cars have lost in today's age of too many touchscreens, and an overload of buttons, electronics, and toggles. The aluminum trimmings aren't trying to hard, the steering wheel finally scopes, there's a normal parking brake (instead of an electric one), and the aviation-style switche on the bottom of the stack are awesome.
LOVE: That Face
The 2015 'Stang has been one of those cars that I like more and more every single time I see it, and I largely credit that to its mug. Judging by the headlight, fog lights, grille, and overall shape of the mouth, it's clear that this is a Mustang. But the lower, wider stance gives it an entirely different feel. The outgoing model was a little blocky. It was just so brute and upright, and one of the main focuses for 2015 was to get rid of that. The designers succeeded. If 2014 were a Great White shark, the 2015 is a Mako. It's more sneaky, but it also seems more handsome and mature. And the three-bar headlight inset that calls back to the first generation is one of my favorite feature on any car this year.
LOVE: The Pleasant Gem That Is the EcoBoost
When I tested the new Mustang, I was lucky enough to try both the 5.0 V8 GT and the 2.3L EcoBoost turbo-I4. The engineers, PR people, and designers, and pretty much everybody I talked to were all most excited for me to drive the EcoBoost. I just kept hearing from everybody, "oh, it's great, it's a huge surprise, a lot of people like it better than the V6, it's this, it's that." Like with anything that I'm told over and over again is great, I was still skeptical. With the GT in parentheses, here are the specs of each model: 310 horsepower (435), 320 lb-ft of torque (400), and 21/32 MPG (15/25).
The first thing to note is the sound. Obviously, with a turbo, you're going to hear a whistle, which, when you're driving a Mustang, is pretty weird to get used to. Once you get passed that, you hear the actual noise from the engine, which Ford noted is enhanced. Through a system called Active Noise Control, "engine sound" is pumped into the cabin through the speakers. This amplifies the actual engine noise and helps damper any rough sounds coming from outside the car. The entire time I was driving this thing, I was trying to think of a way to describe exactly how it sounds, but I couldn't nail down one specific adjective. It didn't sound weak to me, but it also didn't sound muscular. If I had to use one word, I guess it would be "full."
I need to point out one thing some people also might not realize and is kind of a bummer: Ford recommends the EcoBoost drinks premium 93-octane fuel. So some people who would only be getting the turbo-four because they think they're going to save a huge amount of money might want to rethink. The 3.7L V6 gets 17/28, so there's still a significant difference in gas mileage, but that's 17/28 with regular gas.
As for how it drove, this car is quite pleasant. Driving this guy immediately after the GT was obviously a downgrade, but I wasn't disappointed at all. The low-end torque gives it a nice jump, and the mid-range power is decent. However, once you get onto the highway around 70-80 mph, you could definitely tell it was getting a little cushy. The braking on both this model and the 5.0 was great. The clutch on both models demands quite a bit of effort for a hard push, but the shifting is smooth. I'd say the EcoBoost is certainly deserving of the 'Stang badge
NOT THE BEST: The Idle Sound of the GT
I love engine sounds. If you're buying a 5.0L car, there's a great probability you do as well. And the 2015 Mustang has a great engine sound ... when you're driving it. When I got to a stop light, I put the window down and was slightly disappointed that my ears weren't greeted with that sweet tune more aggressively. Kick it up, Ford! Let everybody know they're next to the steel embodiment of American pie!
NOT THE BEST: Driver's-Side Blind Spot Visibility
No computer flashing a light at me or verbally assaulting my eardrums is going to get me to stop physically craning my head over my left shoulder to check a blind spot when I'm turning or switching lanes. It's just not going to happen, ESPECIALLY when I'm driving a brand new car that is not mine. I still don't fully trust backup cameras either. I have to see with my own eyes. Unfortunately, my eyes had difficulty seeing the driver's-side blind spot when I tried to look. That's the expense of that sexy fastback, which I'd probably say is still worth it.
NOT THE BEST: The Butt
I love the 3D tail lamps, but that's about where it ends for me with the rear of this car. It looks fine from directly straight behind it, but the side and three-quarter angle just don't look finished to me. I feel like it doesn't match the rest of the car. The front is angular and cut. The backside looks kind of bulbous in person. Don't get me wrong, I think the overall package is great, but I think the last quarter could have been better shaped.
I'm a Camaro guy, and this is probably the first Mustang that I would legitimately consider buying. Your move, Chevy.