Remember all those rumors that the 2015 Ford Mustang was going to be smaller, tidier, dramatically more shrink-wrapped? Just plain wrong, on all counts. It turns out that although it's built on a new platform, the 2015 Mustang follows in the footsteps left by its predecessors.
And that's really the point: The new Mustang is a car with global ambitions, and changing the plot would have been a colossally risky move. After all, this is a car of which 9 million units have sold over a continuous 50-year period. You don't mess with that kind of track record.
That's not to say that the new Mustang is simply more of the same. On the contrary, it introduces some of the most noteworthy changes to the fabled pony car since its introduction in 1964. The company gave us an early look at the 2015 Ford Mustang and shared the skinny on some of its particulars during a closed-door, no-cameras-allowed briefing in Dearborn, Michigan.
Here's Where It's Bigger and Where It's Not
Fundamentally, the new Mustang's major dimensions are very similar to those of the outgoing car. Its wheelbase is an identical 107.1 inches, its front track measurement is carried over and at 188.3 inches the overall length is essentially unchanged. The new car then goes its own way, sitting 1.4 inches lower and 1.5 inches wider. Compared to today's GT, front track increases by almost an inch, while the rear track expands by nearly 3 inches.
Perhaps the still-ample dimensions of the new car are no surprise, since the Mustang has historically enjoyed tremendous popularity in part for its useful backseat and everyday functionality. Dramatically downsizing the car would have been embraced by driving enthusiasts but is anathema to casual buyers and fleet sales.
Weight reduction measures have been minimal. Aluminum fenders replace the current car's steel, but otherwise the 2015 Mustang employs a steel-intensive unibody construction. Ford's lips are sealed regarding curb weight other than to point out that the new car has a lot more feature content than the old car, which is code for "It's heavier." Our guess is that the new car will gain about 100 pounds, which would place the GT model in the low 3,700-pound range.
Its Worst-Kept Secret Now Confirmed
Taking the Ford Mustang onto a global stage meant finally ditching its live axle rear suspension. That low roar you hear is the sound of Mustang die-hards across the nation weeping into their pillows. Sorry, fellas, but as capable as the Mustang's live axle had become after years of tweaking, there's simply no getting around the physics of its excessive unsprung weight and the attendant impact on ride quality and bump sensitivity.
By adopting an independent rear suspension, the 2015 Mustang is said to have twice the anti-dive and twice the anti-squat characteristics of the old car. And since the engineers were starting with a clean sheet, the new car's suspension geometry avoids the packaging compromises that afflicted the '99 Mustang Cobra's independent rear. Ford officials are quick to point out that the new rear suspension was developed specifically for the Mustang and is unrelated to any existing Ford product.
The MacPherson strut front suspension geometry is philosophically similar to the outgoing car, though dual ball joints have been added in the pursuit of steering precision and front-end grip. While nobody outside of Ford has driven the new car yet, its handling character is said to be more capable and confidence-inspiring than ever, particularly when the limits of the tires' adhesion are being explored.
A V6, a V8 and...
Three engines will be offered. The base engine will be the 3.7-liter V6 from today's Mustang, apparently with a few tweaks, given that Ford's projections of 300 horsepower and 270 pound-feet of torque are each a bit lower than the same engine in the current car.
A massaged version of the 5.0-liter V8 tops the range in the GT model, now boasting new cams with 1mm more intake lift and 2mm more lift on the exhaust side, new heads with slightly larger valves and a revised intake manifold with tumble control valves. It also receives the connecting rods and valve springs from the current Boss 302 engine. The sum total of these changes brings its output to...well, Ford's only saying that it will eclipse the 420 hp and 390 lb-ft of the current V8. We expect it will pick up 20 hp and 10 lb-ft of torque.
Slotting between the V6 and the V8 is the most significant development in the world of Mustang outside of the independent rear suspension: a turbocharged, direct-injected EcoBoost 2.3-liter four-cylinder. Its major hook? V6-trumping power and "significantly better" efficiency.
The official line today is that the EcoBoost 2.3 will develop more than 305 hp at 5,500 rpm and in excess of 300 lb-ft of torque between 2,500 and 4,500 rpm on 87 octane, though our sources indicate the peak output will land in the neighborhood of 330 hp. It's an undersquare layout (3.5-inch bore and 3.7-inch stroke) with 9.5:1 compression ratio and a twin-scroll Honeywell turbo that bolts directly to the head, sans traditional exhaust manifold (the exhaust runners are integrated and paired directly in the head casting itself).
We're told that the new car's weight distribution is slightly less nose-heavy, especially with the lighter EcoBoost four-cylinder up front. All three engines will be available with a new Getrag six-speed manual gearbox or a paddle-shiftable six-speed automatic complete with rev-matched downshifts. The manual box's new internals are said to provide smoother shifts, while the automatic has less parasitic loss and the ability to handle more torque than the outgoing one.
If All That Horsepower Isn't Enough for You
Another intriguing wrinkle is an optional Performance Pack option for the EcoBoost engine. It adds the 14-inch, four-piston fixed-caliper brakes from the V8-equipped GT model, as well as a shorter 3.55:1 final-drive ratio (3.15 gears are standard). Summer tires measuring 255/40 and 19-by-9-inch wheels also find their way under the fenders.
The Performance Pack for GT models includes monstrous six-piston brake calipers and 15-inch discs, a shorter 3.73:1 Torsen limited-slip rear end, engine and gearbox coolers and aerodynamic aids. The same front wheels and tires found in the EcoBoost Performance Pack are included here, though the rear end gets even larger 9.5-inch-wide wheels and 275/40 tires on GT models.
A Design Inspired by the Mustang's Golden Era
Although the sheet metal changes are comprehensive, the new car's styling is evolutionary rather than revolutionary, probably a smart move considering the risks of getting too clever with such an iconic nameplate. Inspiration was drawn heavily from the '69 Mustang, arguably the best starting point from which to divine Mustang inspiration. The end result is a car that is instantly recognizable as a Mustang. And in a good way, not in a Mustang II way.
Styling elements considered "inviolable" by the design team included the tri-bar taillights (yes, they will still do the silly blink-in-succession thing), the fastback shape and a pronounced sharklike nose. A lower roof, hood and significantly lower deck lid reduce visual bulk, and the driver's hip point has been lowered nearly an inch. Also note that the body-color "hockey stick" B-pillar of today's car has been blacked out for 2015.
The wider rear track really adds visual gravity to the aft end of the 2015 Mustang, and this characteristic is magnified by larger dash-to-axle measurement. By moving the base of the A-pillar rearward a hair and adding pronounced rear haunches, the car's rear-wheel-drive nature is emphasized in a way the old car's slab sides and thin hips could never achieve. A voluptuous Mustang? Certainly it is more curvaceous than ever.
Why Wasn't the Mustang's Cabin This Good Before?
The cabin has been brought fully up to date, too. A smaller-diameter steering wheel has been fitted and the bits that look like brushed aluminum are indeed brushed aluminum. The shifter has been moved closer to the driver, the cupholders have been skooched out of the way and the side mirrors no longer attach at the window corner, improving visibility. Keyless entry is standard and adaptive cruise will be available, and more aggressive Recaro seats are a stand-alone option.
We sat in a prototype buck equipped with the new cabin and found the new surroundings a pleasant upgrade in every way. The acres of hard plastic and goofy skinny-font gauges are gone, and the steering wheel simply feels more expensive in your hands. And in the it's-about-time category, the wheel adjusts for reach and tilt rather than tilt-only in the existing car. On paper, the head- and legroom are reduced a bit up front, but the wider cabin gives front and rear passengers a bit more space to swing their elbows and the cargo area comes with a user-friendly 2-inch reduction in liftover height.
Three interior color schemes (black, stone and brown) and 10 exterior hues will be available at launch. Among those are orange, yellow and a compelling new green-gray shade called Guard.
We also clapped our eyes on the convertible version of the 2015 Mustang, which looks more elegant than ever. The beltline is terrifically clean, and the softened rear haunches play nicely with a bespoke deck lid. Its fabric top has a single center latch and is stowed by the electric motor in 7 seconds, half the time of the old car.
How Much Will It Cost?
You'll be able to see the 2015 Ford Mustang in person at January's Detroit auto show before it rolls into dealer showrooms next fall.
Pricing hasn't been announced, but it's a safe bet that it'll be incrementally more expensive than today's car. Big increases aren't anticipated because, after all, the Mustang's core values are rooted in its accessibility. But don't look at us to hazard a guess and risk spreading a rumor.
2015 Ford Mustang
2014 Ford Mustang
5.0-liter V8 (440 hp est.)
3.7-liter V6 (300 hp est.)
2.3-liter Turbo I4 (>305 hp)
5.0-liter V8 (420 hp)
3.7-liter V6 (305 hp)
MacPherson strut with dual balljoints
Live axle with Panhard bar
V6: est. 3,600
Ecoboost: est. 3,575
GT: est. 3,700
Edmunds attended a manufacturer-sponsored event, to which selected members of the press were invited, to facilitate this report.