The Ford Mustang is a storied slice of Americana and set the auto industry alight when it debuted 50 years ago. The pressure was on Ford to roll out something special for this anniversary, and by all accounts it succeeded. The redesigned 2015 Mustang is more refined and makes significant handling improvements, yet it retains all of the character that has made it an American icon.
The big news for the latest-generation 2015 Ford Mustang is the elimination of its antiquated solid rear axle in favor of an independent rear suspension. In layman's terms, the ride quality is smoother and it can tackle curves (especially bump-filled curves) with more composure. Exterior styling has also undergone some significant changes, though it still pays homage to the Mustang's history.
This time around, the Mustang's rear window stretches farther back, almost to the tip of the trunk lid. The result is a tail that is reminiscent of the late 1960s fastback that Steve McQueen made famous in Bullitt. Up front, the headlight and grille restyling is subtle, with both stretched horizontally across its face. Dimensionally the 2015 Mustang is wider and rides a little lower than before, but proportionally the differences are negligible.
This road test focuses squarely on the burly V8-powered Mustang GT, but the other significant addition for 2015 is a new EcoBoost turbocharged four-cylinder that produces more power than the base model's V6, yet returns 20 percent better fuel economy.
How Much Does It Cost?
Prices for the base model V6 Mustang start at $24,425. Stepping up to the EcoBoost four-cylinder turbo will cost $25,995. The V8-powered GT will set you back $32,925. Our GT-trim test car grows the price another $4,000. For the additional outlay, you get an upgraded audio system, leather upholstery, selectable drive modes and heated and cooled front seats.
Piled on top of our GT Premium Mustang test vehicle were the 401A Equipment package (premium audio and blind-spot and cross traffic alerts); GT Performance package (19-inch wheels with summer tires, Brembo brakes, sport suspension tuning, a 3.73 rear axle ratio, engine-turned aluminum interior trim, additional gauges and Recaro sport seats); Enhanced Security package; adaptive cruise control; rear parking sensors; navigation; and the Premier Trim with Color Accent option. This lavishly appointed six-speed manual Mustang's as-tested price rose to an uncomfortable $45,885.
How Does It Drive?
With a press of the moderately heavy clutch pedal and a tap of the start button, the 5.0-liter V8 rumbles to life with a muffled growl. First gear is a nudge away with the short-throw shifter, but there's no positive click to confirm the position. The action is on the rubbery side, but it's not vague.
Once under way, the engine provides plenty of power right off idle but the sensation of speed is curtailed by the relative silence. Wind and road noise are distinctly absent, and the GT's big V8 offers little more than a low burble. On long road trips this is a plus, but for those who desire the theater and brashness of previous Mustangs, it may be a bit of a letdown. The brake pedal was unusually sensitive thanks to the optional Brembo brakes. We adjusted, but it took some time.
Steering response is also notably quick, very precise and predictable. Effort is three-way adjustable (Comfort, Normal, Sport) via a toggle switch on the center stack. Even in Sport mode, steering effort wasn't too heavy when maneuvering in tight spaces. There are also selectable drive modes that progressively sharpen throttle response and dial back stability and traction control.
In normal city driving, the Mustang places few demands on its driver. Our manual-transmission car was easy to drive, so the automatic-equipped cars will be even easier. Rear visibility is excellent for the segment, so backing into a parking space is relatively stress-free and the standard rearview camera removes any remaining guesswork. As a testament to the new independent rear suspension, broken pavement is now smoothed over with admirable results — even with the stiffer GT Performance package. The new Mustang glides with barely an acknowledgement over rough roads where the previous solid-axle car would shimmy and skip.
Is It Fun To Drive?
In the face of its newfound refinement, this is still an entertaining Mustang. In testing, it reached 60 mph in 4.7 seconds on its way to a 13.0-second quarter-mile at 111.2 mph. Despite increases of 15 horsepower and 10 pound-feet of torque (now 435 hp and 400 lb-ft) over the outgoing car, it didn't accelerate faster than the last solid-axle Mustang we tested.
It's likely the new car's 132 additional pounds and the independent rear suspension (drag racers still prefer the solid rear axle) are the culprits here. Launch control is standard on manual-transmission-equipped 2015 Mustang GTs, but as we discovered, it allowed too much wheelspin to be effective.
Braking from 60 mph required 108 feet, which is 5 feet shorter than its predecessor. In our handling tests, the new Mustang zigzagged through the slalom at 68.3 mph and circled the skid pad pulling 0.92g. — also results that aren't much better than previous Mustangs. But it's in the manner in which these numbers are achieved, and indeed how this car drives in the real world, where the differences become significant.
We're accustomed to Mustangs that require us to work around the shortcomings of the solid axle. The consequence was a need to wait before laying into the throttle. The new rear suspension allows earlier power application and provides a surplus of grip. Even midcorner bumps matter little as the limits are approached. Getting the rear end out of sorts now requires exaggerated and deliberate action.
How Is the Interior?
Improvements to the 2015 Mustang don't stop at performance or sheet metal. The new cabin also received a restyling while retaining much of its predecessor's flavor. The twin-hooded dash returns, but many of the old squared-off shapes have been rounded over and the quality of materials is improved.
Our test vehicle came equipped with the optional Recaro sport seats that provided excellent lateral support, but weren't perfect for every body shape. Thigh support (thanks to a seat bottom that won't angle upward enough) is lacking. Some longer-limbed drivers also noted that their elbows occasionally bumped the aggressive side bolsters. The rear seats, unfortunately, are barely adequate for small children.
From the driver's point of view, the cockpit is much more usable this time around. The analog gauges are actually legible and the information display is clear. Notably absent, however, is a digital speedometer. Buttons, knobs and switches all have a sturdier premium feel and the toggles for stability control, steering effort and drive modes have a cool factor all their own.
Unfortunately, the MyFord Touch infotainment system remains an object of derision. Besides the lingering slow response, some features, like the rearview camera, worked only part of the time. Our unit refused to play music from any external device, and the Sync voice activation was unresponsive.
On the whole, though, the new Mustang's interior still represents a big step forward. Outward visibility is excellent compared to its competition and the quietness and refinement of the cabin should attract even more buyers. Cargo space is acceptable, too, with a 13.5-cubic-foot capacity that essentially splits the difference between its main competitors.
What Kind of Fuel Economy Does It Get?
According to EPA estimates, the 2015 Mustang GT is rated at 19 mpg combined (15 city/25 highway), regardless of whether you choose a manual or automatic transmission. On our highway-heavy evaluation loop, we managed to achieve 21 mpg, but that took an inordinate amount of restraint. The Mustang is far too entertaining to drive that conservatively, which explains our overall average of 13.9 mpg.
For those seeking better fuel economy, the four-cylinder EcoBoost Mustang is estimated at 26 mpg combined and the V6 is rated at 22 mpg.
What Safety Features Are Offered?
Standard safety features for all 2015 Ford Mustangs include front-seat side airbags, a driver knee airbag, side curtain airbags (on coupes only), stability and traction control, a post-crash alert system and a rearview camera. Options include rear parking sensors, adaptive cruise control with frontal collision warning, a blind-spot monitor and rear cross-traffic alert.
What Are Its Closest Competitors?
Chevrolet Camaro: The Mustang's arch-nemesis. In terms of performance, it's a virtual dead heat, but in execution the Mustang pulls ahead. The Camaro's visibility and convenience are somewhat compromised by its aggressive styling. A redesigned Camaro may be unveiled next year. Unfortunately, brand allegiance too often determines this choice.
Dodge Challenger: Bigger, more practical and more comfortable, the Dodge Challenger received a significant refresh for 2015. It's the only muscle car that can actually fit passengers in the back, and its trunk is positively huge by comparison. Its size does hamper performance, but as a boulevard cruiser it's hard to top the Challenger's road presence.
Why Should You Consider This Car?
Few cars offer the 2015 Ford Mustang's bang for the buck. With this all-new model, you also get more refinement and on-road composure than ever before. If fun is a priority, the Mustang GT is a solid pick.
Why Should You Think Twice About This Car?
If practicality drives your purchase decision, the 2015 Ford Mustang is a poor choice. The lack of rear passenger space is the strongest case against it no matter how you try to justify it. For those with a healthier appetite for performance, a Shelby GT350 is in the works but may be at least a year away.
The manufacturer provided Edmunds this vehicle for the purposes of evaluation.