For historical purposes, mark the year 2015 not only as the 50th anniversary of Ford's famous pony car -- the Mustang -- but also as the year it morphs into an all-out thoroughbred.
Oh, you can still call it a pony car, or a muscle car, or an exemplar of old-school performance Detroit iron. But those now are outdated descriptions.
That's because the all-new 2015 Ford Mustang not only is powerful, it is also nimble, sure-footed, and as easily guided and controlled as, say, the small Mazda MX-5 Miata. Much of that comes from the incorporation, for the first time in its five decades, of an independent rear suspension, along with a new front suspension.
No doubt this might offend traditionalists who have clung to the old prairie schooner-style solid rear axle for these many years. But the truth is the new suspension, along with a powerful turbocharged four-cylinder engine and other enhancements, have transformed this pony into a graceful thoroughbred.
Everything works in concert to deliver an exhilarating driving experience. Toggle switches on the center stack enable the driver to personalize preferences for steering, throttle response, and ride.
The tightest setting is called track mode (for owners who might want to flog their Mustangs around racetracks on weekends). But the suspension is so well calibrated that it still absorbs road imperfections without getting unsettled. It's a joy on a twisting mountain road.
For cruising around town, you'd select the comfort and/or normal settings, and even wet/snow for foul conditions -- welcome because of the Mustang's rear-wheel drive. Overall, there are enough selections to satisfy anybody's driving style.
The 2015 Mustang, with its traditional long hood and short rear deck, also comes with attractive new fastback styling that flows without any jarring deviations -- unlike the ugly original fastback of the late 1960s, which had a sloped roofline grafted clumsily onto a car that was designed as a notchback coupe and convertible.
Inside, the dashboard, center stack, and instruments are "redesign-inspired," according to the designers by the 1967 Mustang. The speedometer and tachometer nestle in deep circular pods with traditional toggle switches, knobs, and buttons on the center console to control functions and connectivity.
One of the indications of the Mustang's growth into a mature sports car is that it qualifies as a "plus two," meaning that it has a vestigial back seat suitable only for small children -- and even then the front seats must be moved forward to accommodate their skinny legs.
Another sports car characteristic is the Mustang's total interior volume of 98 cubic feet, which puts it in the government's subcompact category. That includes passenger space of 84.5 cu.-ft. with a well finished and useful trunk of 13.5 cu.-ft.
A Mustang worthy of the name must have a V-8 engine and the 2015 model obliges with a 435-horsepower, 5.0-liter powerplant that also delivers 400 lb.-ft. of low-rpm twisting force. It is mated to either a six-speed manual gearbox or a six-speed automatic. A 300-horsepower, 3.7-liter V-6 engine also is available.
But the big news is the 310-horsepower, 2.3-liter four-cylinder turbo. This EcoBoost engine pumps out 320 lb.-ft. of torque and returns 26 combined mpg. That version, with a premium package that includes 19-inch black aluminum wheels, summer performance tires, and Recaro racing seats, is the focus of this review.
Although most customers likely will choose the optional ($1,195) six-speed automatic transmission -- and will not be disappointed -- our test car features the enthusiast-oriented tactile six-speed manual. It shifts easily and intuitively, abetted by a clutch that engages smoothly without any tendency to grab unexpectedly.
The EcoBoost four-banger exhibits no turbo lag. Though it doesn't have the neck-snapping surge of the V-8, the power comes on steadily and smoothly, facilitating easy rev matching for up and down shifts.
Fortunately, the 2015 Mustang is not outrageously expensive, given its performance level. Pricing for the 2015 Mustang lineup starts at $23,600. The test car with the EcoBoost engine, performance package, and such other enhancements as adaptive cruise control, wears a sticker price of $38,455, up from its base price of $29,170.
It may seem patriotic to hail the attributes of this Made-in-America sports car but, the truth is, it can hold its own with just about anything from around the world
Copyright © 2014 Motor Matters
|Base price||$29,170 (as tested: $38,455)|
|Curb weight||3,532 lbs.|
|Engine type||16-valve EcoBoost 4-cyl. w/DI|
|Epa mileage rating||22 mpg city, 31 mpg highway|
|Fuel capacity||15.5 gal.|
|Horsepower (net)||310 at 5500 rpm|
|Overall length||188.3 in.|
|Torque (lb.-ft.)||320 at 2500 rpm|
|Vehicle type||4-passenger RWD midsize fastback coupe|
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