2015 Mustang coupe|First drive in Ford’s newest pony

2015 Mustang coupe|First drive in Ford’s newest pony

2015 Mustang GT

2015 Mustang GT

BY Bob Gritzinger, Contributor | @bobgritzinger

Before introducing the 2015 Mustang, Ford did a great job of reminding us of the iconic pony car’s glorious 50-year history, showing off a collection at the Petersen Museum in Los Angeles that included a Mustang from each of the car’s five generations since its introduction in 1964. And then we drove away into the future—a not-so-distant future on the calendar, considering the 2015 Mustang coupe hits dealerships while the leaves are turning and the convertible arrives by year’s end. But it might as well be light years considering the leap the sixth-generation Mustang represents on the car’s evolutionary scale.

Let’s start with the obvious, the lower, wider, fastback styling that gives the car a Nissan 370Z-like profile while retaining all the muscle in front and rear views, from the wide-open shark grille and long creased hood to the prominent exhaust outlets and traditional triple-lens taillights. It’s a look that’s both refreshingly new and historically reaffirming.

2015 Ford Mustang GT

2015 Ford Mustang GT

Under the sheet metal is where things get really exciting. The 2015 Mustang represents a huge engineering leap, necessitated by Ford’s decision to take the car worldwide this time around. To compete with the world’s best sports cars meant dumping the Mustang’s tried-and-true solid rear-axle suspension in favor of an all-new independent rear suspension similar to setups employed by the global competition. And once the chassis engineers installed the new rear suspension—last offered on the 2004 SVT Cobra—they soon realized that the entire front suspension would require an overhaul, says Tom Barnes, vehicle engineering manager.

The net effect is nothing short of phenomenal. While the Mustang doesn’t shed any weight from 2014 to the new model, it feels lighter and tossable—almost urging one to dive deeper and deeper into corners before dialing in just enough steering angle to change direction. The feel of the suspension reacting is stunning as weight transfers from inside to outside and from front to rear as the tires seek optimum traction.

In eight hours of carving corners in the canyons and mountain roads above L.A., we only once felt the car lose control—and that was only for a brief instant before a quick steering correction and the electronic stability control brought the car back into line. At the same time, on all but the roughest roads, the ride is surprisingly quiet and compliant—especially for a Mustang.

2015 Ford Mustang GT

2015 Ford Mustang GT

Then there are the powertrains—a mix of old and new that should provide a combination for every buyer.The base engine is a carryover 3.7-liter, 300-hp, 280-lb-ft V6 while the top-of-the-line GT gets an upgraded 5.0-liter V8, now making 435 hp and 400-lb-ft of torque (up 15 hp and 10-lb-ft). But the sweet spot is the all-new 2.3-liter inline four-cylinder engine—the first application of the engine in a rear-drive Ford and the first four in a Mustang since the 203-hp 2.3-liter in the 1986 SVO Mustang.

The new turbocharged I4 produces 310 hp and 320-lb-ft of torque, more than enough to push the 3,500-lb coupe from 0-to-60 mph in a reported 5.6 seconds (vs. 4.4 for the V8). All engines come with a six-speed manual transmission standard, controlled by a short-shift linkage and a relatively light clutch pedal feel, making for easy and direct shifts; the optional trans is a six-speed automatic with steering wheel paddle shifters.

2015 Mustang 2.3-Liter Turbocharged Inline 4

2015 Mustang 2.3-Liter Turbocharged Inline 4

2015 Mustang Media Drive in L.A.

2015 Ford Mustang

2015 Mustang Media Drive in L.A.Finally, there’s the interior makeover. Mustang interiors have slowly improved over time, but this time around the level of refinement, fit and finish, and materials are vastly better in the more-spacious interior. Yes, there’s still some cheaper-looking fake stitched plastic, but where aluminum is used, it’s real. The standard seats are comfortable and supportive; bolstered Recaros are the upgrade.

The new car weighs more (about 200 lbs more for the V8 model) but carries twice the number of airbags (including a unique, glovebox door-mounted kneebag) and more than enough added features to justify the poundage. Fuel economy (19 mpg combined for the V8, 25 for the I4) is acceptable for a sports car.

Pricing starts at $24,425 for the V6, $25,995 for the EcoBoost I4, and $32,995 for the GT V8 (all prices include $825 destination charge). A maxed-out GT V8 approaches $50,000.

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Bob Gritzinger got his first taste of grease and oil as a kid tearing down small engines and repairing go-karts, mini-bikes, motorcycles and cars in the backyard. That eventually led to his first real job as an auto mechanic while still in high school, but Bob’s career took a sharp turn into journalism when he joined the high school newspaper staff. Read more about Bob here.