Ford’s newest generation of the iconic Mustang arrived for 2015, and is now giving the Chevy Camaro some serious competition for the segment’s sales crown.
It comes in fastback coupe and soft-top convertible models, with a starting price of $23,800 (plus $825 freight) for the coupe, and $29,300 for the convertible.
Besides the base V-6 model, coupe trim levels include the four-cylinder EcoBoost ($25,300), and EcoBoost Premium ($29,300); and the GT ($32,300) and GT Premium ($36,300), both with V-8 power. All prices are before freight and options.
Convertibles come in three versions. Besides the base V-6, there are the EcoBoost Premium ($34,800) and the GT Premium ($41,800).
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Our tester for this report was the GT Premium Coupe, which, with options and freight, rang up at a total sticker price of $46,085. It came in Deep Impact Blue Metallic paint with Ebony Recaro leather seats ($1,595).
As for the convertible models, with the re-design, their drop top got a new electromechanical motor drive and more-convenient single-handle center latch, and will retract in half the time of the roof on the 2014 Mustang.
It comes with a standard fabric outer layer, but is fully lined and insulated, which helps give the car a quieter ride when the roof is up. When the roof is down, the new pony car also has enough room in the trunk for two golf bags, Ford says – even with the premium audio system installed.
Rather than the normal auto-industry practice of designing a coupe first, then cutting off the top to create a convertible, Ford said the 2015 ragtop version got equal treatment in the design and engineering processes, making it much like a separate vehicle.
The goal was to make sure each stood on its own while meeting increased standards of quality, performance and refinement, the automaker said.
It’s interesting that this time the convertible is not just a soft-top version of the coupe. The convertible’s top lowers twice as fast, and rides lower on the back of the car to help reduce drag and improve the appearance when it’s down.
“From the start, we committed to giving Mustang convertible a unique look from the fastback with the clean, cohesive design it deserved ,” said Joel Piaskowski, the exterior design director.
Both the new fastback and the convertible carry on the Mustang tradition, and are sure to appeal to longtime Mustang folks, as well as create a new generation of fans. More than nine million Mustangs have been sold over the history of the brand, which also inspired copycats such as the Chevrolet Camaro and Pontiac Firebird.
The Firebird/TransAm models are long gone, but the Camaro was revived by Chevrolet in 2009, and in recent years has been outselling the Mustang. Ford hopes to reverse that trend with the redesign (but a restyled Camaro is coming later this year, too).
The 2015 Mustang is the sixth generation, and Ford says the design, while mostly new, was “clearly inspired by 50 years of Mustang heritage.” It doesn’t have as much of the retro look at the fifth generation, but Ford retained enough of the old look that the car still is readily identifiable as a Mustang, down to the signature taillights with the sequencing rear turn signals.
Both the new fastback coupe and the convertible include the Mustang’s signature long, sculpted hood and short rear deck, along with the aforementioned tri-bar taillights. The car has a lower, wider stance, along with wider rear fenders and track.
Also included are the traditional shark-bite front fascia and trapezoidal grille.
The overall styling looks more European than American muscle car, though, which is a concession to the world market that Ford hopes to play in with the new Mustang. The automaker sees growth outside North America as the future, probably because the sport coupe market has grown somewhat stagnant at home.
Another big gamble for Ford: For the first time since the third generation, the Mustang is offered with a four-cylinder engine.
But this is no pitiful four-banger from the past. It’s a version of Ford’s EcoBoost family of four-cylinder engines, designed to be fuel efficient and powerful. With its 2.3-liter displacement, the new Mustang EcoBoost four has direct injection and variable cam timing, and can produce 310 horsepower and 320 foot-pounds of torque.
The standard engine is the 3.7-liter V-6 with 300 horsepower and 280 foot-pounds of torque.
I’m still a fan of Mustang V-8 muscle, though, so I was quite pleased with the 435 horsepower and 400 foot-pounds of torque from the 5.0-liter V-8 in my GT tester.
I drove the new Mustang GT back to back with the new Dodge Challenger Hellcat, with its 700-plus horsepower turbocharged V-8, and while the Hellcat far outperforms the Mustang as far as raw power goes, there’s still something quite compelling about the GT’s performance, especially with the manual gearbox.
The clutch was a bit tight and took some getting used to, but overall, the GT was just as much fun to drive as the Hellcat automatic I had tested the week before.
One big difference, though, is that the Mustang really isn’t designed to put anyone of any size in the back seat, while the Challenger was roomy enough for two average-size adults to ride comfortably in the back.
EPA ratings for our Mustang GT with the manual transmission were 15 mpg city/25 highway/19 combined. But with my heavy foot, I averaged just over 16 mpg in a mix of about 50-50 highway and city/country road driving.
The Recaro leather front seats had just enough bolstering to hold me and my passenger firmly in our seats during some fun driving through twisty mountain roads, which the Mustang handled with ease. It doesn’t have quite the finesse of a Nissan Z-car in tight curves, but it will outperform the Z on the straightaways all day long.
The new cockpit is “aviation-inspired,” Ford says, with all information and controls readily accessible. Attention has been given to detail and craftsmanship. There are larger instruments and a variety of audio and connectivity options.
Even though the rear seating area still is somewhat cramped, the cabin is roomier, with more shoulder and hip room, especially up front.
The trunk has been reshaped to allow for more cargo, and the convertible’s smaller trunk will even hold two golf bags. Trunk space is 13.5 cubic feet in the coupe, but just 11.4 cubic feet in the convertible.
The automatic transmission comes with steering-wheel-mounted paddle shifters for those who want the convenience of no clutch, but control over the shifting.
The car has new front and rear suspension systems. Up front is a double-ball-joint MacPherson strut arrangement that was designed to allow for larger, more powerful brakes.
At the rear is an integral-link independent suspension, with springs, dampers and bushings tuned for high-performance driving. Aluminum rear knuckles help reduce weight for improved ride and handling.
Among standard GT Premium features are a backup camera, dual-zone automatic climate control, universal garage/gate opener, USB port in front of the shifter, Intelligent Access with pushbutton start, as well as Ford’s SYNC and MyKey connectivity systems, and Track Apps.
Toggle switches on the console allow the driver to choose among the car’s selectable drive modes, which adjust steering effort, engine response, and transmission and electronic stability control settings.
The advanced stability control is tuned to maximize the Mustang’s performance. The GT model includes standard “launch control,” which allows for a smooth, consistent start every time, Ford says.
Other available technology includes a Blind Spot Information System with cross-traffic alert, adaptive cruise control, and SYNC AppLink, which lets drivers use smartphone apps to listen to their favorite music.
Extras on the test car included the GT Performance Package ($2,495), which brought P255/40R19 front tires andP275/40R19 rear tires, deletion of the rear spoiler, a 3.73 Torsen rear axle, and 19-inch ebony (black) aluminum wheels.
Our tester came with the optional Shaker Pro Audio System with 12 speakers ($1,795).
We also had the Adaptive Cruise Control ($1,195), which I could do without; a voice-activated navigation system ($795); Premier trim package ($395); enhanced security package ($395); and reverse park assist ($295).
The automotive columns of G. Chambers Williams III have appeared regularly in the Star-Telegram since 1994. Contact him at email@example.com.
2015 Ford Mustang Base/GT
The package: Midsize, two-door, four-passenger, four-cylinder (I-4), V-6 or V-8 powered, rear-wheel drive sport coupe or convertible.
Highlights: Ford’s pony car moved into its newest generation with a complete makeover for 2015, with the coupe versions moving to all-fastback styling, and a turbocharged four-cylinder engine added to the powertrain mix. Coupe and convertible models are offered with both the base and GT versions. It remains as much fun as ever, with still some nostalgic styling in a modern, well-engineered vehicle.
Negatives: Rear seat not suitable for adults; trunk space is limited in the convertible.
Engines: 3.7-liter V-6 (base); 2.3-liter EcoBoost turbo four-cylinder (optional); 5.0-liter V-8 (GT).
Transmissions: Six-speed manual; six-speed automatic with SelectShift manual feature (optional).
Power/torque: 300 HP./280 foot-pounds (V-6); 310 horsepower/320 foot-pounds (I-4); 435 HP./400 foot-pounds (GT).
Length: 188.3 inches.
Curb weight: 3,524-3,729 pounds.
Brakes, front/rear: Disc/disc, anti-lock.
Trunk volume: 13.5 cubic feet (coupe); 11.4 cubic feet (convertible).
Side air bags: Front seat-mounted, standard.
Electronic stability control: Standard.
Fuel capacity/type: 16 gallons/unleaded regular (V-6, V-8); 15.5 gallons/unleaded regular (I-4).
EPA fuel economy: 19 mpg city/28 highway/22 combined (V-6, automatic); 17/28/21 (V-6, manual); 21/32/25 (I-4, automatic); 22/31/26 (I-4, manual); 16/25/19 (V-8, automatic); 15/25/19 (V-8, manual).
Major competitors: Chevrolet Camaro, Dodge Challenger, Nissan 370Z.
Base price range: Coupe -- $23,800-$36,300, plus $825 freight; Convertible -- $29,300-$41,800.
Price as tested: $46,085, including freight and options (GT Premium coupe, manual).
On the Road rating: 8.9 (of a possible 10).
Prices shown are manufacturer’s suggested retail; actual selling price may vary.