Even if you’ve never liked cars or paid enough attention to understand the differences between a V6 and a V8, you know what a Mustang is. In the five decades since its inception, the Mustang has become synonymous with “American.” Americans buy about 80,000 Mustangs every year, but the rest of the world has never really respected the low-tech muscle car. The 2015 GT should change some minds.
Admittedly, I have never been interested in Mustangs in any trim or vintage. They’ve always struck me as large, obnoxious metal boxes for attention-seeking youths playing with their parents’ money or for suburban dads trying to recapture some of the magic of their youth while blasting ZZ Top through a Wal-Mart sound system..
Ford has been making Mustangs for five decades, but the cars have always used a decidedly old-school rear suspension setup: a live axle (with one low-volume exception, the 99-04 SVT Cobra Mustang).
The 2015 model is the first mass-produced Mustang with independent rear suspension. It’s about time.
Part of me really likes how the Mustang looks. I’m not sure why. I wouldn’t call it a particularly beautiful design -- hell, the front end is swollen like a moose’s nose -- but something about it speaks to the aggressive part of the psyche. Ford’s taken some retro cues (the angle of the car’s fastback shape, for example) but they’ve managed to avoid making the design a total homage to the past like the Challenger. I wouldn’t call it beautiful or elegant, and those creases on the hood are kind of silly.
It’s big, wide, and imposing. It sports muscular shoulders and a strong stance. It draws a lot of attention (though, yellow paint amplifies this), so you’d better be comfortable fielding the stares and questions of strangers.
Have fun trying to see out of it, though -- thick body pillars and a lack of defined edge mean you can never really tell where the ends of the car are. But it’s an awesome thing to see going down the road.
Every Mustang I’ve ever seen or sat in has had a terrible interior, riddled with terrible plastics and idiotic ergonomics. So it came as a surprise that, aside from a few frivolous complaints, the interior of the 2015 Mustang is really well-sorted.
All of the switches and buttons have a satisfying weight to them -- they don’t feel flimsy like the plastics of older cars or other new brands. The driving mode toggles on the center console by the gear lever are particularly great. Not everyone will like the airplane-style heavy toggle switches for things like hazard indicators, traction control and driving mode selection, but I got a huge kick out of them. There’s a few other flight-inspired touches around the cabin, most notably the speedometer, which measures “Ground Speed,” as though you’re in a P-51 Mustang fighter plane instead of a Ford.
It’s not a car that takes itself too seriously. You’re either going to giggle at all of its silly touches or roll your eyes.
Outside of the silly switches and whatever Ford used for the strip running horizontally across the cabin, the Mustang is a great place to be. You hunker down in the car, cocooned yet strangely cozy if you spring for the optional Recaro seats (which you should if you’re among the tall and wide crowd, because these seats keep you in place -- comfortably -- better than any seat I’ve ever been in, including other Recaros). Unfortunately, they’re black leather, with no heaters/coolers. If that doesn’t sound like a big deal, try sitting on black leather seats in the middle of July in the Northeast.
Even with those supportive seats, there’s plenty of room to stretch out on long trips. I’m by no means a small man (6-foot-1) but my seat was nowhere near the back of the rail. The Mustang makes a great road trip vehicle, assuming you don’t have more than one passenger. You could theoretically fit adults in the back seat, but only if you really hate them.
Oh, MyFordTouch, how I can’t wait to see you leave. I’ve expressed my disdain for Ford’s soon-to-be-replaced "infotainment" system in the past, but what it basically boils down to is this: it’s slow, inaccurate, and has connectivity issues. Thankfully, Ford will roll out SYNC3 in late 2015, but you won’t be able to upgrade to it if you buy a car with MyFordTouch.
As far as other electronics, the Mustang is actually pretty light on the features. This one had the optional radar-guided cruise control (which isn’t a thing I’m a fan of on any car), a rearview camera (which doesn’t come standard but should) and an upgraded Shaker audio system that was nice, but didn’t leave a huge impression considering the great sounds the 5.0L V8 was making.
My favorite feature -- though I’ll admit it’s trivial in the grand scheme of things -- is the puddle lights installed in the doors. At night, they shine the Mustang emblem silhouette on the ground, which earned a solid thumbs up from all of my passengers. It’s simple and silly, but it’s the kind of thing that makes you smile as you walk up to your car.
Performance is what matters most in a Mustang, and honestly, I was left wondering why anyone would buy this particular car to drive every day. Its eagerness is invigorating and it’s a joy to throw around deserted roads for a week, but it truly is overkill for the street.
The car is such a monster that it’s completely bored with the limitations of normal driving. Sure, it’ll take corners at the posted “safe” speeds, but there’s so much grip that recommended speeds are never interesting. The real fun lies in lapping the same offramps and twisty roads, pushing and pushing with the aids off and the car unshackled to break traction and exploit the limits, the way you’d normally do at a race track. A track is where you should take a car this good, because the limits are so high that you’ll almost never touch them on public roads.
When you do find the limits, it’s a hilarious and exhilarating experience, because despite the modern touches the Mustang is still a big, blunt instrument. It does exactly what you tell it to, and it’s easy to balance it on the edge of grip. But the edge of grip tends to come at three times the legal speed.
The steering is surprisingly well-sorted as well. There’s three modes to choose from with varying levels of electronic weight and accuracy (Comfort, Normal, and Sport), but once I selected Sport, that’s where it stayed. Normal feels a bit lazy, and Comfort feels like you’re driving an old Windstar minivan.
Despite its size (over 3800lbs in GT trim), the Mustang is rather agile in the hills. It’s too big and wide for the tightest switchbacks, but it hustles from medium to long corners very well, thanks to the shorter gears and 435HP on tap. Plus those monstrous brakes are well-suited for that kind of treatment -- they’re a bit twitchy in normal driving, but stellar when you ask them to do real work.
I have no doubt that this car would embarrass some much more expensive and prestigious cars on most tracks, but it’s not well-suited to daily driving. The short gearing of the 3.73 rear axle is great for keeping the power flowing, but it also means constant shifting. The clutch is a chore too -- it’s a guessing game every time you switch gears. There’s no palpable catch point, so you struggle with a vague, numb pedal. Unless you’re slamming gears, you’ve got to be very careful about your clutch timing, lest you make the car jerk and yourself look foolish. Thankfully, intrepid owners have already found the solution to this.
This car makes you work for everything. It’s still pretty old-fashioned, despite the new sheetmetal and Bluetooth connection.
Owning this car comes with the understanding that two things will happen: 1. You will drive hard, often. 2. Your wallet will be punished for it. Over the week I had the Mustang, I drove about 500 miles and filled the 16 gallon tank three times. I spent about ~$130 and averaged 15MPG. Clearly, this is not the car to buy if you’re worried about fuel economy or spending money. I was happy to get back into my own car, so I could keep some money in my wallet.
I expected to come away from the experience thinking, “Well, that was a stupid car. Only an idiot would ever own one of those.” And, well, the Mustang GT is a stupid car, and you’ve got to be a bit immature to see its appeal ... but like the Mitsubishi Evolution, the ludicrousness is half the appeal of the Mustang. With the Track Pack, it’s too good to waste on most public roads.
But man, If you’re even vaguely into cars, there’s no way this car doesn’t put a smile on your face. I came away liking the Mustang far more than I expected to, and while I couldn't see one of these cars in my life, I finally understand why people like them so much.
The 2015 Mustang GT is an incredible car, Track Pack or no. The addition of independent rear suspension has really cemented its place as more than just a quarter mile car -- it’s set a high benchmark for the upcoming, all-new 2016 Chevrolet Camaro to clear. We live in exciting times for cars, my friends.