(The Mustang in that photo isn’t just here for irony — it’s for sale! Down to $799 OBO… it’s a GT and the seller is a well-known decent guy in Ohio. Contact us for details — JB)
Embargoes be damned. There’s not a soul on the planet who cared about the 2015 Mustang who couldn’t have told you everything you wanted to know about it before today. Independent Rear Suspension. Fastback. EcoBoost 2.3 liter four-cylinder option. No room for the beloved (or maligned, by ZL1 fans) 5.8 supercharged Shelby motor. The first Mustang to become global under Mulally’s pet project, One Ford. Either god-awful ugly or beautiful, depending on the eye of the beholder. It’s hard to remember a pony car that generated this much buzz.
As an owner of a 2013 Boss 302, I take an especially personal interest in this launch. The Boss 302 did exactly what it was supposed to have done in my case—it enticed somebody who had the budget and the inclination to buy an E92 M3 to visit a Ford dealer instead. I’d never, ever thought of myself as a potential “Mustang man” before the introduction of it. In fact, the S197 as a whole did a great deal to change the perception of Mustangs amongst the upper middle class. It no longer seems strange to see a Mustang in the driveway of a $300K house. In 2011, the V6 went from a joke to a 300+ horsepower, respectable, smart option for lower cost performance. The GT brought back the 5.0, much to the delight of all Robby Van Winkle fans. And, of course, the latest incarnation of the Shelby GT500 was simply sublime, providing mind-boggling horsepower and torque in a mass production car that may never be seen again.
But perception doesn’t always equal reality. Something went wrong with this fairy tale. The Mustang hasn’t cracked 100k sales since 2007, and actually had its worst sales run in the fifty year history of the model in the last four years. It has lagged slightly behind the Camaro in sales for several years and has seen the Challenger creeping up in its limited rear visibility as of late.
So perhaps the time for change is now. Perhaps the decision to abandon the live rear axle that has been the most Mustangish of all Mustang qualities was the right one if Ford has any hope of competing overseas. The available paddle shifters may as well be designed to shift paradigms as well as gears. Paddle shifters? On a ‘Stang? The mind boggles just a bit. MyFord Touch is rearing its less-than-well-received head again here, and this time it has KNOBS. GTFO. And apparently, there’s even a place to put your sunglasses in the 2015, you know, for those times when putting them in the glove box just won’t do at all.
I’ve never sat behind the wheel of a 2015 Mustang, never touched its three-inch-wider Mixalotian rear end. I’ve never felt the IRS adjust for the bumpy Kentucky backroads around my town that tend to greatly upset the solid axle of my 302. Visually, it certainly looks every bit a Mustang, so much so that I doubt the man on the street will really be able to identify it as a new model (well, at least from the front). And there’s really no reason at all to not think that this brave new Mustang world won’t be a great improvement over the current generation.
But as I consumed all the leaks and the photos and the hype this week that led up to the announcement, I began to feel something that no thirty-six year old man ever wants to admit he feels. I started to feel a bit of nostalgia. While all the right things are being said about this not being a “global Mustang,” doesn’t it kinda feel like it is? And in an age where American Exceptionalism is routinely mocked, I honestly can’t figure out if I should be proud that Ford is making the equivalent of red label Levi’s for Russian kids available worldwide, or saddened that they are making changes to the fundamental nature of what a Mustang is in order to do it. Does the Mustang NEED to be a global car? Can’t they just sell a few more Focuses (Foci?) over in Europe and call it a day? Should I just end this paragraph with “And I would have gotten away with it, too, if it wasn’t for those meddling kids and their dumb dog?”
Ford says they’ll sell close to 100,000 Mustangs next year. I believe them. I hope they do. But I don’t think that one of them will be to me. I don’t suspect many other Boss or Shelby owners will be lining up either. I’m kind of glad that I got one of the last live axle, touchscreen-lacking, fuel-guzzling dinosaurs. I own a Mustang. Loud, brash, and unapologetic. And I have a feeling that my resale value might have just ticked upwards a bit… but it doesn’t matter. This one won’t be for sale.