2015 Ford Mustang GT Review - No Longer A One-Trick Pony (With Video)
2015 Ford Mustang GT Premium
5.0-liter, DOHC V-8, CVVT (435 horsepower @ 6,500 rpm; 400 lbs-ft @ 4,240 rpm)
6-speed Getrag MT82 manual
15 city/25 highway/19 combined (EPA Rating, MPG)
18.2 mpg (Observed, MPG)
Tested Options: GT Premium Trim, Ruby Red Paint, 401A Package, Performance Package, Adaptive Cruise Control, Navigation, Recaro Seats
* All prices include $900 destination charge.
Ford’s Mustang is as American as the hot dog and KFC Double Down, but for 2015 it received an internationally-focused makeover. Since 1964, the Mustang has been the place to find a large V8, a manual transmission and a solid rear axle. That solid axle has been a point of contention for foreign auto journalists who frequently compared the Ford’s handling to a pickup truck, and decried the GT as a one-trick pony: the car that was excellent in a straight line at a drag strip — and that was about it. That’s a problem when Ford’s new mission is greater harmony in their lineup worldwide.
While 2015 retains the large V8 engine, manual transmission and rear wheel drive we’ve all come to know and love, it brings the first completely independent suspension to every Mustang in over 50 years. Also big news for 2015 is the resurrection of a 2.3-liter four-cylinder engine, something we haven’t seen since the Fox body Mustang of the early 1990s. In a nod to our friends in Old Blighty, a factory-made right hand drive model is also in the works. All of these changes are because this Mustang is suddenly thrust into a much bigger pool of competitors.
Can Ford teach this pony some new tricks to compensate?
The first thing you’ll notice about the new Mustang is the Aston Martin meets Fusion meets Mustang styling. The sheetmetal looks more elegant and more intentional than before. While the 2014 looked cartoonish from some angles, the 6th generation ‘Stang doesn’t seem to have a bad angle to be found. It’s clear Ford not only spent more time styling their new 2-door, but is also spending more on stamping the metal as we have more curves and angles providing visual interest. The front quarter panel for instance rises up, then curves back down to meet the hood panel, giving the front of the Mustang something of a “proto-fin.” We’re hyped that 2016 will bring back turn signals integrated into the hood vents (visible to the driver) in certain trims.
All Mustang models now come standard with HID headlamps, a nice touch in a segment that generally lacks modern lighting. Out back, the sequential turn signals are now made from LED strips inside large vertical plastic housings with deep recesses between the lamp modules. The look is striking, but proved more effort to clean than I had considered.
The sleek profile belies the sixth generation’s shrinkage of about two inches versus the out outgoing model. The loss in length helps the Mustang slightly in international markets where the Ford is considered a large two-door. In terms of comparisons, the Mustang is nearly a foot longer than the BMW M235i we recently reviewed, about the same size as a 435i, and a foot shorter than a Dodge Challenger. The main reason for the long body, of course, is the massive engine bay designed to longitudinally accommodate large engines.
There was a great deal of speculation about Ford’s right-sizing program. Would a weight reduction be part of the package? The answer is no, the Mustang has actually gained a little weight in this generation. Contrary to the earlier rampant “weightgate” speculation, curb weight is up just 20 to 80 pounds, depending on how you compare a 2014 trim to a 2015 trim.
The one area that didn’t receive as much attention is the interior. The style is fresh and instantly recognizable as a Mustang, but we only get an incremental improvement in the feel of the parts. There are still plenty of hard plastics lower in the interior including the center console and areas where your knee and leg are likely to rest. (Remember that the Mustang starts under $24,000.) The new steering wheel is loaded with buttons, but thankfully I found the layout intuitive. Lovers of thick-rimmed steering wheels will be disappointed to find that the tiller is no thicker than the Ford Edge we recently tested.
When looking at the Mustang parked next to a BMW 2-Series, you might assume the Ford would be larger inside. You would be wrong. The Mustang and the 2016 Camaro have about the same amount of front and rear seat legroom as the baby Bimmer, with the Mustang actually being slightly smaller inside. This mainly has to do with the position of the engine in the Mustang and the size of the engine bay which makes the nose longer to give it a proportion similar to a British sports coupé. Meanwhile, BMW pushes the engine a little further back making the overall packaging more compact. On the upside, the Mustang has more footwell room making it more comfortable for folks with larger feet.
Our tester had the nearly $1,600 optional Recaro seat package. If you track your car regularly, and need the aggressive bolstering, and are about my size or smaller, get them. Everyone else should avoid them entirely. The standard seats are softer and more comfortable, they offer more lumbar support and the Premium trim of the Mustang would normally get memory-linked power seats, adjustable lumbar support as well as heating and ventilation. All of those features are given up for the Recago logo, and it’s just not a good trade. A quick spin in a dealer provided GT without the Recaro seats, but with the Performance Package, confirmed that the firmer suspension is also easier to live with if you get the base seats. The difference is more pronounced when you consider the Mustang comes with very comfortable seats in every other version, beating the current Camaro and Challenger easily, and are actually quite competitive with the standard seats in the 2-Series, 4-Series and Lexus RC.
Hop in the back and you are reminded the Mustang is best described as a “2+2 coupé” where the last digit is a little smaller than the first. While not as tight as a Jaguar XK, the back seat should be reserved for small children or your legless friends. With the driver’s seat adjusted comfortably for my 6-foot frame, there was a 3-inch gap between my seat back and the rear seat bottom cushion. (I prefer an upright position when driving a manual.) Convertible shoppers will be pleased to know that rear headroom actually increases if you chose the rag top. At 13.5 cubic feet, the Mustang’s trunk is also similar in size to the BMW 2-Series, but Ford thankfully uses hidden hinges to make the most out of the trunk. You should know that the optional ShakerPro speaker package consumes just over a cubic foot of space.
Our pony car had Ford’s optional MyFord Touch infotainment system. This software is due to be replaced in 2016 by Ford’s completely redesigned SYNC3 system. MFT is one of the most maligned infotainment systems on the market, but it is also one of the most fully featured. Even in 2015, there are still mainline brands that don’t offer voice command of your USB-connected music library. At this point, Ford has addressed most of the major issues that plagued MFT, except for the speed. Interacting with the touchscreen requires patience as screen changes are considerably slower than the Hyundai, Chrysler and GM alternatives. SYNC includes an integrated telematics system that emails vehicle health reports, allows you to call a concierge, request emergency assistance and knows when your airbags have gone off. On the downside, this system is dependant on a paired Bluetooth phone to actually make the calls — so if you’ve forgotten your phone and you get in an accident, the car can’t dial for help.
Our tester included the optional navigation software and the up-level ShakerPro branded speaker system. The 12-speaker system uses a trunk mounted subwoofer, a dash-mounted center channel speaker and a 550-watt 9-channel amp. The system is certainly tuned with a significant bass punch, but overall it is still well balanced. It had no problems rocking my Vanilla Ice album all the way to A1A Beachfront Avenue.
The big engine news for 2015 isn’t that the 3.7-liter V-6 lost a few ponies, or even that Vanilla’s five-point-oh is still available; it’s that we have the first four-cylinder Mustang in quite some time. To make room for the new EcoBoost mill, Ford de-tuned the V6 slightly to 300 horsepower at 6,500 rpm and 280 lb-ft of twist at 4,000. That means that unlike the Camaro, the four-cylinder is an upgrade, not the base engine. Checking the EcoBoost box gives you 310 horsepower at a lower 5,500 rpm and a whopping 320 lb-ft at a low 3,000 rpm. But I’m here to talk about what separates this American from the European and Asian options. Five. Point. Oh. Revving up to 7,000 rpm and featuring twin independent variable valve timing, the Coyote V-8’s only modern omission is direct-injection. Power comes in at 435 horsepower at 6,500 rpm and 400 lb-ft at 4,250 rpm. (The recently announced 5.2-liter V-8 Shelby is a perfect example of naturally aspirated engine designs vs turbo engine design. The 2016 Shelby GT350 will bump power by 91 horsepower but torque by only 29 lb-ft. Compared to the twin-turbo German V8s, the horsepower is similar but torque is notably lower.)
Unusual in 2015, even in performance cars, is your choice of manual or automatic transmissions on all models (in 2016, the Shelby will be manual only) and your choice doesn’t interfere with the options packages. That means you can get the GT and EcoBoost Mustangs with radar cruise control, all the goodies and still get the 6-speed stick. (There have been some complaints about the Getrag MT82 manual transmission but I didn’t experience an unusual shift feel during my week. Be sure to let us know if you’ve had a problem with yours in the comment section below. There has been quite a bit of forum buzz regarding “clunks and thunks”.) Also a little unusual these days is the option of multiple rear axle ratios. For those that are unfamiliar, axle ratios are the final “link” in the chain for your drivetrain. The transmission’s 3.65:1 first gear ratio is multiplied by the rear axle you chose — 3.31, 3.55 or 3.73 — to get the effective total ratio of 12:1, 12.9:1, or 13.6:1. (All three ratios are available in the EcoBoost model but just the 3.55 and 3.73 are offered in the GT). That has a big impact on acceleration and fuel economy since the 6th gear ratios have the same variance. The available axle ratios are why fuel economy has dropped in the V-6’s EPA test, as Ford is no longer offering the 2.73:1 rear axle in the V-6 like they did in 2014. This means the base V-6 in 2015 is much peppier, but the MPGs drop two steps. This is where the EcoBoost model steps in with 31 or 32 mpg combined (depending on the transmission) despite giving you more power, more torque and a more aggressive rear axle ratio than the base 2014 V-6. On the downside, power and economy figures for the 5.0 and 2.3 are based on premium unleaded.
Over twenty years ago, I was learning to drive on my neighbor’s 1988 2.3-liter four-cylinder Mustang LX with a shot clutch. My how times have changed. Back then 300 horsepower was a pipe dream, the GT’s 6.3 second 0-60 time was rad to the max and a 32 mpg Mustang was as likely as a blue unicorn. Even ten years ago, the thought that the Mustang would be serious competition to the imports was wishful thinking, but the sixth-generation pony offers 300 horses standard, the mid-range model gets over 30 mpg on the highway, and every version is faster to 60 than it was in 1988. Combined with a more refined and capable suspension, this is that unicorn.
The 2014 Mustang’s rear end got upset on broken pavement and felt heavy in the corners. The 2015 feels composed and significantly lighter in comparison, despite actually being heavier. The GT still feels slightly front heavy in the corners, no surprise with a large V8 under the hood, but the EcoBoost model feels much better balanced. Thanks to the gearing and tire selection, all versions are tail happy when prodded. Next year brings us a new Camaro with a Cadillac ATS-derived chassis and suspension, something that bodes very well for the bowtie brand as well. However, this is 2015 and the current Camaro is a notch behind the outgoing Mustang. Absolute handling is obviously a factor of your tire choice, and ours was equipped with the optional Pirelli PZero summer rubber in a staggered 255/40R19 front, 275/40R19 rear setup. In an interesting twist, the suspension is quite firm but there’s more body roll than you’d expect.
If you’re a traditionalist, fear not. The Mustang, especially our GT tester, is still about well-priced straight-line performance. The V-6 will sprint to 60 in 5.8 seconds, the turbo will do it in 5.6, and our GT in a swift 4.6 seconds with launch control enabled and the 6-speed manual. A nice touch: Unlike many cars out there with launch control, Ford keeps it crazy simple. Once enabled in the LCD between the speedo and tach. it stays on. Period. That means you don’t have to worry about fiddling with menus; you just floor it, release the clutch and let the nannies do their thing. The car retains the setting even through ignition cycles. You can improve things further by double-tapping the traction control button and enabling sport mode which allows a little more action in the rear. (Note: Ford says that both systems should be used on the track only. Sure…) Of course, you’ve probably also heard about Ford’s nifty line lock feature that allows perfect burnouts every time without wearing your rear brake pads.
The GT’s 7,000 rpm redline means that the ‘Stang sings like a high-revving European sports coupé more than a Camaro or Challenger. Since all the ponies come to a trot at 6,500 rpm, you’ll spend a great deal of time at those lofty heights. The good news is thanks to the throttle mapping and general character of the 2015, it revs easily, happily and sounds great while doing it.
Thanks to electric power steering, the Mustang’s wheel is as numb as most of the competition, although BMW and Nissan manage to transmit more road feel in the M235i and 370Z. Skipping the Performance Package makes the GT more driveable on a daily basis in terms of suspension tuning, and in that form the body roll seems well-balanced with the spring firmness. The downside of skipping the pack is the reduced grip. If I were shopping in this segment I’d probably skip the package and use the cash to swap in some sticky rubber. If you do get the package, I suggest some stiffer sway bars.
Ford set the base price for 2015 low — very low. At $23,800, the Mustang undercuts the Camaro and Genesis Coupé by $3,000 and the 370Z by nearly $6,000. That means that for the price of the base 2.0-liter, 275-horsepower 2016 Camaro, or the Genesis Coupé V-6, you could get a 2.3-liter EcoBoost ‘Stang with an option or two. A base Z will cost you more than a well-equipped V-6 Ford or only about $2,500 less than a Mustang GT. At $32,850, the BMW 228i is a whopping $7,550 more than the more powerful EcoBoost model, and the M235i is $11,850 more than a Mustang GT. Why all this focus on the M235i? Because the Mustang actually reminded me a great deal of the small BMW. The Mustang finally feels light and nimble, and at the same time the M235i feels far more substantial than small BMWs of the past. While the BMW does feel more refined, the delta has never been smaller. With previous generations, one could have argued that the BMW’s greater refinement was worth $10,000. With this generation, I wouldn’t pay more than $1,000 for the extra feel in the BMW. That’s a problem because in order for the M235i to be as fast as our $45,470 tester, you would need to add the 8-speed automatic and all-wheel drive, both of which would make it less fun. Better in the rain, but less fun. The added hardware also makes the M235i xDrive tip the scales at 3,695 pounds, just 10 pounds lighter than the Ford, and still considerably more expensive. Although the BMW’s suspension is better sorted and more settled, if you shod them with identical tires, the Mustang will be right on the 2-Series’ bumper.
Is the Mustang perfect? No. I wish the interior was a little more comfortable and the automatic transmission needs a few more gears in order to match the competition. Hyundai, BMW, GM and Chrysler have gone 8-speed and even Nissan is one cog higher at 7 in the 370Z. That means there is still a toll to be paid for selecting the automatic, while the competition’s slushboxes promise improved fuel economy and improved acceleration. Still, the Ford holds true to what the Mustang has always promised: performance at a reasonable price. The big news is that those reasonable prices come with surprisingly few compromises and it’s entirely possible to consider the Mustang as a value alternative to a German coupé. Comparing a Pony Car to a compact German coupé used to be ridiculous, but this pony is a blue unicorn that’s learned a few tricks.
Ford provided the vehicle, insurance and one tank of gas for this review.
Specifications as tested
0-30: 2.0 Seconds
0-60: 4.6 Seconds
1/4 Mile: 13 Seconds @ 112 MPH
More by Alex L. Dykes
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