2015 Ford Mustang Review: Steering Toward Change

New rounder softer styling doesn't betray the Mustang's muscular stance.

New rounder softer styling doesn’t betray the Mustang’s muscular stance.

In the world of motoring enthusiasts, Ford Mustangs are suppose to have big V-8 engines with lots of cubes and a growl under the hood that shakes your insides. There continues to be a huge draw for those of us who desire to have this visceral relationship with the Mustang.

However, according to Ford, there is a growing movement toward Mustang owners wanting above average performance combined with increased fuel economy and less of a visceral growl in the bowels of horsepower. That direction flawed or not, is the path Ford is following with the redesigned 2015 Mustang.

The base engine continues to be a V-6 that offers up 300 horsepower and 280 lb-ft. of torque. Interestingly the next engine in line

Behind the signature pony sits a new EcoBoost 2.3-liter turbocharged four-cylinder engine

Behind the signature pony sits a new EcoBoost 2.3-liter turbocharged four-cylinder engine

is a four-cylinder, an engine configuration not seen in the Mustang since the early 1990s. This 2.3-liter turbocharged engine is nothing like those early offerings and is meant to provide amplified performance without the added gas guzzling a bigger engine might. With 310 horsepower and 320 lb-ft of torque the 2.3-liter engine performs well even though it lacks that internal emotion grabbing thunder of a V-8. And speaking of V-8 power, that engine is the more recognizable 435 hp and 400 lb-ft. 5.0-liter configuration that some Mustang buyers believe is the one and only engine. That is until you move up to the Shelby models, all of which take you into a whole other bracket of performance.

All models come with a choice of either a tight shifting 6-speed manual or a 6-speed automatic transmission. Though I prefer keeping the shifting chores myself, the move toward automatics with a manual mode has been greatly improved by the simple addition of steering wheel mounted paddle shifters. Yep, the Mustang has them.

The 2015 model has seen a complete redesign and while this new direction continues to rely on the Mustang family resemblance it has softened quite a bit. The front end retains the Mustang look mixed with modern appointments with large trapezoidal front grille and angular light modules with angled three tube daylight running lights. The traditional long hood and fastback roof continue as without these time-honored styling cues it would become something other than a Mustang. Though the rear styling appears to be more rounded, the three module taillights assure you and all who see the backend that this is a Mustang.

Lower and wider the 2015 Mustang has improved handling and a more aggressive stance.

Lower and wider the 2015 Mustang has improved handling and a more aggressive stance.

Changes to the suspension are also big news for the redesigned, reengineered Mustang, and the biggest could be the independent rear suspension. Tossing out the long used solid axle for the IRS introduces finer road traveling character. Giving the rear axle the ability to swing independently brings better ride comfort while adding enhanced handling. Gone is the prominent axle hop a solid axle induces on rough surfaces, particularly while cornering.

Improved handling abilities are most certainly a contribution of the 1.5-inch lower stance and the 3-inch wider rear track. The wider body adds to the aggressive road hugging look. Although these changes have come at a bit of a weight cost as the 2015 Mustang has gained a few pounds.

The Mustang interior receives changes yet stays true to its Pony Car history. Closing the large door is easier than before and once latched the interior has a roomy feel. The leather wrapped steering wheel is smaller in diameter yet is beefy and induces a firm grip. Thankfully, it is now adjustable in both tilt and telescoping to get just the right position.

Though updated, the 2015 Mustang retains the dual-cockpit interior design Mustang owners love.

Though updated, the 2015 Mustang retains the dual-cockpit interior design Mustang owners love.The interior is a mixture of ode to days gone by and 21st Century features. The instrument panel is anchored by two large round instruments, the speedometer dominates one and various support gauges for the other. There is lots of plastic throughout the passenger compartment. Some, where soft touch may not be as important as function are hard. The touch points are soft and feel first-rate to your hands. New for the sixth generation Mustang are a row of toggle switches (MINI Cooper-ish) located in the lower center stack, which control among other features, the adjustable steering feel in three settings, comfort, normal and sport.

Adjustability is the name of the game these days with nearly all sporty automobiles and Ford doesn’t disappoint with the new Mustang. Four individual driving modes are controlled by the driver, normal, sport, track and snow/wet. Pretty self-explanatory as you progress up through the first three but one might wonder about snow/wet. Each essentially adjust throttle response, transmission shifting and stability control for progressively aggressive driving. The snow/wet goes the other way and reduces the throttle response allowing easy take off in slippery conditions.

All Mustangs are also equipped with Track apps, a cool addition that gives the driver information such as acceleration times, g-forces readings and other interesting information an enthusiast might like for a higher level of entertainment.

Seating is quite important, as it has always, with the Mustang. This is particularly true with the rear seat, not much room back here. Set the supportive front bucket seat in a comfortable driving position for a 6’2” adult and the rear seat has barely enough leg room for a 5’8” adult and limited head room. Best keep this area for small kids. But hey, you don’t buy a Mustang for passengers, it’s for the driver.

Make no mistake it's still a Mustang, even with the softer styling.

Make no mistake it’s still a Mustang, even with the softer styling.

Performance and style is the motivating factor for Mustang buyers. Though softer, the design is muscular and melding vintage Mustang with a modern flair. The performance is certainly available with the V-8 engine and the four-cylinder offers a different style of performance much like you would find in a Japanese sport coupe sort of manner. The big cubic-inch enthusiasts might call this Mustang “All hat and no cattle.” However if you’re the sort of driver who always desired to drive a Mustang and your idea of performance is turbocharged small engines this Mustang just might fit in your corral.