By Aaron Bragman on December 5, 2013
Competes with: Chevrolet Camaro, Dodge Challenger, Hyundai Genesis Coupe
Looks like: Somewhere between the current Mustang and the Ford Evos concept car
Drivetrain: 300-plus hp, 3.7-liter V-6; 305-plus hp, turbocharged 2.3-liter EcoBoost four-cylinder; 420-plus hp, 5.0-liter V-8; six-speed manual or automatic transmission
Hits dealerships: 2014
It's an event that happens maybe once a decade, if we're lucky: Ford Motor Co. decides to update its iconic pony car for a new generation. The company's done just that with the unveiling of the 2015 Mustang, with retro sheet metal and styling cues that don't deviate much from the current version. Ford maintains that despite the similar looks, major revisions to everything under the curvy body mean that the new Mustang can be considered an all-new car.
Styling is very obviously evolutionary, and it must be said that pictures do not do the new Mustang justice — park the two cars next to each other and the new one looks wider, sleeker and more sculpted. The roofline is also different, looking even more like the original 1965 fastback than the previous car, which seemed to take more of its cues from the 1968 revision. The only possible issue: the front end looks too much like the rest of the Ford lineup in which every single car is now starting to resemble every other Ford. There's too much Taurus and Fusion in the nose, beefed up for Mustang duty but similar nonetheless. The car's best angle is the rear three-quarter view, which shows off a slanted rear end and new signature tri-bar taillights.Powertrain options grow from two to three with the addition of a turbocharged 2.3-liter EcoBoost four-cylinder engine similar to the one debuting in the Lincoln MKC crossover. It was originally slated to be the entry-level engine, replacing the 3.7-liter V-6, but it's an expensive motor given its technology. Since it will have just a little more horsepower than the V-6 but make considerably more torque, it has become the midrange engine option. The high- end Mustang still uses an optional 5.0-liter V-8 engine, making more than 420 horsepower through a six-speed manual or automatic transmission. The standard engine is still the 3.7-liter V-6, which will make more than 300 hp, according to Ford.
Out back is something long rumored, promised, hoped-for and finally delivered: an independent rear suspension. This modernizes the Mustang and brings it in line with every other sports car on the market worldwide, and should do wonders for the car's ride and handling. Ford also took the opportunity to update the car's front suspension as well, employing a new perimeter sub frame to stiffen everything up and a new double ball-joint MacPherson strut setup enabling use of larger brakes.
Inside, the retro-inspired look continues with round vents, a dual-binnacle dashboard just like the original '65 and toggle switches for controlling the electrically adjustable steering and powertrain response. Two large round analog gauges face the driver, just as before, featuring a retro-inspired font, just as before. Ancillary round gauges now appear between air conditioning vents on the dashboard as well.
The Mustang also gets the full Ford technology treatment, with a touch-screen located fairly low in the center console for easy reach; the company's Sync system with MyFord Touch is standard. Despite featuring the troubled system, the Mustang retains actual buttons and switches for its controls, a move we applaud. Ford is introducing several other features as well, such as push- button start, blind spot warning detection, Track Apps to monitor performance and more.
Overall, the biggest changes to the Mustang are ones you can't immediately see. They should translate into a car that's even more entertaining to drive than the current one, and the return of a turbocharged four-cylinder to the mix is sure to draw comparisons to the old 1984-1986 Mustang SVO. The only worry is that Ford is taking a risk with maintaining the retro style of the Mustang when the car's main rival, the Chevrolet Camaro, is beating the current Mustang in sales with an older design and more contemporary styling. The refinements to the new Mustang should keep it competitive however, and with a new convertible debuting at the same time as the coupe and the Mustang's new global focus, Ford should be able to uphold the pony car's legendary reputation.
Detroit Bureau Chief Aaron Bragman grew up in the Detroit area, comes from an automotive family and is based in Ann Arbor, Mich. Email Aaron