Push the white start button in the 2015 Ford Mustang GT and the whole car gives a little shimmy as the engine growls to life. Row through the gears and every shift creates a torque bump as the V-8's power hits the rear wheels.
This would be pure muscle car territory if not for the clever systems working below the surface. Consider electric power steering with three different modes. Add in four drive modes making the Mustang more drivable on the track, snow, backroads and city streets.
Think of it as a muscle car for the 21st century, exhibiting the traditional sound and fury of the breed yet establishing a driving character tailored to modern drivers.
The 2015 Ford Mustang represents a whole new generation for a model that has been in continuous production for 50 years. Given that legacy and the model's popularity, Ford couldn't afford to get it wrong. And the company went beyond that remit, delivering a highly attractive, powerful and nimble car that should attract a new legion of fans.
This new Mustang drops the retro styling from the previous generation, a very timely decision on Ford's part as that look had run its course. While the Mustang retains its long hood and fastback, the smooth rear haunches flow seamlessly up to the sloping roofline. Up front, an open grille bookended by slash LED parking lights leads back to a brawny hood.
The example I drove, with its ruby red metallic paint, attracted attention all over, even when the engine wasn't rumbling its deep-throated song.
A world sports coupe
A base Mustang comes with a 3.7-liter V-6 and will set you back only $23,800 before destination, but the Mustang GT Premium loaned to CNET comes at a base price of $36,300. Along with its standard convenience features and 5-liter V-8, this model included a few packages that took the total to $46,480. Formerly rare outside of the US, UK buyers can get the Mustang GT at a base price of £33,995. Ford also has the Mustang slated for an Australian release in the near future, but we don't have pricing for that market yet.
One of the packages that I could have done without in this Mustang GT were the Recaro seats. While their high bolsters kept me from sliding around in the turns, getting in and out involved a careful maneuver between seat and steering wheel, although I admit to preferring a forward seating position for solid clutch pedal access. Those Recaro seats are also not power adjustable, something you might expect on a car pricing out in the mid-40s. Buckets carved into the rear seats were reasonably comfortable, but the fastback cut into the headroom severely.
I was initially leery of the six-speed manual coupled to the 5-liter V-8, a combination that can require a delicate touch at every start. But no, the Mustang GT was a pussycat, letting me easily modulate power to the wheels in slow traffic or parking lots. With a clear road ahead, I could also unleash its 435 horsepower and 400 pound-feet of torque with a rip-snorting start. Less deep burble than controlled growl, the engine note will please any automotive enthusiast.
The manual shifter feels brutally mechanical, in a good way, and precisely slots into each gear. Ford makes a six speed automatic available, but that seemed better paired with the available 2.3-liter Ecoboost turbocharged four cylinder engine, making for more of a cruise model.
The 5-liter V-8, roughly equivalent to 302 cubic inches, hearkens back to Ford's V-8s from the late '60s, but this engine uses modern tech to achieve much greater efficiency. Double overhead camshafts control variable timed valves to regulate intake and exhaust while lightweight pistons use materials to reduce friction. Ford integrates the exhaust manifolds into the heads as well.
Fuel economy isn't this beast's strong point. 15 mpg city is pretty low, although 25 mpg highway isn't bad. I managed 18.4 mpg, and never saw the trip computer's average climb above 22 mpg on the freeway.
The stiff ride quality calls the Mustang GT out clearly as a performance car. I learned to live with the seat banging into my head on rough patches of road in exchange for surprisingly good handling. Ford traded in the previous generation's solid axle, a long-time hold-over, for a new independent rear suspension.
In slow city maneuvering, the Mustang GT felt ponderous, although the brawny hood likely contributed to that perception. After more seat time, and some thrilling drives down twisty roads, the car revealed itself as more nimble than I initially thought. Powering around a tightening cloverleaf, I applied extra throttle toward the out and felt the back end shift over comfortably, setting itself into the line I aimed for.