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 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.
A switch on the dashboard let me toggle through steering programs, with Normal, Comfort and Sport. Comfort was far too loose and I found Sport very reasonable for everyday driving. Likewise, another toggle takes the car through different throttle programs. Snow lessens the torque output while Normal and Sport Plus work for everyday driving, with not that much difference between the two. Track mode sharpens the throttle and turns off the stability program.
Ford gives the Mustang GT a set of Track Apps, selectable on the instrument cluster display, which not only let you see how many g-forces you're pulling but include acceleration and brake distance testing.
As part of what Ford calls the 401A equipment package, this Mustang GT came with a blind-spot monitor system, lighting a signal in the side mirror when a car is in the next lane over. This feature is worth it, as the rear side visibility isn't great. Ford threw in its adaptive cruise control on this example, a $1,195 option, which didn't make much sense to me when combined with a manual transmission. When traffic ahead slows, this system automatically brakes the Mustang GT, but if the speed drops too much you will need to shift, which disengages cruise control.
The 401A package also brought in a robust 12-speaker Shaker audio system, and I admit to blasting garage rock from satellite radio while driving the streets of San Francisco, which fit the car's theme.
Standard at the GT Premium trim level, this Mustang came with the MyFord Touch cabin tech system, combining navigation, digital audio, a hands-free phone system, solid voice command and a wealth of useful information brought in through the satellite radio connection. Not to belabor my previous criticisms of this system, but its slow touchscreen response times will likely leave you frustrated. However, voice command works well and lets you do quite a bit.
Digital audio sources include two USB ports for drives or iOS devices, Bluetooth streaming audio, HD radio and the aforementioned satellite radio. Selecting music from a connected device requires drilling down through a couple of screens or using voice command to say what you want.
The navigation system lacks online destination search, and slow-loading maps mean I've learned to ignore this system, for the most part. That said, its traffic coverage is very good, and its dynamic routing might keep you out of a jam. Satellite radio data also includes weather, fuel prices and movie times.
Opting for the base Mustang GT, not the Premium trim, will lose the MyFord Touch system, but still come with good digital audio sources and a hands-free phone system. However, some of the more useful amenities won't be available at this trim. Ford hasn't announced when, but sometime in the near future its much better Sync 3 system should become available in the Mustang.
Ford's introductory commercial for the original Mustang called it "bold," "strong," "hot-blooded" and "exciting." The 2015 Ford Mustang GT embodies those attributes in its driving character and styling. Ford seems to have cut no corners in developing this new generation, and weren't afraid to make changes from the legacy that contribute to handling and ride.
The V-8 may seem anachronistic to some, but this engine gives the Mustang GT a uniquely muscle car character. If you aren't all that power-mad but still like the Mustang's style, the 2.3-liter Ecoboost engine, which produces 300 horsepower, makes for an excellent and efficient choice.
For your daily driving, the Mustang incorporates many useful tech features. The hands-free phone system, USB port for digital audio and voice command system all work very well. The MyFord Touch interface isn't the best, but it does include a very nice backup camera.
Ultimately, you've probably already decided if you want a Mustang, as this model is more about passion than practicality. If you are in the Mustang camp, this generation marks one of the best.
|Model||2015 Ford Mustang|
|Powertrain||5-liter V-8 engine, six-speed manual transmission|
|EPA fuel economy||15 mpg city/25 mpg highway|
|Observed fuel economy||18.4 mpg|
|Navigation||Optional with live traffic|
|Bluetooth phone support||Standard|
|Digital audio sources||Bluetooth streaming, iOS integration, USB drive, satellite radio, HD radio|
|Audio system||Shaker 12-speaker system|
|Driver assistance||Adaptive cruise control, blind-spot monitor, rear-view camera|
|Price as tested||$46,480|