The unveiling of the 2015 Ford Mustang yesterday marked the beginning of a new generation – the sixth for the Mustang – and one that pushes the car to all new heights and into unknown territory for arguably the most popular and successful pony car of all time.
Laden with new features inside and out, the hulking 5.0L V8 stays true to form on the GT model, while the base Mustang expands its power offering with the usual 3.7L V6 and an all new 2.3L 4-cylinder. Purists may cringe, but the smaller turbocharged powerplant offers immense power (305 hp, 300 lb-ft of torque) that is on par with the soft-body Mustang Cobras of the fourth generation (1994-2004). It is also a reminder of the Mustang's ability to remain as one of the most versatile muscle cars and one that caters to the masses.
The last time the Mustang had an engine so small? It never has been – unless you consider the Mustang II from 1974. But we will forgo that little blip and say there never has been. Nor has there been a turbocharged unit as standard on any other car throughout its history. Superchargers yes – on Shelbys and Cobras for years – but the turbocharged unit is a significant step to provide Mustang-like power from the seemingly inevitable shrinking engine market. What impact will the 2.3L have on the Mustang's future? Only sales will tell, but I imagine it will open the car up to a market of new buyers and a demographic that may have overlooked the Mustang in previous generations.
Add to that a new relinked, independent rear suspension and stability control, and the Mustang loses its live rear axle and intimidating handling – love by some, but hated by others – for a vehicle that offers exceptional grip and sports car handling with the same visceral rear-wheel drive.
On the technology side, the Mustang offers the broadest entertainment and information experience in it's existence. Push-button start is just the beginning of a host of new technological features that put the it on par with the high-end luxury segment – an area the Mustang has typically ignored in the past. Gone is the simple stereo head unit, replaced by an intuitive 8-inch touchscreen display for navigation, music, phone and even climate control. The technology carries over to the driver's side, where a 4.3-inch LCD screen displays vital info behind the steering wheel, which can be linked to TrackApps to cater to the performance enthusiast, complete with G-Force readings, an accelerometer, lap times and more. Add selectable drive modes with Normal, Sport+, Track and Snow/Rain settings, and the Mustang is built to assault the senses in a new and absolutely thrilling way. Nissan GT-R, look out.
The exponential growth in features sets the 2015 Mustang up against a much broader range of competition, while still offering the same raw driving experience (if you so choose) that made it such a success in 1964. Muscle car, sports car or fuel-efficient daily driver, this newest generation appears up to the challenge and may very well be the benchmark for which American muscle is ranked.