December 5, 2013 was a busy day for Ford Motor Company. The new Mustang's reveal was the result of a carefully coordinated media blitz. While most Ford higher-ups were holding down the fort at home in Michigan, others were making a bicoastal effort to release sought-after information about the new car. As the sun rose over New York City, Ford's CEO, Alan Mulally, was making the rounds on the morning news shows. In California, Ford showcased the Mustang's multi-generational appeal by unveiling the car at the TCL Chinese Theatre, where all those celebrities have their names in the pavement on the sidewalk out front. "Bullitt" star Steve McQueen's son Chad McQueen was there, too, giving the event some street cred. The Mustang even got to leave its prints (well, tire tread) in the sidewalk like a flesh-and-blood celebrity. And though the Ford Mustang might be considered one of the most all-American cars of all time, Ford is really hoping to win over some new international fans, too. So 2015 Ford Mustangs were also unveiled in Barcelona, Shanghai and Sydney, hinting not-so-subtly at the markets Ford wants to conquer.
The new Mustang will be the car's sixth generation. For 2015, the Mustang appears to warmly embrace a future direction for the model, as opposed to the fifth generation's polarizing retro styling. It's said to be the most comprehensive overhaul of the Mustang during the car's last 50 years [source: Turkus]. One of the challenges to designing such a high profile, long running car is to keep it in line with the rest of the vehicles in the brand's family, yet allowing it to retain the individuality that's helped propel and shape the brand through the decades. In other words, the new Mustang has to look unmistakably like a Ford, but it can't make people think of a Focus or a Taurus. Ford's designers told Autoblog.com that their most noteworthy inspiration was the first-generation Mustang.
The new car is shorter, wider and lower than the 2014 model, giving it a more aggressive stance and profile. The car rests on a totally new platform -- new dimensions, new floor pan and new suspension. The exterior was cleaned up to make the car's profile as smooth as possible -- no superfluous creasing allowed. The long, sculpted hood and the fastback-style rear pillars are classic Mustang elements, and the new diagonally striped headlights were designed to look menacing.
The interior was also overhauled, and the biggest difference is an upgrade in materials quality. Two interior themes were initially developed -- an aviation-inspired cockpit, and a cabin that could have been at home in a luxury sedan. Neither of those options won out. Instead, the best elements of both were chosen in a way that worked together. There are still some hard plastics to be found here and there, which were a sticking point with some fans of the car's previous generation, but overall, the cabin appears more generously appointed, yet tech-forward. It's also roomier than the outgoing car's cabin. The material quality, fit and finish are critical to successfully executing such an approach. And finally, the Mustang was engineered to be more fun to drive than ever before, with better handling than its predecessor as well as a lot more driver input.
As usual, the sixth-generation Mustang will also be available as a convertible, which will have an electrically operated fabric top, engineered to operate faster and quieter than in recent years. And when the convertible model of the new Mustang hits streets, it'll be the only drop-top car left in Ford's entire lineup, according to Mulally. The 2015 Mustang will be built domestically at Ford's Flat Rock Assembly Plant (in Flat Rock, Mich.), and will hit dealerships sometime in 2014.
When Ford was busy whipping the press into a frenzy over the new Mustang, the brand's representatives kept alluding to a secret feature, which (of course) worked exactly as intended. The audience was hooked already, and a secret feature was just too tantalizing to forget. Finally, a few days after the initial news, someone spilled the beans: the new feature is a burnout control system, which is similar to a launch control feature, except louder, smokier and a bit more harsh on the tires. It's also brand new, the first time such a feature has been engineered into a production car.
Burnouts are kind of a ridiculous maneuver, but they do take some skill to execute properly, and Ford apparently doesn't want anyone to feel left out. Performing a burnout is a matter of revving the engine really high and then sending the engine's power to the drive wheels, which spins the tires (without moving the car forward) and makes lots of smoke and noise. It sounds like it shouldn't be able to happen, but it's relatively easy with a powerful engine and a manual transmission. And when it works, it's very dramatic. It can also be quite dramatic when it doesn't work, because, best case scenario, you'll stall out and your audience will laugh at you. Or worse, the car will launch forward out of control, fry the clutch or some other manner of catastrophe. Ford wants to spare you that headache in your shiny new Mustang, so instead of pretending that no one's going to risk showing off that way, they're installing a button to sort of encourage it, pre-engineered.
The burnout control feature is an original equipment manufacturer (OEM) first. In other words, and it can't be said enough: Ford is the first auto manufacturer to officially encourage burnouts -- let alone gift-wrap them.
And since it's an all-new feature, and Ford has been a little possessive about the details, there's only speculation so far as to how a burnout control feature might actually work. It's electronic, that much is established, which does give us some clues. Motor Authority speculates that the burnout control system could work by simultaneously enabling a lock line on the front brakes and turning off traction control at the rear wheels (because traction control prevents everything that enables a burnout to happen) [source: Feder]. As the system is engaged, the driver brings the engine's RPMs up to the optimal speed, and then dumps the clutch and the feature will do its thing. Motor Authority also hypothesizes that the feature can be disabled, although Ford hasn't chimed in to confirm or deny.
Ford has announced a list of several other high-tech features on the new Mustang. And while none of them are as exclusive (or as exciting) as the burnout control, other equipment includes adaptive cruise control and blind spot monitoring, so drivers of the new Mustang can be safe whenever they're not burning the rear tires off. Other options, such as a Track App, are an acknowledgment from Ford that a lot of these Mustangs will see some pretty hard driving.
There's an interesting lineup of powerplants for the 2015 Ford Mustang, featuring three totally diverse options: a V-6, a turbo four-cylinder, and a V-8, all of which we'll discuss in more detail. Power is, of course, the primary factor in a muscle car or pony car, but fuel economy has turned into a compelling side conversation. The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) won't weigh in on the 2015 Ford Mustang's fuel economy until much closer to its release date, when the cars are ready to be put through their paces, which means we won't get the actual miles per gallon (kilometers per liter) numbers until sometime in 2014. This is no surprise, considering that Ford hasn't even finalized the engines that will be available at release (they're pretty sure, but that kind of thing has been known to change). However, that hasn't stopped people from talking about potential fuel efficiency. Yeah, it might seem a little goofy to get all hyped about a new pony car that promises lots of smoke and melted rubber, and then wonder if it'll be good on gas. But, at least for the Mustang, there's a precedent for such a conversation.
It was around 2009 that Ford announced a Mustang model to great fanfare: the 2011 Mustang was the first car that crossed the 300-horsepower threshold, yet was capable of achieving 30 miles per gallon (12.8 kilometers per liter) on the highway, and these ratings haven't changed [source: Voelcker]. People who like cars, but also care about the environment and the depletion of natural resources, wonder if Ford plans to top those figures this time around. Some industry experts think that the time is ripe for Ford to announce better fuel economy for the 2015 Mustang, and there are a few catalysts for this speculation. First, Ford announced that the 2015 Mustang will have an option of a four-cylinder engine. Ford hasn't done that in a Mustang since 1993. It'll be a new powerplant in Ford's EcoBoost lineup of turbocharged, fuel-efficient engines. And lately, Ford tends to market the EcoBoost as a performance variant that happens to be a fuel-sipper, rather than the other way around. That's an especially convenient argument for an all-new Mustang. Ford has said this new EcoBoost will be a 2.3-liter, which, with a twin-scroll turbocharger, should strike a good balance of fun and responsibility.
However, the base model won't be the EcoBoost four-banger; it'll be a 3.7-liter V-6 that's good for at least 300-horsepower, put down through either a six-speed manual or a six-speed paddle-shifted automatic. For comparison, the base 2014 Mustang, equipped with a similar powertrain, is rated for 19 miles per gallon (8.1 kilometers per liter) city and 29 miles per gallon (12.3 kilometers per liter) highway, but federal fuel efficiency regulations mean that Ford (along with other automakers) is under a lot of pressure to improve those numbers. Then there's the top-of-the-line 5-liter V-8, also similar to the current Mustang V-8, which is projected to achieve a yield of at least 420-horsepower. Prices for V-8 models of the 2015 Mustang might inch a little higher than they have in the past, but Ford has also noted that the V-6 base model was designed so the Mustang would still have an obtainable starting price [source: Voelcker]. Ford says the V-6 and V-8 engines in the 2015 Mustang will put down more power than those found in the current lineup, even though the company is under heavy pressure to improve efficiency. And, of course, all this is subject to change, which is fairly typical when a highly anticipated new model is announced more than a year in advance. Looking farther down the road, an alternative fuel version of the classic pony car is a possibility -- and according to some sources, it's even likely. Perhaps, when the time comes for the next major Mustang premiere, there will be alternative fuel drivetrains in the lineup. An electric Ford Mustang seems unlikely now, but Ford has hinted that it's possible.
Appeal for the Herd
The Ford Mustang's engineers and designers are aware of the consequences of modernizing a classic car, yet they really have no choice. A redesigned car has to be more fuel efficient, thanks to government regulations and public pressure; it also has to meet the latest safety criteria, which often means incorporating new technology; and it has to keep an eye on the competition and be aware of the direction the market is going, which will help the car attract new buyers -- that's crucial for its survival.
But a new generation of a classic car can't offend the purists, even when those die-hard fans' expectations are totally unrealistic and maybe even a decade or two behind the times. A lifelong fan might be turned off by a feature like climate-controlled seats; however, a potential customer who's used to well-appointed import cars might not even consider buying a Mustang without them. Take the aforementioned drivetrain options as another example. While Ford's understandably proud of its EcoBoost powerplant, the engineers know it won't really appeal to people who have fond memories of the Mustangs of yore. So while the EcoBoost four-banger did get a mention (and it may actually work to attract a specific segment of new car buyers), when it came time to talk engines, Ford preferred to focus on the traditional V-6 and V-8. And they also mentioned how the car's new technology would enhance the driving experience, rather than distract from it.
Pre-production cars shown during the launch featured controls for the driver to adjust stability control, driving mode and steering. Specific driving modes are being kept quiet for now; although Ford has said there will be a performance mode as well as an inclement weather mode. Selecting different driving modes to suit conditions will adjust the car's throttle response, steering weight and stability control. These settings will be a lot easier to control in the 2015 model than in the current car, where the only setting the driver can adjust is hidden within a menu and is not easily accessible while actually driving. Other new features on the 2015 Mustang include a Track App for statistics such as quarter-mile times, and access to systems that can be adjusted by the driver, such as stability control, steering and throttle response. Pre-production cars were also fitted with Ford's MyTouch information system, which has made its rounds across several Ford vehicles of all price points, but had yet to appear in a Mustang. The new independent rear suspension is big news, too, and Ford revealed that, in early testing, the front suspension didn't perform as well as they had hoped it would -- so they revised the front setup to better complement the rear. The end result is a double-ball-joint independent front suspension, completed by MacPherson struts. Available wheels come in a range of designs between 18 and 20 inches.
Ford has sold more than 9 million Mustangs over the past 50 years, and that's with a fairly limited market. Classic American muscle doesn't have the global salability of, say, a hot hatchback or a gas-sipping family sedan, but Ford has so much faith in its new Mustang that it's time to try again. As of the end of 2013, Ford is still parceling out information about the Mustang's new technology in easily digestible chunks of fan bait, and there are still plenty of details yet to be revealed. Since the car won't be available for several months, it's easy to say that the best of the 2015 Mustang is yet to come.
Author's Note: How the 2015 Ford Mustang Works
I had a vague idea of the Mustang's release before it happened, but only because I have friends who work in social media in Detroit and they kept dropping employer-sanctioned hints. Like most new cars I write about, this one reminds me of something old. Something from 1993 or earlier, to be precise, because the Mustang in question was a four-cylinder. It belonged to my childhood best friend. It was flaky blue, having been refinished (at some point) with semi-gloss house paint. Though the lineage of the new Mustang can be pretty easily visually traced back through the generations, there's little (other than a four-cylinder engine!) that suggests any sort of connection between the car I remember and the car I just spent several hours admiring. There were some good memories in my friend Carrie's old 'Stang, though, and I really do believe such experiences are what ultimately keep people coming back for more.
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