To the folks who were around at the time, it may not seem like 50 years since the first Ford Mustang rolled off the production line, but that’s the truth of it. The iconic American sports car has been around that long, and it’s celebrated with subtle badges around the all-new 2015 model. It’s also worth mentioning that Ford has sold 9-million Mustangs (including one to me).
That half century must make the Mustang one of the longest uninterrupted production runs for an automobile in history. Mostly, Mustangs have been great cars, though if you roll back the years a little, you may dig out the odd one that didn’t quite make the grade. One thing’s for sure. Nobody will ever cast doubts on the 2015 version, which must be recorded as probably the best ever effort for the nameplate.
Awaited with much anticipation, the all-new Mustang is a masterpiece of design and engineering creativity. Mustang buyers are very critical of the smallest changes and any departure from the basic concept is greeted with derision. This time around, the Mustang design team has cleverly managed to incorporate numerous styling cues from earlier cars into a thoroughly satisfying product worthy of the hallowed name. All sheet metal is new on this car with no carryovers from the last model.
It may have hints of Mustangs past here and there but this is an entirely contemporary automobile with every possible electronic performance, convenience and safety aid. There are several models, all very pleasing, but on the basis of “one thing at a time” I’ll focus this column on the GT convertible, one of the more expensive versions, but also one of the best. I’ll look at some of the other Mustangs in a later column.
One look at the car and you’ll know it could never be anything but a Mustang, but closer examination reveals features like the narrow projector headlamps which are very “current tech” but don’t in any way spoil the traditional black grill with its big galloping horse chrome badge. Similarly, the rear lighting is bang up to date, but is laid out in much the same way as it was on Mustangs decades ago.
The GT is powered by a 5.0-litre V-8 that yields over 420-horsepower and growls like the Mustang in the legendary Bullitt movie with Steve McQueen. In fact, maintaining that wonderful Mustang exhaust note is taken very seriously at Ford and much development time is spent in audio research chambers. The new V-8 may be powerful and melodious, but it’s a different animal altogether to the old motors. There are all kinds of engineering upgrades to enhance performance and reduce fuel consumption. My test car was fitted with a 6-speed manual gearbox, which I liked, but buyers can opt for an automatic.
Much work has been carried out on the suspension, some of it very advanced, but the bottom line is that this is the most forgiving Mustang ever and not quite as wild as some of the earlier cars. Handling is taut and precise and this promises to be a very safe car, even in novice hands. It certainly handles better than any Mustang I’ve ever driven, including some competition cars. The all-new suspension has given the Mustang a huge boost as far as all-around performance goes.
The cockpit is again, “very Mustang” and anyone who knows these cars will soon feel at home there. The leather-wrapped steering wheel is perfectly sized and like modern race cars, carries a blizzard of controls on it to save the driver reaching across the dash to operate anything. In fact, it has no less than 18 buttons on it, some of them to use the Bluetooth handsfree phone feature. Others are for cruise control and audio inputs.
The convertible fabric top needs only the twist of a handle and the touch of a button to open or close it and it can easily be done at a stop light - it’s that fast. It tucks neatly out of the way without having to attach a supplemental cover. Of course, the new Mustang is a joy to drive with the top down and it also gives you a chance to hear the engine growling away at its best.
This new Mustang had to be good, the design team knew that, because nowadays there are lots of competitive products and any shortcomings in a new model are seized upon by critics and buyers alike. But with this car, Ford has nothing to worry about at all and the ’15 Mustang should be a great success. The Mustang faithful will love it and it should attract large numbers of buyers who’ve always leaned towards European or Japanese nameplate models in this class, not to mention those who buy competing products from the two other members of the “big three.”
SPECS AT A GLANCE…
BODY STYLE: Four-seat sports convertible
ENGINE: 5.0-litre V-8
TRANSMISSION: 6-speed manual (as tested)
PERFORMANCE: Zero to 100 km/h in approx 4.5-seconds
FUEL ECONOMY: 13-litres/100 km combined
PRICE: Fully optioned, as tested, $56,499. Base Mustang convertible $36,272