It’s the 50th anniversary of the Mustang and Ford is celebrating with a rebirth of the model, unveiling the biggest step forward the iconic pony car has seen in decades. A turbocharged, 2.3 liter EcoBoost four-cylinder engine joins the traditional V6 and V8 options, while the quarter-mile-friendly live rear axle is finally being deleted in favor of a proper, independent setup. The new car is lighter, lower, leaner and, we think, very nice to look at.
The 2015 car’s roofline sits 32mm lower, while the rear track is pushed out 70mm, 15mm at the front. It’s an incredibly muscular posture and the sculpted body is far more modern than the outgoing fifth-generation, which now looks a bit clumsy by comparison. This new sixth-gen still has the retro flair that a Mustang buyer will want — long hood, tri-bar tail lamps, analogue dials on the dashboard — while still looking quite progressive.
The engine choices are forward-thinking, too. Well, one of them is. The 3.7-liter V6 returns, basically unchanged, while the 5.0-liter V8 has received a host of subtle performance tweaks to bring it closer to the Boss 302 power plant, like forged con-rods and improved valve springs. (Ford isn’t quoting exact power or efficiency figures just yet, but is projecting over 420 horses.) That all sounds good, but the new 2.3-liter I4 is likely to get the most attention.
The last turbo-four on a Mustang came in the ’80s, a motor not fondly remembered. That churned out just 132hp, but this new EcoBoost unit will deliver more than 305 horsepower and 300 lb-ft of torque. That means the same power and more torque than the current V6 while, presumably, being lighter and more efficient. It’s also the only motor of the three to offer direct injection. A twin-scroll turbo and three-port header are designed to reduce lag, while reinforced internals should set this unit apart from Ford’s other EcoBoost offerings. All motors will be available with six-speed automatic or manual transmissions, paddle shifters available on the former. No fancy double-clutch systems yet.
The other big change is that integral-link independent rear suspension. Aluminum knuckles and lower arms help keep the weight of this new setup down. The front suspension has been re-engineered as well, moving to a double-ball-joint MacPherson system that moves the steering knuckle closer to the subframe. This makes room for bigger brakes, starting with a two-piston system for the V6 and EcoBoost. The V8 will get a new four-piston system, available as an option on the EcoBoost car. Finally, a new, Brembo-branded six-piston system will be made available for the V8, with calipers and rotors similar to what’s found on the current GT500.
The interior is also wholly new. Sit in there and everything feels comfortable and familiar, but take one look back at the current-gen Mustang and you’ll see what a massive step forward it is. Materials are all far better, using real aluminum and chrome in place of painted plastics. The dash has a simple, symmetrical layout, dominated in the higher-spec models by a large, central touchscreen LCD running MyFord Touch. Another small LCD is slotted between the analog speedo and tach, situated behind a slightly smaller steering wheel.
Other tech additions include keyless ignition, smartphone connectivity through Sync AppLink, adaptive cruise control, and a new stability and traction control system that offers torque vectoring and launch control. If the idea of driving aids in a Mustang make you feel queasy, fear not, as Ford has thoughtfully included physical switches along the bottom of the center stack, allowing quick and easy reduction, or removal, of any digital nannies.
Finally, for those who require wind rushing through their hair as part of the quintessential Mustang experience, a convertible model will be available. A new electric mechanism will raise the top in just 7 seconds — a huge improvement over the current hydraulic system’s 15.
As of now, Ford is giving no indication of prices for the new Mustang, but from what we’ve seen so far, the company has a winner on its hands. If there’s one problem it’s availability. Eager buyers will have to wait nearly a year, until the fall of 2014, before the car will start hitting US dealers. International buyers must be even more patient ahead of a release in early 2015.