Tom Wilson
January 27, 2014
Photos By: Courtesy of Ford Motor Company

Horse Sense: Our time researching this story took place at an early media viewing, so many of the specifics about the car were in flux. As such, it's quite possible some things have changed since we went to press.

Press events are typically boring in their predictability, but not the 2015 Mustang preview. Other than the rumors we knew little more than the next Mustang enthusiast as we walked into Ford's Product Development Center, and, frankly, we were more than curious.

New Mustangs are a rarity and certainly something to celebrate, but there's always a chance the car has moved laterally rather than forward. We only had to recall the '94 Mustang was a tepid refinement of the honest fun that had been the Fox, something that became more difficult to ignore the harder we wrung out those cars during their press event.

Still, Ford put things right in 1999, and has built nothing but increasingly better Mustangs since. Now, after the successes in 2005, 2010, and 2011 did Ford have the stuff to do it again? Could they identify and steer through the cultural narrows an all-new Mustang must pass on its way to universal appeal? With its incredible 50 years of history and its legendary wide draw, the Mustang is also more hemmed in by its own design cues and customer expectations than other nameplates, and did Ford have the understanding of their own design to walk the tightrope spanning the gulf between historical slavishness on one side and the future on the other?

Furthermore, what has Ford meant when saying the Mustang is now a world car to be sold around the globe? Did this mean hardware designed for European or Asian sensibilities rolling onto Woodward Avenue?

So it was something of a long, anticipatory walk down the wide corridors inside the Development Center and into a design studio. And there, in a temporary alley of signboards filled with 50 years of Mustang cultural highlights, were one of each—a '65, '67, and '69 Mustang. A squad of Ford luminaries stood out while their adjutants stood by quietly on point.

There was no music, no mood lighting. This was a press briefing in the real world, and we sensed our pent curiosity and background apprehension was mixed with equal anticipation by the Ford team. After three years of secretive work, they were finally able to acknowledge their creation—and at the same time, lay it open for criticism. This was an important first impression that was a long time in the making.


We know what Mustang is supposed to be. we have an intuitive feel of where we're taking Mustang for the loyal customer as well as that broader appeal...


Jim Farley, Ford Executive Vice President of Global Marketing, Sales, and Service began to speak...

Now, Jim is an outlier in the catalog of Sanforized corporate personalities. His visual youth and off-the-cuff patterns can seem more like a recent college grad at his first job than the marketing power that launched Scion at Toyota and was hand-picked by Ford CEO Alan Mullay to bend Ford at its waist if necessary to bring it to its customers around the globe. But that's what makes his delivery so sincere. Jim is a headlong futurist and besotted by enthusiast driving—he has a garage full of big-block Cobra roadsters, a Shelby GT350 and Flathead street rod he drives to work. Jim packs the power of conviction, a belief in the good things to come, and the inevitability of great social change in our age, and this infuses his quietly delivered, seemingly conversational remarks with an odd, softly spoken tent-revival urgency that's rarely found in the structured corporate world.

"At the beginning of this project, Raj's team and my team, we really had to take a step back to really think: 'What is Mustang?' In the end, of course it's a car and it's an icon in our industry—50 years of continuous on-sale, which in itself is an unusual thing. And what we discovered when we talked to people everywhere... was that Mustang has turned into a product that people visualize their unfettered self in," Jim said. "And that idea is not just going fast. It is not just performance. The dream is much more universal than that. It can be commuting. It can be one turn. It can be a lifetime trip up the coast. The car has a much more universal dream usage than a lot of sports cars. And yes, it's a sports car, it's incredibly fun to drive, but what is appealing about it is much more essential."

Jim went on to document Mustang's incredible reach. It's 5-million-plus likes on Facebook, 200 marque clubs, and over 3,000 movie appearances—and if anything, the weight of meeting all those customer's expectations only seemed heavier.

"The last thing I want to say," Jim continued, "is surprisingly Mustang is on the Top 10 list of products that are connected to the (Ford) brand, and in places like Germany and Brazil, places where we don't even sell Mustangs. So, for whatever reason, customers have figured out how the Mustang connects to the brand without any advertising or even making the vehicle for sale. And it was with that the team pursued the idea of the 50th version of Mustang, with humbleness and insight from all of those customers."

"Frankly speaking, from a brand guy, this car is so much more than just 100,000 units or 70,000 units," he added. "It is really the essence of Ford on a good day. Which is visualizing yourself in your most relaxed and aspirational way. And isn't that what cars should be?"

It was vintage Jim Farley. Atmospheric and emotional, yet straight to the core. And reassuring, too, in that while we each individually have taken possession of Mustang, here was someone at the highest reaches of Ford showing the people in charge get it too. They've been listening—rather carefully, it turns out—to the customer.

Raj Nair, Group Vice President of Global Product Development, and an even more mad-keen redline artist than Jim, expanded the briefing by addressing the Mustang's newly assigned global outlook. Raj is the man tasked with hammering out the hardware that makes material Jim's lofty aspirations, and he also echoed the emphasis on listening carefully to what the Mustang customer wanted.

"We are moving it on," Raj said. "As we did the research of how to move it on, one aspect that really hit was this universal appeal. Not just in the U.S. but in the rest of the world…"

"Obviously, one of the bigger news (items) is that as we did the work on the universal appeal of the Mustang, we saw this opportunity to take this vehicle forward," he added. "In many respects, the Mustang customer was ready for this before we were. And now that we really are at a One Ford execution of product development, a One Ford execution of marketing and sales through Jim's [Farley] leadership, we're ready to take that step and broaden the appeal of the Mustang."

"But a key aspect of that is, and I get this question internally and I imagine I'll get it externally is, 'Now that you're taking it global, did you have to change anything?' Raj said. "And the resounding answer is no. We know what Mustang is supposed to be. We have an intuitive feel of where we're taking Mustang for the loyal customer as well as that broader appeal that's available to us."

And there it was, the no we had been praying for. The negative that was a positive, a no to corporate hubris and a yes to populist sensibilities. We started to relax.

But first Steve Ling, Ford's Car Marketing Manager, had his say. He's the voice of the customer inside in the Blue Oval, the person charged with carrying out the market research Jim and Raj had cited. Steve gave the most sophisticated interpretation of we Mustang owners, and more importantly, Mustang intenders, yet.

"What is it that customers love about Mustang, and what is it that they want to see in a next-generation car?" Steve asked. "...When we looked at what our current Mustang covers—and sometimes we talk about those customers as Mustang lovers—and what other people that we thought could be enticed with this (car), those needs and wants were largely the same. And we're not just talking about a place like here in the U.S.—I'm talking about around the world."

"...People from all walks of life and all stages of life are into Mustang. But what we found was the thread, the thread that really pulled everyone together, was the emotions, the values. What is it they really value? And what is the feeling that they want to have when they look at a car like this and drive a car like this?" Steve continued. "So, let me jump to the chase... first and foremost the word freedom kept coming up. And freedom is one of those big, ambiguous words in some ways, and people have a little different meaning, but it was basically to say, 'Let me do what I want to do,' and that was something that came true with everyone."

It is really the essence of Ford on a good day… And isn't that what cars should be?

"Now, secondly, we found there were a lot of independent people who like to think of themselves as independent, competent people, but interestingly, they like to hang out with other people just like that. We found a lot of people that were confident, they like to put their personal snap on things, things that they own, things that they like to do," he said. "…Oftentimes they would tell us they define success by the experiences that they have in life and not necessarily by what they own—outside of their Mustang, by the way, but also what they get to do with it, who are the people they get to meet, what are the things they get to do. And... that was the case when we were talking to people in North America, people in Asia, Europe, down in South America. It was unbelievable how common that was..."

"...How does it make them feel when they are driving the car? Well, again, probably no big surprise where freedom came up, independence [did too]. The fact that they felt independent when they get a chance to drive it, right?" Steve added. "I must get 50 emails a day from various customers coming back, but one of the reoccurring, common themes is something like, 'I had a really crummy day [then] I went down to the parking lot. I started my Mustang, and it's like it all went away. It was like an instant vacation.' That doesn't happen with every car. That happens with Mustang."

"Again, (it's) similar around the world, putting on that personal stamp, the fact that they could customize it is something the really loved," he said.

"Another thing that was really great was a recognition by a lot of people of what the team has been doing the last few years—always pushing it, always moving on to greater capabilities. They really encouraged us to stay on that trajectory," and here Steve says the customers cited the '08 Bullitt, the Boss 302, and the Shelbys.

"What are the potential differences between those people who love Mustangs and those we hope to entice? ...What we saw was maybe a little more female, a little bit younger, but not much difference. The big thing they brought up was they just want the latest design and technology. And the biggest opportunity that we identified was, although we've made a lot of improvements, there were certain people who... didn't see how the car had progressed since '05," Steve explained. "So the people who were knowledgeable about Mustang love what's been going on (and) saw all these dramatic changes, but there were a lot of people who didn't because in their viewpoint, the car hadn't changed enough. And, they weren't investigating it. So that was a good moment for us to really appreciate that, and there's nothing like a new, shiny penny in a car to change that vision."

"You'll appreciate there's a lot more to Mustang, all the physical aspects... the racing, the featured marques... whether it was a Bullitt or Boss, SVO or Mach 1, you name it, all of that has been part of the secret sauce that people have really liked... pull it all together, we were pretty lucky. Here we have a brand that globally people were aware of it, they understood what it meant, and they found it really favorable," Steve said. "Two, they liked what they saw in terms of what was happening, and they encouraged us to continue on an evolution of Mustang. A lot of people said, 'We know you know what this car is, and you've kept true to that. Keep it going, just keep pushing the capability like you are...'"

"The final piece I want to bring up... [and] is so important, is most people know this car is important to Ford Motor Company. You know, we had a lot of engineers who said, 'I came to Ford because I wanted to work on this program. I wanted to work on this car.' Whether it's Bill Ford all the way through our dealers, it really lives in their hearts and souls, and people know that," Steve concluded. "And the fact that they know how important that is—and that the people who work on Mustang are the people who drive it, and race it, and show it, and just enjoy it fully—it means a lot. It's one of the key reasons Mustang is as good as it is, and has been over the years. And the fact that they acknowledged that tells us quite a bit."

And with that, we were ushered outside to see the '15 unveiled. As we made the short walk into the private courtyard reserved for such private viewings, we were reassured. We hadn't even seen the new car yet, but it was clear Ford had been thinking long and hard about what Mustang customers wanted and how they could deliver.

Mechanically Speaking

So, what sort of Mustang did Ford build after polling the Mustang universe? The short answer is they modified the existing car until nothing old was left. As such the '15 Mustang, while still clearly referencing the '05-'14 Mustang architecture, is an all-new device.

Addressing this more thoroughly is Dave Pericak, Chief Nameplate Engineer and a man we'll be hearing much from as he's the highest-ranking person dedicated to the Mustang inside Ford: "…This is a clean sheet of paper. Of course, we had a basis to learn and launch from, but as we have evolved there is nothing carryover on this car. It is as clean as a clean sheet gets. All the parts are brand new."

Not one to quibble with the man who birthed it, but if you search long enough in the powertrain, there has to be a bolt, bearing, or crankshaft making the trip to the '15 Mustang unchanged. So let's give Dave his deserved poetic license, as he explains.

"We used a lot of the known basis of the S197. There is a lot of goodness in that car, and we've continued to tweak and evolve it over the years. We used that to launch the new designs and get where we are today."

"The car is so much more capable, and so much more precise," he said. "It is really going to shock you in a good way as to how much we have raised the bar in a good way through the design."

At this early stage Ford has not let loose with all the fundamentals, specifically weight and cost, but what can be seen says much about what remains hidden. Most fundamentally, the '15 Mustang retains the existing 107-inch wheelbase, has wider front and rear tracks, and as Ford confirmed, employs an independent rear suspension. That means a larger footprint than the today's car, which, barring exotic materials (extremely unlikely and none seen so far) or aggressive component design and machining (possible in places), means increased weight. An IRS suspension is traditionally heavier in this class of car than the out-going live rear axle, and so we're not counting on a lighter car.

Balancing that is a touch more horsepower, and when queried on weight, Mustang honcho Dave Pericak responded enthusiastically that the development team had met all performance goals and was "extremely enthusiastic" with the new car's performance—and thought we would be too. But he didn't say anything about weight.

That said, check out the '15 Mustang GT performance goal—beat the Boss 302! If that doesn't get your attention, we don't know what will. And that's not to match it only in raw stopwatch tests, but including the more subtle benefits such as precision and balance. In fact, the fleet of aspirational vehicles taken along on every Mustang development drive included the Porsche 911 and BMW M3, as well as the Boss 302. This is indeed aiming high, and given the engineer's happy faces and eagerness to spill all that the marketing folks would allow, it appears the target has been hit, or looks like it's going to be hit.

To meet these lofty goals the Mustang structure is more rigid with increased use of high-strength steel, increased gusseting (especially around the radiator support), and wears a stronger, stiffer, and lighter front crossmember. Greater precision and world-class handling were clearly on the agenda, and the chassis was made all new accordingly. Of course, the new chassis is stressed and packaged to work with the all-new IRS. Such provisions go deep, as the IRS packages completely differently than the outgoing live axle. It uses a subframe mounting system for the differential, which is based off of the familiar 8.8, and it feeds loads into the unibody at much different points than the live axle.

Just to be clear about it, there is no provision for a live axle anywhere in the '15 Mustang lineup, and for better or worse, we've doubtlessly seen the last live-axle Mustang from Ford. Insiders say retrofitting a live axle to the 2015 will not be easy. All but dedicated, mega-power drag racers will likely learn to live with the IRS.

Asked why Ford dropped the live axle, Dave replied with a little laugh, then said, "It's just time. I think it is really important as you decide to take the vehicle global, I think that's something important to that strategy.

"We've done a lot with the solid axle, we've taken it a lot farther than most people ever thought you could, we love where we've been and what we've done, but looking forward and taking the car global, I think that's key to the strategy, to have the independent rear suspension. And, you know, when we decided to do it, we did it right. I mean, this independent rear suspension is a world-class suspension, and we're pleased with how it's performing."

Performance Packs

Ford is offering a pair of Performance Packs for the new Mustang, the better for performance duty and the hardcore crowd. These promise eye-opening performance; the GT Performance Pack is said to definitely out-lap the Boss 302 on track and a Performance Pack 2.3 Ecoboost promises to combine exquisite balance with pleasingly torquey street oomph.

GT Performance Pack
• Torsen differential
• 15-inch, six-piston front brakes
• Cross-axis ball joints in IRS
• Monotube shocks
• Staggered fit tires: 255 front, 275 rear
• 19-inch wheels
• Front-end stiffening: K-brace, stut-tower brace, grille-opening reinforcement brace, cross-axis joint on lateral link
• Brake cooling via undercar diverter (not ducting)
• Larger radiator
• More aggressive spring, shocks, and sway bars

2.3 Ecoboost Performance Pack
• Larger radiator
• 14-inch rotor, four-piston front brakes
• Upgraded axle (no Torsen)
• Summer tires, 255 all around
• Chassis stiffening
• 145-mph top speed
• More aggressive spring, shocks, and sway bars

Powertrain

Of all major systems, the '15 Mustang's powertrain is the most familiar to we enthusiasts, but there is still plenty new. Ford's overall statement on the '15 underhood family came from Dave, who said he was, "happy to say we have the most powerful, fuel-efficient engine lineup in the history of Mustang."

Entry-level Mustangs retain the familiar 3.7- liter V-6 with some, as yet unspecified, detail improvements. Ford would not talk specifics, but the V-6 is the least changed engine and clocks in at a preliminary spec of 300 horsepower at 6,500 rpm and 270 lb-ft at 4,000 rpm.

Next is the first rear-drive application of an Ecoboosted four- cylinder at Ford, an all-new 2.3-liter Ecoboost four-banger. The new 2.3 is also rumored to appear in a new Focus RS in Europe, but Dave noted this Ecoboost 2.3 is specifically designed for "Mustang performance," and itwas confirmed by him to make more power than the V-6 at a preliminary 305 horspower at 5,500 rpm and 300 lb-ft of torque from 2,500 to 4,500. No matter the final rating the 2.3 will play the expected Ecoboost dual role of performance upgrade from the base V-6 combined with a fuel economy boost compared to the 5.0-liter V-8. In fact, it's said to offer a "substantial" fuel-economy improvement over the outgoing 3.7-liter V-6.

Could this be the first Mustang engine to exceed the old 5.0 H.O.'s pushrod thrust while doubling its mileage?

In any case, the hardware confirmed by Ford is enticing. A stout steel crankshaft is on board, signifying a need to contain meaningful power, along with a high-flow, three-port cylinder head designed to gather and pulse the exhaust stream to the twin-scroll turbocharger for quicker spooling (think of an impact gun compared to a breaker bar energizing the turbine). This is done by branching the exhaust from cylinders two and three together while letting cylinders one and four exhaust independently. Keeping with modern practice this is done completely within the cylinder head casting. There is no exhaust manifold in the traditional sense, with the turbocharger simply bolting to the extended side of the cylinder head. Ford calls this an Integrated Exhaust Manifold and says it reduces turbo lag, and allows for longer exhaust valve timing for increased performance because there is less reversion (back flow) from other cylinders.

Perhaps more telling, the integrated exhaust plays an important role in quickly spooling the 2.3's big turbocharger. Sized larger than normal Ecoboost practice to make good top-end power, Ford found the IEM key in reducing the big unit's turbo lag.

Of course, the major attraction to a four- cylinder turbo in a performance car is not hitting the extremes in any one area but in tossing all the darts relatively close to the bulls eye. Thus, a favorable power-to-weight ratio, contained cost, good fuel economy, and excellent weight distribution are all factors in considering how the 2.3-liter Ecoboost Mustang will perform. A flat and distinctly muscular torque curve is also a given with an Ecoboost engine. Dave said the 2.3 "is extremely rewarding and well-balanced. It will definitely put a smile on your face. It is absolutely worthy of wearing the Mustang badge; we're really proud of this engine... it's going to be a great addition to our lineup."

While his boss, Raj Nair, was more specific, saying, "At the highest level, my favorite Mustang to drive is the Boss 302. So the target for the team was to get that level of balance that we have with the 302 across the total lineup.

"The 2.3 in particular, as well the 3.7- and 5.0-liter, not only achieve that level of balance, but the window that you have between steering control, throttle control, managing the weight and rotating the vehicle in the 302, I wouldn't say it's narrow, but you have to be on your game at 10/10 (driving at the limit). What we have now with the [2.3] is the window... is much wider. It is easier to drive the vehicle and enjoy the vehicle." Or, as Raj summed it up, "Flatter the novice and reward the expert."

We can only think the 2.3 Ecoboost Mustang will have the dynamic range to deliver on the unrequited promise of the mid-'80s SVO Mustang, a car that showed fleeting glimpses of glory but couldn't deliver the needed refinement or performance at both ends of the tach. Certainly it has been performance tuned and will serve as the desirable option for a newer generation fans who don't necessarily like or want a V-8.

Most exciting of all, the Coyote is evolving using parts and experience from the Boss 302's vaunted Roadrunner engine. Again, Dave laid out the highlights: "Of course, the 5.0-liter, the engine that's at the top of our lineup, we are not leaving that alone. We are improving its fuel performance, and overall power. "

"We taking learnings from the Boss 302, and even, in some cases, some components out of the Boss 302. We're making the engine breath better," he said. "Larger intake and exhaust valves is one improvement... Revised camshafts with higher valve lift and a new cylinder head with improve port flow [is another improvement]. All that we learned from the Boss 302."

"Now, some of the components we're using are the Boss 302 valve-springs and connecting rods..." he added. "We're also adding a standard air-to-oil cooler because the top speed across the entire lineup on Mustang is being increased, with the V-8 hitting 155 mph."

"So, you've seen us take the 5.0-liter from 412 to 420 horsepower, now we're going to take yet another step forward. We always put the and solution out there, so we're improving the fuel as well," he explained. "And how are we doing that? We have a new intake manifold with remote control valves... That allows us to control the combustion chamber and optimize it to give it more stability at idle and it will improve our total emissions and fuel economy. And then we have mid-lock variable cam timing phasers as well that allow us to more... precisely control the airflow."

More specifically Dave confirmed the new 5.0 cylinder head is not the fully CNC-ported Boss 302 head, which is impossible to build in Mustang GT volumes. Rather it's a new casting incorporating lessons learned from those heads. That said, at press time the projected specs on the revised 5.0 are an obviously conservative 420 horsepower at 6,500 and 396 lb-ft at 4,250 rpm.

All of these engines are married to the same six-speed transmissions in use today, but with significant improvements. The Getrag manual gains improved internals for smoother shifting and improved shifter plane spacing. It is "rewarding and precise," states Dave.

The automatic is re-engineered to reduce parasitic losses and withstand great power and torque. Furthermore, every automatic, with all engines, offers paddle shifting with rev-matched downshifts. These shifts are tuned by the new driving mode selector so Sport gives quicker, more aggressive shifts, and we presume Snow/Wet gives less shocking gear changes.

Suspension

To make the worst kept Mustang secret official, Dave confirmed the '15 uses an independent rear suspension. He described it as a "world-class, integral-link suspension designed specifically for Mustang... it improves stiffness and reduces compliance for more precision." Few details are available other than the IRS geometry has double the anti-lift under braking and two times the anti-squat during acceleration than the outgoing suspension for flatter handling. Also, it is based on the 8.8-inch differential, and expect to see all the good options available for the Boss 302 to reappear in the '15 Mustang GT—such as the Torsen limited slip. Furthermore, Ford is fine-tuning differential construction so the V-6 car's diff will be lighter and the V-8's stronger but heavier. Dave confirmed the GT gets monotube shocks at the rear as well.

A major part of the Mustang chassis story is that after the IRS was designed, the design team concluded they absolutely needed to widen the rear track 70mm. The front suspension had been widened by 15mm early in the program for performance reasons, and after much discussion, was not widened again when the rear was. This decision to widen the rear track was driven strictly by styling concerns says Dave (his chassis team met all of the handling objectives without the wider track), but it did mean a major effort revising the already designed IRS and everything it influences outward late in the program. The commitment to make this work for the better of the car shows the dedication of the whole Mustang team to the cause.

A MacPherson strut front end was retained for the new Mustang, but it is absolutely all new, including the front subframe (K-member) which is stiffer, lighter, and stronger. This allows for smaller diameter, better-riding sway bars because the front end twists less. Overall, the chassis is stiffer by an unspecified amount as well.

An exciting front suspension development is double-ball-joint geometry at the outer end of the lower control arm. This is a definite step up in suspension design from previous Mustang practice—it's more of a BMW trick—and it delivers increased precision through reduced wheel load lever arm, improved road feel, and wheel-rate stiffness. Not without its challenges such as cost and increased steering friction that demand careful engineering to reduce, this was still one of those improvements everyone wanted but management thought too pricey until a blind back-to-back test was arranged. The double ball-joint was approved immediately.

Put together, the front and rear suspensions yield "an extremely well-balanced vehicle," Dave said. He stopped short of stating the new GT will out-lap the Boss 302, instead saying he wasn't "making a promise, but [the development team] are on track to do that." To our ears, the message was Ford is emphasizing handling on the new Mustang, a most welcome development.

Brakes

Another double-ball-joint advantage is increased room to package larger brakes—a definite need on the '15 as the stoppers range all the way up to 15-inch discs. In fact, Dave's enthusiasm peaked when describing the brakes. "All this hardware combined with the booster improvements and the pedal-ratio improvements gives us a braking system that we have just never had on Mustang before. It is absolutely phenomenal and confidence inspiring. It is really, really exciting."

So far, only the basic specifications for the front brakes are known, but they do point to a quantum leap in braking performance, especially when factoring the gains from the flatter-reacting suspension.

Entry level in the V-6 and 2.3 Ecoboost models is a two-piston floating caliper atop a 12.5-inch rotor. All Mustang GTs and 2.3 Ecoboost with the Performance Pack sport 14-inch rotors under fixed four-piston calipers that Dave characterized as similar to but more capable than today's Brembo package. He said the calipers are larger, stiffer, and generate more torque than today's four-piston units, and the whispered word is this is actually the best performing brake package.

Of course, there's more. Mustang GTs with the Performance Pack move to those pizza-pan, 15-inch rotors with fixed six-piston Brembo calipers. Again these calipers are larger, stiffer, and boast 15 percent more pad surface area than today's Shelby GT500.

Also mentioned, all Mustang calipers are aluminum, and the rear brakes have been increased in overall size and thermal capacity. Up front, the large brakes on the Performance Packages are cooled by under-car air diverters as well. These are similar to brake cooling ducts, but use fixed panels to scoop and flip air to the front brakes. There are no brake-cooling ducts in the front bodywork.

The tire manufacturers, compounds, and other details were not finalized at press time, but tire sizes were. Base 17-inch and 18-inch fitments wear 235 tires; 19-inch wheels get 255 tires; the 20-inch option comes with 265 rubber. All tire fitments are square—the same size at all four corners, except for the 5.0-liter Performance Package, which gets 275s at the rear on 19-inch rims.

When Can You Buy One?

Ford spokespeople were adamant Mustang will be sold world-wide unchanged from U.S. specification unless local regulations demand otherwise. The sequential taillights are banned in some countries, for example, rear foglamps can be required, and there will be righthand-drive models (late availability).

Because Mustangs are a rare, premium sports car overseas, Ford can charge more for them there. Asked if this was a significant financial gain, and thus helpful in getting some of the high-specification hardware through the approval process, Ford said no.

While there may have once been a plan to offer the '15 Mustang on the car's exact on-sale 50th anniversary—April 17, 2014—that is not the case. First deliveries are now planned for the last quarter of 2014, although orders could possibly be placed by the time you read this. Coupes will appear first, with the convertibles slightly delayed, perhaps two months.

All Mustangs will be built at the usual Flat Rock, Michigan plant. Expect fewer standalone options—Ford says that even with the additional engine, the ordering process will be less complex than with the current car.

Pricing, of course, will be the last '15 fact released. We feared Ford would make the car so capable and urbane that it would migrate above its populist roots, a well-anticipated question by the Ford team. Dave's response: "(We're) not ready to share the price, but we are happy where we ended up." Keeping the Mustang affordable was mentioned as a key goal by more than one team member.

Ultimately, even after our limited exposure to it, we are more sure about this new Mustang than any other in our 26 years of professional experience with the marque. Normally it takes us months to warm to a new design, but we've been excited by the '15 from the instant they slid the sheet off it in the design studio courtyard—when we felt a bit guilty for having doubted if Ford knew their car well enough to "get it."

Well, Ford definitely gets it. The personality looks spot-on with performance we didn't dare dream of.

We can't wait to bring it to you in all its variations.

Coming Clean

Think you've been anxious for your first look at the '15 Mustang? Consider the guys who are building it. During the first press preview, Ford management, marketers and engineers were all but bursting to talk about their new baby.

Like school kids at their first dance, the press and Ford people were awkwardly shy for the first moment, then fairly gushing once it sank in that, yes, they really could talk about the new Mustang to people outside their work group. There was so much to tell, so much held back that the exchanges came in bursts, the subject pinging from the minutiae of the alloy in the brake calipers to macro demographics in 30 seconds.

And don't think there aren't serious sanctions against speaking before the official release. More than once at the reveal a Ford employee would slow in mid-sentence, tensely searching for the right words, then suddenly relax, saying, "Oh, that's right, we can talk about this now."

We're all used to the odd diplomatic dance that takes place before a car is announced. The press probes, the engineers and marketers mince words, all but speaking in tongues to say something without revealing anything. But when the dam finally breaks on a car as significant and as anticipated as a new Mustang, the relief is real enough to carry in a backpack. One that you can take off, that is.


Ultimately, even after our limited exposure to it, we are more sure about this new Mustang than any other in our 26 years of professional experience with the marque.


New Rivals

Ford has apparently declined magazine requests to supply '15 GTs for Mustang vs. Camaro stories (don't worry, such stories will end when the sun quits rising in the east), and David Pericak was queried as to why.

"Camaro has their car, they tune it and develop it the way that they do and... their customers love it and there's nothing wrong with that. But if you want to better yourself... that's why we took Porsche 911s and, you know, we had some pretty high aspirational vehicles along with us on the development— because, as Raj and the rest of us say, we want to raise the chinning bar. It's not that we discount them... we believe we need to look beyond that [the Camaro] to make ourselves better.


Tech Specs: 2015 Mustang

Engine and Drivetrain

Block
Aluminum
Rods
Forged steel
Bore x Stroke
3.7: 3.76 x 3.41-in/95.5 x 86.7mm
2.3: 3.45 x 3.7-in/87.55 x 94mm
5.0: 3.63 x 3.65-in/92.2 x 92.7mm
Displacement
3.7: 227ci/3,727cc
2.3: 140ci/2,300cc
5.0: 302ci/4,951cc
Pistons
Cast aluminum
Valvetrain
DOHC w/ four valves per cylinder, and twin independent variable camshaft timing
Cylinder heads
Aluminum w/
3.7: Intake 37mm/10mm, exhaust 31mm/9.7mm valves
2.3: Intake 31mm/8.31mm, exhaust 30mm/7.42mm valves,
5.0: Intake 37.3 mm/13mm, exhaust 31.8mm/13mm valves
Intake manifold
Composite shell-welded with runner pack (5.0: charge motion control valves)
Fuel system
3.7: Sequential multiport electronic
2.3: Direct injection
5.0: Sequential multiport electronic
Exhaust
3.7: Cast-iron
2.3: Three-port integrated into aluminum head
5.0: Stainless-steel tubular headers
Transmission
• Six-speed manual w/ Hill Start Assist
Gear ratios
3.7 2.3 5.0
First 4.236 4.236 3.657
Second 2.538 2.538 2.430
Third 1.665 1.665 1.686
Fourth 1.2387 1.238 1.315
Fifth 1.00 1.00 1.00
Sixth 0.704 0.704 0.651
• Six-speed automatic w/ paddle shifters
Gear ratios
First 4.17 Fourth 1.14
Second 2.34 Fifth 0.87
Third 1.52 Sixth 0.69

Rearend
Independent 8.8
Gear ratios
3.7: 3.15:1, 3.55:1 (optional)
2.3: 3.15:1, 3.31:1 (optional), 3.55:1 (Performance Package)
5.0: 3.15:1, 3.55:1 (optional)

Suspension and Chassis

Front Suspension
Double-ball-joint independent MacPherson strut and tubular stabilizer bar
Brakes
3.7: 320 (12.6 in.) x 30mm vented discs, twin-piston 43mm floating aluminum calipers
2.3: 320 (12.6-in) x 30mm vented discs, twin-piston 43mm floating aluminum calipers
Performance Package: 352 (13.9-in) x 32mm vented discs, four-piston 46mm fixed aluminum calipers
5.0: 352 (13.9-in) x 32mm vented discs, four-piston 46mm fixed aluminum calipers
Performance Package: 380 (15.0-in) x 34mm vented discs, Brembo six-piston 36mm fixed aluminum calipers
Wheels & Tires
3.7: 17x7.5-in 235/55R H A/S, 18x8-in 235/50R W A/S
2.3: 17x7.5-in 235/55R H A/S, 18x8-in 235/50R W A/S, 19x8.5-in 255/40R W A/S, 20x9-in 265/35R W summer; Performance Package: 19x9-in 255/40R Y summer
5.0: 18x8-in 235/50R W A/S, 19x8.5-in 255/40R W A/S, 20x9-in 265/35R W summer; Performance Package: front, 19x9-in 255/40R

Rear Suspension
Integral-link independent with coilsprings, solid stabilizer bar, and twin- or mono-tube dampers (application-specific)
Brakes
3.7: 320 (12.6-in) x 12mm solid discs, single-piston 45mm floating aluminum calipers, integral parking brake
2.3: 320 (12.6-in) x 12mm solid discs, single-piston 45mm floating aluminum calipers, integral parking brake; Performance Package: 330 (13.0-in) x 25mm vented discs, s prism:class="box"ingle-piston 45mm floating iron calipers, integral parking brake
5.0: 330 (13.0-in) x 25mm vented discs, single-piston 45mm floating iron calipers, integral parking brake; Performance Package: 330 (13.0-in) x 25mm vented discs, single-p prism:class="box"iston 45mm floating iron calipers, integral parking brake
Wheels & Tires
3.7: 17x7.5-in 235/55R H A/S 18x8-in 235/50R W A/S
2.3: 17x7.5-in 235/55R H A/S, 18x8-in 235/50R W A/S, 19x8.5-in 255/40R W A/S, 20x9-in 265/35R W summer; Performance Package: 19x9-in 255/40R Y summer
5.0: 18x8-in 235/50R W A/S, 19x8.5-in 255/40R W A/S, 20x9-in 265/35R W summer; Performance Package: 19x9.5-in 275/40R Y summer