At 50, Ford Mustang is current and classic with new upgrades

AP News
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Posted: Sep 23, 2015 12:45 PM
At 50, Ford Mustang is current and classic with new upgrades

At the age of 50, the Ford Mustang has accomplished the ultimate goal: To be current and ageless, and appealing to young and old alike.

For 2015, the half-century-old Mustang adds a modern 310-horsepower turbocharged four-cylinder engine that's fuel efficient and refined even as it delivers more horsepower and torque than the Mustang's V-6.

The Mustang's suspension, with an independent rear setup finally replacing the solid rear axle design, provides better handling and control.

Ford's venerable pony car is restyled with a prominent fastback look — a continuous sloping visual line from roof to the end of the car — and is lower, wider and sleeker than its predecessor. Yet it's unmistakably a Mustang, with a long hood, short rear, trapezoidal grille and almost sinister-looking headlights.

The 2015 Mustang is the most customizable and tech-savvy version ever, with electronics that let the driver choose steering effort, engine response and transmission settings, as well as the color of the gauges. There's even a new track app so a driver can monitor the car's performance on the racetrack.

The new Mustang also has more safety equipment, including a standard "Active Glovebox," which deploys a knee air bag to help keep the front passenger properly positioned during a frontal crash.

Federal regulators rated the 2015 Mustang coupe five-out-of-five stars in overall crash tests.

Best of all, the hot-looking 2015 Mustang offers real bang for the buck.

The starting manufacturer's suggested retail price, including destination charge, for a 2015 Mustang Fastback coupe with 300-horsepower V-6 and six-speed manual transmission is $24,700.

Its standard equipment includes a rearview camera; push-button start; cloth front bucket seats; a tilt and telescoping steering wheel; eight air bags; electronic stability control; limited slip differential. It also features an illuminated Mustang horse emblem spotlighted on the ground outside the car's two doors when the car is unlocked, which is a unique and welcoming touch for when a driver approaches the vehicle inside a darkened garage.

The Mustang continues to be sold as a coupe and convertible.

The lowest starting retail price, including destination charge, for a 2015 convertible with V-6 and manual is $30,200. All convertibles have a fully lined, black fabric top that requires manual unlatching and latching in one spot above the windshield. The rest of the convertible mechanism is power operated.

Substituting a six-speed automatic for the manual on the coupe and convertible costs an additional $1,195.

The EcoBoost turbo adds to the price, too, with the base Mustang EcoBoost Fastback starting at $26,200 with manual transmission and the base EcoBoost Convertible starting at $35,700 with manual.

A 400-horsepower V-8 with 435 foot-pounds of torque is also available.

The test-driven Mustang Convertible had the 2.3-liter, turbocharged four-cylinder engine with 320 foot-pounds of torque coming on by 2,500 rpm, and it surprised by providing plenty of power and sassy performance.

The car, which was rear-drive and had an automatic transmission, moved aggressively on demand to merge onto highways and sweep past slower cars, particularly when the driver managed the gears with the paddle shifters mounted on the steering wheel. Yet at idle, the engine was smooth and quiet.

But passengers noticed the EcoBoost engine didn't sound raucous, the way a Mustang with a bigger engine does.

The steering was spot-on and responsive, and the brakes worked strongly.

There was nary a shudder or shake in the ride of the 3,700-pound convertible as might be expected in an open-top car.

The ride was comfortable as the new rear suspension soaked up the bumps in the road, rather than distributing them through the car body as the old solid rear axle did.

The fabric roof is improved, too, with three layers, a smoother appearance and faster operation. But it doesn't keep out road noise or the sounds from nearby vehicles.

The Mustang's large side doors can bang into adjacent cars in parking lots. The long hood sits high and can be difficult to see over.

The two rear seats are difficult to access with the roof on, and the rear headroom and legroom are limited.

Trunk space has been expanded to more than 11 cubic feet and the trunk opening is wider, so two golf bags fit inside.

Other items: The EcoBoost Mustang comes with automatic grille shutters that can close part or all of the grille so air doesn't enter when it's not needed for engine cooling. This improves the Mustang's aerodynamics, so fuel economy is maximized.

The words "ground speed" are in the speedometer; would there be any other kind of speed in the road-hugging Mustang?

The test-driven car came in Competition Orange, which sounded better than it looked, according to most observers.

The 2015 Mustang has been the subject of three U.S. safety recalls.