I can’t say I’ve seen feral horses on many occasions and yet the times I was lucky enough to witness these superb animals running around, they were doing it in a straight line. For five decades, this heritage was fitting for Ford’s pony car, but things have changed with the 2015 Mustang.
The S550 Mustang is gifted with an Independent Rear Suspension (IRS) for the first time and, as we found out during our review
, this gets it around corners rather well. So does this mean that you can now take the standard Mustang to a track (you know, as in not a drag strip)?
We’re paid to give you long answers to such questions, so we headed out to a 2015 Ford Mustang track day earlier this week in order to offer you the full story. This was an official Ford event and saw us flying around in both the 5-liter V8 GT model, as well as in the EcoBoost.
We know it would be considerate of us to start with the EcoBoost, but we just can't - yes, the V8 is that good.
With so many people being obsessed by the Europeanization of the Mustang, we once again drove the sports car on the Old Continent. And yes, the Blue Oval itself describes the Mustang as a sports car.
This was my first thought as I positioned myself in the optional Recaro seat of the yellow Mustang GT. These purposeful seats change the car more than expected. They come with manual adjustments, so you know from the very beginning that things are serious.
My first impression was that they’re too firm, but I changed my mind after driving to the track for 40 miles on public roads. They’re just right and they explain the agile character of the new Mustang very well.
Is the Mustang GT a good daily driver?
With the drive starting inside the city, I noticed how appropriate the Mustang GT is for the role of a daily driver. The visibility is good, the access up front is easy and people smile at you.
You will be able to smile back at them even if you go for the manual model we drove. With a rather friendly clutch and a revised V8 that’s extremely relaxed at low revs, you can afford to do that.
Do look ahead though. You’ll be able to see those badass hood creases. Factor in the soundtrack of the GT and your daily commute has plenty of chances to become the highlight of the day. The aural experience is one of the best parts of the 2015 Mustang GT.
The engine’s voice is always present and can even become intimidating for novice passengers, but it never feels like it’s too much. The comparison with the C7 Corvette, which has lent its LT1 V8 to the 2016 Camaro, reveals an interesting fact.
With its exhaust valves, the soundtrack of the ‘Vette is both more modulable and meaner at the top. And yet the Mustang manages to feel more genuine in the end, with the unaltered Coyote V8 rumble being there for you all the time like a hot, loving wife.
Adding all the details up, the trip to the track was far from being an episode I spent rushing around, waiting for the cake that would be served later on in the day. I enjoyed every mile of it. For instance, the low-end torque allows you to go through villages in fourth, in a state of complete relaxation. Nevertheless, when you head out onto the open road, a firm press of the throttle is enough to get your blood pumping.
For the circuit experience, we were assisted by a group of racing instructors. And when you get rally drivers who take part in WRC stages to coach you, all the worries about being nannied suddenly vanish. The playground
Our playground was 2 miles (3.3 km) long, packing mostly technical corners that can easily make you sweat, with the track width sitting at 36 feet (11 meters). The circuit also packs a straight line that allowed us to hit the 155 mph (250 km/h) top speed of the GT.
As it often happens in such cases, two racing instructors hopped aboard a GT and started sampling the track. In the exact time if took us to relax a bit in preparation for the event, they set up plenty of cones, carving out a challenging pathway for us.
After the first two corners, I was surprised by how well the Mustang act on the track. Sure, Euro-spec GTs come fitted with the Performance Pack as standard, but this was the same car that had been friendly to me throughout the city.
The most interesting part of the handling is the agility of the 3,700 lbs (1.7 ton) coupe. We drove on 19 Pirellis measuring 255/40 up front and 275/40 at the rear, with the front end showing plenty of grip.
In the old Mustang
, if you tried to go into maximum attack mode through a corner, making a fool out of yourself was the best thing that could happen. I tried that in the 2014 Mustang GT on repeated occasions, and the result was the same.
If you happened to come across the slightest of bumps during your cornering journey, the car’s sideways trajectory was anybody’s guess. I even tried it in a 2014 Shelby GT500
once. Yes, the car did go thought the corner fully sideways at about 50 mph (80 km/h) and it was darn memorable. But I wouldn’t do it again.
Sure, there was also the Boss 302, but get this - the Performance Pack 2015 GT is faster than the track-savvy version of the old car. Finally, this 424 hp V8 machine allows you to get behind the wheel and fully exploit its potential without any other worry than how to get to that finish line quicker.
With the rear wheels having been separated at birth, the Mustang is now a handling joy, feeling a bit lighter than the scales show. The steering is talkative enough, while its three available modes only set the weight, leaving the decent feedback unaltered.
When you enter a corner hard, the car starts leaning and you get the feeling that you might be in trouble. Carry on pushing though and you’ll notice this is far from the truth.
Whether you choose the fast way out or the drifting route, you’ll have plenty of control. Aside from the obvious IRS benefits, a part of the credit goes to the Torsen rear diff of the Performance Package.
The go-fast package also includes a 3.73:1 rear end, a strut tower brace and a front splitter that pays more attention to cooling the brakes. As for the suspension, the package offers bespoke springs and rear dampers, custom elasto-kinematics, as well as superior engine cooling,
I spent my time on the track with two instructors. One was a decade older than me, while the other was a decade younger.
The first helped me improve my racing line while using the calmest firm instructions I’ve ever heard inside a car, while the latter kept me on my toes with pieces of advice such as “go right next to that cone and now hit the gas, gas, gas!”
The best part of it all was that I could rely on the Mustang as an entertaining, predictable tool during all of these events. The Blue Oval has reworked the 5-liter V8 of the GT, learning from the experience gained with the Boss 302. In Euro spec, the unit now churns out 424 hp at 6,500 rpm and 386 lb-ft (523 Nm) at 4,250 rpm. In real life, you start living the American Dream from about 2,500 rpm, things gets extra spicy once you hit 3,500 rpm and the response above 4,000 can be intimidating for the uninitiated.
Speaking of white-knuckle moments, there was a massive bump on one of the back roads leading to the track. This acted a bit like a trampoline, allowing me to perform a little jump. I once again came to the conclusion that the new platform is stable enough to be trusted in rough conditions.
Returning to the pulling sensations, the first three gears can be described as one blistering experience. You’ll hit 124 mph (200 km/h) in fourth and going into fifth will let you get to the 155 mph (250 km/h) without hesitation. Heck, the five-oh even pulls well in sixth.
The stopping power is reassuring, while the brake pedal has a firm response. Since this is the Performance Package we’re talking about, the front rotors come from Brembo, measuring 15 inches in diameter, just like those on the 2014 Shelby GT500. OK, so the GT is pretty good on the track, but what about the EcoBoost?
The EcoBoost model we drove came in Convertible form, so it couldn’t have been more different to the GT. And yet this boosted pony managed to offer a decent experience on the track.
The direct-injected four-cylinder engine not only has an output that surpasses the Mustang V8 from a decade ago, but it’s also flexible. It gets going from under 2,000 revs while its sweet spot sits between 2,500 and 4,500 revs.
Sure, on the track you’ll have to play in the rev area mentioned above, but on the road you get to enjoy the 314 hp and 300 lb-ft (407 Nm) without having to change gears like crazy just to stay on the boost.
The Getrag six-speed manual experience doesn’t feel as precise as that offered by the GT, and yet we’re sure a degree of subjectivity is involved here - when a three-pedal setup works well for a V8, you can be more forgiving.
The idea is that Ford engineers made efforts to ensure the (twin-scroll) turbocharged engine feels as close as possible to the linear power delivery of an atmospheric unit.
To put it another way, the handling difference between the Performance Pack GT Fastback and the EcoBoost Cabriolet was greater than the distance between the two engines.
With the open-air model, you can feel the handling drawbacks of the chopped-up roof, but the car is still obedient. The canvas roof can only be folded or raised when stationary and this can be bother in traffic. As for the times when it sits above your head, the top does a great job at providing both thermal and sound insulation.
The track time allowed us to see EcoBoost Cabriolets being able to keep up with GT Fastbacks more than once.
Curious to see how much of a difference the driver makes, I asked a fellow journalist to join me in a rolling start drag race on the side of the track.
Unlike in the case of the track “Paradox” mentioned above, the difference between the straight line pulling power of the two was just the one you’d expect.
Speaking of shenanigans, we also tested the Line Lock feature on the manual GT Coupe.
This is part of the delicious Track Apps menu and, thankfully, it’s not difficult to activate. You need to access the corresponding menu, hold down the “OK” button on the steering wheel for a few seconds and then give the brake pedal a firm press.
From this point on, you’ll be in for about 15 seconds of locked front brakes, without having to keep the pedal pressed. Despite having lost its Solid Rear Axle (SRA), the 2015 Mustang is so sturdy you could swear you’re spinning the rear wheels on a wet road. Check out the tire-roasting action in the clip below.
Speaking of which, Mustang racing teams in the US have already developed an SRA conversion kit for the 2015 Mustang. The aim here is to ensure the driveline can take repeated 8s passes generated by the supercharged V8 under the hood - it is rumored that the SRA conversion we’re talking about is part of the development process for Ford Performance’s out-of-the-box drag racer, the Cobra Jet. LINK stire
Sure, switching from the IRS back to the SRA means renouncing all the handling benefits we’ve discussed above, but when you’re into serious drag racing, none of that matters. I jumped behind the wheel of an EcoBoost Convertible for the journey back to the base and the good news kept flowing. The experience was borderline when it came to calling this a symbol of American motoring and yet when I floored it, things got just as intense as in, say, a BMW 435i Cabriolet.
Having sampled the four- and the eight-cylinder options, it’s time to answer some questions. Does the 2015 pony still have the good old Mustang spirit?
As some of you know, the free-roaming horse we’ve learned to call Mustang traces its origins back to the domestic horses brought to the Americas by the Spanish. Now the S550 Ford Mustang follows a somewhat similar recipe, offering the best of both worlds.
The 2015 ‘Stang is American enough to make any German or Japanese competitor feels flavor-poor, while it has all the necessary European genes to offer a memorable track day experience. We know, that sounds a bit complicated, so we’ll call it just right. How does it stack up against the European competition?
Until the 2016 Camaro arrives in Europe early next year, the Mustang doesn’t have any direct competitor on the Old Continent.
The Nissan 370Z feels vague compared to the Ford and the vast group of hot hatches that match the Mustang’s pricing are, well... hot hatches.
Yes, another key aspect of the Mustang’s European offensive sits in its availability, with the GT starting at EUR42,000, while the EcoBoost starts at EUR37,000 (German market, 19% VAT included).
You shouldn’t tell Old Continent buyers about the domestic pricing of the 2015 Ford Mustang though. The V8 will set you back at least $32,300, while the EcoBoost comes with an MSRP of $25,300. Can you enjoy yourself in the EcoBoost?
The slab-of-America feeling will be partially gone, but you still get a pleasing sportscar that offers a special, usable take on the concept.
To get an idea on how the two models stack up against each other, we have to talk numbers. We recently found out that UK buyers are more V8-savvy than Americans - while about 70 percent of British customers opt for the GT, the percentage drops to around 50 percent in the US. Then again, the American line-up also includes the V6, which is absent in Europe. That GT though...
Now that the Mustang is easier to live with, thanks to the new Independent Rear Suspension, the GT experience is almost dream-like: in the midst of all the eco pressure we get nowadays, you can grab yourself one of these affordable V8s, get in and fully exploit its resources. That’s like being badass and relaxed at the same time.
As for the complete financial side of the GT, we’re not here to discuss the annual taxes for the V8 on the European market. You have accountants for that.
Ask me about the part of the 2015 Mustang track day I’ll always remember though and I’ll probably mention the aviation-like soundtrack of the GT. That rumble burned itself into my memory as I was watching the cars fly by from the side of the circuit.