The longer a car model has been in production, the more anticipated is the release of its subsequent model generation. When it comes to an icon, the sheer impact of the new release is often beyond words. Such is the case with the S550 Mustang – The 6th generation of the American icon.
Few cars in the world can boast upon the reputation of icon as the Ford Mustang. In fact, there is only one other American car that can drive this kind of impact. It isn’t a Camaro. It only has two seats.
The last time we saw such a frenzy surrounding a Mustang was when it went retro with the release of the S-197 as a 2005 model year car. This frenzy started way back in 2003 when the S-197 concept was first shown to the word.
For the last 10 years Ford has built and sold the retro-inspired S-197. That car saw a facelift in 2010 as the S-197 II. In 2011, the S-197 II saw the return of the 5.0 liter V8 engine from the fox-body days. All the while Ford has been preparing a move out of retro and into worldwide domination with a modern pony car. This is the S-550 you see here. The all new 2015 Ford Mustang.
Our friends, Crowley Car Company, owners of North County Ford in Vista California have worked with RallyWays before. A few months ago we did the 2014 Ford Fiesta ST review with them. Soon after we followed up with a review of the 2014 Ford Focus ST.
We’re fans of hot-hatches at RallyWays, but the might of a Mustang cannot be denied.
Crowley had just gotten delivery of two brand new 2015 Mustangs – A Triple Yellow 50th Anniversary edition and an Ingot Silver 5.0 Performance Package Mustang GT. The cars were first brought to our local meet Cbad Cars and Coffee Carlsbad and displayed there. After that, we took the silver 5-point-O for a photoshoot and drive.
I was in charge of camera duty. First at the beach, then some rolling shots. After that, it was my job to drive the new Mustang in various roads to get a good feel for the car. After all, it ain’t gonna drive itself. I was adamant about trying out the car in everything from tight twisty roads, to fast open sweepers, to town driving, to freeway. I did all that.
By the way, this was a fun photoshoot. We ended up with a number of amazing 2015 Mustang pictures. Our favorite is the one used for the cover image of this story. To see a clean version of this S550 Mustang picture without the cover art text and what not, go see the S550 Mustang RallyWays Automotive Photography Portfolio Photo.
Here the RallyWays Miata is chasing the new Mustang down the freeway for some S550 Mustang action shots. It helps the Miata is so low already. Getting the camera even lower to the ground takes minimal effort. Just a tad bit of hanging out the side.
I don’t have to try and convince you about the looks. At the moment, you either like it, or you don’t, or you’re on the fence. I think that pretty much sums up everybody alive. That said, those on the fence will likely end up drinking coffee… or beer… Where the first few zips take some getting used to, but after a while you are absolutely in love.
The most shocking thing to me is how Ford was able to make a new modern Mustang completely different from the outgoing 2014 model, yet somehow also make it look like its brother. That is something I said when the S550 Mustang first revealed.
There is no mistaking it for anything else. The car looks like a Mustang. And a good one at that. The obvious things about it are things I don’t really have to describe too much. You can see it in the pictures. It’s the not-so-obvious things that really are awesome and really need to be pointed out.
At Cbad Cars I had the chance to look at the S550 right next to the outgoing S197 and note the differences. I was dissecting the car with the help of a friend who happens to be a fulfilled car designer. My friend designed two important models from the 90’s for another Detriot company whose name I will not mention. [Cough! Mopar… cough!].
As we were studying the car, one thing that really stood out to us is the style and width of the rear fenders. Super sexy really. When compared to the S197, the new Mustang’s rear fenders are much wider and stylized. As soon as the guys start fitting wider wheels, dropping the stance and making the fitment perfectly flush, the qualities of these fenders are totally going to shine.
The other thing is how highly stylized everything is. You can tell that lots of hours and many key designers were involved in stylizing this car… and nobody slept during that time. It was all work, work, work. There’s stuff going on all over the place. You can spend an entire afternoon just picking out lines off the body. When you own one of these, you can take your time waxing it just to admire all those lines.
By the way, the hood is actually lower by 1.5” on this new Mustang when compared to the outgoing S197. Even knowing that, to me the very front of the car looks quite tall. I think it’s the huge grille opening and the near-flat front center section. It’s like a cliff from the upper front of the fender to the air dam at the bottom.
My favorite feature on the outside is by far the rear end. That bit is the most classic Mustang-like feature of the entire car. It’s modern but at the same time recalls the best Mustangs of the past. Absolutely gorgeous. That’s a lot to say since I firmly believe, and so does my wife, that the back end of a car is the toughest to design.
I can say with confidence that the interior is my favorite part of the entire car. I always liked the interior in the 2005-2014 Mustang – specially towards the end of the generation in the S-197 II. I actually owned a 2011 Mustang V6 Premium with saddle interior. I liked it because somehow Ford managed to design an accomodating and cozy interior with all the cool retro touches, even at that low price point. Yes, there are a lot of plastics, but it’s to be expected at this price point.
The new Mustang follows that same philosophy, but with a big improvement. The cabin is an even nicer place to be in. It’s cool and interesting. The cabin also posseses many retro cues. Ford may not admit it, but this new Mustang has more retro bits than was probably originally planned. That’s a good thing. Specially in the interior.
Things like the two dash hoods on either side. The round air vents. The round steering wheel horn button center. Heck, even the door pulls. Those are much cooler than in the older model. The center stack is pretty awesome too with the big screen and the rad toggle switches at the bottom. Who doesn’t love toggle switches?
There are also clues of the Mustang tri-bars. If you take a look a the door cards, you can see the tri-bars stitched in towards the back. I’m not sure if the base models have this, but the premium ones do.
The round ball-shifter is a welcome addition. I never liked the shifter in the old car with the exception of the aluminum ball-shifter included in the GT Premium 401A Package. This stock one however, is awesome. It adopted the pull-up reverse lockout seen in the Focus ST and Fiesta ST and more commonly in Subarus. Works perfectly well.
I wasn’t too hot on feeling hard plastic on the top of the door cards. I expected this to be improved in the S550 over the S197 II. This is a car you don’t typically drive with your arm up on the door sill with the window down, with your elbow sticking out the window. I’m sure some big guys are going to find a way to do that, but it doesn’t feel comfortable to me. Regardless, it’s always a nice touch to have squishy plastic there. Not so yet unfortunately.
Overall, the cabin in very comfortable. There is an infinite number of adjustments to make yourself comfortable. This particular car has Recaro seats, which are not electric, but they still have all the adjustments necessary to get into a nice sporty seating position. You can get REALLY low too. I like to seat low, but I found myself having to raise the seat a bit given how low these will go. This is great news for tall guys that complain they can’t often get low enough in sports cars.
Looking out at the back seat I found a very welcome addition – or rather subtraction. The back seats don’t have those clumsy folding head-rests anymore. Yay! Now I can see out the back!
A big thumbs up to the interior. Now let’s go drive.
After adjusting everything to my liking and even setting up the Bluetooth connection to my iPhone I was on my way. By the way, connecting my iPhone 5C to the car was actually possible. Rather easy too. I say this because in my 2011, the thing never really worked right. I used to spend more time fighting with the Ford Siri woman in the stereo than listening to my music. Here however, I wanted to get as comfortable as possible. Listening to my own music rather than satellite radio would help with that. It’s a new and foreign car to me. Getting comfortable quickly is very important for a successful and informative test drive.
The first thing I realized after setting off is how much quieter the cabin is in this new Mustang when compared to my older one. I’m not talking about exhaust or engine noise. I’m talking about all the surrounding noises that get into the cabin. It’s much quieter in here than it used to be.
Before I talk about power, let me talk about the gear shifter. I know, some of you will commit a crime by buying the new Mustang with an automatic with the excuse that you drive in traffic, live in LA, your wife can’t drive stick, your mum’s gonna drive it too, etc, etc. But stick is where it’s at.
The gear shifter feels GREAT! This new Mustang really is a joy to shift. I buy all my cars manual regardless of how the shifter lever feels. That said, when the shifter feels good it’s all icing on the cake. The transmission doesn’t feel notchy or grindy or anything. I know this is something that plagued the S197 a bit. I don’t know if the S550 uses the same transmission revised, or if it has a different unit. Quite frankly, I’m not going to look it up either. Suffice to say, this feels awesome. We just need to see how it will feel after 5,000 miles. But as a start, I’m VERY pleased. In fact, I have a friend who’s considering replacing his 2012 with a new 2015 because of the little nuances, such as the improved shifting. You manual drivers know, shifting feel is a big deal.
One common theme in the forums is that the new 2015 Mustang is heavier than its predecessor. Maybe that might matter a bit at the dragstrip – but only in a stock car. You’re going to modify it anyway right? On the street, in real life, it is FAST. Like very. This is not surprising. 435 horsepower is a lot. Last year, the Mustang had 420 horsepower. True, the extra weight might make those numbers meet at the same level. But don’t forget that in 2011, the first year of the 5.0, the V8 Mustang had 412 horsepower. We’re still going up.
I’m not writing to non-car people here. You are supposed to be a car enthusiast. We car enthusiasts know that horsepower is a actually a vague number without taking into account torque. Well, the 5.0 V8 in the 2015 S550 Mustang produces 400 Lb Ft of torque at 4,250 RPM. The first 5.0 in 2011 did 390 Lb Ft.
This write-up focuses on the 5.0 V8, because that’s what I drove. But don’t forget the V6 is still there. According to Ford’s spec sheet, 5 horses ran away from the V6 though. It reads 300 hp and my 2011 V6 read 305hp. Hmmm. Maybe that’s because of the importance of the new 2.3L GTDI I-4 EcoBoost® Engine. That little monster produces 310 horsepower, and that’s at a lowly 5,500 RPM. The other 2 engines are measured at 6,500. I like. That 4 Cylinder EcoBoost engine is torquey too. 320 Lb Ft of torque at only 3000 RPM. That’s more torque than the V6 produces at 4,000 RPM! And to make matters more interesting, 3,000 RPM is the sweet spot of normal driving. I kinda want to go drive the EcoBoost now.
To put the 4 cylinder into perspective, a Mitsubishi Evo X, one of the kings of powerful 4 cylinders and a personal favorite of mine has 291 horsepower and 300 Lb Ft of torque. That horsepower is actually measured at 6,500 RPM, so the number would actually be worse at 5,500RPM where the Mustang’s 4 cylinder is measured. And guess what? The Evo X GSR and the SS550 Mustang EcoBoost are exactly the same weight. On paper at least, stock for stock, the Mustang would kick the Evo’s arse.
Wait, how did I get so distracted? Enough rambling about the 4-cylinder EcoBoost. Let’s go back to the heart of the Mustang – The V8.
Like I was saying. There is no doubt this car is fast! Just as importantly, it’s easy to drive. It’s also easy to shift. Because the V8 engine is so torquey, being in the correct gear is super easy. The car is not as finicky about what gear it’s in as a car with a low displacement engine would be.
The V8 engine rumble is there. The other Mustang engine options are great, but you have to think long and hard about giving up the sound and the feel of the big V8 engine. One way to think about it is, if you don’t drive long distances all the time or your wallet is thick, go V8. If you drive 100 miles to work every day you might be better off with the V6, or better yet, the I4 EcoBoost.
The car is more predictable than the older Mustang. It drives in a more refined fashion as well. This is of course thanks to the new independent rear suspension (IRS). Most drivers will like that. A few more hardcore Mustang drivers would still prefer the solid axle at the back. I think the independent rear suspension is a good move on Ford’s part. Not only does it make for a more predictable and easier car to drive, but the change to IRS was much needed. While some hardcore live-axle enthusiasts complain about the new IRS suspension, just imagine it the other way around. How many people would be complaining right now if Ford had stuck with the live-axle in the S550 just to appease a few live-axle enthusiasts? In the grand scheme of things, the move to the independent rear suspension was the right move.
The S550 has presence on the road that few other cars possess. It’s a powerful muscle car, yet it’s now luxurious in many ways. This car is fun to drive. I didn’t want to stop really.
In a day’s drive it’s impossible to play with all the toys the new 2015 Mustang has. But I did get to play with a few of them.
For instance, I drove the car in all four selectable driving modes. The modes are Normal, Sport+, Track and Snow/Wet.
It wasn’t wet, nor was it snowing, so I didn’t do much in Snow/Wet mode. The key behind the driving modes is the feel of the steering and the throttle response. My favorite mode was Sport+. I think that if I owned the car, it would probably stay in Sport+ mode all the time. Normal just felt a little slacker. Note that in track mode, the car turns off traction control. So, be careful. Don’t be “that Mustang driver.”
Same goes for the steering. The electric power-assisted steering has 3 modes: Normal, Sport and Comfort. I’d use Sport most of the time. Normal, if I’m lazy. Comfort, I didn’t like. It feels too vague and soft. Sport and normal were absolutely useful and fine.
Don’t forget about Line-Lock mode. That’s basically the “static-hooning” feature. I didn’t use it. No, really, I didn’t. I’m not big into those shenanigans. Haha. Basically, the mode locks the front brakes so that you can easily spin the rear tires in place. In order words, “the burnout button.” Ford says it’s so that you can spin the tires at a race track to warm them up like the drag racers do before a pass. I don’t expect that’s the use most will give it though. I can see that feature being useful when it’s time for a tire change. Hehe.
To help point out the details about what I found driving the car, I’ve made a little list. This will make it easier for you to read through it and for me to write.
Here we go. List of notes on the 2015 Ford Mustang
It’s still a Mustang – There is no question about it. While it might be more refined and more “Euro” in a sense, the car still feels and looks like a Mustang. The power and presense is there. The interior let’s you know you are in a Mustang as does the sound of the engine and the car’s large stance.
It’s a little big. Actually quite big – This is no small car. The S550 Mustang is about the same length as the outgoing S197 II. However, it’s 1.5” lower in the middle, 2.5” lower at the decklid, and 1.5” lower in the hood. The body is 1.5” wider and the rear track is 2” wider. Remember I mentioned the width of the rear fenders? Some people were dissapointed as they expected a slightly smaller and lighter car. That is not the case. I for one like small cars. But not everyone does. I think that for the most part, most Mustang buyers will happily embrace a car of the same overall size of the outgoing Mustang. Plus, if you are used to driving big cars, or a current Mustang for that matter, this will feel right at home.
It’s best in wider windy roads – As a Mustang, in a straight line it’s perfect. But with the newfound IRS in the back, this car likes cornering a lot more than the old one did. I took the car on really tight windy roads and on big open sweeping turns. It felt a little big and cumbersome in really tight roads. Huge acceleration is needed because you must slow the car down much more than you would in large open curves. The car can do the acceleration of course… and the heavy braking. But it’s a lot of work. In large sweeping curves though, the Mustang is an absolute blast to drive. You can carry a lot of speed through the corners and the car doesn’t get upset at the back like the old one did. For most curvy roads, the car is a blast. It performs great in tight ones, but it shines in open corners.
The GT Performance Package is a big deal – Yep. One of the best things about this particular 2015 Mustang is the Performance Package option. The performance package comes with lots of goodies. The best of them are the 3.73 gears, Torsen differential, Brembo brakes and the cool oil and vaccuum gauges in the center stack of the dash. Let’s go in detail though and list all the toys that come with the Performance Package in the S550 Mustang:
- Strut-tower brace
- Larger radiator
- Unique chassis tuning
- Larger rear sway bar
- Heavier front springs
- Different (and cooler) dash panel
- Extra oil and vacuum gauges in the center stack
- Brembo 6-piston brakes (Sweet!)
- Wider tires (255 at the front and 275 at the back)
- Different stability control and steering tuning
- 3.73 rear gears with a TORSEN diff
- Spoiler delete
This package is available for manuals only. Because manuals are king. The S550 Mustang GT Performance Package costs $2,495.
The car you see here has Equipment Group 401A ($1,795) and the Recaro seats option ($1,595).
It also has Reverse Park Assist ($295) and Voice Activated Navigation ($795).
The base price of the Mustang GT Premium is $36,100 and this one has $6,975 in options. The bottom line is that this very well-equipped S550 tips the scales at $43,075.00. It’s a lot of car for the money.
One thing I have to point about about the Recaro seats is that they are comfortable and a definite improvement over the regular seats. It’s also nice to see Ford has offered them in leather. In previous years some Recaro-equipped Mustangs were only available with cloth. The large back on the Recaros causes a bit of a blind spot on either side when trying to look through the tiny quarter windows when changing lanes. Luckily, the rear view mirrors are equipped with magic and they can sense when there is a car in your blind spot. An amber light in the side mirror lets you know if there is a car next to you. No amber light means you can change lanes. Rad. That’s witchcraft.
However, if you mostly do only freeway driving or drag, the stock seats are fine. If you like curvy roads or drive on a circuit often, go with the Recaros.
I drove the car for nearly 100 miles and it was only towards the end that I was like, “Hold on! I need to find a few negatives.” That tells you right there that I had to nitpick to finds things I didn’t like.
There are downsides to everything. Same goes with cars. The tricky bit with good things like this new Mustang is to find those weaknesses. With good cars, such as this, the downsides are usually based on trade-offs. For that reason, we can put aside issues of size and weight and focus on a few niggles.
I’ll admit, I drove the car for nearly 100 miles and it was only towards the end that I was like, “Hold on! I need to find a few negatives.” That tells you right there that I had to nitpick to finds things I didn’t like.
So, here they are. The cupholders. That’s a typical tradeoff. The outgoing Mustang had covered cupholders that were much closer to the shifter. The cool thing is you could close the cover and not see them. The problem is that when you did have a drink in them, they would get in the way of shifting. Good excuse to buy and automatic there eh, lazy.
This new Mustang has the cup holders out of the way of the shifter. The problem is they are exposed all the time. So this really is just an issue for me. I usually don’t drive around with drinks in my cupholders. My occasional drink is a small doubleshot latte in a small cup. From Peet’s by the way. Not Starbucks. Sorry ‘bucks. Those are small and don’t get in the way of shifting. The rest of the time, I like the clean look of having the cupholders covered and out of sight. Not much can be done there but get used to it.
The other small issue is one that at least Ford will correct as they keep manufacturing these things. Some of the panels gaps in the body are not to the standard of my 2011 Mustang – meaning, Ford still has to improve the fit of the panels outside. Luckily, this is an early production car and by now Ford has likely cleaned out the small fit issues.
As far as it being international – as in, aimed for worldwide sales – It’s still very much an American car. Meaning, it’s still a big bruiser football player ready to take on the Superbowl. Plenty of European folks like and appreciate American cars. Plenty of people will love to own a part of the Mustang legacy. It’s awesome that Ford didn’t change the essense of the Mustang to make it necesarily fit a number of tiny European roads. Can anyone remember the Mustang II? No, you cannot. So, to our international readers… This is an American muscle car. This is not a small lightweight coupe.
That’s it. That’s all I could find that I could complain about.
Wrapping this up
As a Mustang, there is really very little not to like about the S550 Mustang. I was duly impressed with the new pony car. The car is impressive, well-designed, well-engineered and ground-breaking in more ways than one. The car’s presense can be felt from afar and in action it does not dissapoint. As a previous S-197 II Mustang owner I’d be happy to own one of these new ones. That’s coming from someone who overall prefers smaller lightweight sports cars. You can’t deny however the awesomeness of good American muscle. I think this, the 6th generation of the iconic Ford Mustang is here to make waves. Lots of waves.
Number that matter – S550 2015 Ford Mustang engine options and spec
Engine: 3.7L V6
Horsepower: 300 hp @ 6500RPM
Torque: 280 lb-ft @ 4000RPM
V6 manual Fastback: 17 city/28 hwy
V6 automatic Fastback: 19 city/28 hwy
V6 Manual 3526 lb
V6 Automatic 3530 lb
Engine: 2.3L EcoBoost® I-4
Horsepower: 310 hp @ 5500RPM (93-octane fuel)
Torque: 320 lb-ft @ 3000RPM (93-octane fuel)
EcoBoost manual Fastback: 22 city/31 hwy
EcoBoost automatic Fastback: 21 city/32 hwy
EcoBoost® Manual 3532 lb
EcoBoost® Automatic 3524 lb
Engine: 5.0L V8
Horsepower: 435 hp @ 6500RPM (93-octane fuel)
Torque: 400 lb-ft @ 4250RPM (93-octane fuel)
GT manual Fastback: 15 city/25 hwy
GT automatic Fastback: 16 city/25 hwy
GT Manual 3705 lb
GT Automatic 3729 lb
EPA-Estimated Ratings (Actual mileage will vary) – Note, this are Ford’s official numbers. I got less than the 15 MPG city stated here for the GT manual as I was not driving for economy. It’s an extensive test drive after all. Not a drive to the office.