I’ve spent a number of weeks driving sporty cars this summer, separately and united, and I think that I suffer from the most complex case of modern-day-pony-car-itis that anyone’s ever had.
It started with an impromptu joining in a comparison test in which a 2015 Camaro SS 1LE, 2015 Challenger R/T Scat Pack and this 2015 Mustang GT were involved. I’ve been a fan of all of these cars since forever, but one stood out for me. Well, all of them did -- or more specifically, special versions of these cars did.
My bastion of awesomeness lay with the 2013 Ford Mustang Boss. This car is BOSS! Then came the 2014 Chevrolet Camaro Z/28 and it crushed everything. Sure, it’s a far more expensive car, but that’s the point here: it’s about bragging rights. Then there’s the 2015 Challenger R/T Scat Pack.
All of these cars are unquestionably good at what they do but, at the moment, only one has been fully reinvented. The 2016 Camaro is all-new, but I’ve not driven it yet. I have however, spent much time in a 2015 Ford Mustang GT.
I won’t bore you with Mustang history because the name suffices to conjure up speed, styling, racing, driving fun, movie car chases, and good times. Simpler times perhaps? At some point, it was about racing on Sunday and selling on Monday, but this is no longer enough. Competition is fierce and every car has a little something special to offer that might give it an edge over the other, if that’s what you’re into.
The Mustang -- Ford in fact -- has taken the road towards refinement. It’s a great path to be on, however, it has to be done right. My recent review of the Focus ST describes the car as being bi-polar. Read it and you’ll understand. I’d briefly driven the Mustang on a few occasions in the last year, but this was my first full frontal exposure to the car. I was honestly concerned that I was going to discover a car that bites harder than it barks. In the comparison test, I wasn’t so enamoured with the ‘Stang but my opinion mattered little at that time.
Here, however, I’m standing on my soapbox! And I’m saying that the new Mustang GT Coupe is a brilliant car. But, it isn’t my favourite among the pony cars. If I’d had the chance to drive the GT350, I might have elevated the prancing pony to the top of the list, but that’ll have to wait.
In the meantime, the new Mustang is about getting the job done in both style and at a very brisk pace. Although it may not hold the top step on my podium, the ‘Stang is actually the best on a number of points. Let’s begin with what truly defines these cars: powertrains.
The Ford’s Coyote 5.0L V8 may sport the smallest displacement of the bouquet, but it generates the highest specific output. At 435 horsepower (on 93 octane), it trumps the Camaro’s 426 hp out of a 6.2L and crushes the Challenger’s 375 hp from its 5.7L. The SRT’s 485 hp from the 6.4L isn’t that impressive either… Torque numbers tell a similar story where the HEMI’s got 410 lb-ft and the other two, 400. This is an on-paper comparison. Out on the road, it’s a little different.
The 5.0L is a happy revver from tick-over. It pulls eagerly with mild ferocity and with just enough grunt for the average user. I wanted loud. I did not get loud. But I’ve nothing to say about the V8’s power. Its refinement and relative docility make it easy to push; only the car’s nose lift really tells you that you’re about to hit warp speeds.
The car’s tame nature belies its sharp handling and high-performance abilities. This is the best handling non-BOSS GT Mustang ever. The updated-for-2015 suspension that includes -- wait for it -- a rear independent setup, does a masterful job of blending the emotions engendered by the ‘Stang’s signature “soft” ride and cutting apexes with a knife.
Under heavy acceleration, the rearward transfer of weight is prevalent and oh so appealing. Never out of sorts, the Mustang holds its own in corners, and would do well on a track. However, even with the $3,700 optional Performance package, a similarly priced Camaro SS 1LE is sharper. Part of that package is the 3.73 axle ratio and it is the real difference-maker. The Ford feels quicker off the line despite the 1LE reaching 100 km/h 0.1 seconds sooner at 4.8. I blame the enchanting V8’s enthusiasm.
The 6-speed manual ‘box’s shifter is the smoothest of them all. Throws are short but not jerky -- it’s almost too refined where I feel some sort of struggle should be had. The Electric Power Assisted steering (EPAS) delivers precision with a dose of feel and the brakes are perfect for the daily grind and some spirited driving.
Here again, I won’t bore you with details and comments on the car’s styling -- it’s plain, and simply beautiful. Here, however, the Challenger tugs at my heartstrings a wee bit more; but I can’t say enough about the ‘Stang’s wide ass. OMFG.
The cabin is where Ford went all out with styling, attention to detail and (in my opinion) over-the-top refinement. Because of this, it is clear that the target audience is the same guy who bought a used ’73 fastback in 1978 for his 25th birthday not for anyone under the age of 40 (like me, for the next 8 months…).
Even so, I can and do appreciate the highly bolstered Recaro seats and the well conceived driving position. The steering wheel is overburdened with buttons, but grip is good -- same goes for the shifter.
The dashboard’s design is very contemporary and well laid out. I like the toggle switches and working the MYFORD Touch is fairly straightforward. Cute details like “groundspeed” written within the speedo are just that: cute. Fit and finish are impressive, to say the least.
As with most modern cars, technology abounds, from passive to active safety all the way to voice-activated systems and adaptive cruise control. It’s all fine and dandy, but at $53,849 as tested, this car misses the point in my opinion. A real Mustang is a GT fastback with the Performance package and Recaro seats for roughly $43k. The remainder is fluff and takes away from the Pony Car.
Make no mistake, you’ll not regret your Mustang, (any Mustang regardless of the of the engine choice; 2.3L EcoBoost or 3.7L V6) because it remains an impressively classy sports coupe.