2015 Ford Mustang first drive review

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It took all day--a scramble out of L.A. morning rush hour toward the canyons, a thread-the-need operation through a few thousand degrees of hairpin turns and ambient degrees F, a drive-by through a Malibu hotel porte-cochere, a half-hour of stop-and-go traffic. It came down to the last mile of bad Beverly Hills roads before the 2015 Ford Mustang drew its first stares.

"What year is that?" A redbeard in a Honda Accord wants to know. "Nice. Nice lines." Within the next 500 yards, the 30-something guys and 20-something girls pause to wave with admiration for the new 'Stang.

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That must be reassuring for Ford, because after years of selling the Mustang as a rough-and-tumble muscle car, it now has a pony car that's fully refined in all the ways a daily-driving car needs to be--and is ferocious and tractable the way a grand touring coupe should be.

It's changed what the Mustang is inside--but the instant-recognition appeal is intact.

The new look

First glances at the Mustang are mostly positive ones. The fastback has a graceful slope, the haunches are thick and muscly, and the trapezoidal cuts across the front end don't scar up the shark nose--they brace it. It's true that this Mustang doesn't really reach for anything new or make any brave departures, though.

Some angles aren't purely flattering: the rear quarters echo the Pontiac Grand Prix two-doors of the Nineties. The black panel that surrounds the taillamps lays flatter than Mustangs have--it tends a little more Mopar-ish as a result. The tripled-up light pipes that slash at the grille have a distinct Miami Vice vibe. The era-mashing fillips of the last-gen 'Stang worked together a little better.

Inside, the Mustang's aviation-themed cabin (see the "Groundspeed" markings on the speedo) is organized neatly and fitted better than any Mustang yet. Large, clear gauges are tucked in more deeply, and the tactile toggle switches and knobs provide better control. A metallic chin-up bar sweeps across the dash truckishly, and diminishes the classic dual-binnacle look to a couple of eyebrows over the dash.

2015 Ford Mustang 50 Year Limited Edition

2015 Ford Mustang 50 Year Limited Edition

Natural aspirations

Ford says they wanted to build a better performance car with this entirely new Mustang, and they have--assuming that doesn't include the base 300-horsepower, 3.7-liter V-6 model omitted from our first drive.

Maybe it's a mercy omission, what with the arrival of the Mustang's first turbo four since the mid-1980s SVO. The turbo engine outclasses the V-6 on paper on almost every front, and telegraphs the Mustang's newness--the move to a modern architecture and to an independent suspension.

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The new EcoBoost unit, which features twin-scroll turbocharging and direct injection, offers up 310 horsepower and 320 pound-feet of torque. We drove it coupled to the optional six-speed, paddle-shifted automatic, fiddling through Valley traffic and canyon roads through the rev-matching transmission's stock and sport-shift modes. Like most current Fords, the slower throttle and shift response in normal modes clears right up once the shifter's pulled down into S(port). The turbo four percolates nicely in its wide powerband, drops the laggy action of the normal mode.

It might offer sub-six-second acceleration times to 60 mph, but something about the nature of the turbo four makes the wide, long Mustang feel smaller--like an overgrown sport coupe, not a musclecar. The torque's fine--the noise that comes with it is flat, artificial, buzzy, entirely disconnected from what a musclecar sounds like. It does us all a favor and gives us permission to ignore the base V-6, but it's no GT substitute.

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