Ford recently released full specs for the highly anticipated 2015 Mustang and it looks like a power bonanza.
The V8 Mustang GT can be ordered with an optional Performance Pack that makes 435 horsepower, a considerable bump from last year’s model. Meanwhile, the four-cylinder EcoBoost puts out more power than Ford initially estimated, with an impressive 310 horsepower and 320 pound-feet of torque.
But those numbers don’t tell the full story of what the 2015 Mustang will feel like from behind the wheel. An entirely new chassis with an independent rear suspension, a first for Mustang, will no doubt enable this new pony car to drive rings around its predecessor, while also being quieter and more comfortable. (Read more about the 2015 Ford Mustang’s improvements here.)
Dave Pericak, Ford Mustang chief engineer, really wrestled with the new stallion during its development. For example, they had to decide whether to keep with Ford’s new global platform-sharing strategy and adapt an existing one from another model in the lineup, or keep the Mustang’s platform separate and unique, as it has been for decades.
Ultimately, the latter path was chosen. But that only created more questions, such as whether to simply update the existing platform, or start from scratch. Adding the new rear suspension and creating an exterior design that looks significantly different than the current version’s ultimately dictated starting with a clean sheet of paper.
Those are just a couple of the challenges Pericak highlighted during a one-on-one interview at a press junket in Manhattan. Here he conveys just how much work went into remaking this legend, but also what we can expect in terms of its performance and driving dynamics.
What was the main goal in developing the 2015 Ford Mustang?
When we were out on our development drives, I made the team use the current Boss 302 as one of our internal benchmarks. I said, “We have to take the character of the Boss 302 and it has to trickle down through the lineup now.” And I said, “The GT Performance Pack [on the new Mustang] needs to beat a Boss on a track.” The Boss is very capable, very balanced, but the Boss has a window, and as long as you’re operating within that window, it’s badass and it’s great to drive. As soon as you get outside of that window, the Boss makes you wake up a little bit. This car, you’re going to have a hard time finding that window. Reaching the edge on the new Mustang is extremely progressive and predictable.
What does it feel like to drive?
When you set the car up to go into a turn, it’s almost like anticipating what you’re going to do, that’s how it feels. The car almost goes, “Oh yeah, I know exactly what you want.” And if you ask for more, she gives you more. When you’re rolling out through a hairpin turn or whatever, it’s amazing. You come through the hairpin and you can just stomp on it and she rockets out of the turn, whereas with the Boss or any of those other Mustangs, you go through that and you stomp on it and the back end’s going to move a little bit. Not on this one, you can just lay it down and go.
What vehicles did you benchmark when developing the 2015 Mustang?
We used the Porsche 911, we used the BMW M3, we used some Audis as aspirational vehicles. Like the Porsche 911 for instance, we weren’t trying to be a Porsche, but we wanted to understand exactly how they handle in certain situations and how they deal with stuff as we tuned the system. And all I can say is that it’s really amazing.
Is a track-oriented, high-performance variant like the Boss 302 Laguna Seca in the works?
I’m not going to comment on future product. We’re celebrating this one. But what I can say is that hopefully you’ve seen, especially in the past five years, that we are very serious about performance. That focus will not change.
Can you talk about the chassis? It’s all-new, right?
Yes it’s all new. So when we started out, because we’ve been consolidating our platforms across the globe, we looked at whether it was time now to take the Mustang and put it on another platform. We did a lot of study on that, and the answer was “No, we would have to compromise too much.” So all of our senior executives aligned around the fact that we will have this as a unique platform, which was a big deal as we’re trying to get our platform strategy down. And when we started out, we were not going to do an all-new platform. The design guys were coming up with great designs, but it was not a far enough departure from today’s car. So we had to free the constraints for the design. When we freed the constraints, half the car got torn up.
What does that mean, “free the constraints?”
So for instance, that whole dash and cowl area was going to be locked down, we weren’t moving that. The problem is, without changing that, we kept getting the look of today’s kind of car. So when we allowed them to move that A-pillar back, it tore up a lot in the underbody, but it really enabled them to get a beautiful design. And then when we decided we needed to tear up the front suspension to enhance and match the new independent rear suspension, that really tore up the whole front end, because we used to have rails with cross members in it, and now we have a full subframe up front. The whole front end is completely different. So there is not a piece of sheet metal on this car that is carryover from the previous. It’s an all-new platform.
This is the first Mustang ever to get an independent rear suspension. But the front suspension is also new. Why is that?
The first time they tested the car with this new independent rear suspension, they called me and said, “We’ve got a problem: Love the rear end, hate the car.” So I went out on the track and I drove it. And what was happening was, the rear was a lot faster and more precise, and the front end was lagging, and it was just out of phase, it was just a mess. When you have a solid rear axel, the front suspension is not the limiting factor, it’s ultimately the solid rear axel. Now we put this world-class rear suspension in and that same front suspension that worked before, now became the limiting factor. So we had to go modify it.
Will there be big differences in the way the different models of the new Mustang feel?
You’ll see that we tuned the cars completely differently. A V6 will not handle like a V8. But a V6 will handle better than today’s V6 for sure, and you’ll notice a huge step forward. But it’s not going to be as tight as the V8, it’s not going to be as responsive as the V8. So each car has its own character, whether it’s an EcoBoost, a V6, or a V8.
How will the new EcoBoost turbocharged four-cylinder engine feel versus the similarly powered V6?
From an overall performance standpoint, the EcoBoost is going to build torque a lot faster and it’s got a stronger torque curve overall. So you’re going to notice that you have a lot of good power and you have it quick. The V6 is a fantastic engine, but the EcoBoost allows us to really take that and amp it up. And so you will notice that it is more powerful and more responsive than a V6. And then your fuel economy is going to be a lot better. The V6 still being 300-plus horsepower, it’s still a great offering.
So why still offer the V6?
Affordability. It was to keep that price point lower, because we know that’s part of the Mustang magic.
What about ride comfort? Is that significantly improved?
That’s where the biggest difference is going to be. The independent rear suspension allows us to improve primary and secondary ride significantly while still making the car perform a lot better. When you get in a current Boss 302 Mustang, you know that you’re sort of tied down and that this car means business. You’ll feel that in the new V8 with the Performance Pack, but you’ll have a very nice ride too. But when you want to go out on a track and push it, you’ll be able to do that. So it really allows the best of both worlds.