Press Preview: 2015 Ford Mustang & Others

Odometer (Legend):  531,570

531570

Odometer (ILX):  98,048

98048

“It provokes you.”  Those are the first 3 words I said when I climbed out of the 2015 Ford Mustang GT after a spirited test drive in Chandler, Arizona this afternoon.  The car and its beastly rumble act as an immediate testosterone boost to anyone who takes the helm.  It’s almost as if the 435-horsepower 5.0-liter V8 is begging for its driver to do things that law enforcement would consider naughty.

mustang_front_left

Today, I attended a special media preview for PAPA members where we got to spend some time tooling around in a variety of models from Ford’s 2015 roster.  The selection was broad:  From an ultra-basic 3-cylinder Fiesta to the mighty Mustang musclecar, there was something for everyone in the fleet.

tyson_with_fiesta

It’s not the first time I’ve gotten the chance for a first-hand look at upcoming Ford models, as some of you may recall my write-up on the new F-150 from back in May.  Ford seems to have its act together these days, as I was impressed with that I saw & drove.  It seems I went incrementally in terms of driver engagement:  I started out with the run of the mill Fusion and wound up ending my day with the stunning 6th generation Mustang.  Each vehicle had its similaries but yet offered a distinct driving experience.  I’ll share just a few thoughts about each.

(1)

fusion

The “Brick Red” Fusion that I drove was one that felt the most like a hum-drum rental car — and for good reason.  This car has made its way into company and rental fleets in huge numbers.  Its predictability and “friendly” driving demeanor make it a perfect fit for that type of use — it’s easy to figure out within just moments behind the wheel.  I thought the auto start/stop from the 1.6 liter inline 4-cylinder was a little choppy, so I’d probably turn that feature off if I owned one of these.  Fit & finish was nice and for $22,400 I’d say it’s a nice bang-for-the-buck deal.

fusion_interior

(2)

cmax2

C-MAX Hybrid is Ford’s only vehicle that’s offered in a “hybrid-only” variant.  It was available in Europe long before it came to the United States in September 2012.  The C-MAX’s continuously variable transmission acts like it wants to continue pulling the driver forward even after releasing the pedal.  It took some getting used to.

Capless fueling is a nice touch, but people who buy the C-MAX hope to not be refueling very frequently.  Touting a 42 city / 37 highway mpg rating, this vehicle directed at the hyper-milers of the driving world.  To that point, the gauge cluster even includes a graphic with a tree & leaves on it.  The idea here?  When you drive in a fuel-consumption-friendly manner, the leaves on that little tree actually spread and grow.  When you romp on it, the tree goes barren like it’s January.  Weird, I know.  But if playing games with trees and graphics is what it takes to get people to lift their right feet and save gas, then so be it!

cmax_dash

cmax

cmax_capless

(3)

escape_rr

Here the rig that the Honda CR-V is a little afraid of.  The Ford Escape brings to the table some impressive technology and a nice sense of style.  I found the ride to be comfortable and the controls easy to operate.  I did find the climate control placement odd.  With the shift lever in Park, some of the buttons are actually blocked.

The Escape that I drove was a top-line “Titanium” model with 19″ alloy wheels and some cool gadgets & gizmos.  One example:  Let’s say you’re walking up to the back of the vehicle with your hands full of grocery bags.  As long as you have the key fob in your pocket, you can wave your foot beneath the back of the rear cargo door and it’ll raise itself automatically.  Pretty genius.

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titanium

escape_interior

escape_dash

(4)

fiesta_back

Isn’t this just the cutest little thing?  Here I present to you the Ford Fiesta:  the vehicle with Ford’s smallest motor ever.  Its tiny 1.0 liter, 123-horsepower turbocharged 3-cylinder has a unique sound to it.  The car takes its time getting up to speed, but for an around-town commuter, the oomph should be sufficient.  The 5-speed manual transmission had a nice feel to it but the shift knob itself felt “light.”  Perhaps it could be weighted a bit for a more substantial feel.

The Fiesta’s motor needs to be revved up substantially before it provides much tangible power.  I found it interesting that there was a little “up arrow” shift light that shows up in the gauge cluster when the car feels like it’s time to move to the next gear.  Again, the idea here is economy so this car wasn’t designed to be all that sporty.  My next tested vehicle, however….

fiesta_shifter

Hey look, Acura RL!

fiesta_interior

(5)

fiesta_st

Here we have that little red car’s evil twin.  Next up:  Fiesta ST.  When you see the “ST” badge, know that it stands for Sport Technology.  In other words, you’re looking at a car that’s been tested and tuned to offer quicker responsiveness and better handling than its lower-trim counterparts.  It’s no wonder Ford decided to call this color “Performance Blue,” because it only took until the end of the block before I could tell the car had been developed with fun-factor in mind.  First of all, its Recaro seats are perhaps the most form-fitting I’ve ever experienced.  The side bolsters are so huge that they hold the driver in an unbreakable grip.

The ST is powered by a 1.6-liter EcoBoost inline 4 which sends 197 ponies to the front wheels via a 6-speed manual transmission.  While I found the transmission not quite as seamless as the one I’ve grown accustomed to in my ILX, I did enjoy the shortness of the throws and the feel of the clutch.  The car happily revs to redline, and it’s in the beyond-3,000 RPM range when the thrills ramp up rapidly.  This is a car that turns every driver into a giddy high schooler with something to prove.

st

fiesta_seat

(6)

mustang_front_right

The big kahuna, here’s the all-new 2015 Mustang GT.  Wider, lower, and more powerful than its predecessors, this is the car that you need if you’ve got a hankering for some V8 grunt.  I put this rig through its paces and quickly learned that the power delivery is enough to put – and keep – a huge grin on any driver’s face.  The transmission is a 6-speed manual “Getrag” unit that has a solid feel to it.  And YES, since you’re all asking me right now:  This thing will gladly sacrifice a little tread on its rear tires for a spirited corner when asked.  I took a U-turn and gave it just a little bit of throttle in 2nd gear and the experienced the Mustang’s traction-control assistance keeping me from getting sideways.  Fun factor?  11 out of 10.

I got a kick out of the fact that the Mustang’s speedometer says “GROUND SPEED.”  Clearly someone in the design team had a sense of humor, and I appreciate that.  The Mustang’s diversity is what’ll drive it to sell like the American favorite that it is.  The car can be had with 3 different engine choices, ranging from a 4 cylinder, to a V6, to the top-tier V8 which I drove.  Even the ‘base’ 4-cylinder is no slouch, putting out 310 horses.  Starting at $23,600 – it’s a solid entry into the sports car world.

mustang_interior

ground_speed

Hope you enjoyed the test drives, and a huge thanks to Ford for entrusting me with a few minutes behind the wheel of each of these fine rides!  Have a great weekend, all.

8 Responses to “Press Preview: 2015 Ford Mustang & Others”

  1. Tyson:

    I know the new Mustang is redesigned for 2015. Have you driven the Mustang GT with 5.0 V8 in years past? Is the exhaust sound for the V8 in 2015 the same as previous years or does it sound different? That trademark 5.0 V8 specially tuned exhaust sound is one of my favorite things in the automotive world. I hope Ford kept it the same.

    • The exhaust note was indeed something amazing! Even at idle it sounds quite wicked. No, I haven’t driven the previous 5.0 V8 so I can’t make a comparison, though.

  2. I would be interested to see what your thoughts are if you were able to drive the Shelby trim level !! Not a bad way to spend an afternoon.

  3. What fun! Ford is putting out some impressive vehicles these days. I’d be happy to spend an afternoon giving each one a test. I think the new Mustang looks great. Interestingly, the V6 is actually the base engine at 300 hp. The 2.3L EcoBoost sounds like really impressive engineering at 310 horses.

    • Yeah, I liked the Mustang. Didn’t dig too deeply into the tech specs – and thanks for the correction on engine ‘hierarchy’ – but the driving experience definitely left me impressed! Thanks for reading, Brad 🙂

  4. Kyle mentioned the gearbox in the Fiesta ST, and I didn’t notice any problems with it until I jumped back into my Si—definitely a difference in smoothness and accuracy, but overall it wasn’t bad. Otherwise, he and I both felt like the ST was a hoot, and had so much personality!

    • That ST really did have a ton of “spunk” and personality. It was all I could do to keep myself from pushing it to the high end of the tach for every shift. I need to drive your Civic sometime, and send you out for a spin in my ILX so we can compare notes.

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