(Ford / Detroit Free Press)
The new 2015 Ford Mustang is revealed on the set of Good Morning America on December 5, 2013 in New York City. The 2015 model marks the 50th anniversary of the Ford Mustang line. (Photo by Andrew Burton/Getty Images)
DETROIT -- Unmistakably a Mustang but undeniably modern, the all-new 50th anniversary model of Ford's legendary pony car is graced with a low, wide and sinuous body and packed with advanced features.
Not only is it just what millions of Mustang fans have waited for, it will introduce an icon of American automaking to a new audience around the world.
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"The Mustang is basically the heart of the Ford brand," Jacques Brent, Ford group marketing manager for large cars and SUVs, said Tuesday in the automaker's top secret Studio S, where the new Mustang was designed. "It's synonymous with Ford around the world."
While Ford developed the 2015 Mustang fastback and convertible with an eye on sales outside the U.S., the cars are intentionally, determinedly and proudly American.
There weren't any design clinics to determine what customers in Shanghai, Paris or Berlin wanted the new Mustang to look like. With 50 years of continuous production and more than 9 million cars sold, Ford engineers and designers know what a Mustang is at a nearly cellular level. U.S. sales begin in the fourth quarter of 2014, followed by China and Europe in 2015.
Removable easels littered with sketches and photos flanked a 2015 Mustang fastback, a 2015 convertible, a cutaway model and a 2014 Mustang GT in Studio S.
The 2015 fastback looks longer than the current model, but it's actually an inconsequential 0.2 of an inch shorter. That trick of the eye is due to a long hood, a roof that's 1.5 inches lower than the 2014 model, and a body 1.6 inches wider. The front of the hood is about 1.3 inches lower. Low profile headlights wrap around the corners to emphasize the impression of a low, wide, modern sports car.
Three light-emitting-diode (LED) running lights in the front mirror the Mustang's signature tri-bar tail lights. The arc of the roof is similar to the current model, despite faster A-pillars and a shorter rear deck. The sides are much shapelier than the current Mustang, with curves, horizontal character lines and flared fenders.
"The goal is to attract new customers without losing avid enthusiasts," design director Joel Piaskowski said.
The interior will play a large role in winning those new customers. Shoulder, leg and knee room all increase. Ford promises richer materials, including perforated leather, real aluminum and four interior color schemes.
I can't judge the materials based on the display model I sat in this week, but I can count the number of buttons and dials on the dash. They should solve most of the controversial MyFord Touch system's problems. The Mustang's audio and climate control systems will have easy-to-use dials and rocker switches. Controls on the steering wheel, a touch screen and voice recognition will give the driver plenty of options.
The 2015 Mustang has a new platform with an independent rear suspension and a new front suspension. Ride and handling should improve noticeably. Ford won't announce prices until sometime next year, but the base model should start under $25,000.
Power will come from updated versions of the 5.0-liter V8 and 3.7-liter V6 in the current Mustang and an all-new 2.3-liter four-cylinder engine. The smaller, turbocharged 4-cylinder engine will generate more horsepower and torque but use less fuel than the bigger V6.
Other technologies new to the Mustang will include radar-based adaptive cruise control, which monitors the distance to the next car ahead and automatically applies the brakes or accelerator to maintain a safe distance.
The 2015 Mustang was 50 years in the making. At first glance, it looks like it was worth the wait.
(Mark Phelan, Detroit Free Press)