How do you go about reimagining one of the most iconic cars in history? Carefully.
With Ford looking to pull its sixth-generation Mustang into the 21st century in a way its predecessor couldn’t, the automaker knew it had to tread lightly. At the same time Ford needed to make the car’s “Mustangness” appeal to a younger and more global audience.
“We set out to create a modern interpretation of the Mustang,” said Joel Piaskowski, design director for Ford. “First and foremost, it had to be a Mustang. From the overall proportions, you might say yeah, it’s keeping up with the times, it has much more of a sports car-like proportion.”
With over half of the 5.5 million Facebook fans of the Mustang coming from outside the U.S., Piaskowski said Ford was eager to use this next generation as an ambassador.
“They appreciate the car for its Americanness, for being a true American muscle car, sports car," he said. "That’s what we’re building on.”
The redesigned body has a fastback design that harkens to the car’s early days. It’s lower and wider than the older car and the skin stretches over the engine options: a V8, a V6 and a new turbocharged four-cylinder. An updated chassis that now includes an independent rear suspension.
With plenty at stake for the new design, we sought out industry and classic car experts to weigh in on the new design. But first ...
How you feel about this new Mustang depends on how much muscle you like in your car. Unlike Chevy’s take-it-or-leave-it attitude toward the reimagined Corvette that debuted earlier this year, the Ford Mustang seems aimed to please everyone. And while it could well pull this off, the unbridled American brawn of the muscle car seems lacking.
In person, the Mustang looks like an exaggerated version of the outgoing model, almost a caricature. This is a good thing. The 2015 version is wider, lower and more three-dimensional than before. Ford traded a modicum of aggression for 21st century refinement and class. But they could have done more. Muscle cars are supposed to have muscle.
What’s nice about this iteration is that Ford wasn’t afraid to deviate from the Mustang’s heritage in an effort to modernize the car. Yes, the company is making plenty of noise about the fastback design. But the fastback look has recently been co-opted by German luxury brands for use on four-door coupes like the Audi A7 and Mercedes CLS.
Other more mainstream family cars followed suit. If Ford’s Fusion -- a common sedan aimed at people who don’t want muscle anywhere near their cars -- can have a fastback design, shouldn’t the model that brought it to Ford 50 years ago also use it?
If the Mustang disappoints anywhere, it’s in the interior design. It still relies heavily on a retro-themed layout (and steering wheel) that can’t justify its existence ergonomically. It harkens back to certain era that old-school aficionados will appreciate. But car cabins have evolved for a reason. This one should have too.
Parnelli Jones, former IndyCar, NASCAR racer and team owner:
It’s beautiful, and I'm really impressed with the looks of it. I was really happy they didn’t get away from the traditional Mustang look. I was really impressed they didn't go in a complete different design direction. It looks pretty sleek aerodynamically. Though they could probably use a little more spoiler on the back -- like the Mustang Boss 302 Laguna Seca version -- for high-performance driving, since it’s certainly a high-performance car.
The independent rear suspension (IRS) certainly is an upgrade. We did about as good as you could do with a solid rear axle. You can do a lot more handling changes with IRS. It’s also a great combination together with the six-speed manual transmission.