Is the 2015 Ford Mustang Still a Muscle Car?

2015 Ford MustangIf you were able to stomach today’s Good Morning America, you already know all this, but the sixth generation of the venerable Ford Mustang was unveiled this morning and will go on sale next year.  The looks are striking, from the angry, bladed headlights to the long and satisfying fastback, right down to the sharp, pronounced shoulders and a ramping tail.

But there’s something rather tame about the lines, something that begs for sanity and balance.  The power options, too, espouse a certain sensibility.  So we have to wonder, without all the madness and absurdity is the Mustang still a muscle car?  Or is it something else entirely?

The first semi-official images leaked on Tuesday via Autocar and the forums at Mustang6G.com.  As a rabid consumer of 2015 Mustang news, I scrambled for the pics.  They revealed a car with clean, tidy styling.  The 2015 Mustang is undoubtedly attractive.  Behind Ford’s corporate grille shape, it slides back over a healthy pair of rear wheel swoops and into a body-colored diffuser.

2015 Ford Mustang Top Front
But immediately, I knew something was amiss.  Something hard to identify.  I finally came around and decided it was missing its cigar.  You see, if all great cars are beautiful women, the muscle car, and in this case, the Mustang, is a beautiful woman who smokes cigars, eats cheeseburgers on cue, and likes to arm wrestle.

This new design, all svelte and clean and refined, lacks that bonkers, sneering attitude.  It will not climb the radio tower.  It will not go polar-bearing with you.  It will not argue with your mother.

Instead, it offers a certain safety, a tame thoroughbred to the earlier Mustang’s…mustang.  I shared my thoughts on Tuesday at the preemptive reveal, and a fellow reader called “sadll” wisely stated that it “Might just be a more subtle design philosophy all together, which may help people overseas get over American muscle car stereotypes as big V8 monsters ready to eat women and children.”

And I think he’s right.  For the first time ever, the new Ford Mustang will be exported to Europe.  It will be up against used Porsches and Jaguar F-types and M3s and all those other crumpet-munching fatherland sports cars.  It needs to wash up, put on a grey suit, and stop drinking Miller Light.

2015 Ford Mustang Tail
This also explains Ford’s unique power options. At the base will be the well-tested argument against all small sports cars, the 3.7 V6, producing a predictable 305 hp. At the other end we’ll have the GT’s 5.0, which gets a kick up over 420 hp.

So perhaps the madness is still there beneath all the professionalism and whale bone.  But the most interesting engine, and why I think sadll is right, will fall between them.  When I first heard Ford was going to EcoBoost the Mustang, I hoped for their successful 385 hp V6 out of the F-150.  Nope.  Would it be the 250 hp four out of the Focus ST, then?  No, it’s a 2.3 liter engine, and it has been twin turbocharged to a predicted 315 hp and 310 lb-ft of torque.

No, I did not see that coming.  I expected a little engine with too much car around it.  But if the current four-pot is making more than the old V6, why not just go for less weight and better fuel economy?

This isn’t the first time Ford has turbocharged, suspension-tuned, and Europeanized the Mustang.  Jackie Stewart schilling the SVO around Glasgow in the mid ‘80s is proof of that.

And so I wonder if the Mustang is becoming less of a muscle car and more of a grand touring sports car.  The live rear axle is finally gone.  It’s lighter by 200 lbs.  There are bigger brakes all around, and keyless entry is standard.  None of these are common traits among muscle cars.

Don’t be so quick to mourn, however, because Ford says the performance package of the GT version is faster around a track than a 2012 Boss 302, which I once called the pinnacle of the true muscle car.

Perhaps I was right, and the sixth gen Mustang has made the leap to a sports car.  Or perhaps it has the clout to simply redefine what a muscle car is.  None of us have driven it yet, either.  Perhaps with all that fresh power, the tail will break loose as a hobby and it will be every bit as muscular as its predecessors.

We’ll definitely see a Shelby, as well, which will add in all the right scoops and bulges.  And the GT, which I first glimpsed just a few minutes ago, adds a couple of tidy little ducts in the hood and some roof ridges.

2015 Ford Mustang Top Rear
Time will tell.  But there is this: When the original Mustang debuted in 1964, it wasn’t really a muscle car either.  It was a pony car – practical, but small and nimble for its day, originally envisioned to take on the Corvair.  The muscle came later.  Perhaps the pony car is back.

This could be uneven ground for Ford, as nostalgia makes up about 600% of the Mustang’s identity, and let’s not forget that next year is the 50th anniversary of the original unveiling.  Nostalgia is a peach ready to drop off the tree.

Sports car, muscle car, pony car.  We’ll leave the tags to you.  But I reserve the right to call the 2015 Ford Mustang a better car, and I can’t wait to see how it performs.

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