FoMoCo takes us inside 2015 Ford Mustang aerodynamic tech

Sections: Fuel Economy

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2015 Ford Mustang Wheel Aero Curtains Demonstration

So-called “wheel aero curtains” on the front fascia of the 2015 Ford Mustang help air flow around the wheels, which would normally be a big source of aerodynamic drag, according to Ford. (Photo courtesy Ford Motor Company)

The 2015 Ford Mustang takes the neo-retro ’64 1/2 Mustang shape that initially relaunched in 2005 and makes it super-streamlined. That should pay performance and fuel economy dividends — and though improving aerodynamic characteristics in pursuit of those two goals sounds simple enough, it takes a lot of work.

A Ford press release recently shed some light on the process, and it’s pretty fascinating for folks who like to see the world of hard work that automakers put into car design and testing.

Ford Mustang Chief Engineer Dave Pericak said, “Even with the classic, forward-leaning shark-bite grille and a more aggressive stance for the new Mustang, the aerodynamics team has made it slice through the air better for increased fuel efficiency while also keeping it planted to the road at higher speeds. The best part is that they met the challenge of creating the sleekest Mustang yet without resorting to a characterless teardrop shape.”

If you ever wondered how aerodynamics play a role in performance, consider this figure shared by Ford: The force required to slice through the air goes up exponentially with the speed, so twice the speed requires eight times the horsepower just to overcome drag. Interesting stuff.

Ford Aerodynamics Engineering Manager Carl Widmann said, “With the new Mustang, we spent about twice as much time running aerodynamic simulations and doing wind tunnel tests than the previous Mustang. Major advances in our computational fluid dynamics capability let us test the effect of design changes and give feedback to the studio in less than 48 hours so they had more opportunity to try out different styling ideas.”

A few of the aero tricks the automaker will employ on the 2015 Ford Mustang as a result of what it learned in wind tunnel testing:

  • Wheel aero curtains — vertical slots in the outer edge of the front fascia that direct airflow around the wheels. Rotating wheels are a major source of aerodynamic drag, Ford said. The effect is similar to that of old-school wheel skirts, according to Ford. Yeah, wheel skirts just wouldn’t look right on the 2015 Mustang. Or any 2015 car outside of the Elio, for that matter.
  • Unique grilles for each of the Mustang’s three engine options — Ford said it tuned the grille opening to three options based on the optimal amount of cooling air needed by each of the car’s three engine options. The optional 2.3-liter EcoBoost turbocharged four-cylinder engine will be offered with active grille shutters that can completely close off the grille opening at higher speeds when the airflow isn’t needed, thereby increasing fuel efficiency and reducing drag even further.
  • Downforce-enhancing aerodynamic elements — The 2015 Ford Mustang will have several aerodynamic features designed to improve high-speed stability by helping the car stay planted to the road surface. Among those features are front splitters and air dams — because race car — and a pair of vents in the hood designed to help keep the 2015 Ford Mustang stuck to the pavement.

Widmann said, “We worked closely with the vehicle dynamics engineers that are tuning the chassis to make sure our experimental results for lift correspond to what they feel on the car when driving at the track. They provided us with some great feedback that we incorporated into our efforts in the tunnel, and the results are definitely noticeable when driving at high speeds.”

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