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2015 Ford Mustang’s ponycar power-to-weight push

Sections: Chassis, Powertrain

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2015 Ford Mustang EcoBoost wheel Press Photo

(Photo courtesy Ford Motor Company)

Lest you think all the power-to-weight (and dollars-per-horsepower) news is coming from the Dodge Challenger Hellcat lately, Ford Mustang would like to remind you about its own power-to-weight claim to fame: Ford says in a press release that the 2015 Ford Mustang is still the best power-to-weight ratio you can buy for under $50,000 in the U.S.

I emphasized the word still because Ford is implying the Ford Mustang was already the owner of that coveted “best power-to-weight ratio” title in the sub-$50,000 price bracket. That’s pretty darned impressive when you consider the much smaller, much lighter, highly respected sportscars that fall into that same category. Subaru BRZ? Mazda MX-5 Miata? Fiat 500 Abarth? None touch it.

According to Ford, the lightest 2015 Ford Mustang will weigh just six pounds more than the previous base model — presumably the lightest Mustang available in the car’s last generation — tipping the scales at 3,524 lbs. Considering the 2015 Ford Mustang EcoBoost pumps out 310 horsepower, that puts its power-to-weight ratio at 11.37 lbs per horsepower. A base Subaru BRZ weighs in at 2,764 lbs and lays down 200 horsepower, for a return of 13.82 lbs per horsepower. A Mazda MX-5 Miata weighs 2,480 lbs and is rated at 167 horsepower, for a ratio of 14.85 lbs per horsepower. The fun-to-drive-fast Fiat 500 Abarth weighs in at 2,512 lbs and puts down 160 horsepower, for a rate of 15.7 lbs per horsepower.

The Nissan 370Z weighs 3,278 lbs in base trim and puts down 332 horses, giving it a Mustang EcoBoost-beating 9.87 lbs per horsepower, so if we wanted to be ugly, we could make a lot of hay about Ford’s PR department overstating the power-to-weight thing a bit. But we won’t do that primarily because the ‘Stang doesn’t really compete with the Z car. Sure, they’re both sportscars, but they tend to appeal to completely different audiences.

Besides, it’s when you consider the Mustang against its American Ponycar competition that the ‘Stang looks fit and trim by comparison. The Dodge Challenger SXT is the lightest Chally you can buy under Ford’s stated $50K threshhold thanks to its smaller V6 engine up front instead of  one of the big, heavy HEMI V8s. It puts out 305 horsepower and weighs 3,834 lbs in base trim, so that’s 12.57 lbs per horsepower. By comparison, the V6 Chevrolet Camaro gets a bigger horsepower number — 323, to be exact — and weighs in at a more-svelte 3,702 lbs, producing a better figure of 11.46 lbs per horsepower. The EcoBoost ‘Stang nudges out both of its soon-to-be chief lightweight ponycar rivals, if just barely, in power-to-weight ratio.

More than weight

Ford did more than work on the Mustang’s diet to trim its size and weight down substantially. You’ve probably heard by now that the 2015 Ford Mustang will be the first Mustang to get standard, across-all-models independent front and rear suspension. No more truck axle out back, folks! That change by itself should work wonders for the ‘Stang’s handling.

The stuff under the pretty sheet metal will be hydroformed, high-strength steel sure to be lighter and stiffer than the outgoing Mustang, if you believe Ford’s press release, while the automaker also claims a weight distribution for the EcoBoost model of 52% front, 48% rear.

More details from Ford’s release:

With a stronger yet lighter structure to build on, the hardware was added to meet aggressive performance targets. Every new Mustang features an all-new integral-link independent rear suspension. The suspension architecture is based on a lower control arm, integral link, upper camber link and a toe link. The geometry, springs, dampers and bushings have all been specifically modified and tuned to deliver improved mechanical grip for this high-performance application.

The new suspension geometry of Mustang now generates twice as much anti-squat and anti-lift force for better pitch control to keep the body level under hard acceleration and braking. New aluminum alloy rear knuckles help reduce unsprung mass to enable the tires to follow the road for better ride and handling.

At the front, a new non-isolated perimeter subframe replaces several individual crossmembers to help stiffen the structure while reducing mass, contributing to a better foundation for more predictable wheel control that benefits handling, steering and ride quality.

The new double-ball-joint front MacPherson strut system enables the use of larger, more powerful brakes without resorting to excessive wheel offsets that would hurt steering feel. Like the rear, the front end contributes to improved pitch stability with additional anti-dive in the geometry.

The total system now does a much better job of keeping the four Mustang tires in contact with the road where they can contribute to improved dynamics while making cruising and daily commutes more comfortable.

This is expected to be the best-stopping Mustang yet. Three brake packages will be available:

  • Mustang V6, Mustang EcoBoost: Two-piston, 43-millimeter floating calipers, 320- millimeter rotors, front; single-piston, 45-millimeter calipers, 320-millimeter rotors, rear
  • Mustang EcoBoost performance pack, Mustang GT: Four-piston, 46-millimeter fixed calipers, 352-millimeter rotors, front; single-piston, 45-millimeter calipers, 330-millimeter rotors, rear
  • Mustang GT performance pack: Six-piston, 36-millimeter Brembo calipers, 380-millimeter rotors, front; single-piston, 45-millimeter calipers, 330-millimeter rotors, rear

The standard brake package on Mustang GT is equivalent to the system used for the 2014 Mustang GT track package. The new GT performance package includes the same brake package found on the 662-horsepower 2014 Shelby GT500.

In addition, Ford said the 2015 Ford Mustang EcoBoost and the 2015 Ford Mustang GT will have available performance packages that will further boost handling. Both the V8-powered GT and the EcoBoost model will get the following upgrades, according to Ford:

  • Retuned springs, bushings and monotube rear dampers
  • Additional cooling capability for track-day durability
  • Thicker rear sway bar
  • K-brace connecting strut towers to bulkhead
  • Unique tuning for ABS, electronic stability control and electric power-assisted steering
  • Center gauge pack

The 2015 Mustang EcoBoost performance package also includes:

  • Front brakes: Four-piston, 46-millimeter fixed aluminum calipers with 352-millimeter rotors
  • Rear brakes: Single-piston, 45-millimeter floating iron calipers with 330-millimeter rotors
  • Unique 19×9-inch alloy wheels painted Ebony Black with Pirelli 255/40R19 Y-speed-rated tires front and rear
  • 3.55:1 final drive ratio

The 2015 Mustang GT performance package includes:

  • Front brakes: Brembo six-piston, 36-millimeter fixed aluminum calipers with 380-millimeter rotors
  • Rear brakes: Single-piston, 45-millimeter floating iron calipers with 330-millimeter rotors
  • Unique 19×9-inch Ebony Black painted alloy wheels with Pirelli 255/40R19 Y-speed-rated tires, front; 19×9.5-inch alloy wheels with Pirelli 275/40R19 Y-speed-rated tires, rear
  • Strut tower brace
  • 3.73:1 final drive ratio with Torsen differential
  • Unique front splitter to channel cooling air to the front brakes

All told, the chassis technology available in the 2015 Ford Mustang should make it the best out-of-the-box handler in the ponycar class. As a Ford owner and someone who has always owned small, low-horsepower cars and trucks, I may be biased when I say this, but I’ll say it anyway: A car that handles well is always more fun than a car whose prime objective is brute power. It’s the logical extension of the “better to drive a slow car fast than a fast car slow” mentality. Only in the case of the 2015 Ford Mustang, I highly doubt anyone will be calling any of the available powertrain combinations “slow.”

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