2015 Mustang… Will it be Probe Revisited?

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2015 leadMustang people will recall the hollow point bullet that was dodged back in the early ’90s when Ford almost ruined the iconic RWD American pony car. By turning it into an import-style FWD car. That car, by the grace of Elvis, ended up being sold as another car – the Probe – and in 1994, Ford brought out a new Mustang that harkened back (stylistically) to the original ’64 Mustang – and which was based on the same  solid axle/RWD layout. But Ford management had given serious thought to slotting in the the Probe as the “new” Mustang.

Sanity prevailed.

But apparently, management is thinking along those lines again.

There is a rumor floating around that the 2015 Mustang will be based on a “global platform.” What that means (if true) is that the ’15 Mustang would be made for the global market – not the US market. And that could mean, probably will mean, FWD – and four cylinders. With maybe a transversely mounted, turbocharged (“EcoBoost”) V-6 as the optional powerplant. Maybe teamed up with AWD.

But not RWD.

Here’s how come:

RWD platforms and V-8 engines are only mass-market viable in the US market. In Europe, chiefly because gas costs about $10 a gallon, RWD/V-8 cars are exotic cars  – and for the rich only. The only conceivable way a Mustang could make it in Europe as other than a high-dollar/low-production exotic would be if it got smaller, lighter – and much more fuel-efficient. The easiest, most cost-effective way to do that would be to eliminate the separate rear axle assembly – and change the layout to FWD. probe 1Then they could also get rid of the V-8 and replace it with a six – and make a small four the standard engine. Problem solved.


The current (2013) V-6 Mustang rates 19 city, 31 highway – 23 MPG, average. The V-8 GT comes in at 18 city, 25 highway – 20 average. That won’t cut it for the US market – which three calendar years from now and just two model years from now (2016) will require all new cars to average 35.5 MPG   or be saddled with onerous “gas guzzler” fines that will be passed on to the buyer. Already, even higher-end brands are divesting themselves of six cylinder engines, slotting in smaller – more fuel sippy – fours in their place. V-8s are rapidly going the way of the Dodo. As 2016 gets closer, this shift will become more and more obvious as more and more cars get shorn of engines over 3 liters and with more than four pistons under their hoods.

The current Mustang’s mileage will have to be improved by something on the order of 50 percent just to make the 2016 CAFE cut. And even that won’t cut it in Europe – where 35.5 MPG is mediocre.

For some perspective on what sells in Europe, consider a car like the Euro-spec VW Jetta, which is sold with a 1.6 liter diesel not available in the US. It manages 50-plus MPG (60 on the highway) as good or better than the best hybrids deliver on this side of the pond. To match that at-the-pump performance, the next Mustang’s mileage would have to double relative to the current car’s mileage. 2015 2

But it’s not just European realities that cast a pall over the future of a RWD (and V-8 powered) Mustang for 2015. Forget the gas guzzler taxes.People over here are freaked out about the cost of gas.

The current Mustang has a fairly small (for a car of this type) 16 gallon fuel tank. At current prices – about $3.80 nationally – it takes about $60 to fuel one up. What happens when  – not if – gas prices climb to $5 a gallon? Whether because of inflation or oil shortages or “save the Earth” taxes on gas – the reasons why don’t matter.  What does matter is that fewer and fewer people can afford to spend $300 a month on gas (and that’s at current prices) on top of a $400 a month car payment. On top of $100/month for mandatory insurance… .

You can rest assured Ford is thinking hard about all this. Mustang LX

Another thing Ford is probably thinking about is changing demographics. The crowd that buys Mustangs – and other large, RWD muscle coupes – is mostly an older crowd. Gen X, Boomers. .

The crowd Ford knows is the future (Millennials ) is a crowd that grew up with – and so which is more comfortable with – smaller, lighter, FWD cars. As kids, they drove Corollas and Civics – not two-ton RWD V-8 muscle cars. If Ford (and GM and Dodge) continue with the RWD/V-8 layout, they may find themselves stuck with an aging –  and not growing – buyer demographic.

These factors – the need to expand the next Mustang’s market beyond the borders of the US, the pressure to meet 35.5 MPG average CAFE and changing buyer demographics – could very well lead to the end of the Mustang as we have known it. And to a new kind of Mustang as we might have known it back in ’94. mustang B&W

At minimum, a four-cylinder turbo’d (“Ecoboosted,” in Ford-speak) base model 2015 Mustang is very likely. That by itself might not be a bad thing. Mustang people will recall that during the ’80s and into the early ’90s, the base Mustang came with a four cylinder engine. If Ford sold say eight four cylinder, (and 36 MPG) Mustangs for every two 28 MPG V-8 GTs, the CAFE numbers would balance out.

But, a problem: The ’80s-early ’90s era Mustang was a much lighter car that could get away with being both four cylinder-powered and RWD. A 1990 LX with the four weighed 2,827 lbs. The current (2013) base V-6 Mustang weighs 3,501 lbs. and is probably much too heavy to be powered by a four cylinder engine.

mustang lastTo be four-cylinder-viable, the 2015 Mustang will need to be much lighter – on the order of 300-500 pounds lighter. Obvious solution? Get rid of the rear axle assembly – and make the car FWD. Then the four could possibly work. And a turbo-Ecoboosted V-6 could maintain the necessary performance level for the GT model while also achieving the necessary CAFE numbers.

But will this car – a euro-import style FWD/AWD car with no V-8 option – be a Mustang? Would such a car sell to Millenials?

Or just turn off Gen Xers and Boomers?

In about 24 months from now, we’ll find out… .

Throw it in the Woods?

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    • Hi Matt,

      I am happy to discover that I was wrong about the Mustang’s future – and look forward to driving the ’15.

      I am, however, ambivalent about two things at least: The IRS and the Ecoboost 2.0 engine (the mid-range optional engine).

      IRS will make the car ride better, no doubt. But it will also make it more complex to build – and repair – and (if history/experience is any guide) more likely to need repair more often. I’m all for IRS in sports cars, exotics cars, luxury-sport sedans… but not in muscle cars. Two reasons: The first is cost, already explained. But the second is functional. A solid axle behaves in a certain way – crude in some ways, yes – but that’s what I like about muscle cars. Finesse is for Z4s and 911s. I like the heavy-duty/hard-launching, axle hopping wildness of the old set up. It’s part of the experience. But I realize most people will probably welcome the change.

      The Ecoboosted four: I dislike the entire concept behind these engines. Very small displacement for the application/heavily boosted. I may be proved wrong (and I hope I am) but my bet is these will prove to be relatively short-lived/problem-prone engines. Has anyone yet produced a gas turbo engine that wasn’t a smoker (and other things) by 100k?

      • Dear Eric,


        The FR layout is a relief. Really glad Ford didn’t do a Probe II number of Mustang fans.

        The 4 in line bursting its blood vessels to generate the require power is a shame. The smallest engine for the new Mustang ought to be the 3.7 L 305 hp V6. Just glad they kept that and even offer a V-8.

        Just as a 9mm Parabellum will never be as effective as a .45 Auto, so there is just no substitute for cubic inches.

        • 2.3L turbo Mustangs were made in ’79 through the mid 1980s. Ford wanted to move the performance mustang in that direction back then. The turbo four for many of those years was the best performing mustang.

          However Ford let the market decide what it wanted. The market chose the V8 over the four, but the four got a good following. It’s demise did not go unnoticed, but Ford offered it in other cars for some years after that. This 2.3L four cylinder is nothing but another market choice IMO. They made it 2.3L for a reason I think. They know that’s the traditional displacement for a high performance ford four cylinder.

          The older turbo 2.3s are swapped into older mustangs. It’s a perfect swap for a say a ’66 200cid 6 cylinder car. It adds a goodly amount of power without needing to redoing the suspension and more like a V8 swap done right requires.

          A turbo 2.3L choice is a good move. It adds depth to the mustang line. The mustang needs more engine choices like it had back ages ago now. I might even be convinced to buy one, but I already have two V8 mustangs 😉

      • I wanted an IRS for the mustang in 2005. However, by 2011 the live axle was about as good as they get from a factory. The 2011 up mustang live axle suspension allows the car to hang with BMW M cars. Yeah, that’s not rough Chicago pavement, but it’s still something quite good. What I have been concerned about and taken flack for it elsewhere is that I fear ford will make an IRS that’s not as good or only as good because that’s what it took to make cost targets. Now if Ford did a good job with it I have no big objection, but rather would find the need to maintain boots and such a trade off for something better performing.

        I have no problems with a turbo 4 cylinder mustang that is sold along side a V8 Mustang. I think turbo 4 cylinder rear wheel drive cars have a place in the market. They don’t have to be mustangs, but they should be built.

        As to longevity turbo fours can get to 200K+. I have seen the evidence myself. I can show you photo of the 192K mile clock if you want 😉 Although the car’s engine has failed, it’s actually the result of a catalyst failure.

        The Mustang’s four is not to be super small displacement either. It’s the traditional ford 2.3L displacement. There’s no reason why it shouldn’t last unless the design is flawed or compromised in some important way.

  1. CAFE(Country Average Fat Expectations)
    Would it not make more sense to have the GP(General Public)lose weight instead of taking it out on the automobile……having it(the car) be the victim of circumstance of Americans just being too fat?

    • Better yet, Matt – have the government confine itself to protecting people’s rights rather than abusing them at every turn.

      If Company X wants to build something ultra-light (think Ariel Atom) that’s both very fuel efficient as well as quick, but has the disadvantage of being less able to absorb impact forces in a crash – then let customers decide whether the former advantages outweigh the latter disadvantages. And if Company Y wants to build a massive, heavy tank that gets lousy mileage and handles poorly but offers tremendous crashworthiness, let people – not government – decide whether that’s a reasonable trade-off.

  2. Hello, have you seen the Scion FRS/Subaru BRZ? You can do a sports car that’s low cost, high mileage, and RWD. The next Mustang will be RWD, guaranteed. Ford is already getting over 300 hp out of a V6 that gets 31 mpg highway. They’ll do an ecoboost 4 that does 26/32 with over 300 hp that’ll be at the same price as a GTI or a Mini Cooper S.

    • Hi Ronbo,

      Yes, but the BRZ is a sports car – the Mustang is not. It is a muscle car (or “pony” car, if you prefer). A big/heavy car. It can be radically downsized, of course – which it would have to be to be the same size/weight as the BRZ or a similar sports car. But then it will be something very different from what the Mustang has historically been. That might work – or might not.

      We’ll have to wait and see.

  3. See, this CAFE looming on the horizon really has me wondering what they will do with the Wrangler? What CAN they do? Something must be done, as Oblamo has willed it.

    It must get lighter, more aerodynamic…maybe an 8 speed tranny…but how much can they change and still call it a Jeep with a straight face?

    Diesel? Multi-air? Turbo? Will be interesting.

    • Hi Rafter,

      Yep –

      I look to Europe – the kinds of cars (mass market) that are sold over there – to get a preview of the post-CAFE (35.5 and up) market here.

      Full-size cars, RWD cars, V-8 cars… rare (and mostly for the rich only). Large SUVs and trucks? Almost nonexistent.

      We are currently riding the final ebb tide of the old car market – based on the relative affordability of fuel as well as of the cars themselves.

      The tide is about to recede.

      • Having it done through CAFE is what makes it most hideous. It removes the choice from the market. In Europe they use punitive fuel and engine size taxation, thus their big cars are at least still on the market. Americans are far more demanding that their neighbors make the same choices as they want them to so we’ve got this hideous and wildly distortive CAFE system.

  4. Some irony here. Remember your recent review of the Accord Coupe? We were agreeing that that a V-6 Accord would provide a better ownership experience than the V-8 Mustang. We categorized the Mustang as more of a “toy” or “weekend car.” The Accord was more appropriate for vigorous speeds than the Mustang, because of its lower visibility factor. Buying the Accord was the Smart Choice.

    But now that Ford is going to convert the fire breathing Mustang into, virtually, a V-6 Accord Coupe, it seems quite distressing. Perhaps anyone who really wants one of those Fire Breathers better purchase it soon. 😉

    • Well, horses for courses!

      There is a place for V-8/RWD muscle cars.

      I have my V-8/RWD TA for occasional pleasure use. For me, it would be madness to drive a car like it as a daily driver. It has a 21 gallon tank and engine that must have premium fuel – so it costs about $80 to fill – and it averages maybe 18 MPG. It also sucks in the snow – and even the rain.

      But, some people can afford to drive a car of this type every day – and live in a part of the country where bad weather isn’t a significant problem.

      So, it depends on your situation.

      I know you know this, of course!

  5. I see two separate issues. Both bear on the current overweight Mustang.

    One is gubmint meddling.

    Libertarian oriented car buffs are all perfectly clear on the harm it inflicted on car design. It should never have happened. It was inexcusable.

    The second is Detroit’s own myopia.

    Yesterday’s 2+2 versions of the Datsun/Nissan Z cars, and today’s Subara BRZ prove that a bona fide front engine, rear drive sports car that is smaller, lighter, more fuel efficient is technologically feasible and financially viable.

    The two do not contradict each other. It is a case of both/and, not either/or.

    • Yeah –

      The prototype may still have a V-8 and be RWD, but, for how long? Exactly.

      Development work began before passage of the 35.5 MPG CAFE edict. And don’t forget – that’s not the end of it. Obama is pushing for 56 MPG – average – by 2025.

      If anything with a V-8 and RWD survives, it will be very expensive – and so, very low production.

  6. Its going to get harder and harder to find a naturally aspirated V6 isn’t it? My 98 Camry V6 spoiled me ‘~’

    Ford could make the new mustang compete more with the brz/frs, like noted above, and give it an edge by still offering a V6 to people that want one, even if its low volume.

    If they make it FWD, they should just call it a reiteration of the Probe, I think it’d be more successful that way. I’d consider getting one.

  7. The first article I saw with this rumor was posted on April fool’s day… Let’s just hope it is nothing but a rumor or a bad joke.

    Either way, I have my 2007 V6 ‘stang. Not so bad on gas, plenty of power (with a couple of mods) to get me around at the pace I want, and has the body style I like.

    The new body style pics look pretty nice, and with a modded V6 could be great, but the FWD/AWD thing is a deal breaker for me. The damn thing is supposed to be a muscle car… It is supposed to push, not pull.

    • The gas mileage of the current V-6 versions of these cars is actually damn good. And the V-8 versions are also very solid – given what they are. Close to 30 MPG on the highway is outstanding for a car with a 400-plus hp V-8.

      But it’s not good enough – for the government – and that’s the issue.

      Not just the 2016 35.5 MPG mandate, either. That is just the beginning. I have no doubt that the government will kick it up – 56 MPG is on the table for 2025 and that’s not very far down the road, product cycle-wise. .

      But it’s not just CAFE, either.

      Interest rates are currently so depressed they mask the essential unaffordability of current cars. $30k stretched over five years at a very low interest rate is still doable for people. But what happens when interest rates double or triple? And they are going to double or triple – perhaps quadruple.

      What happens when a gallon of gas sells for $5?

      It’s over, guys.

      • With the police state, total surveillance and net-integrated car monitoring (onstar etc.) all muscle cars are going to be pretty much pointless anyway. What is the point when anything fun is outlawed with life crushing penalties?

        Cue Red Barchetta….


        Side note, a friend of mine is making very good money these days and is planning to buy a new toy. He has looked at the Mustang, Camaro, Challenger but has yet to decide. I have been trying to convince him to buy a classic instead. It seems that you can get a mint version original of what the new cars are trying to recapture for similar money without the Nanny-crap. Personal choice I guess, but I would rather have a ’68 RS/SS Camaro than the new i-Camaro or i-Stang.

        But hey, I don’t have a cell phone, have never TwitFaced and belong in a museum I suppose…….

        Sticking my thumb out, waiting to get off this rock.

        Happy New Year all…

        • Hi Me2,

          Very true.

          A loaded SS or Z28 will cost you nearly $40k – more than sufficient to purchase a mint/restored classic.

          And, in addition to being more fun, keep in mind that peripheral costs related to the classic are much lower.

          For example, the property tax. If your state has this, expect to pay several hundred dollars a year for several years if you buy a new muscle car. You can get around this odious tax with an old car, provided the person you buy it from is cool and will give you a bill of sale that reflects its value as a “project” car.

          Insurance should also be much less – with the caveat that you put “antique” plates on it. Which actually makes sense, anyhow – since it’s silly to drive either a classic or a new muscle car everyday. Take it out on nice days only; use the Corolla for everyday transpo.

          And then there is the “investment” aspect. A classic car is – the new one is not. That new Camaro you bought for $40k? Five years from now, it’ll be worth $25k. The ’70 Z28 you bought for $40k? It’ll probably be worth more than $40k in five years.

          My ’76 Trans Am is currently worth 3-4 times what I paid for it back in ’91.

  8. If Ford does this, say good bye to the Mustang. They will have ceded the RWD market to Scion/Subaru FRS/BRZ twins. The Mustang could use a major downsizing anyway. Having sat in a new one, I would never buy one. The new Mustangs are about 400 lbs heavier, however, I can’t believe that they are unable to cut some weight from these monsters. The new cars are way oversized. By cutting a few inches from the length and width, they should be able to meet some kind of weight target. If I were Ford, I would make the solid axle out of plastic and then let the aftermarket make real solid axles as replacement items after the first burnout is has been done. Automakers have to get far more cynical in their approach to government regualtion. Of course they aren’t. They would rather cynically sell out their customers to the lowest bidder, be supported by a government tit that exerts ever increasing amount of control over its very customer base. Bastards.

    • I’m sure the plastic axle would lose out to some gubmint safe-T regulation or some such thing…

      I agree, they should do what they can to lighten these vehicles. The answer, of course, would be to cut some of the safety crap out, but they don’t want to be the evil car company that fights gub safe-T regs. And rest assured, they would be demonized quickly if they tried.

      • “I’m sure the plastic axle would lose out to some gubmint safe-T regulation or some such thing…”

        The shyster lawyers would be fighting the government bureaucrats like hyenas over a kill. It’ll never happen.

        I see no way for Ford or anyone else to continue building a car like the Mustang that satisfies all the current and pending government requirements while also remaining reasonably priced. They’re already, in my opinion, on the edge of unaffordability as mass-market cars. A V-8 GT is a $30k car. $30k is the appx. line at which a car is considered “entry luxury.” At $35k, or $40k, it outright becomes a luxury-priced car. You’re looking at $500 a month payments. That’s at current almost-free interest rates. How long is that going to last? What happens when interest rates shoot up to 10 percent? When gas costs $5 a gallon?

        A car like the Mustang GT – or Camaro Z28 – is going to become an American Ferrari. But the problem is that Ford and GM are volume car companies – and they can’t afford to keep cars that don’t move numbers in their product portfolio.

        These cars are doomed.

    • I think that it would be possible to circumvent government safety and emissions regulations altogether if automakers devolved production of certain models to “kitted” assemblies with the final assembly done at individual dealers. I think that the requirement is 500 max per year. Automakers could create limited production runs of each option level, designating the car as a different model, availabe at dealers. With the advent of the internet, customers could choose their own kitted units with relative ease. Of course, it takes capital and time to set up a system to circumvent uncle shithead. It seems that automakers would rather summarily pass these costs along as the average transaction for a car approaches $30k.

      Automakers are a feckless lot, having lost their lobbying power during the Bush 2 administration. Prior to that, they had kept CAFE at bay during Republican and Democrat dominance in congress.

      • Hi Swamp,

        So long as people continue to buy – that is, finance – these ever-more-expensive cars, the automakers will continue to pass on the costs and raise the sticker price.

        But, this can’t go on forever. The transaction price of a new car climbs every year – and meanwhile, the vast majority of people have less money every year. Current “low, low!” financing Band Aids the issue some. Bit it still takes the average person 5-6 years to pay off a car. What happens when interest rates go to 10 percent or higher? Now your monthly payment is $500 instead of $350. Plus $300 more to feed the car. Plus the insurance.. etc. Who the hell can afford $800-$1,000 month for a car? That’s where things are headed.

        It’s not sustainable.

  9. There is no indication of RWD going away for 2015 in any of the Mustang rumor mills. The mules that have been spotted are RWD with IRS.

    The big questions are:
    1) What will the car look like?
    2) Will the four cylinder engine be offered in the USA?
    3) Will the V8 be offered in europe?

    The last-I-read on these questions was:
    1) nontraditional
    2) Maybe, as an optional engine.
    3) Not sure.

  10. Ford could make the new Mustang mid-engined. Weight is saved by removing the drive shaft, etc. A turbo four or six is added to satisfy the environmental dictates. The problems would be the added complexity of the mid-engined layout and the potential lack of practicality. But, I would sacrifice practicality to avoid another FF/FAWD car on the market. I suppose there’s no chance of Ford being honest and just phasing the Mustang out entirely. If they’re serious about this Mustang change, they should replace it with a Fiesta ST.

  11. It is a shame that the RWD layout is a victim of weight reduction.

    I’m curious how much weight could be shaved off with the use of current technology assuming that cost is no object.

    I am guessing that by using carbon fibers, extra strength steel, etc. at least 500lbs if not more could be removed from the current Mustang.

    • If the government weren’t involved, the problem would disappear. The Catch-22 is maintaining the RWD layout and maintaining compliance with federal crashworthiness requirements and meeting federal CAFE requirements – all at a price point that’s viable in the marketplace.

      I mentioned the ’80s-era Mustang in the article. It weighed about 2,800 pounds – with RWD. But that car can’t be built today – not legally. Because it would not meet federal “safety” standards. So, Ford redesigned it to be “safer” – which as a practical matter means heavier – because adding structural steel is the only cost-effective way to do it. Sure, you could use carbon fiber and so on and build a very light – and very “safe” – car. But then it would be a very expensive car.

      Hence, the dilemma.

      The current muscle cars are fat pigs. They all weigh more than my mid-1970s muscle car. And my car has a heavy steel bolt-on subframe as well as a massive (7.4 liter) cast iron V-8!

      The current muscle cars are unibody – and have alloy V-8s – and they still weigh more than a ’70s tank like my old Trans-Am!

    • This article is completly off base.

      Ford has confirmed that the 2015 Mustang will get the 4 cylinder ecoboost engine for european markets. That engine has well enough power to haul the mustang and actually closley matches the current V6. See the link below:


      In addition, Ford had produced a 4 cylinder Mustang in the past. It was the 1984-1986 Mustang SVO. That car was NOT front wheel drive. See link below.


      Furthermore, the 2015 Mustang will be losing approximatly 400 lbs due to smaller dimensions and material changes. Ford has already confirmed that the current 5.8 liter Shelby GT500 engine will not fit in the 2015 Mustang. See link below.


      • Hi RN,

        I think I mentioned the four-cylinder Mustang of the ’80s (and of course, the mid-late 1970s) and that it was RWD.I also mentioned that car weighed about 600-700 pounds less than the current car.

        A turbo four might be able to haul the weight of a car like the current Mustang. But the turbo engine will add complexity and cost – to be borne by the consumer.

        And how will weight be reduced – while also meeting current and future crash standards and other mandates while also remaining affordable? Even a much smaller car like the Subaru BRZ weighs almost 2,800 lbs. Maybe Ford will downsize the Mustang – but then, a V-8 becomes both problematic (packaging) as well as superfluous. It’s a Catch-22. To keep the Mustang a Mustang and comply with CAFE and all the other stuff is a damn near impossible task. It can be made into something else, of course (smaller, lighter) but then is it still a Mustang?

        The V-8/RWD layout will survive – for now. But what happens when CAFE ratchets up past 40 MPG? Absent a miracle, no mass market V-8 will be able to survive. There will still be V-8s, of course. For those who can afford a car with a $40k-plus price tag.

        That’s what I was trying to convey.

      • You are only looking at the conjecture of others. Eric is just as entitled to his as they are to theirs. I don’t agree with much of Eric’s conjecture, but without someone at Ford or a supplier risking their job we won’t have anything more than conjecture and rumor for awhile yet.

        I don’t think Ford will be offering so many engines in the Mustang. That would be the most engines since 1970 or so. (I could look it up if I wanted to, 1969 was the peak at nine as I recall, but not all at the same time in the model year)


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