Steve Turner
Former Editor, 5.0 Mustang & Super Fords
February 11, 2014
Photos By: Courtesy of Ford Motor Company

Horse Sense: To our eyes, the '15 Mustang interior evokes the same emotions we're used to feeling when we see a concept car. However, this is a production car. To that point, designers brought the landmark Ford GT into the design studio to soak up some of its purpose-built styling. When Ford GTs and planes are your inspiration, the results are bound to impress.

In the world of automobiles, it's the car's exterior that makes the big first impression. That's not to say we are all superficial, but when it comes to cars, we want to like the way our ride looks. Its appearance says something to the world about us.

However, when you get down to it, the interior is where we spend our time. A Mustang's cabin provides an escape from the real world, but it can also be a source of adoration or annoyance.

In recent years, interiors have been an area of emphasis around the Blue Oval, but in the Mustang, the guts are always overshadowed by the sheetmetal and drivetrain. That may just change when you finally get behind the wheel of the latest Mustang.

If you can't already tell by looking at these photos, Ford's designers put at least as much effort into creating a purposeful, stylish cockpit from which to pilot a vehicle of this caliber as they did on the rest of the vehicle. To do so, the team fused research, design, and innate Mustang knowledge to bring the interior to this level, but that was made easier because these passionate people really do work as a team.

"Dave [Pericak] and I have worked together for a long time. We have a close personal relationship as much as we do a working relationship. So we have gotten along well from the beginning," said Doyle Letson, chief designer Global Interiors. "When I knew he was going to be the chief and I was going to be the chief, we said we are going to deliver a car, and that's the way it went. Numerous times, instead of going through all the meetings that you have to go through, we would sit down in a room and say, ‘Hey, this is what we have to do. What's gonna be the best thing to do?' And make a decision and move on with it."

It's the 50-year Mustang— we wanted to make a statement. —Doyle Letson, Chief Designer Global Interiors

With a solid idea of what Mustangs need and a few sketches in hand, Ford designers turned right to focus-group research to get a sense of what customers desired.

"We know Mustangs really well. We sit down and we brainstorm. What does the vehicle need to have? What do we need to do with this one? It's the 50-year model, so we need to make sure it's great," Doyle said. "What we learned from this, realistically, from the first market research was four inviolables that you could not leave out of the interior. One of them was round analog gauges—large, round analog gauges. They wanted the instrument panel to be symmetrical. They wanted a symmetrical feel to the interior. They wanted the symmetrical double brow on the instrument panel. And, they wanted premium authentic materials."

With those inviolables in mind, Doyle and his team went to work with a clear direction in mind.

"That kind of locked us into what we were doing with the aluminum. We started thinking aluminum. We started thinking aircraft, and that kind of steered us a bit and got us a little more focused as we continued on to the development phase."

"We ended up with basically two themes toward the end that we ended up merging. One of them I considered to be a little more evolutionary and the other more revolutionary," Doyle said. "We ended up going with the revolutionary, but picking up a lot of the evolutionary theme, which was a little bit more sophisticated and a little bit more luxurious."

That revolutionary theme was based on the purity of mission found in race-car interiors and airplane cockpits.

"You look at racing; you get inside a race car. You get inside a rally car and the interior is stripped out. What you have there is just the business. It's the stuff that's really there for a reason. It's there for a purpose. Everything is within reach, and it's all about driving the vehicle," Doyle added. "That's kinda how we got into the cockpit thing. It's all about flying the plane. When we were going through the development of the interior instrument panels, one of them took on a wing shape. That's what set up everything. We started thinking about what happens in the cockpit. You have this beautiful wing, and one thing transferred into another."

Having not yet driven this car, we can't say exactly how this interior works in the real world. However, we did sit in a fullsize model and came away impressed by both the appearance and ergonomics of this cabin. The interior is also distinctly Mustang. It shares little in the way of corporate interior DNA. It is unique to Mustang—and it is good.

"We've made a conscious effort over the past few years to really focus on interiors and create some new, exciting designs that are well put-together, well thought-out, and well designed—not styled," Doyle said.

Technicalities

Not only will the '15 Mustang feature a beautiful, new interior, it will also be brimming with technology. Some will be optional, but at press time, we didn't know exactly how this tech will be packaged. Here are some of the standouts:

• Intelligent access/pushbutton start
• Selectable driving modes (toggle switch): Normal, Snow/Wet, Sport, and Track—each optimizes EPAS, ABS/ESC, and PCM calibration for those settings
• Selectable steering effort
• Track Apps (standard on GT and EB)
• Launch Control (Standard on V8)
• Tire pressure monitoring by location (debuts for Ford on Mustang)
• Shaker Pro Audio; six-, eight-, and nine-speaker systems
• Adaptive cruise control with collision warning
• Blind Spot Information System
• Heated/air conditioned seats

As you can see, Ford is not only reaching for new customers with styling, but also by offering the sort of onboard technologies that today's customers demand.

1. Even MyFord Touch-equipped Mustangs get knobs and buttons too, which keeps the info-tainment systems more usable.
2. Those sunglasses look cool on the dash, but there's actually a cubby for them on the side of the console.
3. The shifter location is tweaked for more ergonomic actuation, while the cupholders are shifted to the passenger side out of the way of the driver's shifter arm.
4. Those toggle switches honor both the aeronautical theme and the inspirational Ford GT.
5. Some of the original designs featured aluminum treatment on the center console, but that went away in deference to hotter climates.
6. You can't see much of the seats here, but there will be several options and trim levels, including the popular Recaros. Some interior packages will carry accented stitching.
7. There is a stylish spot right in front of the shifter to place your phone. Nearby are both USB and power ports.
8. The automatic shifter will look similar to the manual, but the wheel will get paddle shifters.
9. The Performance Pack cars will get two optional gauges in the dash. On the Ecoboost version, one will be a boost/vacuum gauge.