2015 Ford Mustang Design Dissection

If I learned anything in 9th grade biology class, it's that if you're really interested in something, you've got to dissect it. This goes for earthworms with their tiny brains and funny rib-like hearts as well as brand new pony cars like the 2015 Ford Mustang. So let's do it, already.

Since I haven't refilled the acetylene tank on my cutting torch in months, this will just be an exterior design dissection. But the design of a Mustang is such an important part of the car, I think we'll have plenty here to discuss.

Overall, I think the most important thing that can be said about this latest Mustang is that it is unequivocally a Mustang. Not every design cue from the Mustang's 50 year history is there, but a good number are, and the fundamental long hood/short deck/upright stance proportions are all in place. There's no way to look at it and not think "Mustang."

That said, part of me would have liked to have seen a few more risks taken. It's a very evolutionary design from last generation as opposed to something truly new and revolutionary. The core Mustang buyer may be happier with this; I can imagine there's a great deal of pressure on Ford's designers to keep Mustangs from straying too far from certain comfort zones.

All in all, though, it is quite a handsome car, and I feel like most of its target audience will be pleased. Now let's scrutinize it, bit by bit, like a deposed dictator in exile scrutinizes his dinner.

2015 Ford Mustang Design Dissection

1. Gotta have the horse. Like the previous generation, this stallion runs free, unfenced and unbounded by a chrome surround. And it's still facing left.

The grille manages to dance well between the traditional wide Mustang shape and Ford's corporate Aston-ish trapezoid. Inside, there's a good classic honeycomb pattern (inspired by 1st-gen Preludes, I'm sure) and the GT versions seem to add a pair of fang-like vertical strakes dividing the sides of the grille from the center. These do add a certain more aggressive look.

2. This lower valence/spoiler/splitter/intake thing may be my least favorite part of the car. It feels a bit too busy, but the bigger issue is that the shape of the main lower intake seems to be designed as a continuation of the upper grille shape. But not exactly.

And that's my big issue. The shape of it could easily read as the lower part of a large, almost Audi-like tall grille, bisected by the bumper blade — the way the GT's vertical divider bars continue between the two grilles furthers this.

But the upper grille doesn't seem to be in on the plan, as its shape is coherent enough as it is, and is doing its best to evoke vintage Mustang grille design in an oblique way. So I feel like there's a bit of a struggle between this upper, primary grille and the lower intake that both wants to be a continuation of the upper grille and not at the same time.

Personally, I would have rather seen a lower intake treatment that did more to blend away under the bumper bar, calling less attention to itself.

3. I think this is my favorite detail on the car: the three slash-like LED running lights evoke the little embossed "gills" next to the headlights on the original Mustang, a nice subtle callback to the original, and a detail that has previously been ignored.

2015 Ford Mustang Design Dissection

Also, these triple-slash shape (///) defined here becomes a sort of logo/shorthand for the car overall, showing up in the taillight design and, if you peek in the window at the side view, on the inside door panels as well. It's a good, simple, distinctive Mustang design cue, and it's used well here.

Or, it's a reference to the ill-fated Apple ///, which I also heartily approve of.

4. I'm glad to see round foglights instead of units shaped to fit this hole; those turn indicators seem a little afterthought-ish, though.

5. What's important is what's not here: the traditional Mustang fake air intake. I'm not crazy about fake vents and intakes, so if it's not going to cool brakes or provide the trunk with fresh air, it may as well be gone. Still, the intaglio surface detailing that once culminated in the vent is still here, and that works well.

6. They gave the Mustang some nice hips here. These emphasize the wheel size well, and give a good animal-about-to-spring look. I almost wouldn't mind seeing these even exaggerated just a bit more.

7. A hood bulge has been a Mustang staple off and on for years. This design emphasizes the edges with that pair of twin ridges, but it doesn't feel overdone. The GT adds a pair of heat-extraction vents outboard of the hood bulge, and I'm hoping they're really functional.

So far, they're resisting the urge to go vent crazy on the hood, and that's probably for the best.

8. I'm wondering when I see where the dividing grille bars if these will be used on an upcoming Cobra variant to define the point where the center grille mesh is removed, as on the current GT500.

9. Thanks to our collective unwillingness to kill pedestrians, the nose of the car is pretty high. The profile does have a nice forward-leaning sharknose look, which looks quite good. A lower front/higher rear would feel sportier, but with regulations demanding high hood heights, I think the designers were smart not to fight it and let the height define a nearly horizontal beltline.

10. Keeping with current fashion, the greenhouse is relatively low, steeply raked, and the side windows define a tapering shape with a little kick at the trailing end, along with a blacked-out/hidden B-pillar.

I put an image of the new Corvette's greenhouse there as well, because they're remarkably similar. The Vette has a more raked beltline and a blacked out A-pillar as well, but I'm starting to feel like I'm seeing the same roof/side window design over and over again. Check out the BRZ/FR-S side window treatment, for example.

I think I kind of miss a nice painted B-pillar.

11. It's interesting to see just how horizontal this beltline is. If you like leaning your arm out your window, you should be pretty pleased by this.

12. I think the way the trailing angle of this side marker light assembly helps define the leading edge of the fender/wheelarch is particularly nice. It defines and emphasized the wheel in a subtle but unmistakable way.

13. I'm sure we'll see all sorts of wheels on this car, but these somewhat skeletal-star design ones work well to show off the beefy brake hardware, which makes sense on a car with reputations of performance.

14. The recessed side-flanks do a lot to help keep the car lean and hungry-looking. It cuts bulk, emphasizes the wheels, and the upper edge has a nice crisp crease that gives the car a tailored feel.

Raymond Loewy loved this sort of thing, calling it a "Coke-bottle curve."

2015 Ford Mustang Design Dissection

15. What is this, a running board?

16. Again, no vent. Maybe I went a bit nuts with the lines.

17. This interface of roofline to hips is well-defined, and I'm glad the designers resisted any urge to blend it in more. The hard break where the roof breaks the plane of the rear deck is nice. I'm sure they didn't want this association, but it really reminds me of the same spot on an AMC Marlin. I mean that as a compliment.

18. Gas fillers are tricky. We see the cutout, but they're well blended into the body shape, so we're supposed to ignore them. Still, I feel like I'd rather see an obvious fuel filler that didn't need to be hidden. There's nothing to be ashamed of — why are we still hiding these?

19. A lot of restraint was exercised on this spoiler. It's not active and that's fine with me. On a car that screams "POWER!!!" I like how subtle it is.

20. I like that they made this rear fascia black. body color here would make the rear look anonymous —this references vintage Mustang design and keeps the car distinct. I'm also glad they quit with the silly fake fuel fillers back here. The GT branding works well here, too.

2015 Ford Mustang Design Dissection

21. The taillights are great — Mustangs are fortunate to have such a simple and strong iconic taillight design, and this slightly italicized variant of the three bars works really well.

Plus, sequential indicators are like a little party for everyone behind you waiting for you to turn.

22. This horizontal divot/crease is a very good idea. That ass could have looked like a big unbroken panel without it, like a vertical kitchen counter or something. This divide breaks up that plane and helps define the rear panel well.

23. This dark diffuser with integrated dual exhausts reminds me a bit of early Mustangs' body-exiting exhausts, and helps to de-bulk the lower rear. Works much better than the lower front treatment.

24. One central reverse light? Sure, why not. I wonder if these are truck-bed lights from F-150s.

25. These reflectors make things a little cluttered down here. Why couldn't these have been integrated into the lenses of the main taillight units?

26. While we're talking reflectors, these rear side-marker lights feel a bit uninspired. We all know cars need to have these, so better to just accept it and have some fun with them. Maybe something longer that could help define that rear-side bumper crease?

27. These door handles aren't bad, but they feel like they could have come off of anything. I'd prefer something that blends into that upper side crease more.

This is all from first glances and early impressions, of course. As I see these cars more and more my opinion may change.

2015 Ford Mustang Design Dissection

It is worth noting, since it'll definitely be noted, just how much the Mustang resembles other Fords, like, say, a Fusion. And, it clearly does. The fundamental design vocabulary clearly crosses over, from the shapes of the grilles to the general light design to the hood surfacing details and more.

It's not shocking, it's what companies have been doing for a while, getting a family look. It is another set of constraints on what a designer can do with a particular model, and while I like that there's cohesion across a lineup, part of me does miss the chaos of times like the 60s and 70s when car companies could have fleets of radically different looking vehicles.

Okay, enough from me. What do you guys think of the new Mustang design?