Forgive us if, between celebrating the independent rear suspension and dissecting the new four-cylinder engine, we passed over the 2015 Ford Mustang’s interior with all the speed of a 5.0-liter at full wood. The upgrade over Ford’s previous pony car is as dramatic as the changes under the hood and astride the rear axle, and it faithfully clocks the quickness at which car interiors—even those in retro-themed pony cars—are evolving.
Typical of any new-car program, the Mustang’s interior-design team developed two different concepts into full-scale clay models before settling on the final direction. The first, an evolution of the outgoing car, placed an emphasis on premium materials. The second, which ultimately inspired the production car, conveyed an aircraft theme with a long, wing-shaped span of aluminum stretching from door to door.
The aeronautical theme won out not just for aesthetic reasons, but because it was designed with a shallower dash in mind, a practical change that the other concept lacked. “If you look at [the outgoing Mustang’s] instrument panel, it’s really big, it’s heavy, it’s ponderous,” said Doyle Letson, Ford’s chief interior designer. “We came up with this as a first for Ford, which was putting the [knee] airbag in the glove-box door. When we came up with this concept, it slimmed everything up considerably.”
The design team also borrowed a few premium touches from the first concept, softening the surfaces and adding dash stitching. The result is a cabin that’s more spacious and upscale than any Mustang in recent history.
1. Imprinted in Mustang DNA since 1964, this double brow creates symmetry that is the antithesis of a driver-oriented cockpit.
2. Aluminum legs were inspired by the 1967 Mustang and are evidence that Ford was willing to spend some money.
3. The upper door panels on the old car were unforgiving plastic. Now they’re soft vinyl.
4. This cutline makes it easy to replace the upper trim for midcycle updates or special editions. “It gives us the opportunity to make it softer if we can get some new developments,” Letson says.
5. In the outgoing Stang, aluminum accents wrap around the steering-wheel rim right where your thumbs rest. They’re cold in the winter, hot in the summer, and hard no matter the season.
6. Stashing the knee airbag in the glove-box door reduces the dash’s depth by almost four inches, according to Letson, creating additional kneeroom for the passenger.
7. In right-hand-drive markets, the ignition button sits on the opposite side of the toggle switches. This otherwise symmetrical grouping means left- and right-hand-drive cars can use the same center-stack trim panel.
8. A hand on the shifter used to mean that your forearm rested on your 32-ouncer and your elbow hit the hard release latch for the console. In the new car, the cup holders shift to the right and the release latch moves to the side.
9. This aluminum “wing” is the anchor of the design. The trapezoidal cuts on the upper and lower edges mimic the shape of the dash brows. In the previous Mustang, a similar line separated the center stack from the climate vents.
10. The design team built several scale models to understand how the aluminum, vinyl, and plastic parts should overlap here for the tightest fit.
11. The slimmed-down shifter is the result of customer feedback.
12. Letson calls these large, round analog gauges “an inviolable” on the Mustang.
13. The outgoing car used a tall, narrow heritage font in the cluster. The aviation theme means that legibility was a priority for the 2015 model.
14. The seating position isn’t much different than in the previous car, though you’ll swear otherwise. The telescoping steering column, carved-out center stack, and shallower dashboard all make for a more spacious, sportier feel.