I think it’s easy to become jaded and spoiled in this line of work. What with all the <a...

I think it’s easy to become jaded and spoiled in this line of work. What with all the Dodge Challenger Hellcat driving and the like. After a few short minutes in the Mustang V6 I was all, “Meh! Needs more power! More power!”  I was thinking back to my time in the 2014 Ford Mustang GT, where gobs of power had me hilariously sideways at every single opportunity.

This V6 is more timid, with a smaller engine doesn’t have the visceral kick in the guts of the V8, but it’s still rear-wheel drive, and still a six-speed manual. So I was comparing the two, and I was wrong to do so. Dead wrong. So wrong. Wrong, wrong, wrongity wrong.

To the vast majority of the population, when you drive any Mustang, you’re driving the epitome of the American sports car.

See, that Mustang GT was a $50,000 sports car (though you can buy it base for $38,000). This V6 is a $29,000 steal. Any grumbles I might have had about wanting more power were immediately extinguished when I looked at the pricing sheet. For $28,899 you get 300 hp and 280 lb-ft of torque and a rewarding six-speed manual. More than that, you get access to the brand cachet that is Mustang.

For the uninitiated, the V6 is barely distinguishable from the V8 – the six even has two exhaust outlets these days. To the vast majority of the population, when you drive any Mustang, you’re driving the epitome of the American sports car. The two-door fastback lines make kids of all ages stop and stare, and you’ll get the satisfaction of watching other drivers try to figure out which engine you’re running. To drive a Mustang is to buy into a powerful and evocative brand – which is what many people really want anyway. There are very few cars, if any, that you can spend less than $30,000 on and have that instant enviable brand recognition.

You might argue a Mini or a Fiat 500 does the same thing – and you’re right – but they don’t do it the same way. The association is different. Those cars are “cute” to most, and “cool” to a few of us, the Mustang is just plain “cool” to a much broader swathe of the populace.

But it’s not just the image that’s the same for much less money. You get the same revised suspension setup as the GT, double-ball-joint MacPherson strut with stabilizer bar up front and integral-link independent with coil springs and stabilizer bar. That “independent” bit is new for this edition and the subject of much debate. For some, it’s an unwelcome break from tradition. For me, it’s a long-overdue upgrade that elevates the Mustang to a proper, modern car worthy of the global market.

The suspension is calibrated slightly differently to the GT trim, obviously, but the basic fundamentals are still there. The previous Mustang had a lot of bump-steer, this one doesn’t. It’s got a little push (aka understeer) which is not as easy to correct with the throttle in V6 form. The steering wheel offers decent feedback and a welcome amount of heft in all three selectable modes. To be fair I couldn’t tell much difference between Sport, Normal and Comfort, and apart from my initial play never used that button again. I didn’t need to.

At 1,599 kg the V6 is lighter than the GT by 82 kg, so in theory is more nimble. That figure incidentally is 11 kg heavier than the outgoing model. The V6 is easy to drive around town with a well-balanced clutch, though I’d prefer more definition for the bite point. The throws are even and a good length, not too long and not to short – even fifth gear is within easy reach of my T-Rex arms.

And despite not packing the same power as the V8, nor even the 310 hp/320 lb-ft turbocharged four-cylinder, the V6’s manual gearbox and RWD drivetrain allow for some almighty circle work on dry pavement or snow. Indeed, given the right conditions and safe, legal opportunity to do so, the V6 Mustang will sit sideways for as long as you’d like it to. Traction control is never fully defeated – no matter how long you press it for – and the V6 is not fitted with the line-locker tool, but still you can break those wide rear tires loose if you so desire.

Braking feel is solid even after multiple quick stops, and the discs all around provide decent stopping power. Two attributes that will come in handy when this edition hits the rental lots.

I keep coming back to the comparison to the V8, and it’s worth pointing out that both this V6 and the Ecoboost turbo-four – a review on that is coming soon – make almost the same power as the V8 did in 2010 (315 hp and 325 lb-ft). Like I said, we’re spoiled these days.

In isolation, the V6 feels potent enough. It pulls hard from the line and completes barely legal highway passes with consummate ease. It’s also easy to putter around town and manageable in traffic. It’s thirsty at 13.5/8.3/11.2 L/100 km city/highway/combined. I ended the very cold week at 12.1. The Ecoboost is rated a touch better at 10.6/7.5/9.2.

On the subject of historical Mustang imagery, the ability of Ford to make a tiny interior from a large exterior is unchanged. The rear seat seams even tighter than the outgoing model. Perhaps because my daughter is now 18 months older and thirty-four growth spurts further along she found this one far less comfortable than the previous Mustang we tested. Getting in and out was a chore, and there wasn’t enough leg room for her once the front seats were occupied. I know the rear seat is hardly the point of a Mustang, but you should know that the Fiat 500 we had the week after the Mustang was described as “bigger” and “more roomier” by my four-year-old.

“Um, excuse me, but how did you get THAT bruise?!”

The front is cramped too, but I like the cosy, cockpit feeling of the driver’s seat.

The seats are comfortable and extremely supportive, but getting into them is an exercise in trust-falling. You don’t climb into a Mustang so much as freefall from the door opening and hope you land in the right spot. I got it right all times bar one, which made for an awkward conversation with my wife. “Um, excuse me, but how did you get THAT bruise?!”

The interior materials are far better than the previous generation, and even this base trim with the standard radio felt more luxurious than the GT Premium I tested with the full My Ford Touch/Sync infotainment system.  The gauges are a quiet nod to your sense of humour, labelled “Ground Speed” and playing it straight with “Revolutions Per Minute” (in case you were ever wondering what ‘rpm’ stood for). It’s a neat touch.

Build quality is improved too; there were monumental panel gaps and horrible unfinished carpets and trims in the last model, this one is much more complete. The nose-up stance is a cool nod to old, and the new lines look cleaner and more sophisticated. The only awkward angle is a close-up three-quarter rear view, which makes the rear deck look a little elongated. The trunk lid has bigger dramas than that, like the fact it is impossible to open. Using the key fob or boot release in the cabin the trunk lid will pop up slightly, but the shallow curve of the integrated lip spoiler doesn’t offer enough purchase with which to lift the trunk, and it doesn’t pop up enough to grab the bottom of the lip. A minor frustration, to be sure, but a bugbear nonetheless.

At this price though, who cares? The Mustang fan isn’t bothered by minor foibles. The Mustang is more than an appliance, and even more than a muscle car or sports car. The Mustang is a classic, even the newest one.

If you’re not quite ready to take on the new and unproven Ecoboost engine, don’t care for stop-light racing, don’t hang your hat on horsepower ratings, and if you want the best-value Mustang available, this new V6 gives you access to a 50-year-old automotive legacy, at near-on 1960s pricing.

Warranty:
3 years/60,000 km; 5 years/100,000 km powertrain; 5 years/unlimited distance corrosion perforation; 5 years/100,000 km 24-hour roadside assistance

Competitors:
Chevrolet Camaro
Dodge Challenger
Hyundai Genesis Coupe
Nissan 370Z

Specifications

Model Tested 2015 Ford Mustang V6   Destination Fee $1,600
Base Price $24,999   Price as Tested $28,899
A/C Tax $100  
Optional Equipment
18-inch aluminum wheels - $1,000, engine block heater - $150, security package - $700, reverse park assist - $350.