Manufacturers benchmarking their vehicles against those of competitors is a simple reality of the beast that is the global automotive industry. Whether American, European, Japanese, Korean, everyone compares their products to those of others. Typically, the comparison are for similar vehicles that compete with one another in a size or price class. But sometimes, they’re different.
In developing the sixth generation of its pony car, Ford used two iconic models from Germany as benchmarks for the 2015 Mustang: the Porsche 911 and the BMW M3. Using those highly-regarded performance cars as the standard makes sense given that the sixth iteration of the Mustang will be sold in global markets including, for the first time ever, Europe. Naturally, Ford’s goal was to make a car with “world-class” handling, according to Mustang chief engineer, Frank Davis.
While Davis didn’t have much to say to reporters about the switch from the live rear axle seen in fifth-gen S197 Mustang to the sixth-generation’s Independent Rear Suspension (IRS), he did state that the decision to shift to the IRS was made when development of the new pony began in 2009. That said, even though we have been long-standing proponents of using an IRS setup in the Mustang, we won’t really know the actual benefits to the new pony until we drive it for ourselves.
In addition to the switch to a modern rear suspension setup, the 2015 Mustang’s track grew 15 millimeters in the front and 70 millimeters in the rear, with the entire car being 38 millimeters lower to the ground. Davis didn’t comment on the differences in weight compared to the outgoing fifth-generation, but it’s worth noting that the new pony’s hood, fenders, and the IRS’ knuckles are made on aluminum.
The Motrolix Take
For starters, it’s nice to see Ford using such well-established, highly-respected, and coveted vehicles as the M3 and 911 as benchmarks for the Mustang. In that regard, The Blue Oval seems to have rebuilt the American legend that European customers would enjoy driving, and something tells us that Ford’s efforts will pay off, with discerning customers likely to appreciate the work that went into making the new Stang behave like (or better than) an M3.
Then there will be those who will think that Ford set its benchmark too high. To that end, we’d like to remind that faction of the 2011 (and newer) Mustang GT, which beat the coveted M3 in some tests. And that’s not saying anything of the Mustang Boss 302 Laguna Seca edition.
So, while the new Mustang might not beat the M3 and 911 in every single comparison, the development and engineering work that went into making it (at least) comparable to those vehicles will undoubtedly have a tangible result that makes the car better (more fun and more livable) than the outgoing generation. And if the 2015 Mustang even begins to approach the performance and fun-to-drive quotient of either the M3 or the 911 for the price the Ford, then The Blue Oval’s engineers have accomplished what they set out to do. In fact, Ford could even use the BMW and Porsche benchmarking information in its commercials; in these, the Stang doesn’t necessarily need to win, but rather come close to those much more expensive vehicles — thereby communicating the car’s performance and value. Marketers call this an aspirational comparison.
So, the M3 and 911 benchmark is not as insurmountable as it may sound… but the only way we’ll know for sure if the new Mustang can match an M3 is to get behind its wheel. And we can’t wait to do that.
On a sidetone, it’s worth noting that Ford didn’t once mention the Mustang’s direct cross-town rival, the Chevy Camaro, during the initial reveal announcement. Make of that what you will.