The S550 generation launched in 2015, and from the moment enthusiasts saw the 2015 Mustang, it was love. That love has only grown through the improvement of existing and new engine technologies and the return of Mustang legends like the Shelby GT350. Ford Motor Company continues to build its reputation as a company that understands what brings enthusiasts back year after year but also looks forward. Though the Mustang celebrates its past, it’s not so hindered by Ford’s view of their past that they’re unable to see what the future could become.
2021 will mark the end of the Mustang S550 generation and the start of whatever’s next. It’s a future we’re excited for, especially as Ford looks to expand the Mustang offerings to include a hybrid Mustang and possibly even AWD variants. In the few years that it’s been available, the S550 platform has seen many changes and a lot of growth, all of which deserves to be celebrated.
Unseating the Competition
It’s easy to rewrite history and leave the Mustang as the uncontested pony car champion of all time. By all rights, the Mustang has earned the title of the best pony car. In 1964, Ford unintentionally created the entire pony car segment with the Mustang. It’s a style of car that is literally named for the Mustang, and for the first few generations, the Mustang utterly wiped the floor with its primary competition: The Dodge Challenger and Chevy Camaro.
But, in 2013, sales had plummeted to around 80,000 Mustangs. The Camaro had become America’s favorite pony car due to some temporary madness (and possibly blindness). In fact, the last five years of the fifth-generation Mustang were the worst five years of Mustang sales in history. If you added all Mustang sales between 2009 and 2013 together, they would total up to 370,000, roughly the same number of Mustangs that were sold in 1979 alone. The Mustang needed something innovative to recapture the sales that had been taken from them.
The timing was right for an exciting launch, but with sales floundering, it needed to be innovative enough to catch enthusiasts’ attention while simultaneously preserving the elements of the Mustang that Ford’s most dedicated fans loved.
Unveiling of the S550 Mustang
On December 5, 2013, the sixth generation of Mustang was simultaneously unveiled in Michigan, Los Angeles, New York, Barcelona, Shanghai, and Sydney. It was a perfect segue into one of the first major differences between the sixth generation of Mustang and previous generations: The Mustang was going worldwide.
For the first time, Mustangs entered a bigger arena, ready to take on some of the best sports cars in the world. In order to be competitive in these new markets, the Mustang needed to keep its power but gain the kind of tighter controlled steering that sports cars from other countries possess.
While most agree that the S197 generation excels in drag races, there’s no dispute that the S550 handles better thanks to a long-overdue independent rear suspension that improved cornering and gave the Mustang a smoother feel.
The independent rear suspension improved the Mustang’s handling notably and made enthusiasts and car journalists take notice. Though most other car companies had already made the transition to independent rear suspension the Mustang had held onto its live rear axle for as long as possible. In fact, the Mustang had only tried once before to have an independent rear suspension.
The 1999 SVT Cobra did come with an independent rear suspension, and it’s been a favorite in the Mustang community for a long time. Cobra and SVT are synonymous with high performance, and it certainly proved that having an independent rear suspension didn’t mean that the Mustang had to lose any of its edge.
Exterior Differences between S197 Mustangs and S550 Mustangs
The S197 borrowed its body style from classic Mustangs, returning to a squarer shape that harkened back to the very first generation of Mustang. The S550 took that retro look, added a little New Edge magic to it, and gave the Mustang some curves that made it look even more aggressive.
Before the 2015 Mustang was actually unveiled, a rumor circulated that Ford was planning to step away from the Mustang’s retro styling entirely, which caused some concern. In the end, the 2015 Mustang kept a lot of what had worked for the 2014 Mustang but added updates to it that modernized the Mustang’s style and made it clear that we were looking at the first of a new generation.
The front fascia styling is frequently referred to as a “shark-bite” design, created by pairing an eye-catching trapezoidal grille with thin headlights. It looks like a toothy shark mid-bite. Many have pointed out that this styling seems to be inspired by the look of the 1969 Mustang in terms of the downward angle of the nose and the low and lean look. We couldn’t agree more, and there’s a reason the ‘69 was so popular.
This muscular and aggressive look was emphasized even more with the 2018 body update, which changed the headlights slightly and pulled the front nose down further.
Ultimately, the S550 Mustang was similar in terms of dimensions to its S197 counterpart, with the biggest difference coming in the width and height which started to fall into the widebody category. Wide and low, the Mustang had a more aggressive stance, and a lower center of gravity that combined with the new suspension system made the Mustang feel like it could corner in a whole new way.
|Dimension||2014 Mustang||2015 Mustang|
|Front Head Room
New S550 Colors
Every generation gets an exciting new array of colors, and the S550 was no exception. The colors we saw for this generation were a great combination of classic favorites, like Grabber Blue, and a range of new colors.
The colors introduced this generation managed to avoid the classic trap of making many shades of grayscale, and we got the kinds of pops of color that made people really fall in love with the vehicles. Some of these colors, like Royal Crimson, only lasted for a year or two, but we also got colors like Triple Yellow and Orange Fury, not to mention Need for Green, one of our favorite colors of Mustang green to date.
- Triple Yellow (2015-2018)
- Guard (2015-2016)
- Magnetic (2015-2019)
- Lead foot Gray (2018-2019)
- Orange Fury (2018-2019)
- Avalanche (GT350/R Only Color for 2016-2017)
- White Platinum (2017)
- Velocity Blue (2019)
- Need for Green (2019)
- Royal Crimson (2018)
Interior Changes for the Mustang’s Sixth Generation
At the launch of the sixth generation of Mustang, one of the callbacks to Mustang history was found in the steering wheel, which featured a galloping horse at the center of a T-shaped design that was designed to look retro. It would be hard to mistake it for truly vintage though due to all of the driver comfort features, which includes easy to access controls.
Since its first year, the sixth generation has seen some of the most significant changes to the interior of any generation of Mustang. Some of these changes were practical. Many drivers complained about the location of the cup holders in relation to the shifter in the 2015 Mustang, which caused Ford to change the placement in order to account for more comfortable shifting. Other changes were in line with technology at the time. The 2015 Mustang launched with SYNC and MyFordTouch as options, but now SYNC comes standard in all Mustangs, with SYNC 3 as a much-loved option.
As part of the 2018 mid-generation revision, the mechanical gauges were swapped out for a sleeker digital gauge system that allowed for customization.
S550 Engine Modifications and Improvements
|Years Available||Engine||Bore x Stroke||Displacement||Compression Ratio||Horsepower||Torque
||3.7L Ti-VCT V6
||3.76 x 3.41 inches(95.5 x 86.7 mm)
||300 hp at 6,500 RPM
||280 lb-ft at 4,000 RPM
||2.3L EcoBoost Inline-4
||3.45 x 3.7 inches(87.55 x 94mm )
||310 hp at 5,500 RPM
||320 lb-ft at 4,500 RPM
||2.3L EcoBoost Inline-4
||3.45 x 3.7 inches (87.55 x 94mm)
||310 at 5,500 RPM
||350 lb-ft at 4,500 RPM
||5.0L Coyote V8 (Generation 2)
||3.63 x 3.65 inches (92.2 x 92.7 mm)
||435 hp at 6,500 RPM
||400 lb-ft at 4,250 RPM
||5.0L Coyote V8 (Generation 3)
||3.66 x 3.65 inches (93 x 92.7mm)
||460 hp at 6,500 RPM
||420 lb-ft at 4,250 RPM
||5.2L Voodoo V8
||3.70 x 3.66 inches (94 x 93 mm)
||526 at 7,500 RPM
||429 lb-ft at 4,750 RPM
The new EcoBoost engine debuted at the same time as the 2015 Mustang. Some were skeptical at launch because the EcoBoost was only a four-cylinder and they wondered how it could possibly compete with a V6. The simple answer was that the EcoBoost was Turbocharged while as the V6 was naturally aspirated.
The EcoBoost wasn’t just competitive with the V6, it solidly beat it in terms of horsepower and torque. Once enthusiasts were satisfied that the EcoBoost was everything Ford had promised and more, the V6 was quietly ushered out with few complaints.
The GT’s engine was the V8 the enthusiast crowd demanded. The first generation of Coyote was exciting, but the second generation was even more incredible, and then, in 2018, Ford unveiled the third generation. The third generation of Coyote engine could wipe the floor with the 2012 Boss 302’s engine, which until that point had been the crown jewel of Ford’s engine selections. The Boss was what inspired the sixth generation of Mustang’s forged connecting rods, not to mention the borrowed cylinder heads. But Ford has always been their own best competitor, and since then they’ve been able to beat themselves several times over.
The Voodoo Coyote variant has become the new benchmark, a high revving, high performing engine that graces the inside of the Shelby GT350. The Voodoo is a flat plane crankshaft engine, which allows it to have a higher rev ceiling in addition to giving it an out of this world sound.
The GT500 is preparing to launch with a cross-plane crankshaft version of the Voodoo which will have a lower rev ceiling, but more low-end torque for a hold-on-to-your-seat muscle car feel.
Though some engines have particularly stand out features, every engine in this generation was equipped with some noteworthy features.
- Aluminum Block and Heads
- Composite shell-welded intake manifold
- Forged Steel Connecting Rods
- Direct Fuel Injection
S550 Special Edition Packages Availability
Ford loves to include special and limited edition packages, and this generation has been no exception. We are still not approaching 1968 levels of ridiculousness (back in the days where every state got their own Mustang), but there have been a fair number of packages that have been introduced and either phased out or expanded on in the S550 era.
Perhaps one of the most notable special editions is the California Special. One of the state/territory specific Mustangs that Ford unveiled back in the peak of its ‘60s special edition madness was the California Special. While most of the other special editions have been forgotten, the California Special became a collectible, highly sought after and reminisced over.
Additionally, the Performance Packages carried over from 2011. These popular packages offer performance-oriented upgrades for your EcoBoost or GT. Essentially, it ends up being a collection of amazing modifications at a great package price and installed straight from the dealer.
50 Year Package: Only Offered in 2015
2015 was the fiftieth anniversary of the Mustang, and Ford didn’t let the birthday pass by without a celebration. 1,964 (a reference to the Mustang’s 1964 launch) limited edition Mustangs were produced in Kona Blue and Wimbledon White.
Black Accent Package: 2016-2017 (GT Only), 2018-2019
This package mostly offered an assortment of black add-ons for anyone who really loved the blackout look. Ebony Black painted wheels, black exterior badging, black decklid spoiler, black roof…you get the idea. Initially, this package was a GT only, but in 2018 it was expanded to the EcoBoost models as well.
Bullitt was a 1968 movie that starred a Mustang, driven by Steve McQueen, which has to evade hitmen who are driving a Dodge Charger. It might sound like the plot of a Ford commercial, but this was an actual movie. The best thing to come out of it so far are the special edition Bullitt Mustangs. This is the third time Ford has offered the Bullitt package, which is a nifty blend of appearance and performance add-ons.
This Mustang comes in one of the best colors of Mustang green to date and borrows the Shelby GT350’s intake manifold which buys it a solid 20 horsepower advantage on your standard GT.
California Special (GT Only): 2017, 2019
This GT only special package included a special front splitter, a raised black rear spoiler, 19” black painted aluminum wheels, a fake rear gas cap with “California GT Special” printed on it, Alcantara seat covers, and SYNC 3.
Carbon Sport Package: 2018-2019
The carbon sport package offered Alcantara seat inserts and a carbon fiber instrument panel trim and shift knob. Though it doesn’t sound particularly noteworthy, this package has grown in popularity pretty quickly, in part due to how sharp it makes the interior of the car look.
EcoBoost Performance Package: 2015-2019
There’s really too much about any of the performance packages to detail them out, but the highlights here include a strut tower brace, bigger rear sway bar, heavy-duty front springs, and larger brake rotors.
GT Performance Package: 2015-
It really is the GT upgrade of the EcoBoost Performance package. You get all of the features of the EcoBoost Performance Package and then, in addition, a bunch of other goodies. Among them a unique front air splitter; K-member brace; Brembo™ 6-piston front calipers; 19" x 9" front and 19" x 9.5" rear Ebony Black-painted aluminum wheels with 255/40R19 front and 275/40R19 rear summer-only tires.
GT Performance Package II: 2018-
In 2018, Ford introduced an even bigger performance package for the Mustang GT. It includes everything in the GT performance package, then MagneRide and track-inspired springs and sway bar as well as some absurd wheels and tires.
GT350 and GT350R: 2016-
The GT350 and GT350R are enthusiasts’ cars. Designed for performance, these two special edition Mustangs have raked in awards since their re-launch in 2016. There’s a lot to say about the GT350 and GT350R.
Though it’s not yet released, so far we know quite a bit about the Shelby GT500. It promises to be the most powerful production Mustang ever built.
Pony Package (Ecoboost Only): 2016-2017, 2019
Unique grille styling, polished aluminum wheels, tri-bar pony badge. This is mostly an appearance oriented package, but enthusiasts were excited to see it back. The Pony Package is a throw-back to the classic days of Mustang, and fans appreciated seeing it return to the roster.
Chronological Development of the S550 Platform
The first year of the new platform saw a plethora of mechanical improvements, including:
- Independent Rear Suspension
- Selectable Drive Modes (Normal, Sport, Track, Snow/Wet)
- Forged Connecting Rods
- Ford SYNC
- New EcoBoost Engine Option
- Electronic Line-Lock
- Automatic 911 calling in the event of airbag deployment
Other Highlights from 2015:
- The Mustang goes global
- Sales jumped from 82,000 in 2014 to 122,439 in 2015, seizing the title of top pony car back from the Camaro
- Won Motorweek’s 2015 Drivers’ Choice Best Car of the Year Award
- Won 2014 Best Production Car at the Detroit Auto Show
- Five Star safety rating from NHTSA
The second year of the S550 generation saw the increased availability of options while the Mustang still maintained high sales and its five star safety rating
- SYNC becomes standard, with the upgraded SYNC 3 available as an option
- Secondary hood mounted turn signals introduced(1 year only)
- Return of California Special Package
- Return of Pony Package
- Black Accent Package introduced
- GT350 and GT350R’s highly anticipated return
- MagneRide available as option for GT350 and GT350R
- Car and Driver names the Shelby GT350 one of their ten best cars of the year
Out of all the years, 2017 sees the fewest changes as Ford prepares for the mid-generation revamp. The only feature added is Apple CarPlay and Android Auto.
Midway through the generation the Mustang sees an appearance adjustment. The headlights and taillights are changed substantially, and the Mustang’s face seems rejuvenated.
- GT models added quad-tip exhaust
- Mechanical gauges upgraded to digital ones
- Carbon Sport Interior Package added
- GT Performance Package II added
- Sync Connect added, allows for remote start
- Performance tweaks to EcoBoost and Coyote engines
- Coyote now features plasma transferred wire arc cylinder lining
- Dual fuel injection added to Coyote
- MagneRide offered on all Mustangs
- Electronic Line-Lock becomes standard
- 10-speed automatic transmission offered as an alternative to the six-speed manual and six-speed automatic
- Active Valve Exhaust offered as an option on GT models
- Driver assistance features introduced including: Distance alert, lane departure warning, pedestrian detection, and pre-collision assist system
In 2019, Mustang brought us the freedom of choice, as Ford expanded their options so they’re available regardless of whether you want a GT or an EcoBoost engine.
- Active Valve Exhaust available on all models of Mustang
- MagneRide offered on all models of Mustang
- Bullitt arrives
In 2020, the GT500 finally became available. Though the generation is slated to end in 2021, we anticipate several additional performance editions to end the geneeration with a bang.
Sources: L.A. Times | Top Speed | Ford | Motor1 | Jalopnik | Ford Authority | Road and Track | Motor Trend | Image Credit: Motor Trend, Jalopnik, Motor1