The S550 generation launched with the 2015 Mustang, and from the moment enthusiasts saw it, it was love at first sight. That love has only grown with the improvement of existing and new engine technologies and the return of Mustang legends like the Shelby GT350. Ford continues to build its reputation as a company that understands what brings enthusiasts back year after year while also looking forward.
2022 will mark the end of the S550 generation and the start of the rumored S650 generation. But it’s a future we’re excited for, especially as Ford looks to expand its lineup to include a hybrid Mustang, and possibly even AWD variants.
Until then, we've still got the S550 to appreciate. In the few years it’s been available, the S550 platform has seen many changes and a lot of growth, all of which deserves to be celebrated. In this article, we'll try to do just that.
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 "best pony car." When Ford released the first Mustang in 1964, they unintentionally created the pony car segment. That style of car is literally named after the Mustang. And for the first few generations, the Mustang wiped the floor with its primary competition: the Dodge Challenger and Chevy Camaro.
But in 2013, sales plummeted, and only around 80,000 Mustangs were sold. 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 the car's history.
If you added all Mustang sales between 2009 and 2013 together, they would total 370,000. That's roughly the same number of Mustangs that were sold in 1979 alone.
The timing was right for a new Mustang. But it had to be innovative enough to catch enthusiasts’ attention while also preserving the elements of the Mustang that Ford’s most dedicated fans loved.
Unveiling the S550 Mustang
On December 5, 2013, the sixth-generation Mustang was simultaneously unveiled in Michigan, Los Angeles, New York, Barcelona, Shanghai, and Sydney. It was the perfect way to announce that, for the first time in Ford's history, the Mustang was going worldwide.
The Mustang Goes Global
The Ford Mustang was finally ready to take on some of the best sports cars in the world. To be competitive in these new markets, it had to keep its power but gain the tighter controlled steering of a European sports car.
The Switch to Independent Rear Suspension
While most agree that the S197 generation excels in drag races, there’s no dispute that the S550 handles better. This is mostly due to the long-overdue switch to independent rear suspension. IRS not only gave the S550 a smoother feel, but it also greatly improved cornering.
The Mustang’s improved handling made enthusiasts and car journalists take notice. Though most other car companies had already made the transition to IRS, the Mustang had held onto its live rear axle for as long as possible.
Ford only tried independent rear suspension on a Mustang once before. The 1999 SVT Cobra came with IRS, and it had been a favorite in the Mustang community for a long time. Cobra and SVT are synonymous with high performance, and it proved that having an IRS didn’t mean the Mustang had to lose any of its edge. It just took Ford until 2015 to take that lesson to heart.
Exterior Differences Between S197 and S550 Mustangs
The S197 featured a square design that harkened back to the first-generation Mustang. The S550 took that retro look, added a little New Edge magic to it, and gave it some curves to make it even more aggressive.
Before the 2015 Mustang was unveiled, a rumor circulated that Ford was planning to step away from the Mustang’s retro styling entirely. Not surprisingly, this caused some concern. In the end, the 2015 Mustang kept a lot of what worked for the 2014 Mustang but added updates that modernized the style. It was clear the 2015 Mustang belonged to a new generation.
S550 Style and Size
The front fascia styling is referred to as a “shark-bite” design. It's created by pairing an eye-catching trapezoidal grille with thin headlights. Many have pointed out that this style seems to be inspired by 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.
The aggressive, muscular look got even more emphasis with the 2018 body update. That year, the headlights changed slightly and the front nose got pulled down further.
The S550 Mustang was similar in size to the S197, with the biggest difference being in width and height. Wide and low, the S550 had a more aggressive stance. Its lower center of gravity combined with the IRS made it feel like it could corner in a whole new way.
Dimensions: S197 vs S550 Mustang
|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 options for this generation were a great combination of classic favorites, like Grabber Blue, and a range of new hues.
Along with more neutral shades, we got pops of color that made fans really fall in love with these vehicles. Even though most of them only lasted for a year or two, some of our favorite colors included Royal Crimson, Triple Yellow, Orange Fury, and Need for Green (one of our favorite Mustang greens to date).
New S550 Mustang Colors
||2016-2017 (GT350/R Only)
|Lead Foot Gray
||2018-2019 (GT350/R Only)
|Need for Green
|Iconic Silver Metallic
|Rapid Red / Lucid Red Pearl
||2020-2021 (Renamed Lucid Red Pearl in 2021)
|Carbonized Gray Metallic
|Fighter Jet Gray
||2021 (Mach 1 Only)
Interior Changes for the Mustang’s Sixth Generation
One of the S550's callbacks to Mustang history was on the steering wheel, which featured a galloping horse at the center of a retro T-shaped design. It would be hard to mistake it for truly vintage though due to all the comfort features, which include easy-to-access controls.
Changes During the S550 Generation
Since its first year, the sixth generation has seen some of the most significant interior changes of any Mustang generation. 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. Thankfully, Ford changed the placement to make room for more comfortable shifting.
Other changes were in line with technology at the time. The 2015 Mustang launched with standard SYNC and the 2nd-gen SYNC with MyFord Touch as an option. 2016+ versions of the S550 came with an updated version of the standard SYNC system, with the much-loved SYNC 3 as an optional upgrade.
As part of the 2018 mid-generation revision, the mechanical gauges (pictured below) were swapped out for sleeker digital ones.
These new digital gauges allowed for far more customization. Drivers could choose which information was displayed, and even what colors to use for the gauges and ambient lights. Check out the video below for a rundown of some of the LCD cluster's coolest features.
S550 Engine Options and Improvements
The S550 generation has seen some exciting developments in engine technology over a pretty short timespan. Though some engines have particularly standout features, every engine in this generation was equipped with these noteworthy features:
- Aluminum Block and Heads
- Composite Shell-Welded Intake Manifold
- Forged Steel Connecting Rods
- Direct Fuel Injection
|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 hp 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 hp at 7,500 RPM
||429 lb-ft at 4,750 RPM
||5.2L Predator V8
||3.70 x 3.66 inches (94 x 93 mm)
||760 hp at 7,300 RPM
||625 lb-ft at 5,000 RPM
The EcoBoost Replaces the V6
The new EcoBoost engine debuted with the 2015 Mustang. Some were skeptical at launch because the EcoBoost was only a four-cylinder. How could it possibly compete with a V6? The simple answer is the EcoBoost was turbocharged, while the V6 was naturally aspirated.
The EcoBoost wasn’t just competitive with the V6, it solidly beat it when it came to horsepower and torque. Once enthusiasts saw that the EcoBoost was everything Ford had promised and more, the V6 was ushered out with few complaints.
Ford's V8s Keep Getting Better
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. Then, in 2018, Ford unveiled the third generation.
The third-generation Coyote engine could wipe the floor with the 2012 Boss 302’s engine. Up to that point, the 302's engine had been the crown jewel of Ford’s options. The Boss was what inspired the sixth-gen 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 performance benchmark. It's the 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 an out-of-this-world sound.
In 2020, the GT500 launched with a cross-plane crankshaft version of the Voodoo, called the Predator. This engine has a lower rev ceiling, but more low-end torque for a hold-on-to-your-seat, muscle car feel.
S550 Special Editions & Packages
Ford loves to include special and limited-edition packages, and this generation has been no exception. We're not at 1968 levels of ridiculousness (back when every state got their own Mustang), but the S550 has had its fair share of package options and changes.
Some of the most popular options include nods to the past, like the California Special and Pony Package. Additionally, the Performance Packages carried over from 2011. These popular packages offer performance upgrades for the EcoBoost or GT.
Here's some information on each of the special edition Mustangs and packages from the S550 generation.
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-
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 for GTs only, but in 2018 it was expanded to EcoBoost models as well.
Pony Package (EcoBoost Only): 2016-2017, 2019-
Unique grille styling, polished aluminum wheels, and a tri-bar pony badge. This is mostly an appearance-oriented package, but enthusiasts were excited to see it back. The Pony Package is a throwback to the classic days of Mustang, and fans appreciated seeing it return to the order guide.
California Special (GT Only): 2017, 2019-
The California Special was one of the state/territory-specific Mustangs Ford unveiled at the height of its ‘60s special-edition madness. While most of the other special editions have been forgotten, the California Special became collectible and highly sought after.
Luckily, Ford decided to bring it back for the S550 generation in 2017, although only for the Mustang GT. The package included a special front splitter, raised black rear spoiler, 19” black painted aluminum wheels, fake rear gas cap with “California GT Special” printed on it, Alcantara seat covers, and SYNC 3.
Carbon Sport Package: 2018-
The carbon sport package offered Alcantara seat and door inserts, along with a carbon fiber shift knob and dash trim. Though it doesn’t sound like much, this package is pretty popular due to how sharp it makes the interior look.
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 nice blend of appearance and performance add-ons.
This Mustang comes in one of the best Mustang greens ever and borrows the Shelby GT350’s intake manifold. That buys you a solid 20 horsepower advantage over the standard GT.
EcoBoost Performance Package: 2015-2019
There’s so much in each performance package that it would be too much to list. The big highlights include a strut tower brace, bigger rear sway bar, heavy-duty front springs, and larger brake rotors.
EcoBoost High-Performance Package 2020-
The EcoBoost Performance Package was replaced with the High-Performance Package in 2020. The High-Performance Package keeps some of the best features of the original but adds some features from the Focus RS. Here’s a more thorough rundown of what’s in the High-Performance Package.
GT Performance Package: 2015-
This package is essentially the GT upgrade of the EcoBoost Performance package. You get all the features of the EcoBoost Performance Package plus a bunch of other goodies.
Among the extras are a unique front air splitter, K-member brace, and Brembo 6-piston front calipers. You also get 19" x 9" front and 19" x 9.5" rear Ebony Black-painted aluminum wheels with 255/40R19 front and 275/40R19 rear summer tires.
GT Performance Package II: 2018-2020
In 2018, Ford introduced an even bigger performance package for the Mustang GT. It included everything in the GT Performance Package, plus a MagneRide suspension system . They also threw in some track-inspired springs and a sway bar, as well as some absurd wheels and tires for good measure.
GT350 and GT350R: 2016-2020
The GT350 and GT350R are true enthusiasts’ cars. Designed for performance, these two special edition Mustangs have raked in plenty of awards since their re-launch in 2016. There’s a lot to say about these incredible machines, and you can read more about their specs and features here.
The GT500 is the most powerful production Mustang ever. Loaded with performance features and appearance accents, we can’t say enough about the GT500. You can check out our article to learn more about the GT500's performance specs and design features.
Mach 1: 2021
The Mach 1 Package debuted in 2021 as a replacement for the Bullitt. Like the Bullitt package, the Mach 1 combines a few performance pieces with some major appearance upgrades. Overall, the Mach 1’s features are enticing.
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 if Airbag Deploys
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 Camaro
- Won 2015 MotorWeek Drivers’ Choice Award for Best Car of the Year
- Won 2014 Best Production Car at the Detroit Auto Show
- Received five star safety rating from NHTSA
In its second year, the S550 received more special package options. It also maintained high sales and its five-star safety rating.
- SYNC Becomes Standard and SYNC 3 Becomes an Option
- Secondary Hood-Mounted Turn Signals Introduced (1 Year Only)
- Return of California Special Package
- Return of Pony Package
- Black Accent Package Introduced
- Highly Anticipated Return of GT350 and GT350R
- MagneRide Available as Option for GT350 and GT350R
- Car and Driver Names Shelby GT350 One of Ten Best Cars of the Year
Out of all the S550's years, 2017 sees the fewest changes as Ford prepares for the mid-generation revamp. The only feature added is Apple CarPlay and Android Auto compatibility with SYNC.
Midway through the generation, the Mustang gets a makeover. The headlights and taillights are changed substantially, and the Mustang’s face seems rejuvenated.
- GT Models Get Quad-Tip Exhaust
- Mechanical Gauges Upgraded to Digital
- 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 Adds 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 Offered as Alternative to 6-Speed Manual and 6-Speed Automatic
- Active Valve Exhaust Offered as Option on GT Models
- Driver Assistance Features Introduced (e.g. Distance Alert, Lane Departure Warning, Pedestrian Detection, and Pre-Collision Assist System)
In 2019, Ford gave buyers more freedom of choice. Many options for the Mustang were made available regardless of whether you chose a GT or an EcoBoost.
- Active Valve Exhaust Available on All Mustangs
- MagneRide Offered on All Mustangs
- Bullitt Mustang Arrives
In 2020, the big news was definitely the GT500. Unfortunately, the GT350 and GT350R had their final year in 2020. The Bullitt Mustang also saw its last year of production in 2020.
The EcoBoost’s Performance Package II was replaced by the High-Performance Package. This package makes the EcoBoost the most performance-focused four-cylinder Mustang ever.
For 2021, the Mach 1 became available. This Mustang showcased a mix of retro-inspired design and forward-focused performance upgrades. It replaced the Bullitt as the middle Mustang between the GT and GT500.
The S550 generation is slated to end in 2022, with the S650 debuting as a 2023 model year. In the meantime, be sure to sign up for our newsletter to stay up-to-date on the latest S550 and S650 news.
Sources: L.A. Times | Top Speed | Ford | Motor1 | Jalopnik | Ford Authority | Road and Track | MotorTrend
Image Credit: MotorTrend, Jalopnik, Motor1