First (Virtual) Drive: 2015 Ford Mustang



I got a little stick time with the 2015 Ford Mustang this week.

No, that’s not a reference to the aeronautical heritage of its name. I literally drove it with a little stick.

A virtual version of the all-new Mustang is now offered as downloadable content for the video game Need for Speed Rivals, which is available on all of the current Xbox and PlayStation consoles. Seeing as how the Mustang has a starring role in next year’s Need for Speed live-action movie, this comes as little surprise, but it’s cool nonetheless.

I tried out the PlayStation 4 version, using the handheld controller, rather than a steering wheel, as I’m told hardcore players of the game prefer.

Need for Speed isn’t an exacting driving simulator like Gran Turismo 6 or Forza 5, but the car is visually rendered from authentic CAD data supplied by Ford, and it’s right on the money.

There’s no interior point of view offered for driving, but you can see into the cabin through the windows, where the new design is recreated perfectly. It even features the auxiliary gauges on the center stack that come with the Mustang’s Performance Pack, a commemorative 50th anniversary dashboard plaque on the dash and the 8-inch MyFord Touch screen with map display.

The driving dynamics of the Need for Speed Mustang may be nothing more than the arcade-style fantasy of some energy drink-fueled coders that Need for Speed is known for, but the engine note was modeled on the real thing. It’s no screamer, but the deep burble is just about what you’d expect from a digital version of new 5.0-liter Coyote V8, and it’s noticeably different from the other playable Mustangs in the game, which include a Shelby GT500 police car and the Need for Speed movie ’Stang – a heavily modified GT500 in both Hollywood and the virtual world.

The game takes place in a mayhem-filled open environment, where you are able to randomly race other cars while getting chased by the police, both on and off road, or even play the role of law enforcement yourself. Along the way are repair shops, and hideouts where you can stash the cash that you earn by completing events, or spend it on performance upgrades and customizations, like wraps designed by Ford Racing driver Ken Block and submitted by fans to the Mustang Customizer on Ford’s consumer website.

Although we’ve heard that the 2015 Mustang has a secret electronic feature, it’s probably not one of the ones on tap in the game: a cop car-busting shock wave and protection against disabling EMP bursts among them. But a muscle-car-loving apocalypse prepper can dream.

Of course, even though the performance of the Need for Speed 2015 Mustang is in no way meant to reflect that of the one heading to showrooms next year, I couldn’t help taking a few notes while experiencing the game. For the record, the sprint from 0-60 mph appears to take just over four seconds, and I hit a top speed of 168 mph, which means that they deactivated the 155-mph speed limiter we’re told will be fitted to the production car. That, and they’ve added a nitrous oxide boost, just in case you need to fly off an overpass to make a clean getaway.

The Mustang was named for a plane, after all.

Gary Gastelu is FoxNews.com's Automotive Editor.