Payne: The mighty Mustang/F-150 tag team

Henry Payne
The Detroit News
  • Cold tests 'Stang stability control
  • The F-150 laughs at snow

The 2015 Ford Mustang and Ford F-150 are two of my favorite new vehicles. They are as different as chocolate and steak. Sport and utility. Knife and fork.

It's nice having both tools in your drawer as I discovered last week.

The last time I drove the Mustang was in September over sunny Los Angeles' serpentine Route 2. It's a road that, if pulled into a straight line, would reach to Kalamazoo. I revved, tossed, and generally rung the neck of this newly-nimble stallion through turns that would have tamed the last generation, solid-rear axle pony. The Porsche 911 I chased is probably still trying to hammer out the pony teeth marks in his rear bumper.

So I was excited to see the wicked, low-slung 'Stang in my driveway Tuesday. Until the snow and ice came. This deep green, turbocharged terror was suddenly as out of its element as, well . . . a foal on ice.

Dressed in Pirelli P-Zero summer tires, the proud beast twitched and bucked over Metro Detroit's snowy roads. The turbo four's 320 pound-feet of torque made it nervous. I toggled the Drive Mode switch for help. Sport Plus? Nope. Track? Nope. Snow/Rain? Yes, please. Ford's superb electronics (in a $29k base muscle car) controlled traction, fuel flow, and safety. But horses gotta run.

Desperate to unleash my housebroken pet, I found an empty school parking lot off Telegraph Road. I bound out on the ice-phalt, the rear end slewing happily about. I flicked off the traction control switch. Spun like a top. Did donuts. Had a ball. Until I stopped to switch traction control back on.

The Mustang wouldn't move.

Sensing that I was on ice, the car's brain refused the rear wheels any gas. None. I tried easing the clutch. Nothing. I floored the gas penal. Nada. I switched traction control back off. The P-Zeros spun like pinwheels. I was dead in the (frozen) water.

Reverse rescued me. I backed out of the lot — the Mustang giving me enough juice to make it to the main road. Comical. Educational. And boy was I glad to see the F-150 in my driveway the next morning.

The F-150 isn't just good in the snow, it taunts it.

Driving early Wednesday morning, I was tempted to drive into the snowy ditch just to explore the off-road bandwidth of this tank. My sports facility parking lot was a sheet of ice. The Ford laughed at it. My only concern was to park the massive vehicle in a corner lest it collect smaller cars skittering across the ice.

But my F-150 was more than a truck. It was a top-of-the-line, $60,750 King Ranch with Supercrew cab. A luxury suite on wheels. You could traverse a castle moat in an F-150 — but why bother when its interior is as nice as the king's study? Its high-ceilinged, wood-accented, leather interior would shame most corner offices. What office has a full-ceiling sun roof?

And if our house loses power (again. Dang global freezing) Mrs. Payne would be happy to move in with me. Sure the F-150 has steeper steps than our front stoop, but the box step moves out to help my 5'5" wife. The Super Cab's rear bench seats even fold up flat against the back wall, opening the floor as a bed.

Ford's superb SYNC system scans your outside world. Where the roads are blocked. What time your favorite movie is playing. Where the lowest gas prices can be found.

Though with an impressive 20 mpg, the F-150's turbo V-6 need for gas isn't as urgent as previous generation V8s (while returning better towing and payload). While you eagerly await spring Mustang season, the F-150 will get you through all seasons.

But still I felt a void.

Between the Mustang four-banger and the F-150 V6, I missed Ford's family of baritone V8s. May I suggest the Mustang 5.0-liter? Sure the Ecoboost returns an impressive 26 mpg, but the eight-holer is no slouch at 19. And the V8's purr is the most addicting sound this side of Sade.

Stomp on the aluminum-crusted throttle and the eight cylinders thrumb like velvet drums. They propel the car forward with eerie urgency. Eerie because the hoss's comfortable cabin is sealed for quiet from the violence under its hood. So too the hushed F-150.

Which means you can fill your garage with state of the art weapons offering the speed of a cruise missile and the ruggedness of a tank. Yet you won't feel like you've been in battle after a day's driving.

Henry Payne is auto critic for The Detroit News. Find him at hpayne@detroitnews.com or Twitter @HenryEPayne.

2015 Ford Mustang 2.3L Coupe Premium

Vehicle type: Front-engined, rear-wheel-drive, two-door coupe

Price: $38,455 as tested

Power plant: 2.3-liter turbocharged "Ecoboost" inline-4 cylinder

Power: 310 horsepower, 320 pound-feet torque

Transmission: 6-speed manual

Performance: Zero-60: 5.2 sec. (Car & Driver); Top speed: 149 mph (governor limited)

Weight: 3,532 pounds

Fuel economy: EPA mpg: 22 city/31 highway.26 combined

Report card

Highs: Beach bod; Is that a Mercedes interior?

Lows: Claustrophobic backseat; I wish I had a V8

Overall: ★★★★

Grading scale

Excellent ★★★★

Good ★★★

Fair ★★

Poor ★

2015 Ford F-150 4X4 Supercrew King Ranch

Vehicle type: Front-engined, two or four-wheel drive, four-door, pickup truck

Price: $60,705 as tested

Power plant: 3.5-liter, turbocharged "Ecoboost" V6

Power: 365 horsepower, 420 pound-feet torque

Transmission: 6-speed automatic

Performance: Zero-60: 3.8 sec. (Car & Driver); Top speed: 155 mph

Weight: 4,679 pounds

Fuel economy: EPA mpg: 18 city/24 highway/20 combined

Report card

Highs: Smoother ride; Suite-like cab

Lows: Size makes urban parking a challenge; Aluminum skin will likely increase insurance/repair costs

Overall: ★★★★

Grading scale

Excellent ★★★★

Good ★★★

Fair ★★

Poor ★