Taking the 2015 Ford Mustang for a Test Drive in Need for Speed Rivals

I might have a tiny bias here. When I relieve myself of the daily duties of running a video game site, I morph into a Mustang aficionado by night. Honestly, I’m sort of like Superman. Or more accurately the concept of a video game journalist/gearhead superhero that was rejected by even the least-discerning comic publishers, but I prefer the one with the laser vision, so let’s go with that. You see not only do get behind the wheel of a modern Mustang as my daily driver, but I’ve spent the last several years restoring a 1966 model. A symbol of Americana ingenuity and simply a darn good automobile in any decade, it’s been a brand I’ve been attracted to practically forever. In fact, I like driving them to the extent that I try to exclusively use them in any racing video game, even when I could just as easily hop in a MacLaren. This becomes quite challenging at times as it tends to be placed as a lower-tier car in most of these. One game that puts it at an almost-level-playing field, however, is Need for Speed Rivals. Thanks to the arcadey upgrades, a fully upgraded ‘stang can easily reach speeds upwards of 250 M.P.H. So suffice it to say, when EA revealed that the latest model of the car would be made available in the game, I was giddy with excitement.

The 2015 Mustang marks not only a drastic change in appearance, but also the fiftieth anniversary of the car. Revealed just last week, overall reception of the car is trending positive. It’s almost universally thought of as an attractive car, with most of the detractors criticizing the fact that it doesn’t look enough like a Mustang or looks too European. This is a gravely misguided opinion. The last generation of the Mustang was a fantastic looking car — there’s little doubt about that — but it wasn’t exactly the sleekest looking automobile. It wasn’t really a car you could imagine James Bond driving up to a high rolling Monte Carlo casino in. It screamed testosterone, but perhaps at the expense of class. The new Mustang, however, is both a muscle car and one you can feel confident driving in the most elegant of situations. It’s understated, but makes quite the impression. It has curves and cuts in all of the right places, and while not as commanding as the previous model, looks like it means business.  It’s just as important to note that the original Mustang was dramatically influenced by European designs and ushered in a new era of vehicle design in America. The 2015 Mustang doing the same is not only faithful to the intentions of the brand, but could do the same thing all over again for the industry.

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Adding the car to a racing game so soon after its announcement is an excellent example of successful cross-promotion. Not only does Ford have another opportunity to display the car out to the lucrative 18-35 age group, but EA gets to lay claim to having the only game in town with one of the hottest cars of the moment. In fact, this is technically the first opportunity available to test drive the car (albeit digitally) to the general public. Unfortunately, the fact that the game in question is Need for Speed Rivals is a bit bittersweet.

Rivals is an arcade racing game through and through that lends itself to comparisons to Burnout before Gran Turismo. As such, even though cars drive like their class, the fatest McLaren doesn’t feel a whole lot different from the fastest Lamborghini. As such, it’s hard to get a feel for all of the nuances the new Mustang has to offer. To best attempt this, I completely upgraded both the 2015 GT and the 2014 GT NFS Movie Car (which replaces the previous standard 2014 GT but is the same car) and took them to the track.

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While both feel like muscle cars, there’s little doubt that the 2015 feels more like a sports car. It blazes through streets, turns on a dime and has no problem with acceleration. This, however, comes at the cost of some durability. The 2014 Mustang feels tougher and more like a tank whereas the 2015 feels more fragile. As far as speed, acceleration and control go, however, the 2015 is the clear winner. It’s simply the faster and better handling car between the two.
Although neither car is all that different from one another, the 2015 is the clear cut winner and my Mustang of choice in the game. It feels fantastic and keeps you in the competition with supercars better than ever before. In events where sheer power and muscle are concerned, however, (such as Hot Pursuits) the 2014 model still has a place. It’s bulkier and not quite as fast, but packs a lot of punch. Regardless of the differences, however, it’s simply cool seeing the just-unveiled car in action. If Need for Speed Rivals is any indication of the capabilities of the 2015 Mustang, there’s a lot to be excited for come next year.