Take time to look around our world, and you’ll notice more than a few man-made objects that are unmistakably and unapologetically American in origin. The Louisville Slugger. The McDonald’s Big Mac. The Fender Stratocaster. And, of course, the Ford Mustang. When it premiered very nearly a half-century ago, the Mustang represented a colossal gamble for its maker; it was arguably the first mass-market production car to be aimed squarely at Baby Boomer consumers, the eldest of who – the ones born shortly after the end of World War II – were just starting to trickle out of high school and into the “real world.” As it turned out, the timing of Lee Iacocca, Donald Frey and the rest of the stylish Falcon derivative’s champions within Ford HQ could not have been better. The Mustang went on to set (and still holds) the record for the fastest-selling new car of all time.
And while all of the Mustang’s foes have come and gone over the years (with some, like the AMC Javelin and Pontiac Firebird, never to return), it has managed to stay in continuous production. But in the automotive biz, standing still is just as bad as moving backwards, and with the current Mustang’s architecture dating back to 2005, the time is right to unbridle this icon’s next generation. Which is exactly what Ford is doing today in a daylong, multi-city worldwide launch.
At first glance, it certainly features a lot of Mustang design cues: The crypto-trapezoidal “horse collar” grille with the Pony emblem in the middle, the aggressive forward-leaning headlights, the just-this-side-of-pornographic fastback roofline, and the triple element vertical taillights (which, like the ones on the ’14 model, double as retro-and-righteous sequential turn signals). But as your eyes start to meander over the car, you start picking up some big changes over the old model (though you’ll likely need a tape measure to discover that it’s 1.5” wider and 1.4” lower; wheelbase and overall length, on the other hand, are essentially unchanged). The headlights are longer and narrower, not unlike the ones on the Fusion and Taurus. The coupe’s isolated rear quarter windows – inspired by the ones found on the 1966 Shelby GT350 – have been replaced by ones with openings that are of similar size and shape, but the glass now extends forward and downward to meet the door glass, giving the new Mustang the same hidden B-pillar “faux-hardtop” look as the Camaro and Challenger (and most other modern coupes, for that matter). And the tail panel is raked farther forward than we reckon it ever has been on a production Mustang, and it meets a trunklid that’s a full 2.75” lower (though Ford says the trunk will now hold two golf bags without having to fold the rear seats down). All in all, it’s a fairly significant departure from the current car in terms of outward appearance but, at the same time, it’s clearly a Mustang and clearly a follow-up to the 2005-’14 generation.
The “same but different” story continues inside. The retro-inspired twin cockpit theme has been carried over, though the effect is now less prominent on the lower tier of the dashboard. And the dashboard does make use of ritzier materials, in addition to accommodating a much larger LCD screen in the center stack for the optional MyFord Touch, the first time the system has been offered on the Mustang. Overall interior volume is up by three-and-a-half cubic feet on the coupe, but keep in mind that this is still a sporty two-door with sporty two-door dimensions, particularly in the back seat. But if you’re super fixated on interior space, why not just buy an Expedition EL or similar?
Of course, no large SUV, van or anything like that will have underpinnings similar to the new Mustang’s. Ford completely redesigned the front suspension, shifting from a reverse-L layout to a MacPherson Strut setup with double ball joints. And it finally – to the dismay of drag racers and the delight of…um…everyone else – fitted independent suspension to the rear. No, it’s not the first IRS-equipped production Mustang ever (the 1999-2004 SVT Cobra holds that distinction), but it is the first time the regular model has been so equipped. The suspension at all four corners is capped by beefy brake discs measuring a minimum of 12.6” across and a wide selection of snazzy 18-, 19- and 20-inch alloy wheels.
Yes, yes, we know, you’re anxious to hear about the engines and transmissions. Well, you might be a little disappointed to hear that it’s status quo for the latter (6-speed manual and 6-speed automatic) and status quo plus one for the former. But don’t go rolling your eyes just yet, for there have been more changes made than you think: Yes, the base 3.7L V6 and the GT’s 5.0L Coyote V8 can be found in the ’14 model, but Ford has made some tweaks to both for the new car (e.g. bigger valves and higher-lift camshafts for the V8) which should yield some slight bumps in power and torque (Ford hasn’t released any official numbers, but we’re guessing about 310 horsepower for the V6 and about 440 horsepower for the V8.). What’s more, Ford has redesigned the linkage for the manual transmission, and fitted steering-wheel-mounted shift paddles to automatic cars.
But the biggest powertrain news is that “plus one” we mentioned above: A new middle-child engine option (and the base engine on export models) in the form of a new turbocharged 2.3L EcoBoost inline-four. Although “2.3L turbo four-banger” and “Mustang” fills many people’s heads with dreams of offset hood scoops and two-tier rear wings, this new force-fed mill is a far, far cry from the popped-collar era SVO’s Pinto-derived lump. It features dual overhead camshafts, four valves per cylinder, direct fuel injection, variable valve timing and a forged steel crankshaft and connecting rods. As with the other two engines, Ford isn’t ready to give out any firm output numbers, but it will say that it expects the EcoBoost engine to make at least 305 horsepower and at least 300 lb.-ft of torque.
Performance figures aren’t expected to be released until closer to the new car’s on-sale date sometime next fall, but we’re guessing they’ll be a few ticks better than the current car thanks to the additional power. Pricing is also being kept under wraps, but we’d be shocked if the numbers on the Monroneys increase more than a couple hundred bucks over where they are now. After all, the Ford Mustang has always been about attainable performance and style. And considering how much of both those things this latest one offers, it’s crystal clear that the fine folks in Dearborn see no need to deviate from what has, for almost 50 years, proven to be a winning formula.
Looks like an old supra.