New & Used Ford Mustang: In Depth
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Forty-one years ago the Mustang was introduced at the New York World’s Fair, instantly becoming shorthand for American culture. Ford would sell millions of Mustangs in the decades to follow. It also inspired the term, "pony car" to describe it — essentially, a personal luxury coupe. And over time, it would add layer upon layer of performance to challenge some of the true sports cars of its day.
For 2015, the Ford Mustang underwent radical change, and though not even on sale a year, the latest Mustang is already being gifted with faster versions, including the most high-performance pony car Ford has ever offered.
Returning for the 2016 model year is the Mustang Shelby GT350. It introduces a flat-plane-crank 5.2-liter V-8 with 526 horsepower. It makes the most of the Mustang's finessed chassis dynamics—and introduce a series of aero and chassis upgrades, including Ford's first application of MagneRide damper technology.
Also for 2016, the Mustang Convertible is now available with the Performance Package. That model includes a standard multilayer insulated cloth top that gives the car a more upscale appearance and a quieter cabin, according to Ford. The new top also lowers twice as fast as before, and has a sleeker profile when down.
MORE: Read our 2016 Ford Mustang review
The newest Mustang was announced just before the nameplate's 50th anniversary celebration, which took place at the 2014 New York Auto Show. Ford aims to sell the Mustang globally for the first time, giving it sleeker looks and updating the chassis to finally include an independent rear suspension setup. The interior has been improved, and Ford added a turbocharged four-cylinder back into the lineup to bring high performance and fuel economy together. The track is wider to accommodate the new rear suspension, and the front geometry has been reworked to match the performance front to rear. Crash structures have also been designed to accommodate the regulations in the various markets in which it will be sold.
Under the hood of the 2015 Mustang, buyers will find one of a trio of engines: the familiar 3.7-liter V-6, a new 2.3-liter EcoBoost four-cylinder, and a more powerful 5.0-liter V-8. The V-6 delivers 300 horsepower and 280 pound-feet of torque; the new EcoBoost unit, which features turbocharging and direct-injection technologies, offers up 310 horsepower and 320 pound-feet of torque; and the V-8 is rated at more than 435 horsepower and 400 pound-feet of torque. A six-speed manual transmission remains standard while a six-speed automatic with paddle shifters is available. A convertible is also available in this first year of production.
The 2015 models are being offered in a Mustang 50 Year limited-edition package to celebrate the half-century of pony cars. It includes extra badging, louvers over the rear side windows, and some unique interior touches. All 50 Year cars are coupes with the 5.0-liter V-8, available with either a manual or an automatic transmission.
Ford used the 2014 L.A. Auto Show to debut one of its most potent new Mustangs, the Shelby GT350. Stepping back from the last Shelby's big supercharged V-8, the GT350 uses a more modestly sized normally aspirated 5.2-liter V-8 with a flat-plane crank, promising over 500 hp and an 8000-rpm redline. The package also includes serious chassis upgrades, like magneto-rheological shocks, as well as a completely unique front clip and other Shelby-specific styling details.
Building on the GT350, Ford has also announced a GT350R version that should provide very good competition for Chevy's Camaro Z/28. It will be lighter than the standard GT350, with extensive use of carbon fiber, including the material's first use in wheels on a mass-produced car. Other R upgrades include deletion of the rear seat and stereo, a lack of trunk lining, and aluminum used in strategic locations, all of which will help the car shed pounds.
High-tech features available in the new Mustang include driver-adjustable stability, steering, throttle, and transmission systems; launch control; a line lock function for burnouts and improved launches; and SYNC with MyFord Touch. Ford massaged the Mustang's silhouette to provide a larger trunk and engineered the new car to meet crash standards in countries around the world to allow for the expanded global sales.
So as not to leave a good thing alone, Ford is bringing several updates and new options to the 2016 Mustang. GT models get a new hood with turn-signal indicators integrated into the hood vents, a throwback to second-gen Mustang models. There's also a new California Special package available, similar to the appearance packages of the past, available on the GT. And EcoBoost Stang buyers can opt for the Pony pack. Upper trim levels also get the new Sync 3 infotainment system that is beginning to roll out across Ford products.
Ford Mustang history
The Mustang was the unexpectedly, wildly popular response to the rise of the sporty compact car in the early 1960s. GM had the Chevy Corvair in its stable already when Ford, under the direction of auto legend Lee Iacocca, conceived of its own "personal car"--one that would appeal to buyers looking for an image. By reskinning the existing Falcon runabout with a stylish, enduring new body, Ford had a hit.
The Mustang made its world debut at the 1964 World's Fair in New York on April 17, 1964. Within four months, Ford had sold 100,000 copies, and by 1966 the Ford Mustang coupe and convertible logged more than a million sales. Most early Mustangs were powered by six-cylinder engines, but V-8 versions grew in popularity as the Mustang developed a muscle-car personality in models like the Shelby GT350 and GT500 and the Mach 1.
Basic Mustangs were affordable transportation; the V-8 cars quickly escalated the muscle-car wars, pitting Ford's best against the Chevy Camaro, Pontiac Firebird, and the Plymouth Barracuda. A fastback body style added a graceful new look to the stable in 1967, and trim and performance packs of every stripe greeted each new model year in the Mustang's infancy.
As the Sixties turned into the Seventies, the Mustang began to lose traction. By the time a new took shape in 1971, safety and emissions rules were eviscerating all the muscle cars. Power peaked with the 1971 Mustang Mach I, and fell each year until Ford took the drastic step of downsizing the car into the 1974 Mustang II. Lighter and much shorter, this Mustang also shared some running gear with the Ford Pinto. A sales hit at first, the Mustang II dented the name and the reputation--and Ford quickly planned a new car, spun from the new Ford Fairmont's rear-drive platform.
The "Fox" platform Mustang arrived in showrooms in 1979, and soldiered on in that basic form until 1993. Along the way, the four-cylinder brought back V-6 and a V-8 companion. The V-8 became the GT in 1983, convertibles returned to the lineup that same year, and a turbocharged SVO began its short life in 1984. In the late 1980s Ford planned a front-drive Mustang replacement, but before it launched the vehicle it changed direction. The rear-drive Mustang got revised sheetmetal, while the front-drive coupe emerged as the 1989 Ford Probe. Performance models included the Cobra R and SVT editions, as Ford progressively rebuilt the Mustang's reputation for performance.
In the 1990s, the Mustang migrated from the by-then outdated look of the 1993 model, to the heritage-themed styling of the 1994–2004 edition. It also rode on a heavily revised chassis that eventually settled on V-6 and V-8 engine combinations. The 5.0-liter V-8 went away, replaced by the durable, powerful 4.6-liter V-8--but the Mustang retained its live-axle rear end. Reshaped and refined in 1999, the Mustang drove on and on until it had outlived the Chevrolet Camaro and Pontiac Firebird--both of which ended production in 2002--and until a new Mustang was ready for the 2005 model year.
With the 2005–2009 Mustang, Ford finally exorcised the Mustang's reputation for clumsy live-axle handling and dated structural engineering. The new car proved tight and well-built, not to mention great-looking, an ideal blend of modern and heritage styling themes. With revamped six- and eight-cylinder engines, new automatic and manual transmissions, a new convertible model, and Shelby and Bullitt editions along the way, this Mustang sold hundreds of thousands of copies each year while competitors like the Nissan 370Z and Hyundai Genesis Coupe emerged from their respective drawing boards.
For 2010, Ford carried over most of the Mustang's mechanicals, while smoothing its sheetmetal with a more forward-canted grille and by installing a much better interior. In 2011, the Mustang receives new powertrains--with the V-6 earning a 31-mpg highway fuel economy rating, and the V-8 bringing back the "5.0" badge, along with 412 horsepower. Supercharged Shelby GT500 editions of this V-8 represented the most powerful Mustangs of this generation, but a special racing edition brought back the Boss 302 designation--and charged ahead with a 444-horsepower, normally aspirated 5.0-liter V-8, less curb weight, and a TracKey package that let drivers dial up performance on closed circuits.
The Mustang carried over into 2011 and 2012 with only minor changes, but the 2013 model year brought some more modern details to the Mustang's look--including HID headlamps, flanked by two strips of LED lighting, plus LED lamps with a dark-tinted look, as well as a blacked-out area in between. Inside, the Mustang got a new TrackApps feature that times acceleration or quarter-mile times. The electric power steering also gained three-stage, driver-configurable settings. Powertrains along with most else were carried over, although the V-8 was boosted to 420 hp. Also new for 2013 was an even more potent version of the Shelby GT500--packing a 662-hp, 5.8-liter V-8, in coupe and convertible forms, with the hardtop capable of a claimed 200 mph.