New & Used Ford Mustang: In Depth
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The Ford Mustang is one of the most recognizable vehicles in American automotive history. It became a part of the popular culture instantly, when it made its debut at the New York World’s Fair in 1964. Over the next 50 years, it has sold millions of copies, even introducing the "pony car" into the popular lexicon.
This year, the Mustang also is preparing for radical change--a new generation of pony cars is due for the 2015 model year.
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 musclecar 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 musclecars. 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 in 1983; 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--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, 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 edition, and Shelby and Bullitt editions along the way, this Mustang sold hundreds of thousands of copies each year while other 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 are now the most powerful Mustangs on the road, but a special racing edition brings back the Boss 302 designation--and charges ahead with a 444-horsepower, normally aspirated 5.0-liter V-8, less curb weight, and a TracKey package that lets 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 gets a new TrackApps feature that helps you time 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 650-hp 5.8-liter V-8, in coupe or convertible forms, and capable of (in coupe form) 200 mph.
Early in 2014, the next-generation Mustang was revealed before its 50th-anniversary celebration at the New York auto show. On sale later this year, the new Mustang gets fresh new styling, an advanced chassis, a plusher interior and a trio of engines including a new four-cylinder turbo. The car sits on a wider track, which it needed to accommodate possibly its biggest change: an independent suspension at the rear, finally ditching the live axle that's been a Mustang feature since it was introduced.
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 at least 300 horsepower and 270 pound-feet of torque, the new EcoBoost unit, which features turbocharging and direct-injection technologies, offers up 305 horsepower and 300 pound-feet of torque, while the V-8 rates in at more than 420 horsepower and 390 pound-feet of torque.A six-speed manual transmission remains standard while a six-speed automatic with paddle shifters is available. A convertible model will also be on sale late this year.High-tech features include driver-adjustable stability, steering systems, throttle and transmission systems; launch control; and SYNC with MyFord Touch.