To the Mustang faithful, change is rarely a good thing. Change, however, may be coming to the 2014 Mustang, which will mark the 50th anniversary of the venerable pony car.
A report from The Mustang News suggests the 2013 Mustang will likely be the last model year for the current car. The site says a slight downsizing is in the works with the new pony car in the planning stages. Insiders expect shrinkage to be kept to a minimum; a Focus-sized Mustang would be a sales disaster for Ford, and no one wants a repeat of the Mustang II, served up during the years of the original gas crisis.
Weight savings, on the other hand is likely to come from the use of aluminum panels (like Mazda's current MX-5, which uses an aluminum hood and trunk lid) and high-strength steel in key areas. The current Mustang is a superb car, but it's not exactly a lightweight track terror. It's the lightest of the pony cars, but the new GT still tips the scales at 3,605 pounds; that doesn't help its handling, and it certainly doesn't help its fuel economy, a critical concern as manufacturers are hit with upcoming CAFE requirements.
There's also word that the next Mustang will get a fully independent rear suspension, but this could be related more to platform globalization than to owner complaints, if it's true. Drive the current Mustang and you soon realize that the live axle is a non-issue on all but the roughest pavement. Still, Ford can't justify the expense of a unique platform for the Mustang any longer, so expect to see a version of the Australian Ford Falcon used as the basis of the next Mustang--which begs the question of whether the Falcon will get an independent suspension all around as well.
Powertrains aren't likely to change much from the current offerings, although Bill Ford did let slip recently that an EcoBoost Mustang was under development. Ford's EcoBoost V-6 puts out less horsepower than their 5.0 liter V-8 engine, weighs more and returns similar fuel economy, but could be pitched as a modern-day SVO. If an alternative EcoBoost Mustang is in the works, we suspect it will be a four-cylinder EcoBoost variant to cover the entry-level market.
Styling remains the big question mark, and Ford design chief J Mays is silent on the topic. We had an opportunity to discuss the next Mustang with Mays at last year's Ford Explorer launch, and it was clear that he was measuring each word carefully. Without giving specifics, he said that Ford was "well aware" of the significance of the Mustang's golden anniversary, and promised that the Mustang faithful wouldn't be disappointed.
Mays' word is good enough for us, and we can't wait to see what Ford has in store.