Hammer down until the self-preservation instinct kicks in, brush the brakes to scrub off some speed, then back on the power as the car glides through the corner. Soon it’s go-time again as the Coyote engine howls as the 10-speed auto downshifts and the combustion music it makes while the roadside scenery blurs is glorious.
After backing off a bit, I take a moment to reflect. That was a blast. I am an instant fan.
The latest pony car’s styling takes some time to digest, but its foundation and motivation are both familiar and forward-thinking. Ford engineers took all they have learned about the chassis, suspension, and powertrain to deliver a faster horse. Fused with modern electronics and tuned with modern tools, the 2024 Mustang GT pushes the performance envelope while making the everyday journey pleasant.
Of course, for enthusiasts, much of the excitement is underhood, where the Coyote engine platform has come a long way since it made 412 horsepower at birth. The Gen-4 version of the 5.0-liter engine leverages a modern powertrain control module to control an all-new dual-inlet throttle body fitted with twin 80mm throttle bodies. This arrangement frees up airflow without sacrificing low-end response as a larger single inlet might.
Fed with the familiar dual-fuel arrangement that plays on the strengths of both port and fuel injection, the latest Coyote wears upgraded heads and camshafts. It also benefits from a new steel oil pan with a lower volume that delivers reduced windage and improved efficiency. In total, it cranks out 480 horsepower and 415 lb-ft of torque. Adding the Active Valve Performance Exhaust elevates the output by 6 horsepower and 3 lb-ft of torque thanks to reduced restriction.
While it is the most powerful Mustang GT thus far, it doesn’t seem like a discernible leap over the 470-horsepower Mustang Mach 1 without driving the cars back to back. That said the car is plenty fast, and it sounds the part yet as it emotes a brawny symphony when you drop the hammer.
“This is the most athletic and confidence-inspiring Mustang EcoBoost and GT to drive yet,” says Ed Krenz, Ford Mustang chief nameplate engineer. “Whether driving an automatic or manual transmission, thanks to drive modes combined with fine-tuned digital engine, suspension, and steering controls, we’re now able to give drivers peak performance everywhere, from their favorite roads to their local track.”
Unlike the 2024 Mustang EcoBoost, the new GT is available with both a six-speed manual (MT-82) or a 10-speed automatic (10R80) transmission. Your scribe was only able to sample the automatic cars, but the manual experience should be pretty similar to that of the outgoing models.
The automatic does great keeping the engine right in that powertrain sweet spot while the Coyote pulls strong to the top of the tach, though its on-track shifting doesn’t seem quite as on-point as the outgoing Mach 1 auto, but it has been a couple of years since that experience so that isn’t a direct comparison. Of course, fully manual paddle shifting is available, and it comes in handy when you need to hold it in gear or quickly shift.
Referencing the Mach 1 is pertinent, especially when considering what the latest GT with the Performance Pack offers. In this form, it gives off some strong Mach 1 vibes and that’s a good thing because that is a great car.
“What we really liked about Mach, and we all enjoyed working on that program last was that you should you know, you brought a very serious amount of track capability to a customer that has a car that they can drive every day. We found that there weren’t very significant trade-offs to make that happen, so why don’t we offer that to the customer?” Adam Brecher, Vehicle Dynamics Engineer, shares.
They set out to up the ante of the 2024 Mustang GT on the track while delivering a higher level of comfort on the street, much like they did with the EcoBoost Performance Pack.
“When we’re doing our track testing, it’s great to have a car that’s super-capable, that can pound around all day. So I think that was a great opportunity. This is a part of the range that’s always the finest tuning to balance,” he adds. “You know, there’s a lot of people that really want this car that maybe aren’t as track-serious as those buying a Dark Horse. We want to give them the option to do that, and we don’t want to take anything away from them. You don’t want to force them to have too many trade-offs for that track capability.”
To achieve that goal, engineers retained some Performance Pack gear but reached into the parts bin of what was once the most track-capable 5.0-liter Mustang.
“We took the stay-bar package from the Mach 1 base and we brought that down in the range and we left the springs the same. That gives us a significant roll stiffness increase, and it makes the car a little more playful,” Brecher says. “We feel like you can hustle harder, so that was one thing that we wanted. The integration of the larger brake system is fantastic, and some oil coolers from the Mach 1 also come so you get some of the more track-focused features.”
In practice, this recipe paid off like a lottery win. The MagneRide system, as part of the Performance Pack, mitigates the road imperfections to gentle nudges but adjusts in microseconds in concert with the stability control to sharpen the handling when the hammer is down in the turns.
“In the Performance Pack realm, the 2024 Mustang GT is a very serious car,” Brecher says. “There’s definitely something to be said for making sure from a dynamics point of view that we are still going to flatter the novice with all the extra power that they have and then give something for someone a little more knowledgeable where they like to be flattered.”
Your scribe sits somewhere in the middle and the latest Performance Pack GT inspires confidence in the sweeping California canyon roads on our drive route. Though its front-end mass is more apparent with a V8 under the hood, the suspension excels at controlling body roll and limiting understeer. Meanwhile, only when the driver is more aggressive and less precise does the rearend exhibit any complaint. The car just glided through the curves whether you were cruising or pushing a little harder.
Helping further induce a grin on the driver’s face is the sharpened steering. As we noted with the EcoBoost, the ratio hastened to 15.5:1 which combines with a new Electronic Power Assist Steering calibration to deliver steering that is precise while avoiding the perils of road wander, which can be a challenge with staggered tire fitment as is standard on the Performance Pack.
“Now the benefits are that with all the torque that you have here, you need that kind of rear tire on the back side of the car, but it changes the character from being something that’s very tossable on an autocross to a car that’s very serious on a circuit,” Brecher explains. “It’s just a difference of character that you have to play because something that is going to make the EcoBoost car feel amazing isn’t the identical thing that’s going to feel amazing here so balancing that is important.”
More than just the ratio and tuning, the 2024 Mustang steering is a primary beneficiary of the engineering experience with the previous platform, as its mechanical connection with the steering rack is more direct without creating noise, vibration, and harness issues. It picks up where the 2023 Mach 1 left off, and the latter vehicle was offered a marked improvement, especially on the street, over even the Shelby GT350.
“It’s even better here than Mach 1 because now you’ve got no more disc isolator in the I-shaft at all, so it’s fully metal. It’s still collapsible in crashes, but we leveraged a lot of good structural things and paying good close attention to all the stuff we learned over time about the chassis and the structure of the vehicle,” Brecher says of the steering shaft. So leveraging that knowledge allowed us to use the airbag to dampen some of the vibration, get the stiffness back, and leverage the software learning on the EPAS.”
Whether it is changing lanes on the highway or carving up those canyons, the steering feels confidently on-center and snappy in response. The driver knows just what the car will deliver from the steering input, which allows for pushing harder and concentrating on other important tasks.
Among those important duties is applying the brakes while flying into a canyon corner. The pedal feel is predictable, and the stopping power is in ample supply thanks to huge six-piston front calipers and four-piston calipers in the back. We didn’t push them to the edge on the street, but the brakes stand up so well to repeated abuse that engineers saved money on their brake-pad budge during development.
Based on a limited time behind the wheel it’s obvious that development paid off, the 2024 Mustang GT picks up where its predecessor left off and amplifies its refinement and performance resulting in a car that’s fun to drive around town and a blast to drive in the turns.
More time behind the wheel will surely reveal the full nature of the 2024 Mustang GT, but after a short, fast stint behind the wheel, it’s safe to say the seventh generation is off to a strong start.