Each evolution of the Mustang elicits a great deal of excitement from the car’s loyal base of enthusiasts. This one, however, seemed to carry greater weight. A level of both anticipation and trepidation followed the lead-up of teases until tonight when Ford Motor Company pulled the covers off the seventh-generation Mustang for the world to see.
“We have made the most exhilarating Mustang ever designed to hit new performance and technology benchmarks. The sixth generation Mustang was a phenomenal product. It took Mustang global, but we knew we had to go further with the seventh generation,” Alicia Agius, Head of Strategy and Transformations, Enthusiast Vehicles at Ford Motor Company, explains. “We have two new engines: the 2.3-liter EcoBoost and also the new 5.0-liter V8 Coyote, to make the most powerful GT yet.
“We also have stepped up the technology in the vehicle. A new driver-focused cockpit with fantastic customizable displays. This Mustang is going to appeal to our existing enthusiasts and our next generation of enthusiasts. As part of the development of this next-generation Mustang we spoke to our global customers to understand what they really wanted to see in the next-generation product. We understood that customer attitudes are changing in terms of technology and performance. And we took all those insights that we learn from our customers to make an even better Mustang.”
The sixth generation Mustang was a phenomenal product. It took Mustang global, but we knew we had to go further with the seventh generation. – Alicia Agius, Head of Strategy and Transformations, Enthusiast Vehicles at Ford Motor Company
While most first impressions will focus on the styling, the latest Mustang has more to offer than its edgy appearance. To create a better Mustang, Ford engineers considered everything from moving to the Explorer CD6 platform, that would have enabled hybrids, to just doing iterative updates on the S550 chassis. Eventually, they determined that starting with the basic S550 body-in-white, but only retaining the structure, floor, and roof was the way forward — and save millions of dollars in retooling at the Flat Rock Assembly Plant.
“This is a very major program that meets our legal definition of ‘all-new,’ Ed Krenz, Ford Mustang Chief Nameplate Engineer, tells us. “At the end of the day, this was the platform that was best suited for what we wanted to do, but don’t mistake that for carryover. Some hard points are the same, but pretty much everything in the chassis is different.”
A highlight of those upgrades is the steering, suspension, and brakes. The steering sees improvements in precision and feel courtesy of reduced compliance in the steering shaft and updated ratios in the rack. The MagneRide benefits from a next-gen controller and even the passive dampers are now monotubes, while the brake rotors and calipers are larger.
It is expected Ford would strive for improved handling in a next-gen pony car, but the exterior design represents the tug of war to create something that is clearly a Mustang, appeals to current customers, and reaches out to a new group of drivers. After undergoing several iterations, both the aerodynamic performance and the focus group feeling dictated a move to an edgier design.
With an aggressive front end and wide rear haunches, the 2024 Mustang exudes muscularity. However, the design isn’t all brawn — it delivers slippery aerodynamics and plenty of natural downforce, thanks to the use of both computational fluid dynamics (CFD) simulations and traditional wind-tunnel testing.
“First and foremost, we wanted to reduce the drag in the car that was initially motivated by our fuel economy targets. It’s obviously a good thing, as well, when you’re trying to hit top speeds. Drag is never particularly useful, so we did set some targets and a lot of the surface development with the studio,” Krenz explains. “Every time we do a studio release, and there’s like six or seven design loops we go through, each of those design loops was bounced off of CFD, which is directionally good, but at the end of the day, we got models and ultimately, prototypes, into the wind tunnel to verify that we did indeed achieve the best drag ever on a Mustang.”
That development is balanced with styling that delivers cues from the Mustang heritage, but pushes the design forward, intending to attract both longtime buyers and younger customers.
“We dropped the beltline just at the rear of the door. It makes a distinct move from the sixth-generation Mustang. I’ll say it again, chiseled, shear strength. One of the unique things about the seventh-generation Mustang is its rearend, because it’s so different from the sixth-generation Mustang,” Christopher Walter, Exterior Design Manager for the seventh-generation Mustang, explains. “Some people feel like it’s actually wider than the sixth generation, but it’s not. It’s that unique side-view angle that we designed into the rear of the car. That gives us such a unique look. You’re going to notice it has the classic tri-bar taillamps, a chevron shape that is very bold and instantly recognizable as Mustang.”
Aside from the styling, it is powertrains that make a Mustang, and there are some familiar options under the hood. Both the 2.3-liter EcoBoost and 5.0-liter Coyote return in refreshed form. The smaller engine is all-new in deference to new emissions targets, while the fourth-gen 5.0 is an iteration of the V8 in the current F-150, but without variable displacement.
“The four-cylinder engine is a 2.3-liter EcoBoost with similar performance to its predecessor, but it’s actually a clean-sheet-of-paper, all-new engine,” Krenz explains. “It was designed ground-up as part of the modular family, with a 2.0-liter that’s just launching now in the Ford Escape and Lincoln Corsair. But it was redesigned to meet the stringent emission targets using internal EGR and a high-pressure fuel system that runs up to 350 bar. There are changes in compression and the wastegate control is different, as well.”
Meanwhile, the revised Coyote engine top-end features a fresh cylinder head, upgraded camshafts, and a new dual-throttle body arrangement. Those two throttle bodies both measure at 80mm and the strategy is biased toward one opening at low RPM and load, but the two work together and sync up on the way to wide open throttle. The 5.0-liter also wears a new steel oil pan that reduces oil volume by half a liter for improved windage and an extra three horsepower.
Ford isn’t revealing the official output of the engines, however, the Ecoboost performance should be similar to the previous 2.3-liter, while the Coyote is said to be the most powerful version to ever spread the shock towers of a Mustang GT.
The new engines are paired with familiar transmissions. The 2024 Mustang GT gets both the MT-82 six-speed manual and the 10R80 10-speed automatic with traditional shifters — no dial shifters on the S650! Meanwhile, the EcoBoost is only paired with the 10-speed auto.
Controlling these powertrains is a new electrical architecture, which enabled a host of new features, but it also includes CAN bus authentication and cyber security protocols that will present challenges with regard to aftermarket upgrades.
“My expectation is the CAN bus authentication and cybersecurity effectively limits or eliminates aftermarket tuners,” Krenz states flatly. “There are companies that we’ve partnered with that have the ability within our software to do their aftermarket tuning, and they can still make those calibrations available. But they really have to be working within the Ford software environment and it can’t just exhale our code and inhale new code. That isn’t going to work anymore.”
The new architecture also allows for over-the-air updates just like the Mustang Mach-E and F-150 Lightning EVs, so features can be upgraded as time goes on.
Many of those features are found in the completely redesigned interior. While the seat mounting points are the same as S550, everything is fresh, and the most striking thing about the interior is the massive screens inside the jet-fighter-inspired cockpit. The digital dash measures 12.4 inches, while the optional SYNC 4 center stack clocks in at 13.2 inches.
“The most noticeable interior changes that Mustang enthusiasts will see immediately is a shift away from the car’s traditional double brow instrument panel and the curved glass display,” Ricardo Garcia, Interior Design Manager, explained. “The continuous flow ties together digital instrument cluster and center stack screen that really comes to life with the center stack and integrated glasses play interactive graphics and how owners can customize them is the most disruptive design element of Mustang interior. Other interior design highlights include the flat bottom steering wheel and the drift brake handle that was developed with input from Vaughn Gittin Jr.”
More on that handle in a moment, but these new digital displays utilize the Unreal Engine 3D to deliver customization and control features that are straight out of the gaming world. In much the same way you might customize a character or vehicle in a game, you can do the same with the 2024 Mustang.
“We’ve utilized it because it helps reinforce the whole gamification aspect of it. We’re actually creating nice visual harmony between the actual selections that the customer has, the options they can choose, everything from including exhaust settings and shock settings, to even your cluster theme settings,” Craig Sandvig, Interaction Design Manager, said. “The customer can make this cluster their own, and the center stack their own. We’ve also moved all the Track Apps into the center stack. We’re utilizing the 13.2-inch display to help create a seamless user experience. Something that we know the customers really appreciate is making it simple and clear and intuitive.”
Continuing the technology theme, the 2024 Mustang also offers a couple of surprise and delight features — Remote Rev, available on all models, and Performance Electronic Parking Brake, which is standard with the Performance Pack.
The former allows showing off those glorious internal combustion engine sounds from outside the car, while the parking brake handle transforms from a simple placeholder to an easy way to engage tire-shredding fun.
“First of all, we benefit from electronic park brake, and our Drift Brake is only available on Performance Pack,” Krenz explains. “Those vehicles are fitted with our 19-inch brake package Brembos, but they also include the sport caliper that you’ve seen on GT500. So, with the electronic park brake system, we certainly had the benefit of not having all of the slack in the cable system. The next step then was, ‘let’s create a drift brake that looks like a traditional mechanical handbrake,’ which we did. It is very stylized and architected and sculpted. It’s also put together with exposed Mustang bolts, so it is designed to be customized or accessorized with classic-looking drift sticks.”
Developed in concert with Vaughn Gittin Jr. and Chelsea Denofa of RTR Vehicles, the Drift Brake works with stability control on and off to enable drivers to grow their tire-shredding skills before off all the electronic assistance.
“When you go in there and activate that feature, it automatically puts the car into Track Mode, which is what gives you the power and that elevated RPM, and the shift inhibiting for when you’re drifting,” Krenz adds. “And when you go into that mode, the ABS changes from four-wheel to rear-wheel-only. So we have, I would say, a much more integrated system solution between powertrain controls and ABS controls. And enabled by the electronic system, that takes all of the slack out of the system, so much as a much better-integrated solution than what we had on Focus RS. And it’s available from the factory.
A new Mustang is always a lot to process, but it’s worth celebrating that we get one more generation of gas-burning pony cars with the option of manual shifting — especially when some cool, new features are along for the ride.
“We have the Mustang Mach-E, we have the Lightning, and we have the E-Transit. They’re already in our program, so that allows us to do the internal combustion engines for those customers in this segment. And Mustang lovers that we know still want a choice. And that corral is growing, and because we thought ahead on this stuff,” Jim Owens, Mustang Brand Manager concluded. “We get we get the opportunity to continue to deliver to those customers.”
The 2024 Mustang will roll out of the Flat Rock Assembly Plant and onto dealer lots in time to enjoy all these new features next summer.