The Newest Mustang
STILL SEXY AT SIXTY
Santa Clarita, CA – I’ll guess you’d call it a convergence. In the winter of 1964 the Beatles made three appearances on the Ed Sullivan Show, and for three consecutive Sundays America came to a full stop. In all of our collective musical history there had never been anything quite like John, Paul, George and Ringo – and these United States took notice. Just two months later, Ford Motor Company introduced the automotive equivalent of a rock foursome, its all-new Mustang. Forgetting its Falcon roots and standard inline six, this Mustang was absolutely perfect for the high school grad, college senior or suburban mom. As is, it can be admitted, today’s Mustang – sixty years later.
As you’d know, the Mustang’s intro and evolution gave birth to an entirely new segment – the Ponycar – and with it came derivatives from Mercury (Cougar), GM (Camaro and Firebird), Chrysler (Barracuda and Challenger) and even AMC (Javelin and AMX). And as you’d also know, the Mustang grew up quickly from its six-cylinder beginnings, offering in short order a 289 V8, Shelby derivatives and – of course – Steve McQueen’s Frank Bullitt behind the wheel. It also got fat in the early ‘70s, smaller (Mustang II) in the mid-‘70s, and less relevant as car buyers moved to trucks and SUVs. While undergoing all of its iterations in those sixty years, there always seemed to be a place for the Mustang, even as Ford’s other car-based brands – and almost all of its ponycar competition – were put out to pasture.
For the 2024 model year (and its 60th anniversary) Ford has introduced a new Mustang, with what I’ll describe as an extension – and expansion – of what has come before. (By coincidence, the Beatles released a ‘new’ single; John and George have, of course, passed – as has Lee Iacocca.) This new Mustang has added a bit of heft relative to the 2023, but then, so has Paul – and people still want to see and hear him. Visually, if you’ve liked or loved the Mustang over the last 20-something years, you’ll undoubtedly like the new one. And if you’re wishing for a return to the 1st-generation’s footprint, click on Bring-a-Trailer and buy one.
Our test Mustang, an EcoBoost droptop – in Grabber Blue Metallic – and equipped with Ford’s Premium trim and High Performance package, sits on the drive looking a lot like its $53K window would suggest, but also looks little different from the convertible’s base of $39K. But then, if you want to do more than simply cruise Main Street the Performance Pack provides upgrades to the Mustang’s wheels, tires, brakes (Brembo calipers and larger rotors) and suspension. And that suspension was augmented by Ford’s MagneRide Damping, which not only equips your Mustang for more aggressive maneuvers, but will adapt the platform to our nation’s crumbling infrastructure much faster than Congress.
Inside, the perforated leather seats are comfortable, supportive and supply an appropriately upscale look, although that look doesn’t convey to many of the plastic surfaces. This is, at its base, a $30K car (in Fastback form), and while $30K is a screaming deal for what the Mustang continues to deliver, the financial guys will inevitably downgrade materials in support of their business case. And while the Mustang in either coupe or convertible guise is ostensibly a four-passenger envelope, good luck getting a baby seat back there, and if you do you’ll need even better luck getting the baby back there. (When confronted with that reality while visiting the grandkids, my wife and I rented a Rogue.)
On Main Street the EcoBoost 4-cylinder delivers everything you’d hope to have from its 315 horsepower and 350 lb-ft of torque, even if all of that goodness gets to the wheels via Ford’s 10-speed automatic – and only an automatic. For reasons known only to those execs better paid than I am (and therefore ‘smarter’) the 6-speed manual remains available with the GT Mustang’s V8, but is MIA with the EcoBoost four. In my day (there…I said it) you matched the manual with the smaller powertrain, and hooked up the big cubes with the automatic, ‘cuz big, lazy cubes were a perfect match for a big, lazy auto. Baby, you can drive my car? Not so much.
At the end of the day – or, in this instance, at the end of a week – I’ll spec a Fastback with the EcoBoost four, High Performance package and MagneRide damping – and be out the door for less than $40K. Admittedly, that’s a bit more than you’ll pay for a hard-loaded Miata. But my wife will ride in the Mustang. And like any marriage, ours is a long and winding road.