Ford’s 2024 Mustang Writes New Chapter in Pony Car’s Storied Heritage

America’s last remaining “pony car” is easily its best ever.

Gary Witzenburg, Correspondent

July 25, 2023

7 Min Read
2024 Ford Mustang
The redesigned Mustang, says our reviewer, is the "best ever."Ford

PASADENA, CA – Legend has it that Ford’s Falcon-based ’65 Mustang, introduced April 17, 1964 at the New York World’s Fair, established the class of sporty coupes and convertibles that came to be known as “pony cars.” Yet Chrysler’s ’64 Plymouth Barracuda (a quickly created fastback Valiant) actually beat it to market that April 1.

That first Barracuda sold just 23,443 units that calendar year vs. more than five times as many Mustangs, and so has been largely forgotten in the wake of its own far better successor and Detroit’s other responses for 1967: Dodge Challenger, Chevy Camaro, Pontiac Firebird and AMC Javelin. And now this new internal-combustion-engine Mustang (unrelated to the electric Mustang Mach-E) will be the sole survivor of its kind as its two last rivals, Camaro and Challenger, head for the exit. It is also Ford’s last “car” among a growing stable of CUVs, SUVs and trucks.

Exterior

Designing a fresh new Mustang different enough from its predecessors yet clearly identifiable seems nearly as challenging as doing a new Porsche 911 or Jeep Wrangler, but design manager Chris Walter’s team has done a terrific job. “Both the EcoBoost and Mustang GT have unique styling cues that deliver on their promise of Mustang performance,” he says. “(They are) more chiseled and edgier, leaning into Mustang’s classic brawniness and timelessness.” And they will not be mistaken for anything else.

The upper grille recalls the original’s design, and the GT sports larger, more aggressive grille openings than the EcoBoost’s. Tri-bar LED headlamps continue Mustangs’ recent front lighting signature, and an extended rear deck houses new signature tri-bar lights and a new diffuser. Convertibles offer simple, one-touch top activation with a single-handle center latch.

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Interior

The new customizable 12.4-in. (30-cm) digital cluster can display different animated designs and drive-mode visuals chosen by swiping it to rotate the graphic car. Nearly everything, including ambient interior lighting, can be displayed in selected tones, and it can be configured to flow seamlessly into the 13.2-in. (33.5-cm) SYNC 4 center stack that’s angled toward the driver. 

“We knew what customers wanted and (we) designed the most digital Mustang ever while retaining the all-important driver-focused cockpit,” says interior design manager Ricardo Garcia. “Removing…physical buttons such as radio and climate control and integrating them into a digital display was popular in research with millennials, Gen-Z and traditional Mustang drivers alike.” Really? We would much appreciate a few handy buttons.

The standard cloth interior offers optional Microsuede vinyl inserts, EcoBoost models get “ActiveX” synthetic leather, GTs gain leather seat inserts and higher-series models add a leather-covered (flat-bottom) steering wheel and color accent stitching and striping. An available wireless phone charging pad hides in the center console, and overhead USB ports provide easy plug-ins for track cameras and other dashtop devices.

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Apple CarPlay and Android Auto are fully compatible, and the available Bang & Olufsen audio system is optimized for the interior. Alexa Built-In with Ford Streaming allows music and podcasts to be played with simple voice commands, and Ford Power-Up software enables OTA update capability. An available Exit Warning feature uses the rear-corner BLIS (Blind Spot Information System) radar sensors to detect and warn of vehicles, cyclists and pedestrians moving toward the vehicle’s sides from behind when stopped.

Two New Engines

These new ’24 ’Stangs offer a choice of two new engines: a 315-hp 2.3L EcoBoost turbo-4 and a 480-hp 5.0L Coyote V-8. The latter, the most powerful ever in a Mustang GT (the outgoing Coyote delivered 350 hp in GT and 370 in Mach 1 models), comes with standard 6-speed manual or optional 10-speed automatic, and available active-valve performance exhaust enhances its sound while adding six more ponies. Peak torque ratings are 350 lb.-ft. (475 Nm) for the Ecoboost 4-cyl., 415 (563) for the V-8 or 418 (567) with active exhaust, and the V-8 will pump out 500 hp/418 lb.-ft. (567 Nm) in the soon-to-come Dark Horse model.

Ford has not released official EPA ratings for ’24 Mustangs, but we saw some (perhaps preliminary) on test car window stickers. EcoBoost coupes and convertibles are rated at 21/29 mpg (11.2-8.1 L/100 km) city/highway or 22/33 mpg (10.7-7.1 L/100 km) depending on trim and options. The GTs show 14/23 mpg (16.8-10.2 L/100 km) with the standard 6-speed manual, 15/24 mpg (15.7-9.8 L-100 km) with the 10-speed automatic.

How “new” is this new Coyote V-8? “The biggest change from the fourth generation is dual air intakes feeding dual throttle bodies,” vehicle integration engineer Greg Todd tells us at the launch, “which reduces induction losses for more airflow into the engine, and more airflow equals more power. That second intake is almost the entire enabler for the power bump.” Like its predecessor, this new engine features aluminum block and heads, dual overhead camshafts, dual port fuel direct injection and plasma transfer wire arc cylinder liners.

Other differences include slight changes to the pistons to add durability, a steel oil pan that moves the pickup line away from the sump for better breathing, a new right-side cam cover to accommodate the second intake and improved under-hood packaging and appearance. 

Features

These new Mustangs offer available Ford Co-Pilot360 features, including intelligent adaptive cruise control with stop-and-go, lane centering assist, evasive steer assist and reverse brake assist. A FordPass app adds remote vehicle start and stop, start time scheduling, door locking/unlocking, vehicle locating and health and status checks. The six selectable drive modes – Normal, Sport, Slippery, Drag, Track and Custom – adjust steering effort, engine response, transmission and electronic stability control.

A new Remote Rev feature enables parking-lot show-offs to rev their engines with their key fobs, A Performance Pack available on all models adds MagneRide active suspension, a front Tower Brace, a Torsen Limited Slip differential, wider rear wheels and tires, larger Brembo brakes, Recaro seats and active exhaust. A new electronic drift brake (locks the rear wheels for drifting when pulled and held in Drift mode) comes standard with the Performance Pack, and manual-transmission GTs have standard rev-matching during downshifts.

Driving Impressions

Whoopee! It’s been a while since we’ve hustled an eager American pony car along a twisty, two-lane mountain road, and we could not have enjoyed it more. The EcoBoost automatic does it well enough, though it shows some turbo lag on launch and kick-down. But the delicious-sounding V-8 GT is pure driving joy, even with the automatic, which seems always in the right gear at the right time without assistance from the steering wheel shift paddles. And the manual is smooth, precise and easy.

Based on our test drives, this new Mustang’s handling is delightfully agile, stable and predictable, its steering crisp and responsive with good feedback and its braking strong and linear with no hint of fade during repeated usage. We drove all three powertrains mostly in Sport mode, but they’re nearly as satisfying in Normal. The only downsides are the new screen-centric infotainment system, which is non-intuitive and so requires a steep learning curve to figure out how to find what you want, and the V-8’s fuel economy. We saw just 10.8 mpg (21.8 L/100 km) following our semi-aggressive drive up, along and down the mountain with the 6-speed manual. Buyers for whom fuel economy is a priority should opt for the (350-370-lb. [159-168-kg]) lighter and more efficient EcoBoost.

Ford boasts that Mustang (celebrating its 60th birthday in 2024) has been the world’s best-selling sports car (depending on the definition of “sports car”) over the past 10 years combined. Now standing alone in its class, the '24 Mustang is affordable but hardly inexpensive. It stickers at $30,920 for the EcoBoost coupe, $39,020 for the EcoBoost convertible, $42,495 for the GT coupe and $52,515 for the GT Premium convertible. Premium trim adds a substantial $5,525 to the EcoBoost coupe, $2,925 to the ragtop and $5,500 to the GT coupe.

But how much longer will this delightful new seventh-generation ’Stang survive? We think it’s good enough to deserve a comfortable stall in Ford's stable for many years to come.

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