Ford Motor Company and United Auto Workers leaders made a series of announcements last Thursday regarding future plans to expand production capacities and add manufacturing jobs. Buried in those very serious business terms about sales charts and portfolios was an interesting note about one particular car – the next-generation Mustang.
What was said can be summed up in this tweet from the official Ford Mustang Twitter account – and by the way, you’ll want to click play…
This is the first time Ford has given us any sort of proper tease on the new Mustang. We don’t even know for sure what model year it launches as or what model code it’ll use (S650 is the leading theory). But Ford has already confirmed two major aspects…
The Mustang will still have a V8 and a six-speed manual.
Both of those things were somewhat in doubt given the rapidly changing industry and regulations that automakers are facing. Sports cars have rapidly fallen out of favor and crossovers with sports car names have taken over. So Ford making a statement with those two selling points as our first introduction to the new Mustang is very promising indeed.
This plus the news we got back in January that the next-gen Mustang will have a GT4 and GT3 racing variant gives plenty of reason to be excited. Some leaks have already sprung up which show a new design that I’m not totally in love with yet and an upscale interior, but things are of course subject to change. And they may look better when they’re not secret photos of a brochure taken with a Nintendo 3DS.
Now if you’ve been around here for a while you may know that I’m something of a Mustang fan myself. I own a 2019 Mustang GT with Performance Package Level 2 and I’ve put quite a bit of miles on it, as demonstrated by this road trip story that maybe I’ll finally get to finish one day. I love that car. But it’s very much not perfect and I can think of numerous things that Ford could improve with the new car. It’s possible that this will truly be the last of its kind, so I want the traditional Mustang formula to be the greatest it can be before things drastically change.
That’s why Ford, a company with $136B in revenue last year, should totally listen to me.
What I want from the 7th-gen Mustang
A 4th-generation Coyote: The wonderful 5.0-liter V8 has progressed nicely just in the S550 generation alone with the latest gen-3 Coyote being a proper beast of an engine. It has a great sound, it’s smooth, and it rewards you for exploring all of its 7,400 RPM play area. Ford could truly set the best first impression with a new and improved 4th-generation Coyote motor. More power, even if it’s just a modest improvement, is a must. A change in emissions requirements means that for 2022 and beyond the V8 loses about 10 horsepower and 10 lb.-ft. of torque compared to the previous model years. 450 horsepower and 410 lb.-ft. of torque is certainly not bad, but the new Mustang GT should at least match the 480 horsepower that the S550 once peaked at with the Mach 1 and Bullitt. And see if it can get to a higher redline too, because why not. We won’t have these engines for much longer. Let’s make them good.
Ditch the MT82: For the love of god, don’t do this to us again. If there’s been one weak point in every Mustang GT for the past several years, it’s been the punching bag of a manual transmission that is the MT82. It’s never been a class leading transmission and it’s never been as good as the rest of the car deserves. There have been class-action lawsuits over it and plenty of forum threads created about it. From personal experience, it’s a bit sloppy, clunky, and just isn’t as rewarding to use for spirited driving or on track. It’s like it was built for boulevard cruising and that’s it. Even with an aftermarket solution to mitigate those problems, it’s still not what I’d call ideal. Ford went with the Tremec TR-3160 in the GT350 and the Mach 1. They should just do that for every manual Mustang going forward. Please.
Leverage that GT3 program to improve the road car: I emitted an audible screech when I first saw confirmation that Ford was developing a GT3 race car based on the new Mustang. That would have been on this list if that didn’t already happen. But it did, and now Ford needs to make it worthwhile. There are a handful of notable and very recent examples where the street car was developed alongside the race car and they were all better off because of it. There was the BMW M8 and M8 GTE/GTLM race car and the C8 Corvette and the C8.R. Ford themselves should already be experienced with this practice, because the Ford GT was a true Le Mans-winning race car for the street. Those were cars that resembled a huge leap in performance for each brand and that translated into success on the track. Ford now has the opportunity to get both teams collaborating to build the best car possible for the street and for a global GT3 customer racing program. Certain engineering decisions that make a street car more responsive and poised also make a race car more competitive, and the benefits flow both ways. If Ford plays this right, even the base Mustangs will have excellent driving qualities and the performance models for the general public will be every bit as good as what Europe sells if not better.
Improve the cooling: This sort of ties into the last point but it also comes from personal experience. When Ford brings out a performance model that’s geared towards spirited driving and track use, like, for example, the one I bought, they can’t skimp on cooling anymore. Performance Package 1 and especially PP2 cars were never given enough hardware to keep them cool during an average track day session. They were given improved engine oil coolers compared to the standard model, but the transmission and rear axle were left untouched and are prone to overheating. Nobody expects a street car to be able to go 10/10ths around Sebring in the middle of summer for 12 hours, but it should be able to last a 20-minute HPDE session without forcing you to slow down. Porsche and Chevrolet don’t seem to have this problem, and neither should Ford’s only remaining sports car. I’ve had two interruptions in my track time even with upgraded fluids after just 15 minutes. The GT350 and Mach 1 fixed this with proper coolers for the engine, trans, and diff. They should continue to do that on every performance-focused package they sell and not just the most expensive versions.
Manage the weight: The current S550 platform is a bit porky when equipped with anything but the EcoBoost. The GT fastback weighs more than 3,700 pounds. The Mach 1 is around 3,900 pounds. The GT500 weighs 4,183 pounds, which is just 33 pounds shy of my ’02 F-150 SuperCrew with the 5.4 V8. The new Mustang needs to be lighter. I can feel it in my PP2 and I could feel it in the mighty GT500, even though both cars still manage to feel somewhat light on their feet and agile given their size. But how much better would they be if they were a few hundred pounds lighter?
Keep the colors interesting: There have been some beautiful and eye-catching paint options in the S550 generation. Even though bean counters are probably making a case to limit paint options to the 5 different shades of gray that 97% of buyers on another model opted for, Ford should continue to make the Mustang the most colorful car on the road. I’m only saying this because so many other brands are realizing they can just sell the same shades of silver repeatedly and nobody cares.
Keep it fun: Too many sports cars have had to “grow up” to meet consumer demands, or they’ve gone so far to extract maximum performance that it loses touch with its playful side. Sports cars only exist to make us smile and few have the power to make that happen like a Mustang. If it doesn’t have the same playful attitude, the same sense of freedom, and the same desire to point its nose down a highway to the other side of the country whenever you get behind the wheel, then is it really a Mustang?
I can’t think of a creative way to end this. I’m not the only Mustang fan in the world, so I know there are other opinions and thoughts about what an S650 Mustang should be. I’d love to hear them. Hopefully we won’t have to wait much longer to see how Ford chose to go with it.