The Ford Mustang (Part 3): 2005-2022
Ford stepped up their game in 2005 and re-designed Mustang from the ground up. No longer confined to a platform shared with other Ford products, they were free to innovate. They took a lesson from the failed Thunderbird retro concept and made the new Mustang retro-looking, but with enough oomph and style to appeal to fans of the long-standing pony car. T J Mays, Ford Senior Vice President of Design, made sure that the new Mustang conformed to his “retro-futurism” design aesthetic while avoiding the pitfalls of what automotive journalist Doug DeMuro called the “Retro Failure” T-Bird.
Fifth Generation 2005-2014
To that end, the new S197 Mustang looked very much like its 1968 counterpart, incorporating many design cues from the 60s and ’70s like the distinctive “hockey-stick” body line that was brought back in the “New Edge” facelift of the previous generation after a two decade absence. The rear window was now flush and part of the C-pillar in the fastback version a la early Shelby GT350s. The previous generation’s “corralled pony” grill emblem was now free to run without the corral, and the triple taillights were back, looking much like larger versions of the ’64 1/2-’66 taillights. Two round fog lights in the grill (on the GT) flanked by two rear-set complex-reflector round halogen headlights evoked the look of the ’69. The overall effect was very well done, in my opinion; a 21st century take on a classic.
The chassis was new from the ground up, unique to Mustang. There was also an all-new suspension to go with it, getting rid of the compromises present in platforms past. Up front, engineers took inspiration from BMW and its fabulous M3. Lighter springs were mounted around the MacPherson struts and allowed engineers more precision in tuning the shock valving. L-shaped lower control arms were made of steel rather than aluminum, and new technology allowed them to be stronger and lighter than aluminum. Firm bushings on the forward leg of the L-arm quickened steering response and helped to control side motion of the arm under load and a softer bushing on the rear leg helped soften unwanted road shocks to the body. A 28.6 mm anti-roll bar (34 mm on the GT) limited body roll. It was a simple system but greatly improved both ride quality and handling. In the rear a solid axle was used, to the surprise of many enthusiasts, after rumors of an independent rear suspension had floated around. Engineers decided that the solid axle was more in line with the Mustang‘s character, was cheaper to build and was the preferred setup of the amateur drag-racing crowd. The rear was not completely retro, however; a pair of outboard mounted lower control arms paired with a third, shorter central torque control arm to control axle wind-up under hard acceleration, a problem that plagued the early Fox body cars. The rear shock absorbers were mounted outboard of the rear structural rails and softer springs were now located on top of the axle. All this added up to a better ride and better handling than any previous Mustang.
Inside was Mustang history and heritage mixed with the modern. Chrome-ringed air vents aligned perfectly with the gauges in the cluster in front of the driver. A three-spoke steering wheel with a tribar and pony badge was a modern take on the classic Mustang three-spoke. This was no stripped-down mid-Sixties interior, however; one-touch up/down power windows, power outside mirrors, power locks, a keyless entry system, heated rear window and interval windshield wipers gave 2005 buyers all the necessary features expected in a modern car. Cloth bucket seats were standard, but the V6’s Premium Package gave you leather seats with a six-way adjustable driver’s seat and a Shaker 500 audio system with a 6-disc CD changer with MP3 capability. The $450 Interior Upgrade Package added a bright-polished 6-gauge instrument cluster with Ford‘s MyColor custom color configuration, bright air vents, charcoal perforated door panel inserts, door latches and scuff plates and a satin-aluminum finish on the steering wheel with leather wrapping.
The V6 Mustang was offered as a Deluxe or Premium model. Deluxe featured a 4.0 liter SOHC V6 with 210 HP and 240 ft. lb. of torque, a five-speed Tremec T-5 manual transmission or optional 5R55S automatic lifted from the Thunderbird and Lincoln LS, four-wheel power disc brakes, 16-inch painted cast aluminum wheels, A/C, AM/FM stereo with single CD player front floor mats, door map pockets (remember, this was pre-GPS) a tilt steering wheel with speed control and front air bags in addition to the other interior goodies mentioned. The Premium package featured the items mentioned before and 16-inch bright machined aluminum wheels with a chrome center spinner.
The GT was offered in Deluxe or Premium packages as well. Both packages were powered by the 4.6 liter 3-valve SOHC V8 with stainless-steel dual exhaust producing 300 HP. It had an aluminum block, 75 lbs. lighter than the previous cast-iron V8. Hydraulic engine mounts on both the V6 and V8 reduced engine vibrations in the cabin. The Tremec 3650 5-speed gearbox replaced the V6’s T-5, both of which had revised linkages for improved shift response and feel. A new hydraulic clutch greatly reduced pedal pressure was used, with a larger clutch assembly to handle the increase in power. The optional automatic was the same as the V6’s but had adequate beef to handle the V8’s extra 90 ponies. A new powertrain computer controlled shift timing and duration, allowing engineers to better match the shift characteristics with the new electronic throttle controls. This allowed aggressive acceleration when the driver desired but smooth, seamless, barely perceptible shifts otherwise. A more sophisticated traction-control system tamed wheelspin. The standard 4-wheel disc brakes with ABS had the biggest rotors (12.4 inch on the GT, an inch less on the V6) and stiffest calipers ever fitted to a mainstream Mustang, so it really hauled you down when you jumped on the binders.
The San Diego Special was for, you guessed it, San Diego. The package was V6 Mustang with dual LeMans stripes running down the center, a rear spoiler, an upgraded exhaust with chrome tips, chrome spinner wheels, an upgraded interior package with Shaker 500 stereo MyColor gauge package and SDS interior and exterior badging. Only 200 examples were built, making it a rare car indeed.
Again, not a lot was new for 2006 since Mustang was updated the year before. However, several new packages were offered. A new Pony Package for the V6 model allowed V6 owners to have the suspension upgrades available to the GT along with a new Pony grill inspired by the 1965 model with corralled pony and fog lights, rear spoiler Pony fender badges, floor mats with a chrome pony badge, anti-lock brakes and traction control, the Exterior Sport Package added a rear spoiler and lower body side appliques, the Interior Sport Package included a leather-wrapped steering wheel with satin aluminum spokes, a satin aluminum plated auto shift lever or a bright shift knob for the manual and a Red Interior Accent Package gave red leather trimmed sport bucket seats, red floor panel inserts and red floor mats. The GT got 18-inch wheels or an 18-inch version of the “Bullit” wheels on the 2005 GT.
The previous year’s San Diego Special was expanded into 600 Southern California Specials available to dealerships all over Southern California. Like the SDS before it, this was a V6 Mustang, but with dual 9-inch silver racing stripes, chrome exhaust tips and the Pony package. A new Stampede Edition available in Oklahoma and Texas was a V6 Premium Mustang with the Pony package and available in four paint colors: Redfire, Vista Blue, Black or Tungsten Gray.
The SVT Mustang Cobra returned as the Shelby GT500 for 2007 with a 500 HP supercharged 5.4 liter V8. The Special Vehicle Team updated every part of the car to make it the best Mustang in decades. The Shelby GT500 Red Stripe Appearance Package was available for white or black GT 500s and added a red or black leather interior and red-accented exterior badges to the bright red body stripes. The Shelby GT-H was back as a rental from Hertz in black with gold stripes. The GT Appearance Package gave GT owners a non-functional hood scoop, rolled chrome exhaust tips and a plastic engine cover with a running horse emblem. Both the V and GT owners could add the Comfort package with an electrochromic mirror with a compass, heated seats and a 6-way power passenger seat. An auxiliary audio jack for the radio was standard and a Sirius Satellite Radio was optional.
2007’s Southern California Special morphed into the GT/CS California Special for 2008 based upon the GT instead of the V6. The package added 18-inch wheels, body side scoops, GT/CS tape stripes on the sides, rolled bright exhaust tips, a chin spoiler 1.5 inches lower than the standard GT‘s, unique front and rear fascias and black leather seats with with contrasting leather inserts in either Dove or Parchment colors.
The Bullitt was back for the 40th anniversary of the film with a black-mesh grill devoid of badging with large fog lamps graced the front, accented by a satin metal strip. 18-inch cast-aluminum wheels with charcoal sating finish spokes were installed over Dark Argent Gray brake calipers. There was no spoiler on the rear but a circular faux gas cap badge on the back proclaimed it to be a “Ford Bullitt.” It was painted Highland Green like the original, with a machine-turned aluminum instrument panel and satin aluminum bezels around the gauges gave it a ’60s vibe, but with charcoal black leather seats. Under the hood the 4.6 liter V8 was massaged by Ford Racing and utilized a cold-air intake with the first open-element air filter on a factory fuel-injected Mustang. A heavier front crank damper allowed the engine to redline at 6500 RPM, 250 RPM more than a stock GT engine. A custom-designed tuned exhaust system with new mufflers and a new H-pipe gave the Bullitt a throaty growl as close to the original 390 as engineers could get.
The Shelby GT500 returned for 2008 and a new Shelby GT slotted in between the GT500 and the standard GT, available only in Vista Blue with silver striping… unless you were in Northern California and opted for the GT-C in Grabber Orange. These Shelby GTs were a step above the standard Mustang GT with a Ford Racing Power Package that massages the standard GT 4.6 liter V8 to 319 HP and 330 ft.lb. of torque, with a 5-speed manual or automatic transmission. A Ford Racing Handling Package added specially tuned dampers, stabilizer bars and a 3.55:1 rear axle. A functional hood scoop and 18-inch polished wheels with high-performance BF Goodrich gForce tires rounded out the package. A Shelby GT Barrett-Jackson limited edition of 100 cars in black with red stripes, sold through Arizona Region Ford dealers celebrated the auction house.
To mark the 40th anniversary of the Shelby GT500KR “King Of The Road Mustang,” Ford created the 2008 Shelby GT500KR that had the GT500‘s supercharged 4.6 with a Ford Racing Power Pack that massaged it to 540HP, a short-throw shifter and a 3.73:1 rear axle. Special dual hood scoops on a carbon-composite hood, a carbon-fiber front splitter, carbon fiber mirror caps functional brake cooling ducts, Carroll Shelby signature embroidered seats and special 40th Anniversary Cobra badging defined this as one of the highest high-performance Mustangs. The $120,000 price tag bought you a 4.3 second 0-60 time, a 12.5 second quarter mile, braking from 60 MPH in 112 feet thanks to the four-piston Brembo brakes and 14-inch front vented discs and 11.8-inch vented rears as well as better handling than any previous Mustang.
For another nearly $32,000 over the cost of a GT500, one could have it shipped to Shelby and modified into the Super Snake, a 750HP, 10-second quarter-mile beast with a fiberglass hood with functional scoop, a revamped front fascia with additional cooling ducts and carbon-fiber front splitter. Under the hood was a new supercharger with 16 lbs. of boost, special Shelby tuning, and a high-flow intake manifold. Underneath a Borla cat-back exhaust provided freer breathing, Baer 6-piston calipers with 14-inch cross-drilled and ventilated rotors provided better stopping power, and a 3 1/2 inch solid driveshaft prevented all that muscle from twisting it. No warranty was provided for this 100% street-legal ultimate performance Mustang. For $4,000 less you could get a one-year warranty on a 605 HP version of the Super Snake that would post quarter-mile times a tenth of a second quicker than the KR.
Ford kind of phoned it in for 2009 despite it being the Mustang‘s 45th anniversary. A refresh was in the works for 2010 and Ford didn’t want to spend considerable effort on the model. The V6 and GT were offered with the base or Premium option, the GT/CS California Special, Shelby GT500, GT500KR and Bullitt all returned in pretty much the same form as 2008. What did not return was the Shelby GT. Sales were down to 108,767 in 2008 despite the plethora of models offered, and dropped even further in 2009 to a dismal 46,420. A refresh was badly needed.
The 2010 Mustang was the new refresh. The nose was more reminiscent of the1970 Mustang, with running lights replacing the fins of the ’70 model. The rear vertical triple-taillights that slanted upwards at the outer end instead of being straight up and down. The exterior was modified to look less boxy and squarish than its predecessor, and GTs retained their grill-mounted fog lights. New for 2010 was a capless gas tank, no more fiddling with a gas cap. One other feature of note was the new LED sequential taillights that lit up from the center out when the turn signal was engaged similar to the first generation Cougar. Inside the cheap-looking hard plastic dashboard got a softer, more upscale touch, and resembled a mash-up of dashboards from 1965 and the Mustang II. In the gauge cluster, the background of the tachometer glowed red when you hit redline, a nice little touch. Inserts on the optional leather seats were stitched into bars giving them a tuck-and-roll feel and the three-spoke steering wheel got a bit of a retro update. A new GPS navigation screen on the console was optional, along with a backup camera for the first time. This paired up nicely with the new Ford Sync voice-activated communications and entertainment system. This is my favorite generation of modern Mustang design.
V6 power remained the same, but the GT‘s 4.6 liter V8 got a bump to 315 HP with 325 ft. lb. of torque thanks to the tuning and cold air induction system from the Bullitt. This was only 10 HP shy of the 325 HP 390 in the ’68 used in the film, from 109 cu. in. less. What a difference 42 years makes. The 5.1 second 0-60 and 13.6 second quarter-mile times were significantly quicker than the ’68 as well. The GT‘s handling was improved thanks to suspension bits from the Bullitt. Two performance option packages were available, a 3.73 Rear Axle Package that included dual-piston front brake calipers, performance brake pads and a recalibrated AdvanceTrac traction control system in addition to the rear axle, and the TrackPack for ultimate performance. This included everything in the 3.73 Rear Axle Package and added front and rear stabilizer bars, retuned front and rear dampers, rear lower control arms and 19-inch painted nickel-aluminum wheels with larger Pirelli P-Zero summer tires, all lifted from the Shelby GT500 for quicker steering inputs and a more aggressive turn-in to corners.
The Shelby GT500 returned with the 5.4 liter supercharged V8 massaged to 540 HP and 510 ft. lb. of torque thanks to a cold-air induction system. The shifter on the six-speed Tremec TR6060 manual transmission resembles a cue ball, as well it should; Ford outsourced their manufacture to a billiard ball company! Dual racing stripes circle the ball from end to end, interrupted only by the standard H shift pattern engraved into it. The flush hood emphasizes the new front fascia with its AC Cobra-inspired grill. Dual racing stripes down the center were complimented bu smaller dual racing stripes on the rocker panel emanating from the “GT500” lettering below the famous coiled cobra. New genuine aluminum panels in the interior had a thee-dimensional dimpled texture inspired by racing clutches, with a “GT500” logo engraved into the aluminum. Performance was amazing; 4.5 second 0-60 and a 12.6 second quarter-mile at 114 MPH. If you purchased one of the 4.458 Shelby GT500s, you had a monster performance machine.
Like previous years after a refresh, styling remained much the same for 2011. Unlike previous post-refresh years, there was something new to look forward to under the hood; completely new engines! The base V6 got a displacement decrease to 3.7 liters. However, that did not mean a performance decrease, quite the contrary; 305 HP and 280 ft. lb. of torque, matching the power of the old 4.6 liter V8 thanks to dual-overhead cams and a tuned exhaust. In the GT the 5.0 liter V8 made its return, but this was not your father’s 5.0! The only thing this engine shared with the old was its 5.0 designation. A better-breathing aluminum block with a counterweighted forged-steel crankshaft and oil-cooling jets for the pistons was topped with twin-independent variable-timing camshafts in the four-valve-per-cylinder high-flow heads. The result was better-than-1970 428 Super Cobra Jet power from a 5.0 liter engine; 412 HP and 390 ft. lbs of torque, a monster number from a stock Mustang. With this engine, the GT nearly matched the 0-60 time of the previous year’s Shelby GT500: 4.6 seconds, only a tenth off. Now the stock GT could finally beat its Camaro and Challenger rivals. Thanks, Ford!
There was new iron, or rather aluminum, under the hood of the Shelby GT500 as well; an aluminum-block supercharged, intercooled DOHC 5.4 liter that pushed output to 550 HP. Stiffer springs and a 3.73:1 rear end could be had with the SVT Performance Package along with 19-inch painted forged aluminum wheels on the front a 20-inch on the rear. The Electronics Package upgrades the climate control system to dual-zone and adds a navigation system to an upgraded sound system. The new mill upped the GT500‘s performance as well, bringing a 4.1 second 0-60 and 12.35 second quarter-mile times with it.
Several special editions were available in 2011. The GT/CS California Special was back after a one-year absence with a unique chrome billet grill with body-color surround, unique side stripes and fog lights in the diffuser-style lower fascia along with a pedestal spoiler in the rear. Inside a unique instrument panel finish and faux-carbon door-panel inserts and faux-carbon inserts in the leather seats greeted the driver as well as premium carpet mats with an embroidered logo.
50 Daytona 500 Pace Cars like the one that paced the 2010 Daytona 500 were built, all painted Race Red with Daytona 500 door decals and special red, white and blue stripes. These cars also got a special Ford Racing suspension kit, strut tower bracing, a Brembo brake package and 19-inch wheels from the Shelby GT500. The actual Mustang Daytona 500 Pace Car used during the race was auctioned off at the Barrett-Jackson Scottsdale Collector Car Auction, with seven-time Daytona 500 champion Richard Petty handing the car over to the winning bidder.
The Mustang Club Of America Edition was Ford‘s homage to the many dedicated members of that club. A V-6 Mustang with a dark stainless-steel billet grill and a tri-bar running pony emblem, it sported lower fascia fog lights and a unique satin-black “hockey-stick” stripe with “Mustang” inset into the fender area along with Sterling Grey Metallic painted aluminum 18-inch wheels. Inside were special dark carpet floor mats with “Mustang Club of America.”
If you wanted a bit more oomph from your GT, you could go to Shelby American for an aftermarket Shelby GT350. Painted white with striping to match its 1960’s counterpart, it featured Shelby-specific front and rear fascias, unique taillight trim, Shelby/Cragar 19-inch alloy wheels and a prominent air scoop riding above its Whipple-supercharged GT 5.0 engine with blue “SHELBY GT350” valve covers, producing 535 HP and a 3.7 second 0-60 time. If that wasn’t enough go when you stomped on the loud pedal, an R-tune upgrade package gave your Shelby 624 ponies. A Ford Racing suspension package with Shelby caster/camber plates guaranteed superior handling and a high-performance Baer braking system with six-piston front calipers hauled you down from all that speed.
Changes to the 2012 V6 and GT were limited to a few striping options, Lava Red metallic paint and selectable steering with three driving modes: Standard, Comfort and Sport. The Shelby GT500, GT/CS California Special and the Mustang Club Of America Edition were back, but another performance model was ready to spice things up.
The legendary Boss 302 was back! A new intake manifold, different heads, hydraulic valve lash adjusters and larger intake and exhaust valves with variable timing boosted the 5.0 liter GT engine to 444 HP, far eclipsing the original Boss 302‘s 320 HP. However, due to a speed limiter the Boss could only go as fast as the GT‘s 155 MPH. Pity, however, it did get there faster! For an extra $302 (intentional, I’m sure) you could get the red TracKey fob that activated the launch control and re-programmed the engine to utilize all that power so you could eat Camaros and Challengers for breakfast. Okay, maybe not the 707-HP Challenger SRT Hellcat, but that model was three years away. The front seats were Charcoal Black Recaro sport seats with “BOSS 302” embroidery in gray. A suede-wrapped steering wheel sat next to a three-gauge cluster in the center of the dash for oil, temperature and performance statistics.
The Boss 302 Laguna Seca limited edition added stiffer springs, a larger stabilizer bar, a Torsen helical limited-slip differential, a chassis-stiffening X-brace in place of the rear seat, huge front brake cooling ducts. All that and a oil cooler behind the lower fascia scoop meant that this version was practically track-ready, but street-legal. Ingot Silver or Black paint with red roof, mirrors, spoiler, wheels and grill surround differentiated it from the standard Boss 302.
2013 saw a bit more angular and muscular design across the line with a new nose, a more prominent front grill and a more aggressive hood design, giving it more of a performance car look. High-intensity-discharge headlights with LED accent lights modernized the Mustang front end. Minor changes like a leather-wrapped steering wheel with cruise control and audio buttons graced the interior, as did a new LCD screen between the tachometer and speedometer that read out engine functions and performance statistics with Ford‘s new TrackApps system, standard on the V6 and GT Premium models. Better breathing and cooling gave the 5.0 liter V8 a bump to 420 HP. The GT/CS California Special, Boss 302, Laguna Seca and Mustang Club Of America Edition returned with little change.
The Shelby GT500‘s 5.4 liter V8 was bored out to 5.8 liters and given a more efficient Eaton TVS supercharger to give it 662 HP and 631 ft. lb. of torque, making it the highest-horsepower Mustang to date and the highest horsepower American production car until the arrival of the 707 HP Dodge Challenger SRT Hellcat two years later. The Tremec 6060 six-speed transmission received a quick-action, super short-throw shifter and an internal oil pump driving a new one-piece carbon fiber driveshaft to handle the additional power and torque. A larger front stabilizer bar, re-valved shocks and re-tuned springs gave it better handling than the previous year’s model and larger six-piston Brembo brake calipers and better brake pads improved stopping power. RPM-adjustable launch control accessed from the TrakApps screen in the instrument cluster worked in conjunction with the traction control system to modulate wheelspin and get all that power down during drag racing holeshots. an SVT Performance Package added a Torsen limited-slip rear differential, firmer rear springs, Bilstein electronically-adjustable dampers, forged-aluminum multi-spoke wheels and unique instrument cluster and shift knob. An SVT Track Pack could be ordered in addition to the Performance Package that included an external engine oil cooler, a transmission cooler pump, a differential cooler and brake cooler ducts.
Sadly, the automotive world lost Carroll Shelby in 2012 at age 89. In tribute, Ford, Ford Racing and Shelby American joined forces to create the one-off Shelby GT500 Cobra, powered by the GT500‘s 662 HP 5.8 liter V8 that was fitted with a larger Whipple supercharger to boost the engine output to 850 HP. All that power was transferred to the pavement through 13-inch-wide 20-inch rear wheels with 345 tires. These and the 20-inch front wheels housed high performance Shelby/Wilwood brakes. Wider body panels and a custom hood with a scoop reminiscent of the Shelby AC Cobra gave it a unique look. In Shelby tradition it was painted Guardsman Blue with white striping as were the Shelby race cars of a half-century earlier.
2014 was the last S197 Mustang before the new bodystyle. V6, GT, GT/CS California Special, Mustang Club Of America Edition and Shelby GT500 all returned in the same form, however the Boss 302 did not.
Penske Racing teamed up with Ford to produce 150 Hertz-Penske GTs exclusively for Hertz Rent-A-Car. This Mustang GT was painted black with a single offset yellow stripe reminiscent of the twin gold stripes of Hertz GT350s of the past with a yellow side stripe emblazoned with “HERTZ PENSKE GT” and Penske racing fender badges. They were optioned up with all the good stuff; Brembo brakes, leather Recaro seats, the front splitter from the Boss 302, the GT500 rear valance with quad exhaust tips, special tuning, a high-performance exhaust system with GT500 mufflers and the Electronics and Navigation Package. Penske Racing installed a cold air induction to the 5.0 liter V8 and retuned the ECU and added a Ford Racing Handling Pack with lowered springs and a 3.55:1 rear axle, the gauge package from the Laguna Seca Boss 302 and illuminated door-sill plates. The first 10 produced had the GT six-speed manual transmission, the rest were automatics. All 150 cars had a numbered badge on the console, a decal inside the driver’s door jamb and Roger Penske himself signed the dashboards.
Sixth Generation 2015-2022
For the Mustang‘s 50th anniversary Ford wanted to keep the look, feel and sound of the classics while updating it for the 21st Century. The new S550 platform’s Fastback body style brought back the pillarless quarter-window and raked the windshield back further for better aerodynamics. It also made for a sleeker-looking car. The shark-bite front end appearance with the trapezoidal grill and long, slim modern headlights brought it into the modern era, but was controversial among those who liked the pure retro/modern look of the previous generation, myself included. The lower, wider stance, especially in the rear, gave it a more aggressive look a la the newer Chevrolet Camaro and Dodge Challenger that the car competed against for buyers. A slight kick-up of the rear deck lid acted as a small built-in spoiler for better stability at high speeds. A modern LED interpretation of the classic tri-bar taillights was separated by a gloss-black panel with either a running horse on the base model or a round faux gas cap on the GT. The convertible was designed from the ground up with unique but subtle cues that distinguish it from the Fastback, and it gained a full interior headliner with an insulation pad between it and the fabric roof to reduce top-up noise levels. The new electromechanical drive system for the roof that replaced the previous electro-hydraulic one was quieter and could raise and lower the top in half the time
The interior was modern, but at the same time familiar. Round, barrel-style gauges like those on the ’67 greeted the driver, and the classic three-spoke steering wheel was now telescoping as well as tilting. This and a 4-memory power driver’s seat ensured that everyone had a comfortable driving position. More comfort was gained with optional heated and cooled seats, and sporty Recaro seats were also optional. Paddle shifters on the steering wheel enhanced the sporty feel, as did rocker switches on the center console for the hazard flashers, traction control, steering settings and selectable driving modes, a nice touch of the retro. No more keys, a remote and intelligent push-button start system brought Mustang in line with modernity.
The ancient solid rear axle was ditched in favor of independent rear suspension on all four corners, and that was attached to a much more rigid chassis and body thanks to the use of high and ultra-high strength steels. The stiffer materials allowed engineers to precisely dial in the suspension for better handling and a smoother ride than its predecessor.
Buyers could now choose from the 5.0 liter V8 in the GT, bumped to 435 HP thanks to larger intake and exhaust valves with stiffer springs to reduce high-speed valve float and more variable valve timing, or the choice of the 3.7 liter V6, down 5 HP to 300 due to residing in a smaller engine compartment, or an all-new 2.3 liter direct-injected and turbocharged EcoBoost inline four.
Before you laugh and think back to the wheezy four-banger in the Mustang II, this was a no-slouch, no-BS DOHC performance engine producing more power than the V6; 310 HP and 320 ft. lb. of torque! Ford used every trick in their arsenal to ensure the EcoBoost was worthy of being under the hood of a Mustang. The lightweight, high-pressure die-cast aluminum block had strong forged internals such as the crankshaft and connecting rods that could handle the demands of turbocharging. Attached to the rods were four lightweight, high-strength pistons with low-friction skirts. For added wear protection and durability the pistons were cooled by oil jets like the 5.0 V8. An aluminum cylinder head with an integrated exhaust manifold that separated the inner and outer pairs of cylinders’ exhaust streams into the turbo capped the block, creating quicker boost spool-ups which reduced turbo lag and enhanced torque delivery. Direct high-pressure fuel injection produced more power through more evenly burned fuel while burning cleaner and improving fuel economy; 21 city, 31 highway and 25 combined. The V6 returned 17 city, 28 highway and 21 combined with 20 less HP. This little wonder propelled the new Mustang from 0-60 in 5.4 seconds and a 14-second quarter mile, a far cry from the ancient 4-cylinder Mustang II which took all day to get to 60 and half the night to go a quarter-mile, while providing poorer fuel economy! The lighter EcoBoost engine improved handling as well.
Safety did not take a backseat in the new Mustang, either. A SYNC 911 Assist feature in case of a crash and 8 airbags in the passenger compartment along with seatbelt pre-tensioners and an improved sensor and lighting package made this the safest Mustang to date.
The GT was back, as well as a 50th Anniversary Edition based on the GT with Performance Pack, only available in two exclusive colors: Kona Blue and Wimbledon White like Mustang serial number 0001. Chrome trim highlights for the side glass , tri-bar taillights and grill, complete with a corralled-pony emblem, set it apart from the ordinary GT. Louvered rear quarter-windows hearkened back to the 1965 fastback. The faux gas cap on the rear adds “50 Years” to the GT designation. An aluminum trim panel that spanned the double-brow instrument panel got a spin finish different from other 2015 Mustangs with a serialized “50 Year Limited Edition” badge on the passenger side. A cashmere-stitched leather steering wheel greeted the driver, and the stitching was carried over to the instrument panel, shifter boot, center armrest, door inserts and seats. The Performance Pack added staggered 19-inch alloy wheels with a unique Y-spoke design inspired by the chromed steel wheels of the 1965 original, shod with high-performance Pirelli P-Zero tires. Massive six-piston Brembo brakes haul you down from speed. This is the only 2015 Mustang offered with an automatic transmission with the Performance Pack. All 1,964 examples also got a unique owner’s guide in a leather portfolio with the 50 Year badge.
2016 arrived with a few tweaks to the new body style and a new SYNC3 infotainment system that had a more smartphone-like interface. GT and EcoBoost models had the option of a black roof, and GTs got secondary turn signals integrated into the hood vents. Standard antilock disc brakes and hill-start assist on manual transmission models were now available.
GT/CS California Special was back as well as a GT Premium model in both Fastback and convertible, with an offset tribar pony logo. Black painted mirrors and hood vents came regardless of chosen body color. The ebony leather seats with suede inserts had red contrast stitching and a red embossed logo on the seat backs and the dashboard sported an aluminum finish unique to the GT/CS. For a little extra rigidity there was a strut tower brace under the hood with the GT/CS logo.
The 2016 Shelby GT350 kept the twin racing stripes down the middle but was now devoid of side stripes, with a small “GT350” badge in the accent line ahead of the front doors. It rode on Ford‘s MagnaRide Dampening System which continually adjusted the ride by passing an electric current through the metal particles in the hydraulic fluid in the shocks. An aggressive front splitter, vented aluminum fenders and hood kept things cool. A unique instrument cluster and leather-wrapped flat-bottom steering wheel greeted the driver. The all-new 5.2 liter V8 had a flat-plane crankshaft, a first for Ford, normally found only on racecars and European exotics. This permits a firing order that alternates between cylinder banks. This, along with cylinder head and valvetrain enhancements, allows the engine to breathe much better, producing 500 HP and 400 ft. lbs of torque.
The R-package racing version added heavy-duty front springs, oil coolers for engine and differential, Ebony Black carbon-fiber wheels, unique chassis tuning and front splitter, strut tower bracing and a carbon fiber rear wing. It deleted the air conditioning, audio system, rear seat, rear-view camera floor mats and SYNC3 system.
Fifty years after the Shelby GT350-H was introduced the Shelby GT-H returned, a performance-modified GT available for rent from Hertz. The standard black paint and gold racing stripes were evident and a unique cat-back exhaust system gave a throaty growl unique to the model. A Ford Racing Handling Pack, Shelby-designed vented hood and carbon fiber front splitter and rear spoiler gave it a unique look and better handling than the standard GT.
There was not much change for 2017, either. The GT added bits from the Shelby GT350 like an engine oil cooler, hood vents and a performance braking system. GT/CS California Specials got a unique grill and high-performance front splitter and a black rear spoiler. Shelby GT350‘s 5.2 liter V8 got a 26 HP bump.
For 2018 Ford dropped the V6 from the Mustang line since the EcoBoost outperformed it in every way. A mid-cycle update refreshed the lines with a more aggressive front end with LED headlights, restyled LED running lights and optional LED fog lights. The hood was nearly and inch lower with new venting . The rear received revised fascia and LED taillights, and quad exhaust tips were added to the GT. New paint colors, wheel choices, striping options and four different spoilers allowed customization of your Mustang. Inside a new 12-inch customizable digital instrument cluster with TrackApps and a heated leather steering wheel added to the driving experience, and the interior trim was revived with a new Mustang badge on the dash, a new finish for the rings and bezels and a brushed-aluminum start button replaced the old plastic one.
New shocks on the GT gave better ride control, a new cross-axis joint in the rear suspension increased lateral stiffness, and the GT Performance Package now got you the MagnaRide dampers from the Shelby GT350. The 5.0 liter V8 gained a new direct-port injection system, increased compression and updated intake and exhaust manifolds good for 460 HP and the manual transmission was upgraded with a twin-disc clutch for optimal torque. The new 10-speed automatic was the best Ford had offered at that time, improving responsiveness and performance. The Shelby GT350 and GT350R continued without much change.
There were no big changes for 2019 save for the return of the Bullitt for the 50th anniversary of the classic film, now in either the classic Dark Highland Green or a new Shadow Black. A V8 GT Premium with the Performance Package, Bullitt added an active valve performance exhaust with Black Nitroplate exhaust tips, an Open Air Induction System, the Shelby GT350 intake manifold with 87mm throttle bodies and powertrain control module calibration for optimum performance from the 5.0 and a 20 HP increase to 480. The digital instrument cluster was identical to the GT except for the start screen now featured an image of the car. Other subtle tributes to the film car included chrome accents around the grill and front windows, a blacked-out front grill, classic Torque-Thrust 19-inch aluminum wheels and a white billiard-ball shifter. Red Brembo brake calipers peeked out from behind the wheels and the circular faux gas cap returned with the Bullitt logo. The leather-trimmed interior featured green accent stitching on the dashboard, door panels, center console and seats. The only factory-installed options were the Bullitt Electronics Package with navigation, driver memory seat and mirrors, an updated sound system and Blind Spot Information System with Cross-Traffic Alert and black Recaro leather-trimmed seats.
2020 saw the EcoBoost engine get a new High Performance Package with a larger twin-scroll turbo, updated engine calibration and a larger radiator for a 20 HP jump to 330 and 350 ft. lb. of torque, now with 90% of the torque available as low as 3,000 RPM. A new EcoBoost handling Package threw in active dampers, a 3.55:1 limited-slip differential, an active valve performance exhaust, 19-inch wheels and performance tires. Ford‘s FordPass Connect was now standard and included an internet browser, WiFi hotspot and live traffic updates. GT, GT/CS California Special, Bullitt and Shelby GT350 carried on from the previous year without much change. However, there was a new big boy on the block.
The Shelby GT500 returned after a five-year absence. An aggressive front splitter sat below a wire mesh grill, with a black splitter in the rear. Self-centering pins graced the hood with its wide, centered functional vent. Aluminum pedals sat below the leather-trimmed, heated and cooled front seats. Recaro leather seats were optional. The steering wheel was leather/Alcantra wrapped and had integrated paddle shifters and the center console was wrapped with accent stitching. Under the pinned and vented hood lay the surprise; an aptly-named Voodoo version of the 5.2 liter aluminum-alloy block V8 with a supercharger, making an incredible 760 horsepower and 625 ft. lb. of torque…the most powerful engine Ford ever produced. To keep the intake air cooler and deliver a lower center of gravity, the supercharger was inverted and tucked neatly into the V8 engine valley. A Tremec 7-speed dual-clutch automatic transmission with lessons learned from the tuning of the Ford GT supercar’s transmission shifted in under 100 milliseconds, much faster than any manual gearbox. Five selectable drive modes from Ford Performance – normal, weather, sport, drag and track combined with line-lock and launch control through TrakApps to enable any kind of driving you cared to do. The upshot: 0-60 in 3.4 seconds, 0-100 in 6.9 seconds, quarter-mile in 11.3 seconds. A rear spoiler with a racecar-like Gurney flap lived on the rear decklid. Next-generation active MagnaRide suspension with double ball joint MacPherson struts and a tubular stabilizer bar handled the road bumps and Brembo six-piston calipers with a four-channel ABS system with electronic stability control enabled braking from 70 MPH in 150 feet. We’re talking technology, performance and handling on par with the best European exotics for a tick above $81,000. Not bad, Ford!
The 2021 lineup included the base Mustang, GT, and Shelby GT500, all returning in more or less the same form as 2020. Noticeably absent were the GT/CS California Special, Bullitt and Shelby GT350. However, there was a new performance machine that combined the best of three worlds.
The Mach I came out of retirement after 17 long years away, and this Mach I was a little bit Bullitt and a little bit Shelby. The Bullitt‘s 480 HP 5.0 liter V8 lives under the hood, mated to the six-speed manual transmission from the Shelby GT350 with rev matching, but the 10-speed automatic with paddle shifters was an option. The manual even had the Bullitt‘s distinctive cue-ball shift knob. A Handling Package for the manual-equipped version features staggered aluminum wheels, adjustable front strut top mounts, a higher-downforce front splitter and the swing rear spoiler with Gurney flap from the GT500. It has the front and rear subframes with stiffer bushings and lower front vents from the GT350 and the rear axle cooling system, rear toe link, rear diffuser and four-tip exhaust from the GT500 as well. Ford even tossed in the MagnaRide suspension for good measure. A Mach I badge reminiscent of the 1970 rocker panel badge appears high on the fenders and rear decklid and red Brembo brake calipers peek out from the 19-inch Tarnished Dark painted aluminum wheels which pay tribute to the Magnum 500 style wheels of the original Mach I. A single wide black hood stripe and low black stripe just above the rocker panel complete the look. If I had an extra $53,000 laying around I would definitely spring for this Mach I, however I think the previous year’s Bullitt looks cooler.
It appears as though the new 2022 offerings are the same as 2021. Ford‘s website doesn’t show a difference between engines for the GT and Mach I, however both Cars.com and Edmunds.com show a 460 HP GT V8 and a 470 HP Mach I V8, down 10 HP from 2021. I haven’t been able to find much about the current Mustang lineup beyond those two websites and Ford‘s literature. Neither Road & Track, Car & Driver nor Motor Trend have reviewed this year’s Mustang. I may, however, be letting my subscription to Motor Trend lapse due to their seeming love affair with electric vehicles as of late.
That wraps up my rather loooong retrospective on the Mustang, folks! What’s your favorite year and model? Mine would have to be the 1969 Boss 302, but I’m old-school and have always been drawn to the small-block 302 engine. There’s 57 years to choose from, pick your favorite and discuss it in the comments! ✪
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