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Giddy up: The seventh-generation Ford Mustang is here

The latest generation of the Ford Mustang includes a new Mustang performance series called Dark Horse that features a 500-horsepower Coyote V-8 engine and manual transmission.  (Courtesy of Ford/TNS)
By Jordyn Grzelewski </p><p>and Hannah Mackay Detroit News

DETROIT – A more technologically advanced interior, “edgier” exterior and new engine options are among the highlights of the next-generation Mustang that Ford Motor Co. unveiled at the Detroit auto show Wednesday with enthusiasts on hand to mark the next chapter of the iconic pony car.

The Dearborn automaker revealed the seventh-generation Mustang with an event at Hart Plaza that served as the culmination of a “Stampede” of roughly 1,000 Mustangs driving from Ford World Headquarters in Dearborn.

The event also included a few surprises: the introduction of a new Mustang performance series called Dark Horse that features a 500-horsepower Coyote V-8 engine and manual transmission, as well as racing variants. It’s Mustang’s first new performance series in more than two decades – and Executive Chairman Bill Ford announced the pony car would be making a return to the 24 Hours of Le Mans race.

“When this car was being conceived, the first question I asked the team is, ‘Will it race at Le Mans?’ ” he told reporters. “ ‘And if the answer is no, go back and give me another answer.’ ”

The next-gen Mustang, redesigned for model year 2024, marks the latest chapter in a storied history that dates to the vehicle’s launch in 1964. The redesign is Mustang’s first since the sixth generation launched in 2015 as a global product for the first time.

Though updated with new technological features that designers said they hope will broaden the Mustang’s customer base, it’s sticking with its legendary internal combustion engine even as segment competitors like Dodge discontinue gas-powered models in favor of all-electric ones.

Mustang fans who are dreading the possible extinction of the V-8 have an ally in Bill Ford, a noted fan of the pony car.

“People have asked me, ‘Will this be your last internal combustion Mustang,’ and the answer is, ‘We’ll see,’ ” he said. “The customers will let us know when that day will come. Personally, that day will come with a tear in my eye, because I’ve loved the Mustangs all the way from the ’64 through this.”

The continuation of the internal combustion engine in Mustang reflects a broader strategy within Ford to offer a variety of options to customers even as the auto industry moves closer to an electric future. Top executives told Ford dealers this week that they see plenty of room for growth in the years to come in Ford Blue, the new business unit dedicated to the company’s legacy gasoline-powered products.

“Investing in another generation of Mustang is a big statement at a time when many of our competitors are exiting the business of internal combustion vehicles,” Ford CEO Jim Farley said in a statement Wednesday. “Ford, however, is turbocharging its ICE growth plan, adding connected technology, opinionated derivatives, and hybrid options to our most profitable and popular cars all in the Ford Blue family on top of investing $50 billion in electric vehicles through 2026.”

The seventh-generation Mustang is slated to go on sale next summer. The vehicle, which is assembled in Flat Rock, Michigan, comes in a variety of combinations: convertible or coupe, manual or automatic transmission, and powered by either a V-8 engine or a turbocharged four-cylinder engine.

Pricing information for model year 2024 will be released closer to the vehicle’s launch.

Revamped interior

With the redesigned Mustang, Ford aims to satisfy existing enthusiasts while also attracting a more diverse customer base and members of the millennial and Gen Z generations.

“We knew we wanted to excite our current customers, but also attract a new generation of enthusiasts,” said Alicia Agius, who works on strategy and transformation for Ford’s enthusiast products. “We really heard that their expectations around performance and technology are changing.”

Some of the most significant changes from the current generation Mustang are related to technology in the vehicle’s “fighter jet-inspired cockpit.”

The cockpit features two customizable displays. The vehicle’s 12.4-inch digital instrument cluster, for example, can be customized to display animated designs and visuals tied to the car’s drive mode.

“We’re taking advantage of every pixel,” Craig Sandvig, Mustang’s interaction design manager, said in a statement. “We can be creative in showing the necessary driving information and give the driver control of selecting colors, classic Mustang gauges or even a ‘calm’ screen where only minimal details are displayed.”

The digital instrument cluster can be configured to flow into a 13.2-inch center stack powered by Ford’s SYNC 4 infotainment system. That center stack is behind a piece of glass that’s angled toward the driver.

The cockpit has a new flat-bottomed steering wheel designed to provide more space when drivers sit down. And a new feature allows drivers to rev the car’s engine remotely using the key fob.

The center console has an available wireless phone charging pad, and new overhead USB ports have been added above the cockpit.

The vehicle will join the all-electric Mustang Mach-E in having the capability to receive wireless software updates.

‘Edgier’ look, wider stance

Meanwhile, the Mustang’s exterior has been redesigned with what designers described as an edgier look and wider stance, and with design cues calling back to the original Mustang.

Designers sought to add a “modern edginess to the heritage design,” said Mustang design manager Christopher Walter. “We’re setting out to appeal to our broadest base to date.”

The seventh-generation’s Mustang “low, horizontal brow across the front emphasizes overall frontal width, while the upper grille design shape is influenced by the original 1960s design,” Ford said in a news release. “The Tri-Bar LED headlamps continue the Mustang’s lighting signature. Its sleek roofline, broad sprinting stance and shortened rear overhang are also true to the authentic proportions of the first generation, while the widened rear haunches point to the power over the wheels in true Mustang style.”

The GT model has larger grille openings than the EcoBoost model.

“Both the EcoBoost and Mustang GT have unique styling cues that deliver on their promise of Mustang Performance,” Walter said in a statement. “The new Mustang is more chiseled and edgier, leaning into Mustang’s classic brawniness and timelessness.”

The new generation will have 11 exterior color options, including two new ones: Vapor Blue and Yellow Splash.

Under the hood

One of the Mustang’s most iconic elements is its growling, rumbling engine, known for a distinctive sound that owners often customize.

With the next generation, the GT model will have a 5.0-liter Coyote V-8 engine that is slated to deliver “the most naturally aspirated horsepower of any Mustang GT,” according to Ford.

“This is the most athletic and confidence-inspiring Mustang EcoBoost and GT to drive yet,” Ed Krenz, Mustang’s chief nameplate engineer, said in a statement. “Whether driving an automatic or manual transmission, thanks to drive modes combined with fine-tuned digital engine, suspension and steering controls, we’re now able to give drivers peak performance everywhere, from their favorite roads to their local track.”

The 5.0-liter V-8 comes with a standard six-speed manual transmission or an advanced 10-speed automatic transmission.

The EcoBoost model, meanwhile, features a new turbocharged four-cylinder 2.3-liter powerplant.

The next-gen Mustang will feature six available drive modes: normal, sport, slippery, drag and track, as well as a customizable setting. And a new electronic drift brake adds rear-wheel-drive drifting capability to the Mustang.

The seventh-generation Mustang, meanwhile comes equipped with Ford Co-Pilot360, a suite of driver-assist features. The available features include speed sign recognition, intelligent adaptive cruise control and stop-and-go and lane centering assist, among others.The continuance of the engine was welcome news to some fans who are wary of the industry’s transition to EVs.

“I wouldn’t be too upset if they made it a hybrid but to go all battery, it’s like, where are you gonna hear that Mustang roar,” said Karyn Jansen, who drove to the reveal from Brownstown in her 2010 Mustang GT.

“It’s good for the environment,” she said. “But it would be sad because, you know, it’s the end of the era.”

Likewise, Saginaw native Jeff Amo, 68, who drove down in his 2006 Roush Mustang, has “mixed emotions” about electrification: “I always liked the sound of the V8 and I like the rumble and the power, the feel of it.”

But Ron Semmler, 52, who drove to Detroit from New Jersey in a 2001 Mustang GT500, is open to the idea: “I’m actually not against electric if they also include performance.”

‘I want that’

Leslye Wolf fell in love with the Mustang last year after buying a GT model amid the industry’s microchip shortage.

“It was the only car that I could get. We were chasing cars and we couldn’t find any,” she said. “It was not my first choice but let me tell you, I’m so glad that I got one. It’s amazing.”

After witnessing the newest Mustang’s unveiling, Wolf decided she had to have another.

“The Dark Horse, they have surpassed themselves. I’m waiting for pre-orders to come out and to pick my color because I’ve decided that I’m gonna get that,” she said. “I like the power.”

Detroit native Aysha Woods said she wants the Dark Horse to be her first Mustang because she likes the speed.

“I want a new Mustang, I want a Dark Horse. I’m not really into Mustangs, but this one is it,” she said. “500 horsepower … I want that.”