Ford Mustang: An American Icon in the Modern Era

By: Tim Miller

Think about the most popular sports car in history, and most probably, the name Ford Mustang will come to mind. It’s a car that embodied speed and driving enjoyment at a much lower price than its European counterparts at a time when fast cars were very expensive. When it was first launched, the Mustang was so affordable that most young people could own one and have the time of their lives.

But the Mustang today is not what it was in the past. Some models go past six figures, and the competition is fiercer than ever. For instance, you have Japanese sports coupes, roadsters, and hot hatches that sell for less than a Mustang, and the Germans also have some exceptionally fast sports cars on offer.

However, the American icon is still one of the best sports cars you can own. Unlike its predecessors, the modern Mustang is much better to drive in the corners while also keeping its V8 engines. That last move is what differentiates the Mustang from its competitors – V8 sports cars are near extinction nowadays.

With that said, this is a story of why the Ford Mustang remains to be one of the most enjoyable sports cars on sale today.

Ford Mustang: What Makes it So Popular

The Mustang embodies everything that America’s culture stands for – freedom and individualism. As such, it played a big role in the youth rebellion and counterculture movement in the 60s and starred in many popular movies, like “Bullitt,” “James Bond,” and “Gone in 60 Seconds.”

But even more than that, the Mustang was the second “pony car” after the less popular Plymouth Barracuda. It’s a term that describes a stylish coupe or convertible that is fast, affordable, compact, and based on a rear-wheel-drive platform.

In addition, customers were given the opportunity to individualize their Mustang and stand out from the crowd. Not to mention, with so many powertrains on offer, including V6 and V8 engines, there was and still is a Mustang for everyone.

Ford Mustang’s design formula also changed the automotive industry – the long hood and short rear deck are part of almost every sports car on sale today. In addition, there is the loud V8 rumble, which attracts ears from miles away and has since been copied by many automakers.

And finally, let’s not forget the passionate community, which gives a sense of belonging to every Mustang owner – again, what America really stands for.

Modern Innovations: The Mustang in the 21st Century

With the launch of the S197 generation Mustang in 2005, Ford adapted its pony car formula for the modern era. The model turned back to its roots with the appearance but introduced many new technologies that made it more competitive in the segment. With V6 and V8 engines on offer, the S197 Mustang was also much sharper to drive than before, dramatically improving the handling over its predecessors.

The sixth-gen S550 model, which launched ten years later, improved on many aspects of its predecessor. It was a bigger car, but more importantly, it featured a four-cylinder EcoBoost entry-level model, much to the disliking of the community. Still, that was the only way Ford could keep the Mustang affordable, and the 2.3-liter EcoBoost wasn’t a slouch – it still delivered 310 hp.

Fortunately, buyers had a V8 option, and it was the exceptional 5.0-liter Coyote engine, which was a joy to drive when paired with the excellent six-speed Getrag manual.

Furthermore, the S550 Mustang introduced an all-new independent rear suspension, which made the pony car even more agile in the corners. With this generation, Ford finally designed a Mustang that was a trackable car, with some owners even bringing it to autocross events. On top of that, the Mustang was faster than ever, with the 760-hp supercharged GT500 model needing only 3.4 seconds to hit 60 mph. That is, of course, if you could put traction to the ground, as the GT500 can shred those rear tires in no time.

What’s New in the 2024 Mustang?

The all-new 2024 Ford Mustang S650 builds upon the design of the previous model but features an even more aggressive front end with sharper LED headlights. The rear end also features futuristic triple-LED lights, which combine exceptionally well with the fastback design. It’s still a gorgeous car – no doubt about that.

The suspension is similar to the previous model, but buyers can now opt for the Performance Pack upgrade, which brings several improvements. Notably, the package includes a Torsen limited-slip differential, which makes it much easier for the driver to produce controlled slides, i.e., drifts.

Moreover, the Performance Pack includes a front strut-tower brace to tighten things up, wider wheels and performance tires for Mustang, and larger Brembo brakes. However, the most important addition is the MagneRide active dampening suspension, which should make the 2024 Mustang much more controllable on a variety of roads.

But the single most interesting addition to the S650 Mustang is the drift brake, available with the Performance Pack and the included Performance Electronic Parking Brake. It is an advanced piece of technology that uses a hydraulic pressure line to lock the rear wheels quickly and allow for controlled slides.

The drift brake is actuated by a hand lever in the cabin, which is actually an electronic switch, making its actuation even more instantaneous. Moreover, it can deliver up to five times more braking force than a regular handbrake, with two different settings on offer: one for beginners and the other one for experts. For me, this technology alone gives the Mustang an edge over its rivals and is a breath of fresh air in today’s electrified automotive world.

The 2024 Mustang still begins with the 2.3-liter EcoBoost engine, producing 315 hp and 35 lb-ft of torque, beginning at a very affordable $32,215 when paired with a six-speed manual.

However, most buyers will still be more interested in the 5.0-liter Coyote V8, which for 2024 produces 480 hp and 415 lb-ft of torque. An optional performance exhaust brings those numbers to 486 hp and 481 lb-ft, while the most powerful GT model has 500 hp under the hood. The Coyote engine will be available with a six-speed manual or a ten-speed automatic in all versions and starts at $43,090 for the GT Coupe model.

This is only the beginning of the 2024 model, as more powerful track-oriented versions will certainly pop up in the coming years. I expect Ford to significantly up the ante this time and give us a GT500 model with almost 900 hp to compete with the drag-strip-oriented 2023 Dodge Challenger SRT Demon that packs a staggering 1,025 hp under the hood.

Conclusion: Mustang, A Symbol of American Automotive Excellence

Any automaker can produce an outstanding sports car and charge handsomely for it. However, the American way has always been about giving customers excellent engineering at an affordable price, and the 2024 Ford Mustang still embodies that. 

Ford’s latest pony car costs less than a family crossover yet offers unmatched performance, handsome styling, and, most importantly, image. Sure, the competition has gotten much better through the years, and cars like the Mazda MX-5 Miata and Toyota GR86/Subaru BRZ are also a good buy, but nothing can beat Mustang’s overall appeal.

If the all-electric Mustang Mach-E is anything to go by, this might be the last generation of the Mustang as we know it, i.e., a powerful and attractive sports car with a sonorous V8 under the bonnet. Still, synthetic fuels might inject some much-needed eco-appeal into the internal-combustion engine and make it a viable solution for the future.

So, let’s just hope that Ford continues to offer its V8 pony car with a V8 in the future – it will be a real shame if it doesn’t.

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