Ford Motor Co. has unleashed the sixth-generation Mustang, the product of a delicate effort to balance half a century of history with demands for modern powertrains, technology and styling.
The result retains the essence of the late-1960s fastbacks on which the car’s retro-styled predecessor was based — a long hood, short rear deck, tri-bar taillights and a shark-nosed grill.
But the automaker carefully avoided churning out another throwback, instead seeking to connect the Mustang to the design ethic seen across its lineup. The other balancing act: making the quintessential American sports coupe appeal to buyers in Europe and Asia.
“We wanted to make sure that, at first glance, you know it is a Mustang — but at the same time you know it is the next Mustang,” said Mark Fields, the automaker’s chief operating officer. “You can go too retro, or you can go too futuristic.”
[Updated, 11:19 a.m. PST Dec. 5: The automaker displayed the new model in a series of global reveals Thursday that included events in Los Angeles; New York; Dearborn, Mich.; Barcelona, Spain; Shanghai; and Sydney, Australia.
The L.A. event took place along the Hollywood Walk of Fame, adjacent to the walk’s stars for celebrities, including Sandra Bullock, Steve McQueen and Michael Jackson. Senior Ford executives looked on as others rolled the front wheels of the 2015 Mustang into a block of wet cement.
"It’s fitting that we’re right here, among all the stars in Hollywood,” said Joe Hinrichs, Ford’s executive vice president. "We have our own star right here. The Ford Mustang has been in over 3,000 movie and TV shows. So it’s fitting that we’re at the Chinese Theatre for this debut.”]
Though it presented vexing riddles for designers, the 50th-anniversary Mustang offers no grand departure from the styling that enabled Ford to sell 9 million Mustangs since its debut at the New York World’s Fair on April 17, 1964.
The offering of a four-cylinder turbo engine signals a clear shift toward modernity and fuel economy, though today’s technology gives that small power plant a whopping 305 horsepower — equal to that of the vaunted 289 V-8 that powered the 1966 Shelby Mustang.
The standard engine will be a 3.7-liter V-6 with 300 horsepower and 270 pound-feet of torque.
But the car would not be a Mustang without the option of a muscular V-8, a 5.0-liter with an upgraded valve train and cylinder heads that Ford says will yield more than the current GT’s 420 horsepower and 390 pound-feet of torque.
“The Mustang represents the heart, soul and passion of the Ford brand,” Fields said.
The new version goes on sale late next year.
Although the Mustang is still popular, it has lost some of its sales mojo. The automaker sold as many as 500,000 Mustangs annually in the 1960s but will struggle to hit 80,000 this year. Since 2009, the archrival Chevrolet Camaro has led Mustang in annual U.S. sales by a small margin.
That’s a big deal to Ford and its dealers.
In a good year, Beau Boeckmann’s sprawling Galpin Motors in the San Fernando Valley will sell 100 Mustangs a month — at today’s prices, about $40 million worth of pony cars annually. But in recent years his Mustang sales have fallen to about half their former level as buyers gravitated to the Camaro and sporty imports.
“There is a point in design where people who are looking for something new and different go to the hot thing,” said Boeckmann, whose family owns the dealership. “That is exactly what this new Mustang will address.”