2024 Ford Mustang

  • June 11, 2024

Sixty years ago – the Ford Mustang’s first year – the Mustang had no competitors to worry about. That changed quickly, due to the Mustang’s popularity. Within three years of its 1964 debut, the Mustang had to face multiple competitors, including the Chevy Camaro.

It’s about to change back to the way things were in ’64 – when there were no other pony cars besides the Mustang.

But for a different reason.

Pony cars are still desirable cars; the current Mustang’s popularity proves it. But Chevy – and Dodge – have bowed out of the pony car market, for political reasons. Pony cars have to have engines rather than batteries. Especially an available V8 engine.

And an available manual transmission.

But electric vehicles don’t have either – and enormous pressure is being applied to every vehicle manufacturer to “electrify” everything – by punishing vehicle manufacturers for not “electrifying” everything.

Dodge folded; the Challenger left the field last year. Chevy – GM – caved. The Camaro goes away after next year.

That leaves Mustang alone again. As it was before.

As it is again.

What It Is

Ford’s Mustang is the pony car – the one that defined the type and which competitors like Camaro and Challenger (RIP) emulated. It is a compact-sized, four seater coupe/convertible that does not offer AWD but comes standard with rear-wheel drive and is available with both a manual transmission and a V8 engine. Those are some of the things a pony car must have in order to be a pony car.

But don’t overlook the Mustang’s standard four cylinder engine. It makes more horsepower than the original 1964 Mustang’s V8 engine – and delivers better performance (and about twice the gas mileage).

Prices start at $30,920 for the base coupe with the EcoBoost (that is, turbocharged) four cylinder engine; this “base” version of the Mustang comes standard with 17 inch wheels, leather interior trim and a six speaker stereo; a convertible version of the same thing lists for $39,020.

An EcoBoost Premium coupe stickers for $36,445 and for that you get one-size-larger 18 inch wheels, a nine-speaker stereo, faux leather seats, power seats and a wireless phone charger; the convertible version of the same thing lists for $41,945.

A Mustang GT – same designation as back in ’64 – stickers for $41,960 and for that you don’t get twice the mileage but you do get close to twice the horsepower. You also get a six speed manual – two more gears than you got back then. GTs also get upgraded brakes and GT-specific exterior styling, including a functional hood vent to relieve air pressure under the hood at high speeds.

If you want a convertible GT, you have to move up to the GT Premium – which stickers for $51,980. In addition to the standard V8 and related performance upgrades, you also get a power-folding soft top and 19 inch wheels.

The GT Premium coupe stickers for $46,480.

At the top-of-the ticket is the Dark Horse – which is a GT upgraded with a MagnaRide adaptive suspension, “active” exhaust (you can open up the pipes at the touch of a button to free up some power and hear it) plus an oil cooler, unique-to-this trim 19 inch wheels and specific exterior/interior styling and color choices. Also included is a premium 12 speaker B&O audio system.

What’s New for 2024

All Mustang trims get revised exterior styling and LCD instrument cluster.

What’s Good

It survives.

Standard turbo four is stronger than most of the V8s available in Mustang for most of its life to date.

Back seats make up for the small trunk.

What’s Not So Good 

Standard turbo four is not available with a manual transmission.

All-flatscreen display may not age as well as the car, itself.

The same government strong-arming that forced the Camaro and Challenger off the market is likely to eventually do the same to Mustang.

Under The Hood

The Mustang comes standard with a 2.3 liter four cylinder engine that’s stronger than most of the V8s that were available during most of the Mustang’s production run, which began in 1964 and hasn’t ended yet. It makes 315 horsepower and 350 ft.-lbs. of torque – enough to get the base Mustang to 60 MPH in just over five seconds. That’s quicker than almost all of the V8 powered Mustangs made from 1964 through the early 2000s.

And none of those could go 33 highway miles on a gallon of gas. Most of them did no better on the highway than the 22 miles per gallon in city driving that the “EcoBoost” (i.e., turbocharged) four cylinder Mustang delivers.

Those are the upsides – and they’re big ones.

The downside is the 2024 iteration of the four-cylinder-powered Mustang is only available with an automatic transmission, which no doubt accounts to some degree for the stupendous fuel economy the base Mustang delivers – because an automatic can be programmed to shift gears at just the right moment for optimum mileage. It can also be programmed to shift at just the right moment for best performance, when the driver wants that more than optimum gas mileage. But an automatic is an automatic and not being able to shift for oneself does take away a bit from the fun of driving of a car like this.

The upside is you can shift for yourself in the GT – which comes standard with a 5.0 liter V8, the same size as the V8s that were available in early Mustangs back in the ’60s. However, none of those V8s made 480 horsepower – or 486 ft.-lbs. of torque. Enough to get this version of the Mustang to 60 in just over 4 seconds.

Mileage with this engine – and this transmission – is 14 city, 23 highway, which is about 5 MPG higher than you’d have gotten out of a V8-powered Mustang with about 200 fewer horsepower back in the ’60s and early ’70s.

Interestingly, the mileage difference with the optional ten speed automatic (the same automatic that’s the only transmission available with the four cylinder engine) is just 1 MPG – in city driving. This combo – V8 and ten speed auto – rates 15 city and 23 highway. It doesn’t sound like much difference – and it isn’t, except in terms of fleet averages. Ford – like every car company – is obliged to comply with government-decreed fleet average MPG mandatory minimums (CAFE) and when you “do the math,” a 1 MPG difference can make a lot of difference.

And that’s more than likely why Ford does not offer a manual transmission with the standard four cylinder engine.

On The Road

Who says you can’t have your cake and eat it, too?

Thirty years ago, Ford loaned me a brand-new Cobra R to test drive. It was the hottest Mustang you could buy back then. A street-legal race car with a 5.8 liter (351 cubic inch) V8 that made 300 horsepower, paired with a five speed manual. The car was built for all-out performance and so weight-adding, power-sapping things such as back seats, power windows and AC were deleted. The car didn’t even have a radio. And you had to have a road racing license to buy it.

Thirty years later, anyone can buy a new four cylinder Mustang that is the performance-equal of the V8 powered ’95 Cobra R. With back seats – and standard AC. Ford has even managed to make the four sound like a V8; when equipped with the available performance package and “active” exhaust, it can make you forget all about the V8.

Especially when you floor it.

The sole detraction is the mandatory ten speed automatic – but not because it doesn’t shift with double-clutching ferocity when in Sport or Track mode. There is nothing objectively wrong with it. But subjectively, it’d be more fun to command the turbo four’s 315 horses via the more direct connection of a manual transmission. Ford has done everything electronically possible to replicate the feels and sounds of a manual but it’s still an automatic and that leaves out the element of shifting for yourself – which is fun, even if it’s not the quickest way to get to 60; even if you miss a shift or shift too early (or too late) in a curve.

The good news is you can still shift for yourself in the GT – which still comes standard with the six speed manual (the ten speed automatic is optional). That makes it more fun, but you’ll have to pay $10k more more to have it – which is unfortunate.

What isn’t – whether you go with the four or opt for the V8 – is how much fun it is to put either iteration of the Mustang through its paces, especially in the corners. My test drive in the turbo four-powered Mustang reminded me of my test drive of the V8-powered Cobra R – without the sweat-soaked shirt after the test drive.

Ford may not offer the manual with the four but you can get most of the equipment that makes a GT what it is, including the $3,475 Performance Package that bundles a 3.55 rear axle, larger sway bars, 19-inch Brembo brakes (and 19×9-inch light alloy wheels with ZR-rated “summer” tires), heavy-duty suspension and paddle shifters for the 10 speed automatic. If you get the one-notch-up Ecoboost Premium trim, you can order the GT’s available MagnaRide adjustable suspension system, too.

The GT’s Recaro sport buckets – which are superb – are also available.

At The Curb

In addition to being a very fun car, the Mustang is also a reasonably practical car – for the kind of car that it is.

In part because it has back seats. These can be sat in, too – by smaller people, for short hops. But they’re not so much for people as they are for the stuff that might not fit in the Mustang’s trunk – which is surprisingly spacious (13.5 cubic feet) for the kind of car it is. As a reference point, a compact sedan such as the current (2024) Honda Civic has a not-much-larger (14.8 cubic foot) trunk – and it is considered a “practical” car.

Which it is. But the point is, so’s the Mustang – and it’s a lot more fun.

It’s also a lot more distinctive. Unlike pretty much everything else, which looks pretty much like everything else.

The 2024 Mustang also looks like a Mustang.

It is recognizably kin of the original ’64 Mustang – even after the passage of three generations (in human terms) and many more in terms of Mustang generations – of which there have been seven since ’64. Ford has done a laudable job of keeping the Mustang a Mustang – as opposed to looking like something else (as for example has happened to the Chevy Corvette, which no longer looks like a Corvette). The iconic styling is also integrated neatly rather than tacked-on, clumsily. Familiar shapes and themes – such as the vertical block tail-lights, the ’60s fastback rear quarter glass and rear wheel haunches – immediately recall the old without looking affected.

This is a shape that will hold up well, as has been true of pretty much every Mustang made over the course of the past 60 years – even including the derided-at-the-time ’74-78 Mustang II, which looks better and better as the years go by. And always looked like a Mustang.

There are some other things to like about this Mustang, too. Including the old-school pull-up emergency brake lever – which is what you want in a car such as this because it’s both fun and effective.

Emphasis on the former.

And that you can turn the traction control off. Really off. Not partially off.

The one thing you may not like is the new-for-2024 all-LCD dashboard that completely replaces analog gauges with virtual gauges. On the upside, the LCD display displays a wealth of information about almost everything you might want to know about the car and its capabilities – including cornering/braking g forces, 0-60 times and so on. The display is also configurable. You can toggle through at least four different instrument displays, some with analog looks and others that have bar-graph-style looks and a variety of different colors to suit.

On the downside, everything – just about – is controlled (interfaced) through the touchscreen and what happens when it glitches? It’s also probably not repairable, which means it – the whole thing – may have to be replaced when it glitches.

It also may not age gracefully, like the rest of the car. Because LCD screens are not timeless. Think about how quickly the latest smartphone looks old. How long will it before the new Mustang’s LCD screen does?

The Rest

One thing the Mustang no longer is – that it once was – is inexpensive. Or – rather – Ford no longer offers it in an inexpensive “basic” iteration, as was available 60 years ago and for many years thereafter. You could get a basic Mustang with a moderately powerful V6 as recently as the early 2000s – and before that, Ford offered an even more basic LX Mustang with a four (and no turbo) and with a manual transmission that was inexpensive, economical and still fun to drive that also looked great – because it was a still a Mustang.

Lots of people bought them because lots of people just wanted a good-looking, inexpensive car that’s easy on gas and still fun to drive. That was a big part of the Mustang’s sales success and its ability to weather the decades, during the times when performance cars like Camaro and Challenger got cancelled for being just performance cars.

Ford no longer offers a Mustang like that.

But at least you can still get a Mustang.

The Bottom Line

The past is our present, again. Only this time, there probably won’t be any new entrants to rival the car that started it all.

And time may be short.

. . .

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