The Ford Mustang has been a part of our automotive fabric for so long that it’s hard to imagine a world without it. It’s become an iconic part of the muscle car realm with several generations of metal favored by several generations of fans. There were low points in its lineage, such as in the ’70s and early ’80s, and there have been many high watermarks, such as today.

There’s no doubt among Ford enthusiasts that the current Mustang is arguably the best of the breed in terms of quality, handling, and technical savvy, and you have a world-class engine lineup, the highest efficiency, and one of the best chassis to ever underpin the Mustang.

The current breed also has its downsides, as it’s the most expensive and heaviest Mustang ever. And it’s no longer the entry-level bargain basement car that once appealed to the masses back in the ’60s. It has become more upmarket, more equipped, and has a price point closer to some European performance coupes.

In looking to redesign the next-generation ponycar, many converging forces have the 2015 Mustang facing a major crossroads. It’s racing quickly toward a swiftly rolling freight train of high gas prices, skyrocketing new government fuel mileage regulations, and a much more challenging global marketplace. Today it has a new Chevy Camaro to win against, new V-8 muscle cars coming from Korea to fend off, and now meets the Japanese sports cars face to face.

…the plan is to aggressively export Mustang to countries like the United Kingdom, Australia, and Japan.

The Mustang is being redesigned at this moment, and is facing just as drastic a headwind as it did when Ford changed the game with the Mustang II in 1974. Let that sink in for a moment as you are told that the next-generation Mustang is being loosely termed the Mustang III within the halls of Dearborn, Michigan.

While that may send shivers down the spines of some, the good news is that today we have the technology. Best of all, the performance-minded gearheads in Dearborn have the will to meet tomorrow’s new regulations and market forces without turning the current stallion into a wheezing little gelding as was the case with the Mustang II.

What must be reckoned with is that today’s Mustang is heavier and larger than it’s ever been. The 2012 Mustang weighs about 100 pounds more and is virtually identical in size to the big-body ’73 Mustang once widely considered to be a fat pig. The next-generation Mustang will need to shed some weight, lose some girth, and get a lot more efficient for a great many reasons.

Looming CAFE Standards

The biggest force affecting the design and fate of the 2015 Mustang will be the newly minted Federal Corporate Average Fuel Economy (CAFE) requirements. This summer, the Obama Administration drastically raised the target for the required average fuel economy rating to a stratospheric 56.2 mpg by 2025. This will change the performance car landscape as we know it, and hopefully not as we saw in the 1970s.

This means that the full fleet of vehicles Ford builds, from the Fiesta to fullsize F-Series trucks, must provide fuel mileage figures that average 56.2 mpg. So for every truck or muscle car that might only achieve 30-35 mpg, Ford will have to sell an equivalent number of vehicles that can get 75-80 mpg to meet the government-mandated average.

If your mouth is wide open, you are getting it. We don’t have fullsize trucks, let alone Shelby GT-500s, that can get 30-35 mpg today, and certainly not the small cars that get 75-80 mpg to offset them. What this means for Mustang is that it must reach never-before-seen levels of efficiency in just the next 10 years to simply exist, let alone push us back in the seat with 550 hp.

As the 2015 Mustang will likely have a lifespan that reaches to 2025, it will need to be much lighter, smaller, and have much more efficient engines. Ford is seeking to shave at least 200-300 pounds from the current car’s 3,600-pound curb weight. This will come partially with downsizing, but mostly from use of lighter materials in the body structure and chassis components. Look for more aluminum and use of high-strength steels.

Hybrid isn’t a dirty word if it’s used to add power and allow that V-8 to exist in modern-day CAFE rules.

2015 Mustang Is Going Global

Word has it that Ford is designing the new 2015 Mustang to be built in both lefthand and righthand drive; the plan is to aggressively export Mustang to countries like the United Kingdom, Australia, and Japan. For the first time in the modern era, consumers in these countries will be able to buy the Mustang right off the dealer showroom floor as a mainstream model instead of some gray-market specialty like it is now.

In Australia, for instance, cars must be converted to righthand drive to be street legal. Mustangs have been imported for decades in small numbers and converted at a high cost for a select few. Other countries see small amounts of Mustangs sold, but it’s not widely supported by dealer networks. It is understood that dealers in the UK and Europe are being told to anticipate the Mustang as a regular production model.

Some Mustang purists in America are already taking it as an affront that Mustang may be getting compromised here and there to meet the tastes of people “over there.” The reality is that the Mustang will be improved in several key ways that could only result from training it to run with the thoroughbreds in Europe. After all, it’s only lately that we have seen the Mustang being tested at the Nurburgring, and there’s a reason for that.

Best of all, by exporting Mustang around the world, the aftermarket industry will benefit from a whole new marketplace of consumers and increased economies of scale that could result in a wider variety of go-fast mods for all of us down the road. So look at the bright side and get ready to start sharing the love on your favorite forums with our new Mustang brothers and sisters around the globe!

…the old live axle loved by drag racers will finally give way to an independent rear suspension…

Efficient Powerplants

Let’s get the 800-pound gorilla off the table. Ford invested major money developing the new 5.0 V-8 engine and wouldn’t be shedding it away just four years after it went into production. The 5.0 has become as much of the Mustang’s identity as the running horse, so it’s believed it will be around to lay rubber for some time in the next-generation Mustang. Power levels are expected to remain close to the current 412-440 hp, with a slight bump due to the addition of direct fuel injection and other refinements.

For super high-performance editions, there has been a lot of discussion in the past few months about a twin-turbo version of the 5.0 V-8 that can put down 600-plus horsepower for use as a top end powerplant in models like the Shelby GT-500. Using EcoBoost technology on the 5.0 V-8 can bring that extra power and efficiency.

The base engine may again be a four-cylinder for the first time in nearly 20 years. It would likely be an EcoBoost turbo similar to how Hyundai equips its base Genesis Coupe. Ford’s new 2.0L EcoBoost engine churns out about 240 hp and would be more than adequate for the entry level. There have been rumors that Ford may even offer a high-zoot 2.3L version producing up to 300 hp. For European and other export markets, a smaller, less powerful naturally aspirated four-cylinder could be offered that we won’t get in America.

The 3.7L V-6 may also continue on for the first few years of the next-generation Mustang, however it’s likely that a new smaller-displacement V-6 with direct injection may be offered down the road as the mainstream bread-and-butter engine.

Many people have speculated or wished out loud that Ford would drop the 365hp 3.5L twin-turbo EcoBoost V-6 from the Taurus SHO into the Mustang. That is still an unlikely option because the expense and complexity of the EcoBoost V-6 is greater than the V-8, while its output is nearly identical to the 5.0L naturally aspirated V-8. If, however, it can provide dramatically better fuel economy than the V-8 and put down the same power, that could change as the CAFE standard escalates.

Retro is dead … Ford has said they will be taking Mustang in a new direction…

In fact, as the next-generation Mustang races into the ’20s don’t be surprised if it becomes electrified with hybrid technology to increase performance while also raising fuel mileage. Many high-performance marquees like BMW, Ferrari, and Porsche are already adding electric boost systems to add low-end torque where a gas engine burns fuel most. Hybrid isn’t a dirty word if it’s used to add power and allow that V-8 to exist in modern-day CAFE rules.

Fully Independent Suspension

Like the dramatic shift we saw in 2005 from the old SN-95/Fox chassis, the 2015 Mustang is being developed on an all-new global rear-wheel-drive platform. The new chassis is believed to be a clean-sheet design. Because the Mustang will have to be sold globally to make the bean counters hum, the new platform is likely to be shared with other models such as the Australian Falcon family or even new sedans here in the States.

Because the Mustang will be sold head-to-head against cars like the BMW 3-Series, Hyundai Genesis Coupe, and Audi A5 around the world, it will finally get the modern world-class chassis it has deserved for decades. A more refined suspension that includes lightweight aluminum castings is likely. A McPherson strut front suspension is expected not to stray far from what the Mustang offers now.

Out in back, the old live axle loved by drag racers will finally give way to an independent rear suspension designed in this century. While the old stick axle has been made to handle admirably with respect to its far more complex and expensive IRS siblings, the international audience for the next Mustang is not likely to tolerate such an antiquated design.

Ford is seeking to shave at least 200-300 pounds from the current car’s 3,600-pound curb weight.

Modern Muscular Design

Retro is dead. The ’05-14 Mustang has done retro so beautifully well in taking the best from the ’67-70 models and combining it with a modern flair. But going forward, Ford has said they will be taking Mustang in a new direction that will prove to the world it has the hooves to gallop into the future. New millennial buyers entering the market will be looking for something new, not something their dad thought was cool.

Ford design guru J Mays recently said of the 2015 Mustang: “We can’t lose the Mustang DNA, which is really important, but we’ve got to signal that Mustang has got another 50 years of life left in it. In order to do that we are going to have to take a bit more of a stretch with the car, bring all of our Mustang faithful along with us.”

Because the Mustang will see global duty, design studios in Europe and in Australia are being given the opportunity to collaborate on the 2015 Mustang. This may sound scary to some, but it’s how cars are now designed at Ford. “It is a common process we use on every vehicle,” said Derrick Kuzak, Ford’s group vice president for global product development. “When we embark on a new product, particularly one that is all new, it involves all of the studios. Then J Mays and the design team pick the best of those themes.” Kuzak went on to add: “The Mustang is not just an icon in North America, it is an icon globally.”

The main goal of the design team is to take the Mustang in a new direction while keeping its soul. That means you will immediately recognize it as a Mustang at first sight. While it will have a new shape and size, trademark elements such as the three-bar taillights, Pony gas cap emblem, and side scoops are likely to be retained.

We can expect a new Mustang that has some European influence in the details while retaining the muscular American character we have come to know. This means fluid lines, sharply accented edges, and a tighter relationship between tires and bodywork. All of those attributes actually sound pretty good.

The 2015 Mustang will make its debut in 2014 ...for the 50th birthday party of the Mustang.

More Rear-Wheel-Drive Fords?

Ford builds about 6,000-7,000 Mustangs a month right now. That’s not nearly enough cars to justify a unique chassis platform or its own factory. Since 2005, the Mustang has shared the production line at the Auto Alliance International assembly center at Flat Rock with the Mazda 6. This year, Mazda has announced it will be pulling out of the Flat Rock Plant soon, which leaves a factory that cannot pay its bills making just the Mustang.

This means that Ford will likely need to find another model to share the production line, or find another plant to build the Mustang. While this provides a challenge, it also opens an opportunity to build more than just the Mustang on the new rear-wheel-drive platform.

With the Ford Crown Victoria and Lincoln Town Car ending production this year, the Mustang will be Ford’s lone rear-wheel-drive car in America. While the Ford Falcon family of sedans and Utes in Australia can help spread the engineering costs of the new rear-wheel-drive chassis, the question remains whether Ford will buck up and offer a rear-wheel-drive sedan in America again.

Lincoln dealers are clamoring for a rear-wheel-drive flagship to compete against Cadillac and Chrysler. Limousine and livery companies are none to happy to see the Town Car go. And while the new Taurus-based Police Interceptor is seeing some interest, law enforcement still wants a rear-wheel-drive Ford. With both GM and Chrysler continuing to build high-performance rear-wheel-drive sedans, Ford will at some point need to compete.

The Next 50 Years

The 2015 Mustang will make its debut in 2014 at the N.Y. Auto Show for the 50th birthday party of the Mustang. It will roll out to some three generations of Mustang owners and enthusiasts, along with a new breed of young buyers that Ford will need to ride the Pony into the next 50 years.

Ford in many ways has come to be defined by the icon that is the Mustang. For that reason, the Mustang will continue to be their most important image car. The 2015 Mustang will be saddled with 50 years of both the past and the future. It has to be that good.

About The Author

Sam Haymart is the editor of TheMustangNews.com, svtusa.com, and the FnSweet.com Roush Enthusiast Community. His experience with Mustangs spans over 25 years of restoring vintage Mustangs, building up late-model ponycars, and testdriving new models on tracks around the country.

About The Artist

Artist Sean Smith was educated at the prestigious Art Center College of Design in Pasadena, California, then went on to work for Hyundai, Mazda, and the motorcycle division of Honda before becoming a concept designer for Rockstar Games and forming SeanSmithDesigns.com.

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