Spied: Next-gen Mustang interior trades retro vents for more pixels
Spy photographers recently caught a fresh glimpse at the S550 Mustang’s successor, camo-clad and looking distinctly unlike an electric lozenge on stilts. Exhaust pipes and engine bays, hooray!
First, a quick recap: News broke earlier this year that the next-gen Mustang is expected to arrive in March of 2023, perhaps as a 2024 model. The new ‘Stang is expected to ditch the current platform, adopting instead the modular, rear- and all-wheel-drive architecture (CD6) currently employed by the Explorer.
Let’s sift through what’s to come.
While the low-slung, three-box shape is no doubt cause for celebration, we’re most intrigued by the interior shots. The next-gen Mustang will eschew the retro-chic, double-hump dash of the S550 for a more modern, pixel-rich aesthetic. Two visible screens, one serving as a digital instrument panel and one as an infotainment display, appear to flow into one another, suggesting a single pane integrating multiple displays, akin to the Cadillac Escalade’s 38-inch OLED screen or the 56-inch Hyperscreen in high-dollar variants of the Mercedes-Benz EQS.
Compared to the current model, this prototype swaps the positions of the center climate-control vents and screen. We can also see a handful of buttons down below—including one that has the Mustang logo on it. If we were to guess, this would be used to cue up some sort of custom drive-mode, a-la M-Mode in the BMW’s performance offerings. Like all good Mustangs, this one has a traction control defeat switch that should enable tire-smokin’ good times.
As far as hard controls go, this one is clearly an automatic, as indicated by the button-actuated ball-shifter found on the S550. There’s an M on the shift tree, and we can just catch a glimpse of some paddle shifters behind a handsome, three-spoke steering wheel that trims chrome to increase button-thumbing real estate. No word yet on whether a manual transmission will be offered, but we’re choosing to remain optimistic. Some old-school tech is visible here, too; check out that parking-brake lever. Power-slide time!
Among the buttons on those spokes are one for adaptive cruise control and another, labeled with a steering wheel, that may trigger BlueCruise, Ford’s hands-free driver-assist technology. This tech has been making its way from the Mach-E and F-150 onto numerous Ford offerings, including the Ford Expedition, and it’s reasonable to expect such a convenience will be offered on the Mustang—at additional cost, of course.
Back to that exterior.
The spy shots shown here capture three different test mules—two that appear to be convertibles and one that looks like a coupe. That first convertible, shot out on the highway near the Detroit-Wayne County airport, boasts a familiar five-spoke wheel design and modest braking hardware. The second droptop prototype is packing substantially more stopping power beneath its wheels, likely part of some performance package—perhaps the next iteration of the high-performance pack that’s currently offered on eight- and four-cylinder Mustangs. The hardtop also boasts those larger brake rotors and chunky calipers, albeit beneath a more sophisticated, snowflake-style wheel. (We’re getting shades of Corvette with the latter design, but don’t tell Ford.)
Despite the upcoming platform shift, the sweeping body line of the low-slung, two-door muscle car remains on the next-gen car. A forward-raked rear end is visible, similar to the rump of the current Mustang. Up front, fuzzy screens obscure the lighting elements, but we can still see bright headlamps pushed way out to the corners of the Mustang’s hood. We’d expect the lighting details to be a smart (read: adaptive) evolution of current designs rather than a reinvention. The front fascia juts out from the grille, in keeping with the S550’s schnoz. Expect extra brake cooling ducts on the fasciae of higher-performance models.
Matching twin-tip exhausts on either side of the Mustang’s lower hind quarters mimic the setup currently found on the V-8-powered GT models and EcoBoost-powered variants equipped with the high performance package.
Without details from the spy photographers on what sort of noises were coming out of those exhaust tips, we’re unsure which drivetrains might undergird the next generation of Mustangs. Since we know the new platform is designed for rear- and all-wheel-drive applications, a Mustang with four driven wheels is almost certainly in the works. Expect such a configuration to be powered by Ford’s 2.3-liter turbocharged EcoBoost four-cylinder, as this powertrain combo already exists on the Explorer. Because of emissions guidelines that seem to get tougher by the month, it’s also all but guaranteed that a hybrid model is in the pipeline as well, likely due around 2025.
As for Ford’s beloved 5.0-liter Coyote V-8, there’s a glimmer of hope. In a recent interview with Australian outlet Wheels, Ford performance director Ali Jammoul confirmed that a V-8-powered Mustang is in the works for the next generation. Jammoul noted that Ford’s powertrain engineers would need to work hard to ensure that the Coyote meets regulatory compliance, but he was confident that this was an attainable goal. Here’s to hoping.
Although it may not feel like it, Ford’s current S550 Mustang is getting long in the tooth. Pony car faithful have been treated to a host of downright magnificent variants of the (real) Mustang in recent years, from a 760-hp, supercharged track assassin to a gloriously high-revving love letter to driving purists, but the bones of such beasts are now over seven years old. It’s time for new blood.