“The new Ford Mustang looks so much worse/better than last year…”
Said all of America. Every single year. Since 1971. But everyone is wrong, and they should just listen to me instead.I think that the aesthetic changes to the new 2018 Ford Mustang are bad, but only in the proper context.
Full disclosure: I should come clean. My favorite Mustang is unabashedly the later half of the Foxbody generation, produced from 1987-1993. Because it is the best. And probably also because I am what I coined as a nonacenturaoctogenerophile: someone who loves the 1980s. Or maybe that would mean someone who loves really old people. I suppose that they are not mutually exclusive.
Now that you have a primary reference point, I want to talk about the face-lifted, 2018 Ford Mustang. Ford just released images of what they’re calling the ‘Pony Package’. Whatever that packages includes is irrelevant, and probably inconsequential, given the multitude of weird special editions the Mustang has had over the years. Chances are, it will have a minor bump in horsepower, maybe some sway bars to improve handling. If you’re lucky, you might get some contrast stitching on the seats.
The more interesting bit of the presser was some clear, millennial-friendly (note the backdrop, so many windows) shots of the 2018 Ford Mustang. Facelifts are common mid-way through the lifecycle of a model, and are an easy way for a manufacturer to re-ignite interest without bringing any meaningful benefits to the consumer. So basically it’s a win-win. Let’s take a look at the 2018 model, and then we’ll talk about the greater context of the changes.
Most of the differences for the front end of the 2018 Ford Mustang are relatively subtle; the lower fog lights have become horizontal and fake air dams have been added underneath. They kind of resemble dimples, but the grill as a whole is not a smile. From the profile view, the nose looks smushed in like a bulldog/catfish hybrid. At first look, the lower grill just resembles an open mouth, especially because the outer edges of the lower valance are now downturned. The whole front gives off a really frown-y vibe. The headlights have changed shape slightly, and now look like a person who cried recently, but is meeting their parents for coffee and is trying to look brave. I’m not projecting. You are.
The overall effect of these changes are clear: it’s meant to look more aggressive. It gets a more taut, lower stance. More animalistic. More un-tamable. More of whatever adjectives you hope someone would use when describing your performance in the bedroom.
So what’s the issue?
Deciding to make the 2018 Ford Mustang more ‘aggressive’ looking is not inherently a good thing, especially if it’s not made to be a more ‘aggressive’ car. This stands to potentially blur the lines further between the different trim levels, and turn off a wave of potential buyers who see it as too masculine, or just too much in general.
As the Ford Mustang has matured over the past 25-or-so years, it has gone through iterations befitting the era. The first row of the chart is the Foxbody so we don’t need to talk about that at all because they’re perfect. The later 90s (second row of the chart) saw a slick, futuristic model that was almost the Ford Probe. The early 2000s (3rd and 4th row) took a step in the right direction with more muscular, cleaner lines, and one of the greatest American cars of the last 30 years, the Ford Mustang Cobra. The late 2000s model (4th row onward… it was around for a long time) was too heavy and too boxy. It was an all-around turd that single-handedly caused the collapse of the American auto industry. I don’t have hard evidence to back that one up, so you’ll have to blindly trust me.
I’m about to make my point
The 2015 redesign ushered in a return to form for the general muscle-car style, while introducing new, efficient and powerful engines, including a 4-cylinder option for the first time since the Foxbody. It also added features that buyers had been requesting since 2002, like an independent rear suspension and a button that helps you do burnouts (no, seriously). This helped its general market appeal greatly; it could now easily toggle between being a hairdresser’s car and a true track-day toy, date-impresser, whatever. It was excellent balance, it finally drove well, and had good power and good fuel economy. Marital issues: solved.
One of the reasons that its mass appeal has been so successful is not often discussed; the 2015 Mustang had no pretense as a ‘halo’ car. A ‘halo’ car is a common term to represent the aspirational top of a manufacturer’s pyramid (or smaller subset of vehicles therein). It’s the Acura NSX. It’s the Maybach to the Mercedes S-Class. It’s whatever dumb special edition BMW came out with for the M3 this year. The last true Ford Cobra came out in 2004, everything between then and now were partnerships with Shelby Automotive. They’re great, and some might call them aspirational, but I do not. They are loud. Burnout-y. Big, flashy rims with wide body kits and open exhaust. They aren’t for everyone. The Mustang of the past had to be aggressive, hip, and mean because it had to be somewhat aspirational, even if it was affordable.
People change, aspirations change, you should be grateful that car companies change, too
The aspirational aspect of the Mustang is now completely unnecessary, negating the need for making its overall design aesthetic so much tougher. That’s why it’s bad. Why is it unnecessary you may ask?
I’ll tell you why. Because Ford decided to take the Mustang platform seriously and introduce Mustang Shelby GT350. Spawned from the same body style with an absurd flat-plane V8, it’s an engineering marvel and a moniker that calls back racing pedigree and can hang with the big boys. It’s exactly what Ford has been trying to prove about their performance line for the last decade. It is aggressive as hell and totally removes any need to slowly ‘beef’ up the entire Mustang line to bolster Ford’s image as a whole.
The Mustang had struck an excellent balance with its design and it’s disappointing to see Ford making change for change’s sake. Especially when those changes are so… Bedroom-y.