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New Mustang keeps classic touches

Updated sportster lower, wider, has tapered roof

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DEARBORN, Mich. -- The Ford Mustang is still galloping at 50.

Ford Motor Co. on Thursday introduced the 2015 Mustang, a confident and aggressive riff on the iconic pony car that first made North Americans swoon in the 1960s.

The Mustang's passionate fans are sure to love it, but Ford will have to wait and see if it's enough to overtake rivals and win over international buyers.

The Mustang was revealed at events in New York, Los Angeles, Shanghai, Sydney, Barcelona and Ford's hometown, Dearborn. It goes on sale next fall in North America and will reach Europe and Asia in 2015.

"Mustang cuts to the heart and soul of our company and really represents our company at its best," Ford chief operating officer Mark Fields told hundreds of dealers and employees gathered in Dearborn to see the new car.

The Mustang isn't anywhere near Ford's bestseller. Ford sells more pickups in a week than it does Mustangs in a month. But Ford says the Mustang has the highest name recognition and highest favourable opinion of any of its cars. And car companies count on beautiful sports cars to cast a glow over the rest of their lineup.

The Mustang's first full redesign since 2005 presented Ford with a tough task: Update and freshen an icon without alienating fans. More than nine million Mustangs have been sold since 1964, and the car has more than 300 fan clubs around the world, including one in Iceland and one solely for owners of yellow Mustangs. Farrah Fawcett drove a white one in Charlie's Angels; Steve McQueen raced a dark green one through the streets of San Francisco in 1968's Bullitt.

The new car takes plenty of cues from the old. The long hood and sloping fastback are still there, as is the trapezoid-shaped grille with the Mustang logo from the original. But the new car sits lower and wider, and the roof tapers dramatically in the front and back. The signature rounded headlights are smaller and sit back under a fierce, chiselled brow, while the traditional three-bar tail lights are now three-dimensional and tucked beneath the rear deck lid. The overall look is wirier than the current, more muscular version designed in 2005.

This new generation of Mustang is engineered to meet various international safety and emissions standards. There's a right-hand-drive version for the United Kingdom and Australia.

Ford design chief J Mays said the design wasn't overly influenced by European or Asian sensibilities.

"The reason they love it is because of its American-ness," he said.

Still, Stephanie Brinley, an auto analyst with consulting company IHS, expects modest sales overseas. IHS forecasts European Mustang sales will triple from current levels to around 2,500 in 2015. Sales in China will likely remain low because two-door coupes aren't popular there.

Ford hopes Mustang can again become the top-selling pony car in the U.S. The Chevrolet Camaro, which followed the Mustang to market in 1966 and was last redesigned in 2009, has outsold its rival for the last three years and is on track to do it again this year, according to Kelley Blue Book.

Mustang buyers will have three engines to choose from: updated versions of the current 3.7-litre V-6, which gets a projected 300 horsepower, and a 5.0-litre V-8 with 420 horsepower, as well as a new 2.3-litre EcoBoost four-cylinder that gets a projected 305 horsepower or more.

The car sits on the Mustang's first independent rear suspension, which should improve handling because it lets the wheels operate independently.

 

-- The Associated Press

 

The interior features brushed-aluminum trim and analog dials inspired by airplane cockpits.

Republished from the Winnipeg Free Press print edition December 6, 2013 B12

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