Friday, 20 April 2012

Should the New Ford Mustang Really Try To Become A Sports Car?

2011 Ford Evos Concept, provider of the company's current design language
As the Americans would say, I'm just spit-ballin' here, but news of the next Ford Mustang (expected in 2013/4) tells us the new car will feature non-retro styling heavily based on the Evos concept that has given us the new Mondeo (Fusion in the US), and that it'll be on sale in Europe for the first time. Chances are that it will also be made into more of a sports car to appeal to this new market. But is that really necessary?

By all means, improve the handling, brakes and interior to try and impress Europeans, but I don't want the Mustang to turn into a sports car. To paraphrase Chris Harris, the world doesn't need another BMW M3, because we already have one, the BMW M3, and it's excellent. The Mustang is arguably the original American muscle car (or "pony car"), and American muscle cars are traditionally big, daft, hilariously-fun brutes that are more like cartoon characters than sports cars, with huge rumbling V8 engines, rear-wheel-drive and lots of tyre smoke left hanging under a freshly-green traffic light. That's what they do. That's their place in the world. Their brutish, simple charm is what characterises them, and a refreshing break from the super-serious European and Japanese sports cars. Yet, it seems, the muscle car is something of a dying breed. When the new Camaro came out, TopGear magazine compared it to the 2010 Mustang and the Dodge Challenger, and said that while it handled closest to a European car, it had lost some of its muscle-car character in the process. Will Ford run the same risk here? The world doesn't really need yet more sports cars, but it's running out of muscle cars. There are only four now, and even that number is threatened.

The thing is, American sports cars (of sorts) do exist already. The Chevrolet Corvette C6, in ZR1 guise at least, has set some impressive lap times on the tracks that matter to people, and the outgoing Dodge Viper SRT-10 was turned into a semi-racing car (dubbed ACR-X) in order to set a Nürburgring record for some publicity. But their makers know to keep sporting pretences separate. As well as the Corvette, Chevrolet has the Camaro. As well as the Viper, Dodge has the Challenger. I think Ford should consider doing the same, and while I'm perfectly happy that they're dropping the nostalgic styling - retro is so bloody overplayed now - they can do this in one of two directions while playing to their illustrious history. They can either bring back the (smaller) Capri to tackle the Toyobaru GTBRZ86 or they can make a new (sportier) Ford GT supercar, which supposedly they are in fact doing.

That way, the Mustang can remain a symbol of America, like the Statue of Liberty, stars and stripes, baseball and big guns. Pandering to Europe compromises American-ness, and the ultimate American car shouldn't do that. It should stay American, and be proud of its American character. Will Alfa Romeo's re-entry to the US market see it making a big, heavy, V8-powered Brera? No. They're Italian. They wouldn't do that. It's the same thing here. That's what I think, anyway.

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