New styling? Maybe. 700-horsepower GT500? Probably. Look ahead to the 2017 Mustang

2017 Ford Mustang

2017 Ford Mustang

What changes will make 2017 Ford Mustang different?

The crystal ball is a bit hazy: Some sources hint at a mild styling update, but we think change is more likely to come for model-year 2018. This sporty coupe – Ford calls it the Fastback — and its convertible companion got a very successful redesign for model-year ’15. Styling changes just two years into their lifecycle would be unusual. A new color choice or some feature shuffling are possible. More certain — though still unconfirmed — is re-introduction of the ultra-high-performance 2017 Shelby GT500.

Why should I wait for the 2017?

Lots of ifs here: If Ford updates the styling it might be worth waiting so you can have the freshest looking Mustang. If Ford launches the Shelby GT500 — and if speculation about its outlandish specs are accurate — performance junkies and collectors will definitely want to wait to get their hands on one. In any event, the basic Fastback lineup should reprise base, turbocharged EcoBoost and EcoBoost Premium models, and the V-8 GT and GT Premium trims. Convertibles would return in base, EcoBoost Premium, and GT Premium guises. The high-performance V-8 Shelby GT350 and GT350R fastback coupes will also re-appear.

Should I buy a 2016 model instead?

We certainly wouldn’t advise against it. Drastic updates to powertrain, infotainment, or other features won’t happen. And you’ll get Ford’s latest connectivity system: Sync 3 is a welcome upgrade from the maligned MyFord Touch. It sports enhanced voice recognition capability and an 8-inch LCD touchscreen with smartphone- and tablet-style gesture control, including swiping and pinch-to-zoom. EcoBoost and GT coupes can be ordered with a black roof to lend a bit of contrast to some of this car’s bold paint colors, such as “Triple Yellow” and “Competition Orange.”

pic 2

Will the styling be different?

Maybe, maybe not, depending on the rumors you believe. We predict no appearance updates for 2017, beyond a possible new color choice or two. That said, if Ford were to make changes, don’t expect anything dramatic. A nip/tuck to the front and rear fasciae, some new wheel designs and select interior modifications would be the unlikely extent. If the current Mustang were poorly received by the press or consumers, the automaker would probably rush to fix it. But Ford isn’t going to try and remedy what clearly is not broken. This handsome four-seater is the undisputed sales champion among mid-priced sporty cars. The Chevrolet Camaro is a distant second, though it’s likely to gain ground on the strength of its own very impressive model-year 2016 redesign.

Any mechanical changes?

Only in the form of a potential GT500. Otherwise, base Fastbacks and convertibles should reprise a 3.7-liter V-6 with 300 horsepower and 280 pound-feet of torque. EcoBoost models will again have a 2.3-liter turbocharged 4-cylinder with 310 horsepower and 320 pound-feet. GTs should retain their 5.0-liter V-8 with 435 horsepower and 400 pound-feet of torque. Each engine would again pair with a six-speed manual transmission or, as an option at around $1,200, a six-speed automatic with paddle shifters. Returning with manual transmission only will be the GT350. The comprehensively upgraded coupe will reprise a 5.2-liter V-8 that produces 529 horsepower and 429 pound-feet of torque without aid of a turbocharger or supercharger. For the GT500, reports indicate Ford is testing a twin-turbocharged 5.0-liter V-8 that could produce in excess of 700 horsepower. Prepare your right foot and bank account balance accordingly.

Will fuel economy improve?

Most likely not, given that powertrains will likely carry over and thus, so will 2016 EPA city/highway/combined mileage estimates. Those were: V-6 Fastback manual: 17/28/21; V-6 Fastback automatic: 19/28/22; EcoBoost Fastback manual: 22/31/25; EcoBoost Fastback automatic: 21/32/25; GT Fastback manual: 15/25/19; GT Fastback automatic: 16/25/19; EcoBoost convertible automatic: 20/29/24; GT convertible automatic: 15/24/18; GT350/GT350R manual: 14/21/16. EPA estimates for manual-transmission convertibles were not available at the time of this writing. Should the GT500 come to pass, we would project its fuel economy to be less than that of the GT350, most likely around 13/20/15 mpg. The GT350 and GT350R are subject to a $1,300 gas-guzzler tax. The GT500 will probably see one, too. Figure on a $1,500 tariff, if not more.

Will it have new features?

Ford is continuously evolving the Mustang lineup, often adding more than just new paint colors every year. Ford could very well concoct some new special edition option packages for 2017. For example, 2016’s “California Special Package” returns to the Golden State. It includes unique badging, wheels, and suede inserts for the seats. A new Pony Package includes polished aluminum wheels, an accent strip, and chrome-like trim pieces. A “Yellow Jacket” option nets yellow seat and trim stitching. GT models get “heritage-inspired” turn signal indicators on the hood vents.

How will 2017 prices be different?

They will almost certainly be higher, though still well within Mustang’s duty to remain accessible to a wide audience, from those who prioritize sporty appearance to race-track-serious muscle-car fanatics. Figure on coupes to start at about $26,000 with the V-6 engine, $27,000 with the EcoBoost four-cylinder, and $33,500 with the V-8 in the GT. Add roughly $4,000 to get into the Premium versions of the EcoBoost and GT and another $5,000 on top of that for the convertibles. For the Shelby GT350 and GT350R, you can expect MSRPs of about $49,000 and $63,000, respectively. We predict a $70,000-$75,000 starting figure for the GT500. Note that our pricing estimates are inclusive of the mandatory destination fee, which was $900 on the 2016 Mustang.

Don’t be surprised to see individual dealers adding their own markups to the high-demand, low-supply Shelby models. We can’t pinpoint an exact amount, but are pretty confident that it will be in the thousands of dollars. The range of cosmetic and convenience features is too long to list here. A few of the highlights are extra cost paint colors, racing stripes, 12-speaker Shaker radio, navigation system, blind-spot alert, and rear-obstacle detection. EcoBoost models can add a Performance Package for about $2,000, which includes a limited-slip differential, unique 19-inch wheels on summer-only tires, specific chassis and suspension tuning, larger brakes, and a larger radiator. Standard on the GT350R and a $6,500 option on the GT350 would be the Track Pack, which includes magnetic suspension dampers, engine oil, transmission, and differential coolers, heavy-duty front suspension springs, carbon-fiber wheels and rear spoiler, and other go-faster gear.

When will it come out?

The GT500 could see an introduction in the summer of 2016 with the rest of the 2017 Mustang line released in late summer or early fall.

Best competitors

Chevrolet Camaro and Corvette, Dodge Challenger

What change would make it better?

The company has already addressed one of the biggest complaints about its products with the introduction of Sync 3. While we appreciate blind-spot alert being available on this car, we wish it were a standalone option instead of being part of pricey option packages. Better still would be to group it with forward-collision warning, pre-collision braking, and rear cross-path detection. Unfortunately none of these other safety features are offered on any Mustang. Other than that, there’s very little of consequence we would change about the 2017 Ford Mustang. These are wonderful sporty cars that blend classic American muscle car styling elements with modern engineering prowess.

About Chuck Giametta

This nationally recognized, award-winning writer brings to two decades of automotive testing and reporting for newspapers, books, magazines, and the Internet. The former Executive Auto Editor of Consumer Guide, Chuck has covered cars for, Collectible Automobile magazine, and the Publications International Ltd. automotive book series. This ex-newspaper reporter has also appeared as an automotive expert on network television and radio. He’s a charter member of the Midwest Automotive Media Association, the president of the Rocky Mountain Automotive Media association, and a juror for the annual Active Lifestyle Vehicle of the Year awards. Chuck writes from Colorado Springs, Colo. If you have a question for Chuck, write to him at [email protected]