The 2011 Ford Mustang (pictured) just hit the show floor in Detroit earlier this month, but already talk of the next-gen model is circulating. The latest reports hint at a global platform and an independent rear suspension.
Hard as it may be to believe, the current Mustang still uses the solid-axle design of cars from the 1960s. Despite the low-tech suspension, the Mustang delivers a great deal of performance. The archaic mechanics do lead to some interesting driving characteristics, however, as we noted in our reviews of the 2009 Ford Mustang GT Glasstop and the 2010 Ford Mustang Shelby GT 500.
Updating to an independent rear suspension would finally put the Mustang on truly equal footing with the 2010 Chevrolet Camaro, though its current handicap doesn't appear to hold it back much in terms of real-world performance. That opens the door to the possibility that the lighter, somewhat smaller next-gen Mustang might wipe the floor with the Camaro. The next-gen Mustang is expected in 2014, according to the report, putting it squarely in the middle of the Camaro's product cycle--meaning Chevy would likely have to wait another two to three years before answering with its own updates. That date also marks the 50th anniversary of the Mustang, warranting some special treatment of the car.
Putting the Mustang onto a global rear-drive platform could also open the door to a more performance-focused vehicle, balancing the improved handling of the new chassis with a version of Ford's EcoBoost twin-turbo V-6 engine. Fuel efficiency, emissions and Ford's own future powertrain directions all point to this as a real possibility, though the 5.0-liter Coyote V-8 engine developed for the car won't be going into the bin anytime soon, either.
Earlier reports had put the next-gen Mustang on a variant of the Ford Falcon's rear-drive platform, but that model isn't doing so well in its homeland of Australia, and rear-wheel drive in general isn't particularly conducive to the lightweight packaging necessary to yield maximal fuel economy--a rising concern for any model that will be sold around the globe. Those countervailing factors put the Mustang-Falcon tie up on shaky ground, though as we're still four years out, things may well change.