DETROIT -- By the time the next-generation Ford Mustang debuts in 2014, it will have worn a decidedly retro look for nearly a decade. From the styling to the chassis to the raw power, the pony car remains a throwback and a simple, true American pleasure.
Expect that mantra to continue, but the execution will evolve, moving the Mustang forward into a broader, potentially global audience as it nears a half century of performance.
The changes will begin under the hood. Ford brass have confirmed that an Eco-Boost engine will be added to the future portfolio. A smaller-displacement, high-output V6 (code-named Nano) would provide ample grunt while likely improving efficiency.
That will be key for the Blue Oval, as it has the power element of the Mustang down cold, from a strong, naturally aspirated V6 rated at 305 hp to the eye-popping 662-hp supercharged V8 Shelby GT500, capable of eclipsing 200 mph.
Also, Ford will finally eschew the live rear axle in favor of an independent rear suspension, likely adding a bit of modern refinement to the occasionally raw (though energetic) feel of the contemporary car, which swings out easily from the tail.
The biggest changes -- likely to spur some discussion and perhaps controversy -- will center on the design. Reports have said that the Mustang will adopt some of the look of the Evos concept that debuted at the 2011 Frankfurt motor show and which has formed the basis for the appearance of the 2013 Fusion. With its prominent grille, sleek yet curvy sides and relatively sporty stance, the car received solid reviews and is generally appealing to the eye.
Don't expect the Mustang to look like an Evos or a Fusion, but it's a strong possibility that the pony car would get cues that evoke that European line of styling.
While the car has had a retro theme since the arrival of the 2005 model, Ford could use the Evos design language to give the Mustang a more modern look, while still maintaining the character of a sports car. If received favorably, that could spark sales, as the Mustang has been deadlocked this year with the Chevrolet Camaro in volume. Plus, it's worth noting that the 'Stang has not always had a heritage appearance.
Ford is also thinking broader with the new Mustang, using it in European marketing, even though the car isn't sold there. A Shelby GT500 thundered up the famous hill at the Goodwood Festival of Speed in July in the United Kingdom. The 'Stang will also go on sale in the Philippines in September.
Short of Chevrolet's C7 Corvette, the Mustang is perhaps the subject of the most rumors and speculation of any machine set to debut in the coming years. Ford is closely guarding details, even as the anticipation reaches a fever pitch.