Special Coverage

Greater L.A. Auto Show

Ford will roll out a stable of refreshed and modified pony cars at the Los Angeles Auto Show this week as it strives to keep the Mustang at the forefront of a competitive segment that includes the Chevrolet Camaro and Dodge Challenger.

While a couple of specialty Mustangs are set to debut, the changes to the core models – the 5.0L V-8 and 3.7L V-6 – likely are the cars that will appeal most to mainstream consumers and help Ford make headway in the segment.

The ’13 Mustang receives a number of design enhancements including a more aggressive grille, new hood and light-emitting-diode and high-intensity-discharge lighting. Auto makers increasingly are using the lighting technology to craft unique brand identities. With the new Mustang, LED “ropes” are used to form the marque’s familiar 3-bar taillights.

The taillights, which fire sequentially, are connected by a high-gloss black panel that Ford says unifies the rear and gives the car an upgraded look.

Upfront, high-intensity discharge headlamps come standard on both the V-6 and V-8 GT cars.

“The HID and LEDs really give the car a unique look during the day and at night,” Puneet Sahi, Mustang product marketing manager, tells WardsAuto. “With the signature lighting, we wanted to portray a family of Mustangs.”

In a unique lighting touch, the puddle lamps, which are mounted on the mirrors and beam down when the unlock button is activated, project an image of the iconic Mustang pony symbol. Sahi describes the customized lamps as a “surprise-and-delight” feature that should appeal to Mustang customers.

“The pony symbol goes to the passion the team has,” he says. “They are customers of the car and like to work on it and come up with creative solutions like that.”

New technologies carry into the cockpit, where Ford’s new Track Apps feature allows drivers to monitor their acceleration, g-force and braking on a 4.2-in. (10.6 cm) LCD screen. The auto maker’s Sync infotainment system comes standard on all Mustang models, as does a voice-activated navigation system with touch-screen display.

Under the hood, the ’13 Mustang retains the 3.7L V-6 and 5.0L V-8 found in the up-level GT model. The new V-6 makes 305 hp and 280 lb.-ft. (379 Nm) of torque, while the V-8 delivers 420 hp and 390 lb.-ft. (538 Nm). The current-generation V-8 produces 402 hp.

Ford says it was able to add the extra horses through lessons learned during development of the 444-hp V-8 in the Mustang Boss 302, although it declines to describe the modifications. Sahi says about 60% of buyers opt for the V-6.

Those who purchase specialty Mustangs, such as the refreshed ’13 Boss 302 and Shelby GT500, are a different breed, he says. “They’re definitely people who are more into track use or more nostalgic with the Boss and its history. They are definitely enthusiasts, and we definitely have some collectors.”

The ’13 Boss 302 receives a number of visual enhancements including “School Bus Yellow” paint and “Sterling Gray” accents, and a hockey-stick graphics package, all nods to the Boss 302 of the 1970s.

Similar to the redesigned base-Mustang lineup, the Boss front end offers a more aggressive design and grille, combined with a new splitter and functional hood extractors. The model has HID headlamps and LED taillamps.

Mechanical upgrades include a beefed-up suspension, higher-rate coil springs, stiffer suspension bushings and a larger rear stabilizer bar.

The engine is the carryover 5.0L V-8 that produces 444 hp and 380 lb.-ft. (515 Nm) of torque and is mated to a short-throw 6-speed manual transmission.

Ford says the new ’13 Shelby GT500 features the most-powerful production V-8 in the world. The 5.8L supercharged mill produces 650 hp and 600 lb.-ft. (813 Nm) of torque and boasts a top speed in excess of 200 mph (322 km/h). In comparison, a NASCAR Busch Series car makes an estimated 600-650 hp.

“Engineers are excited about delivering 650 hp,” Sahi says. “It’s the holistic approach. Horsepower is part of the story, but so is overall performance.”

Ford says nearly every part of the powertrain has been optimized to handle the high horsepower, including a new supercharger, cross-drilled block and heads, updated camshaft profiles, new carbon-fiber driveshaft and upgraded clutch, transmission and axle.

“Significant aerodynamic work was done” to keep the car thoroughly planted at high rates of speed, Ford says, noting the front fascia and splitters also are modified to handle extreme loads.

“It might just seem like we’re putting a bigger engine into the car, but it’s been a balanced approach through and through,” says Jamal Hameedi, SVT chief engineer.

Pricing for all the new Mustangs will be announced close to their on-sale dates in spring 2012, Ford says.

bpope@wardsauto.com