Ford debuts Mustang convertible and revised Focus

  • 22-Apr-2014 12:56 EDT
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Ford celebrated the 50th anniversary of the introduction of the Mustang by pulling the wraps off this year's new favorite drop-top tropical vacation rental.

Ford turned the page on the final chapter of the 50th anniversary extravaganza for the company’s signature performance car, the Mustang, when it revealed the convertible edition of the car at the same show where the original Mustang debuted a half-century ago—the New York auto show. The company also revealed a 50th anniversary special edition of the Mustang in a bid to wring the last bit of interest out of the landmark, plus the new U.S.-market Focus four-door sedan.

The new Mustang convertible was engineered in conjunction with the development of the hardtop model, reported Raj Nair, Group Vice President of Ford global product development. The new convertible is 13% stiffer in torsional rigidity than the previous model thanks to a combination of having a stronger foundation in the new Mustang’s chassis from expanded use of high-strength steel and the addition of extra bracing in places such as the rocker boxes, he explained.

“We designed the vehicle from the beginning as a convertible,” Nair said. “Because of a lot of the stuff in the lower end of the body structure, you’ll notice less typical convertible weakness when you are driving it,” he continued.

Another by-product of that designing with the convertible top in mind is that the stack of the stowed roof now sits 6.7 in (170 mm) lower than before, giving the 2015 Mustang convertible a much sleeker appearance. “We protected for the convertible stack from the beginning,” assuring there is space for the folded roof within the body shell so it doesn’t have to sit atop the body.

Designers also tweaked the convertible’s sheetmetal to exploit the cleaner lines made possible by the lower roof stack. “We committed to giving Mustang convertible a unique look from the fastback, with the clean, cohesive design it deserved,” declared Exterior Design Director Joel Piaskowski. “From the raised and straightened muscle line on the rear haunches to the recontoured trunklid, the new Mustang convertible has a more linear quality, whether the top is up or down,” he added.

Engineers also attacked the details of the convertible solution, said Chief Engineer Dave Pericak. Mustang finally got a fully lined Z-folding convertible top mechanism, so the folded roof uses its own outer surface to form a boot cover when the top is stowed. The full lining will give occupants a degree of peace and quiet unlike in previous Mustangs, which might help the car shed it image as a cheap car with a big engine.

The roof gets a full fabric outer layer and a full inner headliner, with a 10-mm (0.4 in) insulation pad between them to quiet noise from outside the cabin. The roof mechanism fastens with a single center latch, allowing one-handed release from the driver’s seat. The new electromechanical power system not only folds the roof in 7 s—half the time of the old car—it also does it more quietly than the previous electrohydraulic system.

“When you are sitting in the driveway or at a traffic light and you decide you want to enjoy some sunshine, you shouldn’t have to wait around for the top to lower,” said Pericak. “Our team worked to engineer a retractable roof that gets out of the way or closes up quickly and quietly.”

They also focused on the rear quarter windows, which are fixed in the fastback by must retract in the convertible. “A great deal of effort went into details such as the shape of the rear quarter windows so that they could drop completely out of sight when the top is down,” he said.

A practical benefit of the new Mustang’s independent rear suspension is that it freed up space in the trunk for more luggage. A 19% increase means there is now 11.4 ft³ (323 L) inside the truck, room enough to achieve that all-important benchmark, the ability to load two golf bags inside.

Ford also used the occasion to tout the new 50 Year limited-edition Mustang, a car that will be built in a limited run of 1964 units, in tribute to the year of the car’s launch. The 50 Year car is basically a 2015 Mustang GT fastback loaded with all the options and dressed with some unique appearance details.

The 50 Year car mounts a horse badge in its grille that is encircled by a chrome outline that the Mustang faithful refer to as the “corral.” It also has chrome trim around its three vertical taillight bars. “Chrome trim was much more prevalent in the 1960s than it is today, so we added some discrete highlights for the grille, side glass, and tri-bar taillights,” said Vice President of Design Moray Callum.

The finish touch is installation of unique layered rear quarter windows that evoke the louvers mounted on the windows of the original fastback cars without obstructing the view out of the car any further than today’s rollover protection structure already does.

The anniversary cars are available only in Wimbledon White, an original Mustang color, or Kona Blue and the only hardware option is a to replace the six-speed manual transmission with a six-speed automatic.

Left decidedly in the shade on Mustang’s big day is the compact Focus, which debuted its four-door body style for the refreshed 2015 edition of the car. Ford sees itself as the standard-bearer for cars with superb ride and handling dynamics, said Nair. That meant that pressure from its former “zoom-zoom” subsidiary is keeping the Focus team on its toes. “Our friends at Mazda have done a pretty good job with the Mazda3,” he acknowledged.

That has meant stiffening the suspension mounting structure and using it to anchor revised shock absorbers and stiffer bushings, Nair said. Ford also reprogrammed the electric power steering for improved feel, he added.

A rear-view backup camera is standard equipment on all 2015 Focus models, as is the MyKey feature that lets drivers limit what kids and valets can do with their cars. A blind-spot-warning system and heated steering wheel debut as available options on the Focus and the fuel-sipping 1.0-L three-cylinder EcoBoost engine makes its first appearance in the U.S.-market Focus.

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