Driving with the girl in command of America’s final muscle automotive

New York

It appeared like a good suggestion on the time. Thrilling, really. I might take a journey in what’s going to quickly be America’s final gasoline-powered muscle automotive with the girl who’s in command of getting it into manufacturing and onto the road. However we had been in New York Metropolis, it was 4 within the afternoon and I ought to have recognized higher.

Laurie Transou just lately took over as Lead Program Engineer for the Ford Mustang. She’s in command of the ultimate changes and manufacturing roll-out of the brand new 2024 Mustang. As with each Mustang for the previous 59 years, this new one shall be obtainable with solely gasoline engines. Throughout what turned out to be a really lengthy drive over a really brief distance, I realized somewhat about her and about Ford’s determination to maintain the Mustang going after virtually 60 years.

Laurie Transou, Ford Mustang's chief program engineer.

Transou and others at Ford will inform you there’s an electrical Mustang, the Mustang Mach-E SUV. However we weren’t speaking about that Mustang. Due to the way in which Ford is now organized, with separate working divisions in command of gas-powered automobiles and electrical ones — Ford Blue and Ford Mannequin E, respectively — Transou isn’t in command of the Mustang Mach-E. That’s another person’s job.

As we took off, there was a burst of pace and throaty V8 engine noise as we blasted down Manhattan’s eleventh Avenue. Transou was behind the wheel as a result of journalists aren’t allowed to drive the 2024 Mustang till just a few issues get finalized. Nonetheless, I used to be getting what’s going to grow to be, over the approaching years, an more and more uncommon expertise.

Transou by no means spoke a foul phrase in regards to the Mustang Mach-E however, as somebody who realized how you can drive a handbook transmission automotive in a Mustang as a young person, she clearly has a private attachment.

“We’ve obtained our Mustang Mach-E. It goes extremely quick in a straight line,” she mentioned. “This Mustang can go quick, but it surely additionally has this wonderful dealing with and steering after which the exhaust notice. So every affords one thing a bit totally different.”

Plus, the Mach-E’s zero gas consumption helps maintain down Ford’s Company Common Gas Financial system, the quantity regulators have a look at. Which means Ford doesn’t have to fret as a lot about promoting these gas-burning two-door Mustangs.

The automotive we had been in, the Mustang coupe, is already an oddity within the American auto business. First, it’s the one precise automotive Ford at the moment sells in the USA. Each different Ford product bought here’s a truck or an SUV. Second, its foremost rivals, the Chevrolet Camaro and the Dodge Challenger, are each going out of manufacturing over the approaching 12 months. GM had already introduced it plans to promote nothing however electrical passenger automobiles by 2035 and, in addition to, the Camaro hasn’t actually been a match for the Mustang within the competitors that counts — gross sales.

As for the Challenger, it’s been standard however Stellantis, Dodge’s dad or mum firm, doesn’t at the moment have the electrical automobiles to offset gross sales of these large V8s for gas economic system and emissions laws. So Dodge plans to come back out with an electrical muscle automotive as an alternative.

Given room to breathe, the Mustang will stay — like a kind of dwelling fossil of an earlier age in motoring. That’s, in fact, a part of its ongoing allure, and possibly one of many causes Ford determined to not even supply a hybrid model, at the least for now.

Laurie Transou had this 1991 Mustang when she was younger.

“The selection for now was to lean into the ICE engine and all that an ICE engine delivers,” Transou mentioned, utilizing an business time period for an inside combustion engine.

Prospects who love the rumbling sound would possibly like a hybrid at a while “ought to we resolve to supply that,” she mentioned.

As soon as we’d gone just a few blocks on southbound tenth Avenue with little different site visitors, it was time to move again north or, in Manhattan parlance, uptown. That was once I realized our mistake. As soon as we turned again north, we had been headed towards the Lincoln Tunnel at rush hour.

The brand new Mustang Darkish Horse’s 500-horsepower V8 engine is simple. No turbocharging or something like that. And it’s nonetheless supplied with a handbook transmission of the type that Transou was utilizing, carrying out her left leg on the clutch pedal, hardly ever getting previous first gear in gridlock site visitors.

About 40% of V8 Mustang consumers get a handbook transmission, she mentioned, going for that really basic driving expertise.

“I feel when you discover ways to drive a handbook, it’s such an interesting, enjoyable expertise,” she mentioned. “It’s identical to you’re a part of the drive.”

Even from the passenger seat, this didn’t appear partaking and enjoyable.

The 2024 Ford Mustang Dark Horse.

The fashionable “excessive tech” choice, in terms of the Mustang is the 315 horsepower “EcoBoost” turbocharged 4-cylinder engine which, Transou identified, gives rather more energy than the massive V8 engine within the 1991 Mustang she had when she was younger. The environment friendly 4-cylinder will now solely be obtainable with an automated transmission. I complained about that — I preferred the 4-cylinder with the handbook transmission, a mix you may nonetheless get in right now’s Mustang — however I don’t assume she’ll change her thoughts.

As you would possibly guess, provided that she grew up with a Mustang and is now in command of the Mustang program, Transou has an attachment to Ford.

“I’ve been in and across the firm for over 30 years,” she mentioned.

Her father labored at Ford. Her husband additionally works at Ford. So do her father-in-law, her brother and her brother-in-law. So have all 4 of her kids.

Simply earlier than altering jobs to move the Mustang rollout, she broadly oversaw Ford’s Icon Manufacturers, which embody the Mustang, Bronco and F-150. She was concerned in plans for brand spanking new Mustang derivatives and particular editions. Irrespective of how lengthy we sat in site visitors, she wouldn’t expose something about any of that past the Darkish Horse mannequin we had been already sitting in. However derivatives, like expensive Shelby fashions, are how Ford could make numerous cash even with all of the costly improvement of engineering of what’s, primarily, a “area of interest” product.

For now, the longer term for the Ford Mustang is just that it’s nonetheless right here, it nonetheless rumbles, and she or he promised there’s extra information to come back.

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