I was pretty late to the proceedings on the FP, so I’ll put my supposed comment here instead.

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The thing I was most surprised about isn’t that Ford will make a hybrid Mustang, although that news did blow me away. What surprised me mote was that it came from Ford at all. This is the kind of move I thought Ze Germans would have made a year or two ago, what with Dieselgate and a more concerted push for electrification. This is the kind of announcement I thought Audi would make: a hybrid TT-R, electric TT, and hybrid RS5, for example. Sure, BMW has the i8 and the Scribes say it drives awesome, but otherwise it did not completely catch on.

But then, the New NSX did prove that it takes a lot of haranguing to make a supercar faster with a hybrid system than without it, and even then the gains aren’t that big, or any big gains in one area could be offset by anything lacking in key driving metrics. Some have said that the hyper-hybrids could be just as fast with no hybrids; some say even faster, so it’s not hard to see that the liwer down the tier you go, the less you gain, or worse, the more you lose.

The marque, then, is beset with an engineering challenge: how do I make my sportscar economical in terms of fuel consumption while still being able to bring out the best in the driver and satisfying said driver with sensations only a sportscar can give? Usually, a German marque emerges from the door and comes up with the idea, and then a new sub-market is born.

This makes the Mustang Hybrid announcement quite surprising, because it involves a make that you don’t exactly turn to for something like this, and it involves a car—rather, a nameplate— that has thrived in the sports and super classes by being the old dog that can hang with the young whipper-snappers. Thhis is an immense risk to take, one that can make or break the Mustang and Ford itself.

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Put another way: we’re not gonna be too shocked if a new Audi TT variant is revealed to be a hybrid and/or fully-electric on the day Ford announced the hybridization of the Mustang, and we probably wouldn’t look at it as keenly as this.

The sales performance of the Mustang Hybrid can have immense implications on the entire sportscar class. Worst-case scenario, the variant fizzles out, proving that sportscars can’t do a company environmental good no matter what you do to it, and must be cut like a human’s appendix. But if that car makes bank, we could see a new, true and competitive middle tier for the sportscar class, with the go of a top-line hardcore variant and the comfort & nimbleness of the base version while still feeling more upscale.

When the moment comes that the new, hybrid Mustang is revealed at Detroit, it will be scrutinized by more people more intensely than a G8 meeting on climate change. The moment a publication or show gets a hand on it and takes it to a road test, legions will flock and talk about it. How fast is it? How does it steer? Does it grip? Does it slide? Is the chassis up to the task? How does it sound, both inside and out? Is it gonna stay working well with all the added things that could go wrong? And there will be people who would like to buy this too. They will be able to experience this without suspicion of being fed lobster by Ford Performance. Their testimony can get this car to open the door bigger or the run ends in three years and we go back to V8s.

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So much is on Ford’s shoulders now and for the next two years. They have all the timein the world to not do a CR-Z-esque hack job. Mustangs are bruiser types, so weight wouldn’t be an immense issue, but if they somehow make the next-gen Mustang as light or lighter as the S550, they’re in play.

They can do this and do it correctly, and when they DO do it, and it sells well, it’ll rewrite the rules of the sportscar jungle.