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Hands-On With The 2024 Mustang's Dashboard Convinced Us Ford's Unreal Gamble Pays Off

The stakes are high when you're trying to add technology to a bonafide automotive icon. Nobody would deny that the Ford Mustang is a legend in the auto world; similarly, few would argue with the suggestion that Mustang fans can be vocal in their disapproval of how Ford handles the nameplate. The outrage — still simmering more than three years later — over the Mustang Mach-E borrowing the pony car's brand for an all-electric crossover is evidence enough of that.

For the 2024 Mustang, then, the challenge is considerable. On the one hand, Mustang loyalists know what they like and aren't shy in reminding you. At the same time, the industry's focus on SUVs, trucks, and crossovers has already seen most of the Mustang's passenger car range-mates axed. If the seventh-generation Mustang coupe and convertible are to stay competitive and build a new audience of enthusiasts, Ford can't keep doing the same thing.

With iteration off the table, innovation has to weigh in. That's where a dashboard blessed with features more familiar from video games comes in, and in a preview SlashGear attended this week ahead of the new Mustang's arrival in Summer 2023, the charm proved more than just skin-deep.

The current, sixth-generation Mustang has a digital driver display added in the model year 2018 refresh. The optional 12-inch instrument cluster ditches the analog dials in favor of virtual versions, but can also morph into different layouts depending on drive mode. Though it looks a little shoe-horned into the otherwise unchanged dashboard, the reception has been overwhelmingly positive, according to Ford's Craig Sandvig, Design Manager on the automaker's Digital Product Design team.

For the 2024 Mustang, the changes feel far more cohesive. The aging SYNC 3 has been ousted, and its relatively small center touchscreen; in its place, all versions of the seventh-generation car will get a pair of customizable displays. The driver will get a 12.4-inch cluster, while a 13.2-inch center touchscreen will run SYNC 4's multimedia, navigation, and settings interface.

In the base-spec Mustang, the two panels will be separate. However, more expensive trims will seal them inside a single piece of curved, canted glass, for a more seamless presentation. Instantly, it leaves the pony car feeling far more modern.

Part of the retrofit feel of the current Mustang's digital upgrade was how otherwise Ford's controls stayed much the same. That's not the case here, where the 2024 Mustang's designers have pared back physical buttons and switches, though sensibly not done away with them entirely.

SYNC 4 has a persistent row of HVAC controls along the bottom of the screen — they stay present even if you're using wireless Apple CarPlay or Android Auto — helping trim the physical buttons to a single row. There's still a volume knob, but otherwise, things are limited to engine start/stop, a "pony" button that summons the drive modes UI, traction control on/off, hazard blinkers, a programmable shortcut key, and finally window defrost.

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