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The S550 Ford Mustang saw revolutionary design and upgrades on an already storied car. However, it sprang to popularity on the shoulders of one of the most recognizable Mustang designs since the first generation. The S197 Mustang generation enjoyed tenure, special editions, and movie fame. So then, what is an S197? 

What is an S197 Mustang? 

The S197 is the codename that Ford gave the fifth generation of Mustang muscle car. Ford first teased the retro-inspired body at Detroit’s famed North American International Auto Show in January of 2003. Although the car wouldn’t go on sale until the release of the 2005 model year, America was pumped. The vehicle was a stylistic nod to the first generation of mid-to-late 1960s Mustangs and a far departure from the preceding Fox-4 cars. 

What is the difference between the S197 and S550?

As expected, the S197 is a bit more analog than the later S550. The former featured retro-inspired styling, like round headlights set in an angular fascia. Further, the S197 rode in on a new chassis from the preceding Fox-4 cars. Specifically, it shared the DEW98 platform with the existing Lincoln LS. Also, the fifth-generation Mustang featured a live rear axle, meaning that both rear tires act in conjunction with one another instead of working independently. 

This Ford Mustang GT500 is an S197
This Shelby GT500 is a S197 special edition Mustang | Steve Russell, Getty Images

Conversely, the S550 ditched the beloved retro styling for a Callum-inspired modern grand tourer look. Additionally, the newer Mustang featured independent rear suspension and a lower, wider stance. Ford crafted the S550 to be the next step in Mustang evolution and put European sports coupes on alert. 

What kind of engines were in the fifth-generation car?

The S197 got the obligatory V8 that Mustang owners have grown to expect. The first V8 in the fifth generation car was a 4.6L V8 with 300 horsepower. While that seems anemic by today’s standards, the S197 got a power bump from the resurrection of the 5.0L. Specifically, Ford unveiled the facelifted 2010 Mustangs with an available 5.0L Coyote V8, making a much more appropriate 412 horsepower. However, Ford soon upped that figure to 420 horsepower to compliment the later S197’s more aggressive visage. The Coyote-equipped fifth-generation muscle car didn’t arrive alone, however. According to MotorTrend, the V6 S197 produced 305 horsepower, even more horsepower than the 4.6L V8 of previous models. 

What were the best S197 Mustangs?  

This Ford Mustang Shebly GT500 badge is on an S197
The Shelby GT500 has always been a performance benchmark in the Mustang line | Steve Russell, Getty Images

Ford quickly partnered with Shelby to make some incredible S197 special editions. Early on, Ford sold Shelby GT Mustangs with Hurst shifters and stripes. Next, consumers could buy a Highland Green and blacked-out Bullitt GT homage to the Steve McQueen classic. 

However, the post-facelift 2010-up models provided the best canvas for powerful, timeless special editions. First, Ford unveiled a Mustang Boss 302 for 2012 and 2013. The striped muscle car packed a tweaked Coyote boasting 444 horsepower and tighter handling. Of course, Ford saved the best for last. Ford again partnered with Shelby American to produce another GT500. The final years of the S197 GT500, 2013 and 2014, came complete with a brutally powerful 662-horsepower supercharged V8 and a top speed of over 200 mph. 

Scroll down to the following article to read more about the newer S550 Mustang. 


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