The upcoming 2024 Ford Mustang will be more difficult for aftermarket companies to tune, according to the company's engineers.
As reported by Ford Authority, the automaker has taken measures to lock down the new Mustang's hardware. The new S650 Mustang is built on the company's Fully-Networked Vehicle (FNV) architecture. This introduces new features like over-the-air updates, but also includes cybersecurity measures to prevent unauthorized hacking or meddling by malicious actors. This has the side-effect of making it difficult for anyone but Ford to tune the engine by altering parameters like timing and fuel maps in the ECU.
Speaking to Ford Authority, Ford Mustang Chief Engineer Ed Krenz indicated that tuning will be much harder on the new model. That's due to the FNV architecture using encryption on the "full stack," referring to the entire suite of electronic hardware in the vehicle. Everything, including the ECU, is encrypted, and various modules in the vehicle must use authentication to communicate with each other. If authentication fails, the vehicle can shut down or lock out affected modules.
Similar measures have become common in the automotive industry. Security is important, as it's simply not safe to leave a car's computers open to running any given code. Various hacks have already been demonstrated where cars have had their braking or steering systems compromised wirelessly. Over-the-air update systems only open up a new attack surface, allowing hackers to potentially target more vehicles than ever before. Thus, it's imperative that automakers implement robust protections to prevent such behavior.
Whether you're keen on a cam upgrade or installing forced induction, tuning a new Mustang to suit will be harder. That's not to say it will be impossible, though. Unlocking factory ECUs is the bread and butter of aftermarket tuning companies, even if new models like the C8 Corvette are making that harder than ever. It's much the same story as the world of agriculture, where hackers are eagerly unlocking the hardware in John Deere's tractors.
Back in the old days, when factory ECUs weren't easily tunable, tuners would ditch the factory hardware entirely. Standalone engine management systems are readily available from companies like Holley and Motec, and can run a modern engine without issue. However, automakers guard against this by the sheer level of integration in modern vehicles. Everything from the power windows to the gauge cluster in a modern car relies on communication between multiple modules. Yanking one typically brings the whole thing crashing down.
Ford isn't strictly anti-tuning however. Various upgrades and tuning packages have been sold by dealers over the years, at times even available with a factory warranty. It may be that the new Mustang features more of these close third-party partnerships with tuners that have a relationship with Ford.
Regardless of Ford's efforts, though, one thing remains true. Mustang enthusiasts love their cars, they love fiddling around under the hood, and they're willing to pay for the privilege. With so many dollars up for grabs, one suspects the aftermarket will figure something out sooner rather than later.
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