We’ve had to the good fortune of testing not just one, but two 2018 Ford Mustang GT models (if you’ve missed it, check out our review from San Francisco here: http://www.mychinews.com/cars/2018-ford-mustang-gt), with slightly different options and trim, and it’s just reinforced our opinion that this is the best Mustang ever made. Sure, there are more classic and collectible ones, there are faster and higher performance ones available right now, but this everyday, run of the mill, basic 5.0 Mustang has become such a good performer that it deserves the title. And getting the chance to sample it twice eliminates any chance we were just on a high from that intoxicating V8 soundtrack. What makes this newest Mustang so great? Let’s dive in and find out.
First of all, the 2018 version has 25 more ponies under its bulging, sculpted hood. Now with 460hp, the 32-valve, 5-liter V8 is a snarling beast considering this is the ‘base’ engine. I’m going to ignore the EcoBoost Mustang for a minute, because everyone knows unless it’s a 5.0, it’s not a Mustang GT. Now making closer to 500hp than 400hp, the engine sings with an incredible note all the way to its 7000 rpm redline. Different driving modes change throttle response, steering and other factors, and our recent test car had the 4-way adjustable active exhaust, which allows you dial the sound from mild to wild. You can guess which one we chose!
To put that power in perspective, 25 years ago, a Mustang GT had the same 5 liter of displacement, but made less than HALF the horsepower, at only 220. The chassis was flexible, and the handling was sketchy at best. This newest version has sure footed stability of some of its European counterparts, without losing that edgy American muscle car charm. The handling is predictable and precise, and grip is prodigious – not the least of which is because of the huge, sticky Michelin Pilot Sport 4S tires.
When it comes to the transmission, there’s a tale of two Mustangs to tell. Many modern automatics have gotten so good, electronically, that they can feel as good as the best dual-clutch gearboxes. Some, like the Alfa Giulia QV and Cadillac CTS-V are even slightly better than the best dual-clutch transmissions. The 10-speed automatic in this Mustang? It is not among these elite. First off, 10 ratios for an engine with such a wide powerband makes for awkward gear selection. That many ratios suits a turbo engine with a narrow powerband much better. The shift is laggy with the steering wheel mounted paddles, and in automatic or sport mode, it always seems to be in the wrong gear. Short answer? Get the 6-speed manual. Seriously.
Equipped with the 6-speed manual, the Mustang GT just sings. From the smooth clutch take-up to the notch perfect shifter, it makes the experience of driving one so much better. You get a perfectly matched amount of ratios to choose from, and you get to choose when to use them. The wide powerband means you will always have some go under your right foot. Listen, if you want a Mustang GT and can’t drive a manual, then learn. It’s that much better so equipped.
Our test car had lots of luxury features baked in, like heated and cooled leather seats, Sync3 infotainment with the amazing Shaker Pro audio system. Active safety measures were selected, a bargain at $1000. All the options pushed our test car to $51k, $1600 of which being the pointless automatic gearbox. There are really only a few options worth considering for the hardcore enthusiast – the Performance Packs, #1 and #2, are must-haves. The lower package has Brembo brakes, bigger wheels/tires, and upgraded suspension. The better package adds amazing Recaro seats and active dampers along with some aero upgrades.
With a starting price of just $36k, and the PP2 coming in at $6500, you can have a pure performance-based version for under $43k. We think that is the best performance-per-dollar bargain on the market right now. With speed and handling that rivals cars that are double and triple the price, this Mustang represents what it has from day one. Affordable American performance. And it does so while looking the part, using just the right amount odes to the original combined with modern design fluidity. With Ford dropping cars from its lineup, and even though they have pledged to keep the Mustang – go get one while you still can!
Special thanks to Ford Motor Company for providing the 2018 Ford Mustang GT for review.