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Test Drive: 2018 Ford Mustang

A leaner, meaner and more athletic update to the iconic car

When it was first introduced in 1964, the Mustang quickly became a hero and inspired a new class of sporty coupe; the “pony car” was soon chased down the track by followers that included the Chevrolet Camaro, Dodge Challenger, and Pontiac Firebird—all of which gained notoriety for their low prices and high performance. Now in its sixth generation, the 2018 Ford Mustang, this iconic sportscar has been revamped inside and out for a mid-cycle refresh. We sampled the first two versions to come to market recently: the EcoBoost four-cylinder and the higher-horsed V8 that both get more horsepower and torque with improved emissions.

The legendary car has been updated with a more athletic persona and a leaner, meaner front and rear-end design. It’s also been endowed with added advanced technologies, more slippery aerodynamics, engine upgrades that bring more power, an all-new available 10-speed automatic transmission, and the same magnetic adaptive damper system found in the Shelby GT350. The latest Mustang gets painted with new colors and stripe options (including an all-new signature “Orange Fury” scheme), four spoilers, and a dozen alloy wheel choices.

Outside, Mustang’s athleticism takes the form of a lower, remodeled hood and grille, a new posture for the hood vents and front splitter for improved handling and fuel economy, plus a more wind-cheating body. For the first time, the entire Mustang line will feature all-LED front lights including signature lighting, low-beams, turn signals, efficient projector high-beams, and available LED fog lamps. Revised LED taillamps, and a new bumper, fascia, and available performance spoiler give the rear end a more “technical look,” says Ford. EcoBoost versions get standard dual-tip exhausts, while GTs are punctuated by a standard quad-tip design.

The updated cockpit is fitted with an all-new 12-inch LCD customizable digital instrument cluster created by ex-video-game developers that can be personalized with a variety of screen layouts, 26 color options, displays for up to eight gauges and unique views for normal/snow/wet, sport, and track/drag modes. A heated leather steering wheel is a first-time option and the instrument panel sports an updated Mustang badge. Also new is a hand-stitched wrap with contrast stitching that adorns the center console, and door handles, while rings and bezels are treated in an aluminum finish.

Cloth seats are standard, and leather is optional; surfaces have been restyled with new patterns and color choices, including tan, Showstopper Red, Midnight Blue with Grabber Blue accents, and Ebony with Alcantara suede accents.

Also new are SYNC Connect and a collection of updated driver-assist features, including pre-collision assist with pedestrian detection and automatic emergency braking; distance alert; lane-departure warning; lane-keeping assist; and driver alert systems. An available FordPass app for smartphones provides access to start, lock, unlock, and locate your car. Of note is a quiet or stealth-mode remote start that can be programmed to keep neighbors happy.

Gone for 2018 is the six-cylinder powerplant; 2.3-liter four-cylinder improves to 310 horsepower and 350 lb.-ft. of torque, while the thoroughly-reworked 5.0-liter gets 460 hp. and 420 lb.-ft. of torque. A revised six-speed manual transmission is standard; a new 10-speed auto, co-developed with General Motors and found in the new F-150 Raptor and Chevrolet Camaro ZL1, brings much quicker shifting, and can handle more torque than the previous generation transmission. Steering-wheel-mounted paddles allow manual shifts.

We drove both editions of the new Mustang on a drive in the Malibu Canyons’ area of southern California, finding the four-cylinder an attractive everyday driver that carries the Mustang genetics forward, with a small measure of spirit, and has a modest modicum of boosted power-especially when compared to its faster, sexier sibling. The GT made us swoon with its exterior and interior performance, and the raucous sounds and loud burbles that fill the cockpit and surrounding countryside when it’s pushed. Suspension and steering feedback inspired confidence and encouraged us to push the limits on the serpentine tarmac and along a few straightaways that made us long for a race track. Tall and efficient brakes mitigated the torque-on-tap and kept us in line, during our forays into selecting the Drag Strip mode.

Track drivers will be enamored to find electronic line lock is standard on both models. Designed for enthusiasts, it lets racers pre-warm their tires before the start of a race to enhance grip. And, the 12-inch digital cluster has an industry-first video game-like animation of a spinning alloy wheel that kicks up a cloud of smoke when line lock is activated. When Drag Strip mode is engaged, the GT has a 0 to 60 time in under four seconds.

Enhanced driving comes from new shock absorbers that bring a better ride control, a new cross-axis joint in the rear suspension that increases lateral stiffness, and innovative stabilizer bars that provide sharper response and handling. A GT Performance Package adds Michelin’s new Pilot Sport 4S tires; Pirelli P Zeroes are available with the EcoBoost Performance Package.

One of our top takeaways is the MyMode memory function that lets drivers program and save their favorite drive settings, including suspension, steering, and even engine note preferences (optional on GT models with active exhaust).

On sale now, the 2018 Ford Mustang continues its run as a prestige-laden icon. Its updates add power and panache and it’s available in EcoBoost, EcoBoost Premium, GT and GT Premium editions and Fastback and Convertible body styles, along with special packages. A Mustang Performance Pack Level 2 will go on sale in the spring of 2018, with a collection of drive-enhancing components such as an aerodynamically-balanced, high-performance splitter and a rear spoiler crafted to add downforce for high-speed cornering.

Images courtesy Ford


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