Reviews

2018 Ford Mustang Walk Around


The Mustang was redesigned for 2015, and the change was not universally accepted by Mustang fans. So for 2018 Ford has cleaned things up in the front and rear.

Headlamps, taillamps and bumpers have been tweaked, but more than that, the nose has been lowered, bringing out the shark. Only 20 millimeters, less than one inch, but it makes a striking difference; the car has a presence it didn’t have before. However we’re not sure what this will mean when parking with the nose against curbs. You might want to watch that.

The headlamps are more shapely and more deeply set, which accentuates the nose. New marker lights sit against vertical vents.

New taillamps are subtly angled and arced, making the back look slimmer. Unfortunately the optional spoiler looks like a low-cost aftermarket job, just slapped on. But fortunately, it only comes with the Performance Package, and buyers can tell Ford to keep it. Ford doesn’t even charge extra, for declining this inferior product.

Interior

It’s safe to say that most Mustangs are owned by single people or couples, and for them the seating is great. All three types of bucket front seats work well: the base fabric upholstery, leather and upgraded leather, or Recaro sport seats. They are comfortable around town and supportive in the corners. They’re a bit snug, announcing the car’s preparedness if not intention, but the side bolsters are soft enough to give. And there’s a wide range of adjustment, so even tall drivers have enough headroom and legroom in front.

Don’t expect much from the rear seating. The Mustang is a 2+2, not a four-seat sedan. So the legroom is seriously limited back there. With just 29 inches, it’s less than the Camaro. But at least the two slim seats are supportive, as occupants sink in.

Climbing in and out is a challenge without hitting your head on the roofline, although it’s easier than the Camaro which has even less headroom.

The most fun rear passengers will have is in the convertible, with the top down. It’s a breeze to squeeze in and out standing up, and with infinite headroom, they’ll forget about their cramped knees. So, if rear passengers are part of your lifestyle, consider going topless.

The trunk size is slim, too; so a road trip will fill the trunk and the rear jump seats. But compared to the Camaro, the Mustang’s trunk is massive: 13.5 cubic feet vs 9.1 cu ft. Comparing convertibles, it’s Mustang 11.4 v Camaro 7.2. However when you bring in the Dodge Challenger hardtop, its 16.2 cubic feet blows the Mustang away.

The Mustang came back in 2005 as retro, but Ford went too far retro with the cabin. Primitive ugly instrumentation and hard plastics. It got better with the 2015 refresh, but for 2018 disappointments remain. Despite handsome fabric or leather inserts, the upper doors feel cheap and hollow. The center console has premium elements around the shifter, but still is the same story as the doors.

The centerstack has a nice design, and the Premium model features sweet toggle switches. The plastic background looks perfectly like machined aluminum. Carbon-fiber is available that replaces the plastic with carbon-fiber galore, on the instrument panel, doors, spreading onto the gearshift knob. Curiously, it’s not available with the digital dash panel or available Recaro seats.

The cabin improvements are all on the options list. The Equipment Package makes it classier. Upgraded leather comes in basic black, red, or cool black with blue piping. It also adds heated and cooled front seats, Sync 3 infotainment system with an 8.0-inch touchscreen, and dual-zone automatic climate control.

The optional digital instrument panel comes only with the Premium trim. It’s on the driver’s side and is focused on driving information. With programmable gauges, it gives an upscale air to the cabin, over the basic analog gauges.

Driving Impressions

The performance of the 2018 Mustang is more complete and compelling than it’s ever been. Not only for the new power and available active magnetic suspension, but also for its stout brakes and steering rack that’s weighted just right.

They used to call the V6 Mustang a chick’s car, with its lower power output, and it was a favorite of young women. Now with the V6 gone, will the EcoBoost twin-turbo continue to be a chick’s car? They won’t have to say it’s only a V6, they can boast that it’s a twin-turbo. No question twin turbo sounds hotter than V6.

The base 2.3-liter four-cylinder turbocharged engine gets more torque, making it easier to drive because torque means grunt, responsiveness. Ford engineers learned a lot from the Focus RS with its same-sized engine. The horsepower remains the same, at an awesome 310; but the torque blasts up from 320 to 350 foot-pounds. Picture secretaries doing burnouts.

The new 10-speed automatic transmission is the result of a joint project between Ford and General Motors. The 10-speed has worked in the Ford F-150, Expedition, Lincoln Navigator, Chevrolet Camaro ZL1, and GM’s full-size SUVs.

With the 2.3-liter engine, the upshifts and downshifts are crisp and predictable, and not just when the car is set in a sporty or performance driving mode, but even when it’s in the normal driving mode.

But the 10-speed transmission doesn’t work with the 5.0-liter twin-cam V8 engine, which revs quickly and has so much power. Or at least the programming in the GT model we drove during our test drive in Southern California wasn’t right. It felt like there’s just too much engine for the 10-speed to handle. During our seat time, the transmission seemed to get confused, and was sometimes slow to respond.

We drove a Mustang with both the Performance Package and Magnetic Ride Control, features that theoretically make it the most agile and composed Mustang ever built. In Sport mode, the dampers stiffen to produce handling that’s sharp and steady even on rough roads, forgiving in terms of balance, predictable, composed. It’s much advanced over the old solid rear axle.

When the dampers are set to their softest mode, and the exhaust system to its quietest tuning, the Mustang feels like a grand touring car.

The staggering Shelby GT350 uses a 5.2-liter V8 and the magnetic-damper suspension. It’s a bit brittle on the street; it belongs on the track. See Motor Authority’s first drive of the Ford Shelby GT350.

The GT with its V8 can accelerate from zero to sixty in less than four seconds, a stunning performance at its low price point. The active exhaust system makes it downright charming. You can tune the exhaust as easy as you turn up the volume on your TV. From almost silent, to the deep base of a V8 rumble, to a menacing bellow.

And last but not least you can do flawless burnouts at the push of a button and press of a pedal, thanks to Ford’s hilarious electronic line lock, standard equipment.

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