The skies are threatening as we pull up to the Monticello Motor Club, a picturesque private circuit carved out of a slice of the Catskills region of upstate New York. It’s not looking good. We’re here to drive a 2018 Ford Mustang GT dialed up to 2—a car that’s been tuned for track day duty but one that’s also tame enough to saddle up and drive every day. We’ll drive it if Mother Nature cooperates, that is.
As we wait for the tarmac to dry out and pray to the track gods that it doesn’t start raining again, we hop in for a short road loop in a GT fitted with Ford’s new Performance Pack Level 2 option. Officially announced at last year’s SEMA show, the PP2 is only available for the Mustang GT and serves as a further countermeasure to Chevy’s potent 1LE package for the Camaro.
The most noticeable updates to the car are quite literally busting out of the GT’s wheel wells: four 305/30 R19 Michelin Pilot Sport Cup 2s, the same summer-themed rubber that also pounds the ground at the front of the Shelby GT350R. They’re wrapped around stainless painted aluminum rims specific to the package sized 19 x 10.5 inch front, 19 x 11 inch rear (the same rim dimensions as the base GT350). The word overtired comes to mind, but we’d rather have it that way than the other way around. According to a Ford engineer we spoke with, there were a lot of internal discussions around the tire package, which just barely meets U.S. regulations of how far outside of the fenders a tire can be.
This isn’t the type of rubber that’s going to help soak up road imperfections on a Sunday drive. But let’s be honest, if you’re buying a Mustang GT fitted with the Performance Pack 2, you know what you’re getting yourself into—or at least you should. Besides the tire/rim combo, you’re getting yourself a standard MagnaRide suspension system and other chassis updates designed help the PP2-equipped pony car get around a track quicker, including a thicker front tubular (33.3 mm and 12 percent stiffer) and solid rear (24 mm and 67 percent stiffer) anti-roll bar than Ford’s Performance Pack Level 1 offering for the Mustang. The car has also been lowered by about a half inch. Aiding aero is a front splitter similar in scope to the unit fitted to the last generation Mustang Laguna Seca package, as well as a tidy rear lip spoiler, eschewing the small wing fitted to the PP1 cars.
Other “track inspired” adjustments include updates to the car’s ABS (six piston front Brembos clamp down on 15-inch rotors), stability control, and electronic power steering systems, and you can get your Performance Pack 2 car in any transmission you want, as long as it’s a six-speed manual—and there was much rejoicing throughout shift-for-yourself land.
From what we could glean from our brief on road stint, this isn’t a setup that’s going to brutally punish you away from the track, but one that will remind you what this car has been set up to do in the form of some minor tramlining and a tauter overall feel than the base GT. At the heart of the Performance Pack 2 GT is the same engine found across the updated 2018 Mustang GT lineup, its 5.0-liter naturally aspirated V-8, now packing 460 ponies and 420 lb-ft of torque thanks to direct and port fuel injection and a host of other minor updates. There are few automotive sounds in the world sweeter than the guttural-punchiness of a Coyote-powered Mustang at full chat, especially so when Ford’s new active valve exhaust system is belching out its sportiest tune. The manual tranny is as good as it has been in the Mustang, with short, tight throws and a clutch pedal that doesn’t wear out your left leg. The PP2 also comes with available Recaro thrones in either cloth or leather that envelop you without thrashing your back or cocooning you too much. You need to cough up the extra scratch for them.
As we pull back into the facility’s south clubhouse, things are heating up out on the track. Helmet and HANS donned, it’s time to get it on. It was my first time here, so an instructor hops in to help me get familiar with the layout. As he barks instructions in my ear, I attempt to process what’s going on with the car during my four laps (two hot) on Monticello’s technical 1.6-mile south course configuration. It corners well alright, flatter than any other example of the current Mustang GT that I’ve driven, and its steering seems a tad sharper at first turn. This car is meant to bridge the performance gap between the base GT and the GT350s, and it seems to be in that sweet spot. More laps would be helpful though.
Not to worry, we’ve got hours left to go and a couple of Performance Pack 1 equipped cars to take out for some back-to-back evaluation. But here comes the rain again, falling on the track, making us sad and blue. We spend the rest of our time at Monticello looking forlornly out the window, watching the rain fall and dreaming of a day that could have been.
Looking at the spec sheets, a little more than 35 large will get you a stripper GT equipped with PP2, which seems like a pretty smoking deal to us. Of course, you can option them up past $50,000 if you want the full boat 2018 GT PP2 with every safety, convenience, and tech package Ford offers for the Mustang GT. We’re guessing most Performance Pack 2 equipped cars will fall in the mid-40s.
We were bummed we didn’t get more seat time to get a better feel for the car, and Team Ford was bummed for us. But hey, the weather is the weather. Ford assured us there will be more opportunities to drive the 2018 Mustang GT PP2 in anger soon. That was good to hear, because our short stint wasn’t nearly enough.
2018 Ford Mustang GT Performance Pack Level 2 Specifications
|ENGINE||5.0L DOHC 32-valve V-8/460 hp @ 7,000 rpm, 420 lb-ft @ 4,600 rpm|
|LAYOUT||2-door, 4-passenger, front-engine, RWD coupe|
|EPA MILEAGE||15/25 mpg (city/hwy)|
|L x W x H||190.0 (est) x 75.4 x 54.3 in|
|WEIGHT||3,800 lb (est)|
|0-60 MPH||4.1 sec (est)|
|TOP SPEED||155 mph|