In the age of turbocharged four-cylinder pony cars, it’s almost life-affirming to get into the driver’s seat of an honest-to-goodness, V-8 powered Mustang, give the starter button a hearty push and listen to that 5.0-liter V-8 (now with 460 horsepower) blatt out its morning greeting as it settles into a rumbling idle.
After all, let’s be honest—a charismatic V-8 engine has always been at the root of pony car lust and with anything less, there’s just too much time to bemoan a cheap interior, less-than-excellent suspension or sub-par build quality inherent to many of the pony car greats.
Except that in the 2018 Mustang, all of those typical weak points are actually pretty strong. The nearly all-black cabin in our Premium spec tester had handsome leather-trimmed seats with contrasting blue stitching, plenty of rich looking soft-touch materials, and metallic-finish rocker switches that all conspired to give the car a more upscale feel than in many other Mustangs we’ve driven.
Ergonomics in this latest ‘Stang have also improved and the overall interior design is strong—arguably the best yet for the model. More than that, the door shuts with a reassuring “thunk,” most buttons, dials, and switches have good tactile feedback and the eight-inch touchscreen display on the center stack runs new Sync 3 software which is far easier to navigate than previous versions, while also offering Apple CarPlay and Android Auto connectivity. Well done, Ford.
We especially liked the 12-inch digital instrument panel display, with a display that changes based on drive mode or user preference. In Sport mode on up, the display automatically changes to include a large horizontally-running tachometer—a functional aesthetic we liked so much, we kept it around for the duration of our week with the car.
We’re less positive on the Mustang’s 2018 exterior cosmetic refresh, with a somewhat bland and droopy looking nose, though LED headlights and taillights are now standard equipment and the GT, as our tester, gets a new quad-outlet exhaust system. Our car included the active exhaust option, which takes the exhaust note from mild to almost obnoxiously loud in Track mode, via a remotely actuated flap. We confess to keeping the car in Track exhaust mode nearly all the time, even if the drive mode was more tame (see the first paragraph for why).
Fortunately, the engine performs as healthily as it sounds, powering eagerly and linearly (thank goodness for naturally-aspirated engines) to its near-7,500 rpm redline. With a total output of 460-hp and 420 lb-ft from the 5.0-liter Coyote V-8 (up 25 hp and 20 lb-ft this year), the 3,705-lb Mustang has no trouble getting down the road at lose-your-license speeds in a Manhattan second. It never approaches the fervor of the GT350’s flat-crank mill, but in everyday driving it’s still glorious overkill. Pony car excess at its finest.
Sadly, the new 10-speed automatic transmission is a mixed bag. Most of the time, when just cruising along in the Normal drive mode, the 10-speed shifts almost imperceptibly smoothly—except when it doesn’t. Occasionally when you try to put some power down to pass, or moving away from a stop, you’ll get an oddly rough shift or two. Similarly unreliable is the transmission’s performance in Sport + mode, where it will generally hold gears for longer, avoid the top four gears and provide predictive downshifts when slowing for corners.
Sometimes the new transmission does this all pretty well, but other times it acts confused, not downshifting at all under heavy braking or holding gears under steady-state throttle. Manually operated downshifts are also a little more sluggish than we feel they should be, sometimes appearing slower than auto downshifts. We believe all pony cars are just more engaging with a manual transmission, but understand the advantages of an automatic transmission for many people. Even so, if you’re on the fence between an auto or a manual, we’d recommend the latter until Ford improves its new 10-speed’s programing.
The Mustang GT’s ride around less-than-perfect streets is pretty good for a car of its type, though our tester’s 255/40/19 Pirelli P Zero Nero tires undoubtedly made the ride a little firmer than the stock 18-inch setup and our car also had a tendency to tramline heavily on certain road surfaces. It could be that our car’s alignment was slightly out of spec, exacerbating the problem.
There’s no getting around the fact that today’s Mustang is a big car. It never really shrinks around the driver as some of the best large gran turismos do, making one always acutely aware of the mass being pushed around by that beefy engine. Still, the Mustang’s size makes it practical for a “fun” car and between the token rear seats and the relatively spacious trunk, a weekend—or a week’s—road trip is no problem for two people, including space for souvenirs.
Including $5,690 worth of options and the $995 destination fee, our tester rung in at $43,635—not cheap, but not terribly expensive for the experience and the performance this pony car offers. After all, there aren’t many 460-hp vehicles available for under $50,000 and brand loyalty is huge in this segment, so options from FCA or Chevy may be forgone conclusions to many would-be Mustang buyers. Nevertheless, for those who have been waiting years for a Mustang of their very own, there hasn’t been a better time to pull the trigger.
2018 Ford Mustang GT Specifications
|PRICE||$37,945/$43,635 (base/as tested)|
|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||188.5 x 75.4 x 54.3 in|
|0-60 MPH||4.4 sec (est)|
|TOP SPEED||155 mph|