2018 Ford Mustang GT Review
Isaac Bober’s first drive 2018 Ford Mustang GT Review with pricing, specs, performance, ride and handling, safety, verdict and score.
In a nutshell: Key changes to just about everything including a more-power 5.0L V8 and a genius 10-speed automatic make this more than just a refreshed Mustang.
2018 Ford Mustang GT 10SP Auto Specifications
Price From $65,990+ORC Price as tested $75,640+ORC Warranty five-years unlimited kilometres Safety three-star ANCAP Engine 5.0-litre V8 Power 339kW at 7000rpm Torque 556Nm at 4600rpm Transmission 10-speed automatic (as tested); six-speed manual Dimensions 4789mm (length) 1916mm (width) 1382mm (height) 2720mm (wheelbase) Boot Space 408 litres Spare tyre-inflation kit Weight 1756kg Fuel Tank 61 litres Thirst 12.7L/100km (claimed combined)
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MORE THAN 9000 Ford Mustangs found driveways to call home in 2017 making Australia the largest export market for the Pony car, and the largest right-hand drive market in the world. This means Australia now carries some sway, meaning quite a bit of the refreshed Ford Mustang you see here is a direct result of feedback from Australian consumers, journalists and the Ford locally.
What is the Ford Mustang?
Probably a silly question. The Mustang has been around for almost 50 years, but the 2015 model was the first one to go on-sale officially outside of the ol’ US of A. All that global pent-up interest resulted in huge sales helping it become the world’s best-selling sports coupe in 2016 and 2017.
And that brings us neatly to this refreshed 2018 Mustang. More than just a titivate the refreshed Mustang boasts a host of significant mechanical improvements as well as some styling nips and tucks.
For starters, everything forward of the front doors is new metal. You’ll notice the power dome has gone in attempt to make the Mustang look sleeker and more premium, and it’s worked, at least as far as my eyes are concerned. In its place is a character line that runs through the bonnet and up into the car’s shoulders and back into its rear haunches.
The headlights (modelled off an eagle’s eye) are LED now, across the range, and look great, especially the signature tri-bar (shark gill) daytime running lights – we couldn’t get them before because in Australia and Europe all vehicle lighting has to be functional, in the US they can be decorative, and so the things needed some jiggery-pokery to work as DRLs. The thing gets a new front bumper too. Around at the back there’s a new bumper with the tri-bar DRLs replicated as the brake lights with all lighting at the back also LEDs. There are new paint colours to choose from, sticker packs and a single-wing rear spoiler.
Move inside and there’s been a significant step-up in quality of the materials used and the general cabin layout, but we’ll go into this in more detail later in the review.
The car we tested at the local launch (GT Fastback AT) was priced from $65,990+ORC although this increased to $75,640+ORC with the cost-options fitted to it, and these were forged aluminium alloys ($2500); over the top sticker stripes ($650); single-wing rear spoiler ($750); Recaro leather 6-way powered seats ($3000); and MagneRide adaptive dampers ($2750). The revised Mustang EcoBoost will arrive here in September with prices starting from $49,990+ORC through to $74,338+ORC for the Mustang GT Convertible.
There’s more to the updated Mustang than just some new clothes. The 5.0-litre V8 offers more power and torque, there’s a genius new 10-speed automatic transmission (and uprated manual gearbox), a clever exhaust system and uprated mechanicals borrowed from the Shelby to handle the increase in grunt. And then there’s the adaptive dampers, sure, they’re a cost option but they’re an option you should budget for because they’re excellent.
What’s the interior like?
Swing open the door of the refreshed Mustang GT and you’re greeted with an interior that’s almost unrecognisable from the seemingly made-from-an-old-lunchbox plastic jobbie of the current car. Indeed, Ford said the more premium looking and feeling interior was a direct response to customer and media feedback and that the interior on Mustangs sold here is more ‘premium’ than in any other ‘Mustang’ market.
But what does that mean? Well, where on the current car the transmission tunnel is hard scratchy plastic it’s now wrapped in hand-stitched leather. The chrome dials, door handles and switch gear have been ditched for nicer looking and feeling brushed aluminium. The dashboard is soft-touch materials and the whole thing just feels so much nicer than before.
The refreshed Mustang has seen a new 12.3-inch digital instrument cluster replace the current car’s analogue arrangement and it’s excellent. It’s almost infinitely adjustable in terms of colour and layout.
At the top of the dashboard are three circular air vents, all harking back to Mustangs of yore with an 8.0-inch infotainment screen below offering Sync3 as well as Apple, Android and Waze connectivity. Sync is a clever infotainment system with a huge amount of functionality but visually it doesn’t look particularly slick but, hey, it gets the job done very well and that’s really all that matters.
Thankfully Ford hasn’t done what so many other car makers have done and try and cram everything into their infotainment system…volume controls are still hard dials, as is the climate control and the vehicle driving modes which are controlled via one-way toggles. There’s a USB port and small tray for your smartphone at the base of the centre console.
But it’s not all perfect, the handbrake is still too far away on our right-hand drive vehicles with Ford saying it was just too expensive to swap it to the other side and that’s fair enough, and the indicator and wiper stalks are straight out of the Focus and are almost impossible to see behind the steering wheel so maybe that doesn’t really matter…
There are four seats in the Mustang but it’s really only designed for two people. Even if you adjusted the front seats all the way forward there’d be bugger all rear-seat legroom. That said, there are ISOFIX mounts and top tether anchors although I’m not so sure trying to manoeuvre a baby into the back of the thing would be the easiest thing to do. Back to the front seats.
Our test car was a GT Fastback with the cost-optional part-powered leather Recaro seats (they don’t have the old seat’s heating or ventilation); there’s electric adjustment to move them up and down and fore and aft but the seat back is manual adjust only. The seats are comfortable and supportive; I got six laps of the track in the Mustang and a long, mainly straight drive to the track from Adelaide and I thought the seats were good with plenty of adjustment to get comfortable as either the passenger or driver.
Moving to the boot and there’s 408 litres of storage space (the convertible’s boot is smaller at 332 litres because of the roof mechanism) while the opening measures 640mm with 1010mm of room between the wheel arches, and the liftover height is 761mm. In plain English, the boot is big enough for two people and is easy to load and unload – the back seats are split fold. There’s no spare for the GT just an inflator kit, the EcoBoost Mustang offers a spare.
What’s it like on the road?
The launch loop consisted of a run from Adelaide Airport to the brand-new Tailem Bend Motorsport Park, some laps of the track and then a drive back to the airport. Feel free to Google it, but there isn’t a whole heap of corners on that drive, so I’ll reserve my final judgement on the Mustang until we’ve had it across our own test roads.
That said, I can attest to its ride comfort and the ease with which you can drive the thing. As mentioned, the car I drove was fitted with the cost-optional MagneRide variable dampers (which were previously only available on the Shelby GT350) and these things are worth every cent. Bumps and lumps in the road are dispatched virtually without a murmur being transmitted into the cabin, even the ripple strips on the race track didn’t upset the ride. The sensors are measuring 1000 times every second and there really is no way to describe the way the thing rides other than as, perfect. It’s bump-absorbing when it needs to be, and its firm when it needs to be, like when you’re tipping into a corner…virtually no bodyroll or pitching under brakes.
That’s not to suggest the thing is isolating because it isn’t. You do feel intimately connected to the Mustang’s doings it’s just that the suspension does a great job of making everything feel better and more agile than before. That said, I can’t, however, say anything about how the thing would feel on standard suspension (there wasn’t one available at the launch)… although, the standard suspension has been reworked, copping new shock absorbers and a new cross-axle joint which Ford says increases the vehicle’s lateral stiffness, there are also new stabiliser bars.
The steering too has been tweaked and can be adjusted via a handful of steering modes that will either add or remove weight but without feeling artificial. For me, ‘Normal’ felt fine with decent weight and a good direct action. There are paddle shifts on the steering wheel but unless you know what you’re doing and you’re on a race track I would just leave the transmission to its own devices, trust me, it’s way faster and smarter than you are.
And that brings me neatly to the new 10-speed automatic transmission; this is the same auto, albeit in a different state of tune, that will feature in the refreshed Ranger and Everest, and it’s awesome. It’ll happily sit in 10th at 67km/h and not feel like the thing’s labouring and even accelerate from there, or it’ll chirp through first, second and third down a drag strip when in Drag Mode, yep, Drag Mode…it’ll even count you down when launching via a set of lights that show on the digital instrument display ahead of the steering wheel.
From road to track the transmission is almost impossible to fault. Knock it into Sport on the track and the shifts are lighting quick and totally imperceptible; all you notice is a seemingly never-ending let-up in power being poured on. Should you fiddle with the flappy paddles when in Sport then the thing will hold onto a gear and bang off the redline until you change or the engine blows up.
I managed three laps of the track in a manual-equipped car which wasn’t really enough to comment with any sort of authority. What I did note was that the shift is a lot less meaty than the old manual, the throws are short and it felt well matched to the clutch for easy shifting even when going for it. But, for me, the auto is the only way to go.
There are numerous driving modes to choose from which will tweak everything from throttle sensitivity to the way the transmission shifts to the steering and traction and stability controls. And then you’re able to make even more adjustments to the way it sounds, yep, the exhaust is fully variable (thanks to a small baffle and electric motor to adjust it) and beyond sounding awesome in every setting now features a ‘quiet mode’ to ensure you don’t wake up the whole neighbourhood when leaving home early or sneaking in late at night, and it knocks the volume back, right through to redline, by about two-thirds.
And, so, we come to the engine. This third-generation Coyote V8 is now a genuine 5.0-litres (5083cc compared to 4951cc) and delivers both more power and torque compared to the old V8, now making 339kW at 7000rpm (redline is 7400rpm) and 556Nm of torque at 4600rpm, it’s up 33kW and 26Nm, respectively. Beyond the power and torque increase, the V8 has copped plenty of tweaking from direct and port injection to a higher compression ratio and even the same bore diameter as the engine in the Shelby GT350 with a plasma coating rather than the old engine’s pressed liner.
The V8 has enough grunt to get from rest to 100km/h in 4.3 seconds (automatic) and this engine married to the 10-speed automatic is a match made in the proverbial…not only does it sound amazing but no matter what you’re doing there’s just power and torque for days. And while peak power and torque arrive quite high in the rev range you wouldn’t know that from behind the wheel; a flex of your toe on the throttle is enough to see the thing leap ahead.
Trainspotters will notice the Mustang now wears Michelin rubber instead of the old Pirelli tyres and that’s because Ford said the old tyres just didn’t offer the performance it was after. Michelin produced the tyres for the Shelby and the same tyre engineer was asked to develop a set of tyres for this revised Mustang and they feel excellent offering impressive grip, even in damp conditions – the track was dripping wet when we arrived.
What about safety?
Ford’s run-in with NCAP has been well-documented. The old car received a two-star rating while this new car has just been handed a three-star rating. In addition to airbags and traction and stability controls, Brembo brakes and sticky rubber, there’s a host of new active safety features that weren’t on the old car, including autonomous emergency braking, adaptive cruise control and lane departure warning and lane keep assist. There’s also a reversing camera and rear parking sensors, self-levelling headlights and automatic high beam.
So, what do we think?
The 2018 Mustang GT is so much more than a refresh, there’s a raft of styling changes and a host of mechanical changes that have transformed this thing not just into the best Mustang ever, but into a grunty yet agile muscle car that can compete with the best of Europe’s sporting coupes.