After more than half a century as an all-American icon Ford finally gave the world a Mustang we could all enjoy. And after the initial hype, strong sales of over 6,000 cars here in the UK alone and an enthusiastic reception what has it learned for this ‘MY18’ update?
Basically, that we all wanted a louder exhaust on the V8 GT.
The good news is that Ford has more than delivered on this. Where the original GT sounded a little strangled and breathless this new GT fires up with a properly fearsome bark out of proper, slash-cut quad pipes. In an age of faked bumper trim exhaust outlets and electrically simulated engine noise this is exactly the kind of old-school character we want out of a Mustang, the standard Active Valve Performance Exhaust offering four levels of volume ranging from Quiet to Racetrack. You can even set a time-controlled ‘Good Neighbour Mode’ if you don’t want to share your V8 alarm clock with the rest of your street. As if anyone buys a Mustang GT to keep a low profile…
The V8 motor is also upgraded, gaining direct injection alongside the existing port system, a few more horsepower to round things out to 450ps/444bhp and another 500rpm in which to enjoy the extra ponies. In an age of diesel-like turbocharged four-cylinders the presence of a big-cube, naturally-aspirated V8 that thrives on revs remains a Mustang USP, especially at this price point. That it’s now got the ability to shout about it only makes it more appealing.
And more of an experience. At town speeds you’ll be tempted to drop the window (or roof if you go for the Convertible) just to enjoy the sound but at any speed the bassy V8 throb fills the cabin, delivering on the Mustang experience that just wasn’t there in stock form previously.
Another area identified for improvement was ride quality, a £1,600 variable damper set-up available on all models. Inspired by the GT350, this takes the same BWI Group MagneRide damper hardware and retunes it for the ‘civilian’ Mustang’s spring rates. In the car’s Normal mode it removes much of the harshness found in the first generation car and means it actually flows with the road rather than attempting to batter it into submission. The new Michelin Pilot Sport 4 tyres help too, the MY18 Mustang much improved in both roadholding and traction. In the Sport+ and Racetrack modes it ties the car down while remaining more comfortable and refined than a Focus RS in its similar setting and, while it’s an expensive option, it’s one well worth considering.
It’s the box we’d tick if we were pondering that or the similar money charged for the new 10-speed automatic gearbox. Ford is rightly making a big deal of this new transmission and it makes the two-pedal Mustang a much more sophisticated alternative for those seeking a more rounded car for the daily commute. On both the EcoBoost and GT it chops three tenths out of the 0-62mph time and on the V8 offers marginal gains in mpg and CO2. Left to its own devices in standard mode it’s unobtrusive enough too but if you slip the shifter into S or attempt to take control with the paddles it can get lost among its huge range of ratios and isn’t as quick as the dual-clutch gearboxes found in rivals. Each to their own but enthusiasts will prefer the six-speed manual, which suits the Mustang’s old-school character better.
What of the EcoBoost? The five-grand upfront saving over a GT may be the difference between owning a Mustang and not for many people. And although power has actually dropped from 317ps/312bhp to 290ps/286bhp the temporary overboost fills in the gaps and the on-paper performance hasn’t suffered. The Electronic Line Lock system is now fitted to the four-cylinder too, this and the new Drag Strip mode meaning the quarter mile is no longer reserved for the GT. Affordable tuning packages from the UK tuner’s we’re familiar with mean it’s easy to get more power, the 80kg weight saving making it feel more nimble too. The downside of that is it feels like the spring rates were set for the heavier V8 and, even with MagneRide, the EcoBoost rides a little more harshly.
Bringing us, somewhat inevitably, back to the V8 GT. For those who can stomach the £41,095 starting price and inevitable thirst this with a manual gearbox remains the true Mustang experience. The view over the dual-cowled dash is iconic, although the new bonnet has lost the distinctive twin power domes of the outgoing car, swapping them for vents on the leading edge. This is among a range of visual tweaks that includes new lights, a lower grille and reprofiled bumpers.
The difference in feel to a comparably priced Focus RS is startling but nothing to be ashamed of. On both sides of the Atlantic Ford Performance is on an absolute roll at the moment, that the Focus and Mustang can break out of their home markets and mix it on a global stage with their respective identities intact is something Ford fans the world over can cheer. A Mustang won’t see which way a Focus went on a twisty British B-road, especially in the wet. It’s simply too big, the steering too lazy and the traction too limited to keep pace.
But that doesn’t matter. The Mustang is all about the fun factor, there being few better experiences than revving out a big V8 with your hand on a stubby manual shifter, ready to flick it into the next gear and enjoy it all over again. With the ‘My Mode’ you can tune your preferred combination of damping, exhaust sound and steering weight too, this providing a useful shortcut when scrolling through the expanded menus becomes a bit of a chore. For those whose personalisation preferences demand more than flicking a switch the increasing range of Ford Performance Parts tuning upgrades offers increasing scope to improve your Mustang while maintaining the factory warranty too.
So it’s a more sophisticated Mustang. And one that offers more tech, more choice and, for the auto, more … gears. But at heart it still delivers the same old-school thrill we always hoped it would when it made the hop across the pond to UK roads. Here’s hoping it’s here to stay.