It’s still a Mustang. With the exception of the bastardized Pinto that became the Mustang II, Ford’s pony car hasn’t strayed from the original blend of herbs and spices that made it a hit in 1965. Now we’re getting into the meat of the 21st century and the 2018 Ford Mustang continues to offer a V-8, rear-wheel drive, two doors, and a manual transmission. It still looks the business too, even though the 2018 may look a little beady eyed.
There’s nothing beady about what’s under the hood. A 0.8-mm larger bore, a result of the switch from cylinder liners to a spray-in coating, raises displacement from 4970 cc to 5030 cc. Don’t worry, you’ll still be rolling in a 5.0. On top of the block are new cylinder heads with port and direct injection. The new heads raise the compression ratio from 11:1 to 12:1 and two additional knock sensors—three total—more closely manage detonation.
Next to the GT350’s flat-plane 5.2 liter V-8, the GT’s cross-plane 5.0 is an altogether mellower engine. From idle to redline there’s never any harshness, just the familiar rumbles and murmurs of a traditional V-8. A new active exhaust system is optional ($895) and has four settings to tailor its personality to your mood. In Quiet mode the exhaust still belts out the hits, but from behind the wheel you hear the engine up front more so than behind. Each successive step from Normal to Sport to Track twists the volume knob and makes the 5.0 more obnoxious or delightful depending on your point of view.
A new 10-speed automatic replaces last year’s six-speed. Shifts are quick and the box is remarkably astute when put into Sport mode. Paddle shifters on the wheel give the driver ultimate control, but the auto is smart enough to downshift and give you the correct gear for corner entry and exit. That said, more than half of GT customers go for the six-speed manual. We’d do the same, even if the automatic proves to be quicker to 60 mph.
A newly available 12-inch digital instrument cluster is the major news inside. Configurable in three ways, the display looks great, but it’s only available on the top-spec Premium model.
Even though the Mustang handily outsells the Camaro, Ford’s chassis alterations show that the Camaro’s handling and track prowess hasn’t gone unnoticed in Dearborn. The ’18 model inches closer to its GT350 brother in power, handling, and price. With the Performance package, Magnetorheological shocks, active exhaust, and Recaro seats a Mustang GT coupe will push $50,000 or nearly double the $26,485 price of a base Mustang. Avoiding the Premium trim level makes a GT with all the handling goodies cost less than $45,000. It’s not a coincidence that price lines up with the $44,995 price of the Camaro SS 1LE.