Starting Price: $26,485 | Price yours
Max Capacity: 4 passengers
Engines: 2.3-liter turbocharged 4-cylinder, 310 horsepower; 5.0-liter V8, 460 horsepower
Fuel Economy: 25 mpg combined (I-4), 18-19 mpg combined (V8)
Similar: Chevrolet Camaro, Dodge Challenger

 

The current-generation Ford Mustang was introduced just two short years ago, and for Mustang lovers it was a watershed moment. The car finally had an independent rear suspension, its reflexes tuned to emulate European sports coupes rather than a brawny American muscle car. Yet its revised V8 engine ensured that it could still roar and do smoky burnouts with the best of 'em. It was, by virtually any measure, the best Mustang ever.

There was just one problem: The new Chevrolet Camaro was better. In test after independent test, the Camaro SS simply beat the pants off the Mustang GT in nearly every performance category, and there was no way Ford could let its longtime Chevrolet rival own the day.

Which brings us to the surprisingly thorough revisions to the 2018 Ford Mustang. It boasts more power, better handling, an all-new 10-speed automatic, a heavily updated 6-speed manual, a revised chassis, and dozens of other tweaks to the interior and exterior to not just meet the Camaro, but to beat it. Because make no mistake, the pony car wars are going strong, and this year Ford goes on the offensive.

Engines

The only engines available for the 2018 Ford Mustang are the turbocharged 2.3-liter EcoBoost 4-cylinder and the classic 5.0-liter V8; the V6 is no more. The two remaining engines feature serious revisions, boosting power and refinement. There are also two new transmissions.

The 2.3-liter EcoBoost 4-cylinder takes over as the new base engine, and you can put aside any notions you have of a 4-cylinder Mustang being a letdown. With 350 lb-ft of torque and 310 horsepower, this is a powerhouse of an engine, boasting more power and torque than many V8 engines once found under the Mustang's hood. When matched to the 10-speed automatic, Ford claims the EcoBoost-equipped Mustang can hit 60 mph from a dead stop in a little less than 5 seconds. That is darn quick for a base engine by any measure.

Of course, the 5.0-liter V8 is the biggest news. Now spinning out 460 horsepower and 420 lb-ft of torque, this engine sings all the way to 7,500 rpm -- increases of 25 hp, 20 lb-ft of torque, and 500 rpm. The V8 gains a new dual-injector system that combines port and direct injection systems, like the setup used on the Ford Raptor's twin-turbo V6. Also new are the heads, bore size (which increases from 92.2 mm to 93 mm), better knock control, new crank and rod bearings, and even a lighter composite oil pan. When connected to the new 10-speed, Ford claims a 0-60 time of less than 4 seconds, similar to the Chevy Camaro's 3.9-second time.

Transmissions
The 10-speed is the product of a joint development project between GM and Ford, and it's a gem. It especially shines when paired with the EcoBoost: the transmission briskly fires off shifts, whether you're doing it yourself or letting the transmission's own programming take over. We used the paddles when pushing the EcoBoost in the canyons around Malibu, but on city streets we let it do its own thing, and it smartly stayed in the highest gear possible to maximize fuel economy, and shifted down to a proper passing gear when prodded. The same was mostly true of the 10-speed when paired with the V8. Initially we thought it was hunting too much, but it turned out the transmission was in the more aggressive S mode; moving the selector to D solved the problem for the most part, although it surprised us by hunting more than we expected, even when cruising at a steady rate.

As for the manual, it's still six speeds, and slightly different for the EcoBoost and V8. Both get a new dual-mass flywheel to help increase the torque capacity, and the EcoBoost gets a new clutch for improved feel. The V8 also gets a new clutch, in this case a twin-disc clutch for better torque capacity and feel. The transmission uses a new direct-drive fourth gear, gets beefier synchronizers, and other internal improvements to improve shift feel and reduce effort. It's a significant improvement on both counts.

Style

While we're thoroughly impressed with the new Mustang's mechanical upgrades, we're not quite as thrilled with the new styling. The new hood and fenders, along with reshaped headlights (LEDs on all models), aren't just lower than before, but it all points downward as well, and it makes the front end look...droopy. Out back it's better, and we like the new taillights, new exhaust tips, and the new diffuser under the bumper.

Subtler changes await inside. The door tops are now soft to the touch, and there are other soft-touch and stitched materials inside. Two new gauges reside atop the dash above the infotainment screen, and the start/stop button now pulses until you start the engine. Other touches include variable interior lighting, including the ability to create your own color scheme by picking colors from a color wheel accessed through menus on the instrument cluster. Speaking of which, an all-new digital instrument cluster is now available, with different display modes depending on what driving mode you're in, and with the ability to pick a default regardless of driving mode. Mustang owners, famously individualistic about their cars, are gonna love it.

Driving
For the 2018 Mustang, Ford made its MagneRide shocks available across the board, meaning you no longer have to go all the way up to the GT 350 to get the variable damping technology. The MagneRide system is pretty slick, and it helps even the EcoBoost Mustang feel simultaneously lively and subdued, depending on what mode it's in.

To showcase the tech, Ford introduced the 2018 Mustang in the hills above Malibu, California, an area famous for tightly twisted canyon roads like Latigo Canyon, Stunt Road, and of course Mullholland Drive. The lighter-weight EcoBoost models loved it. The smaller engine means less weight on the nose, which means quicker turn in, and weight distribution is also better, giving the car a lighter overall feel. In Sport mode and with the 10-speed transmission in its manual setting, the EcoBoost made short work of the roads, offering excellent grip and pretty terrific torque delivery from the turbocharged 4-cylinder. There was some boost lag, but the short gear ratios of the 10-speed reduced that significantly. If you want a fun-driving alternative to the thirstier V8, the EcoBoost really fits the bill.

Of course, the 460-horsepower V8 is not without its charms. While the V8 wasn't much of a factor on the tight canyon roads -- we'd even say the lighter EcoBoost had an advantage -- there's no denying that extra 150 horsepower in more open spaces. The new 10-speed automatic keeps the revs nice and high, where this fast-spinning V8 wants it, firing off shifts that sound more like a motorcycle than a musclecar. And that exhaust note: Call it whatever you want -- angels singing, God clearing his throat, or Satan hollering after stubbing his toe -- but at full song, with the muffler's internal valve set to wide open, this V8 sounds terrific.

Seating and Cargo Space

Let's start in the back seat. It exists, and you can put a human being in each spot for a short time. They won't like it because it's hard to get to and there's virtually no room, and you won't like it because they're going to complain loudly the entire time they're back there. So, it's better to pretend the rear seats don't exist.

The front seats are much better, especially if you opt for the available Recaro sport seats, which somehow manage to offer both extra bolstering and better comfort overall. The standard seats are fine, although the lack of a power seatback adjustment is odd. Still, they're comfortable and supportive enough that you won't find yourself sliding around when pushing the Mustang's limits. We really like the new steering wheel, covered in softer leather that feels like actual leather instead of something squeezed out of a tube. Same goes for the new soft-touch surfaces on top of the doors, and the upgraded gauges. In fact, the whole interior benefits from the updates, making the Mustang feel that much better than the Camaro inside, and it was already ahead of its rival there.

Being a low-slung coupe, visibility isn't great, but it's still acceptably augmented by blind-spot detection and backup cameras and sensors, and it's a darn sight better than the Camaro at any rate. Another area where the Mustang has a clear advantage is in cargo space. Sure, it's not a primary consideration for pony car buyers, but the Mustang has a real trunk, 13.5 cu ft of space, dwarfing the tiny cargo area in the Camaro. It's big enough for a full load of groceries for a family of five, a nice nod to practicality for something that's often a second car.

Infotainment and Tech
The 2018 Ford Mustang is available with Sync 3, which includes Apple CarPlay and Android Auto, along with navigation, satellite radio, and all the other electronic doodads of a modern infotainment system. It sounds good, and with the Shaker Pro audio system upgrade, it sounds even better.

Of course, it's competing with another sound system: The highly tuned exhaust system in the Mustang GT (and the EcoBoost for that matter). The GT is not quiet, but you can shut it up thanks to a valve in the muffler on each side that closes or opens depending on how noisy you want things, from Quiet to Track. There's even a "Quiet Start" mode, giving you the option of starting the Mustang in its quietest mode during certain hours of the day to avoid waking up your family or neighbors. The Quiet Mode on the exhaust really is quiet, but know that if you gun it, regardless of mode, the Mustang unleashes its full exhaust note fury.

Part of the upgrades this year include an available digital dash, part of an option package that includes voice-activated navigation, premium interior trim, and a heated steering wheel. But get it for the gauges, because it's very cool. Toggle through Normal, Sport and Track modes, and the gauges change radically. Sport was our favorite, with the tachometer starting as a curve on the left, then extending across the top of the gauges. Track is pure performance, with a diminished speedometer and a ribbon-type tach dominating the scene. You can customize which style you want to see at all times, and there's a lot more information at your fingertips with the steering wheel-mounted controls.

Rivals
The biggest rival, obviously, is the Chevrolet Camaro. The new Mustang GT now outpowers the Camaro SS by 5 hp, and the new EcoBoost engine mops the floor with the 2.0-liter turbo in the Camaro. The Mustang should be just as quick from 0-60, offers a better around-town driving experience, better trunk space, and a nicer interior. The Camaro, on the other hand, is arguably still the better handling car. The other challenger is the Dodge Challenger. It's a bigger car and slightly out of the category, but it's still spiritually in the game. Bigger, heavier, and more expensive overall, the Challenger nonetheless wins the beauty contest between the three, can seat five, has a huge trunk, and is a far more comfortable daily driver. Between the three though, the Mustang offers the most balanced package, with the most performance and least compromise. It's time for everyone else to play catch up.

Numbers and Details
So how much will all this fun cost you? Depends. A base coupe with the EcoBoost engine starts reasonably enough below $27,000, while a loaded GT with all the trimmings blows right past $50,000. We've broken it down here, grouping Coupe and Convertible models together, since otherwise they're trimmed the same. Note that all prices include the $900 destination charge.

EcoBoost Fastback and Convertible
Starting Price: $26,485 (Fastback); $31,985 (Convertible) | Price yours

Passenger capacity: 4
310-horsepower turbocharged 4-cylinder
6-speed manual transmission; 10-speed automatic transmission ($1,595)
Bluetooth and USB phone connectivity
Line-Lock (track use only)
Backup camera
Manual driver’s seat
Active noise cancellation
Pushbutton start
LED headlights
Note: This is the base model Mustang, with the Convertible likely to be the one you rent when you're vacationing in the Florida Keys, and lacks the selectable drive modes available in the rest of the lineup.

EcoBoost Premium Fastback and Convertible
Starting Price: $31,500 (Fastback), $37,000 (Convertible) | Price yours

Leather heated and cooled seats
6-way power driver seat with memory
Sync 3 with 9-speaker audio system
Backup sensors
Dual-zone climate control
Note: This is a volume model for the Mustang, with a good chunk of buyers landing here. For good reason, as there's a lot to like, plus access to upgrades like the Premier trim interior.

GT Fastback
Starting Price: $35,995 | Price yours 
460-horsepower V8
6-speed manual transmission; 10-speed automatic transmission ($1,595)
Bluetooth and USB phone connectivity
Line-Lock (track use only)
Backup camera
Manual driver’s seat
Active noise cancellation
Pushbutton start
LED headlights
Note: As the name implies this is the V8 version of the base Mustang. No convertible model is available, and if you want fancy stuff like selectable drive modes, you'll have to upgrade to the Premium model.

GT Premium
Starting Price: Fastback ($39,995) and Convertible ($45,495) | Price yours
Leather heated and cooled seats
6-way power driver seat with memory
Sync 3 with 9-speaker audio system
Backup sensors
Dual-zone climate control
Note: This is the car to get for "real" Mustang fans: A V8 engine, all the electronic assistants either standard or available, upgraded suspension, the works. Drop the top for summer fun.

2018 Ford Mustang GT Specs
Engine: 5.0-liter V8
Transmission: 10-speed automatic
Horsepower: 460 hp @ 7,000 rpm
Torque: 420 lb-ft @ 4,600 rpm
Fuel economy: 16 mpg city/25 mpg highway
Curb weight: 3,733 lb
Wheelbase: 107.1 in
Length: 188.5 in
Height: 54.3 in
Width: 75.4 in

 

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