Mid-generation design update
The Ford Mustang is perhaps the defining American automobile of the twentieth century. Since the first generation debuted in 1964, the Mustang spawned the pony car class, sold in the millions, and became an American icon. 54 years later, the sixth-generation ‘Stang remains a defiant symbol of freedom and style, but the modern version is now a refined and respectable driver’s car.
The current generation was released in 2015 and marked a huge advancement for the Mustang in terms of refinement and modernity. Besides a whole new attractive design, the historically brash and simple Mustang received independent rear suspension, a modern interior, a right-hand-drive variant for overseas markets, and an optional 2.3L four-cylinder engine.
Thanks to the new independent suspension and drivetrain upgrades, the Mustang could now impress around corners and thrive on a track. Or it could be had with the new EcoBoost four-cylinder and manage 31 mph highway. However you wanted your Mustang, it could be optioned to meet your needs and exceed your expectations for the affordable, working-class brute.
For 2018, Ford has given its prized pony a mid-life makeover to further improve on its capability and finesse. But before we explore the 2.0 version, it’s worth taking a look back at the outgoing (still virtually new) sixth-gen Mustangs that earned respect overseas and took a legend to new heights.
Many purists were enraged when Ford announced a four-cylinder version, but the baby Mustang is efficient and just about as stylish as the big boys. The turbocharged 2.3L engine achieves 25 mpg combined, but still somehow makes 310 hp and 320 lb-ft. For people who want the look and feel of a wild ‘Stang without the kick, the EcoBoost engine offers easy and affordable entry to the world of muscle.
This is the last of the V6 Mustangs. Ford has dropped the V6 option as part of the 2018 refresh, and it makes sense. At 300 hp and 280 lb-ft, the 3.7L V6 is less powerful and less efficient than the EcoBoost turbo-four. Those who care about the size of their engine will opt for the V8, and those who don’t settle for the EcoBoost. The V6 Mustang was an admirable everyman’s sports car, but it won’t be missed by many — the V6 has been the least popular engine choice since the EcoBoost became the entry powerplant.
In its sixth generation, the “real Mustang” shines on twisty back roads, in inadvisable light-to-light drag races, or just rumbling around town. With 435 horsepower and 400 lb-ft, the 5.0 V8 is properly moody and easily has the poke to startle unprepared drivers. For the legitimate Mustang experience, the GT is the way to go.
2018 Shelby GT350
Even though it’s a 2018 model, this Shelby GT350 still wears the outgoing design. That’s because most everything of importance has been upgraded to make a lighter, faster, harder, track-ready version of the Mustang GT. Underneath the stripes lurks an enhanced version of the 5.0, a 526-hp, 429 lb-ft 5.2L V8 codenamed “Voodoo.” The GT350 has Recaro bucket seats, Brembo brakes, and a six-speed manual transmission. This is a raw, agile Mustang with muscle and poise that would make Carroll Shelby proud.
The Mustang’s mid-generation design update is fairly subtle. The front fascia and rear tail light cluster have been redesigned to improve aerodynamics — you may notice this 2018 GT looks slightly cleaner and more squinty. There are new factory colors available, more safety features, and a new customizable digital center display.
Many pieces of the drivetrain have been tweaked as well. Building on the Mustang’s recent focus on handling abilities, all trim levels are now available with MagneRide dampers. The 6-speed manual transmission is now improved and standard for all trims, with Ford’s new 10-speed automatic offered as an option. Ford has dropped the V6 option for 2018, with the base EcoBoost turbo-four aimed directly at the European and Chinese markets.
The 5.0 V8 is revised to bring horsepower up by 25 and torque by 20 ft-lbs, in addition to improved fuel efficiency. The GT also has an option for the active exhaust system used in the Shelby GT350, which means it’s loud. With the right options checked, the 2018 Mustang GT does zero to 60 in under four seconds, something I’m sure all Mustang owners can get behind.
The 2018 refresh has once again boosted the Mustang’s performance credentials, which makes it more exciting for enthusiasts. But it is also more efficient and more comfortable than ever for the laypeople. Best of all, the GT starts at $35,000, keeping the Mustang true to its promise of style and performance at a bargain.