The venerable Mustang is better than ever. Even with an automatic transmission?
Review and photos by Tom Sedens
Pricing: 2018 Ford Mustang
Base price (GT Convertible Premium trim): $52.838
Options: $2,000 Premier Trim package; $1,500 10-speed automatic transmission; $3,700 GT Performance package; $1,500 Safe & Smart package; $2,000 Magne-ride Damping System; $600 over-the-top racing stripes; $1,000 dual exhaust/quad tips; $150 engine block heater
A/C tax: $100
Price as tested: $67,138
My Mustang’s Race Red colour was eye-catching to say the least. There’s nothing new to report in terms of the styling – it’s familiar territory and it’s a great-looking sports car. The convertible top looks fine when it’s up, but the car really shines with the top down. Putting the top down takes just over 10 seconds, and feels even faster than that. I appreciated the deleted rear spoiler and the optional 4-tip exhaust system – both help the car’s looks.
LED lighting abounds – headlights, fog lamps, signal lights and the cool, sequential tail lights are all LEDs. When you step up to the car, a Mustang pony is projected onto the ground in front of the door. The contrasting dark 19-inch premium painted wheels are beauties and come with staggered tire sizes – 255/40s in the front and 275/40s in the rear.
I like the Mustang’s interior. My car’s awesome “Showstopper” red leather trim contrasted beautifully with the mostly soft-touch surfaces in black, the dash panels of which are stitched. It is really nicely done. The heated and ventilated seats are really good – they are comfortable and well-bolstered.
The fully digital dash features a 12″ LCD panel and is excellent. It changes layouts with the driving modes, and is further configurable with primary and background colours as well as what it shows the driver. It’s all great fun, and works well. The SYNC 3 touchscreen is familiar territory, handling all the phone, sound system, navigation and vehicle settings duties.
I’m not even sure why I’m including this section. It’s a pain to get into the rear seats, and it’s a pain to sit there. My poor daughter was relegated to the back seat for our road trip (more about that later) and wasn’t happy. Mind you, when the top is down, the sun is out and you’re honking along down the road, rear seat passengers seem to get happier.
Same goes for this section. There’s a 324L trunk and when the top is down, it doesn’t intrude into the trunk space. If you need more information about cargo space, please read any of my other reviews. Not this one. Moving right along…
Under the Hood
Yeah baby! This Mustang has a genuine 5.0-litre aluminum-block V8. 460HP are available at a soaring 7,000 RPM, and it makes 420 lb.ft of torque at 4,600 RPM.
Seriously, who cares about fuel economy? OK fine. Ford rates this car at 15.4/9.7 L/100 km city/hwy. I did not achieve 15.4 L/100 km during my week in the city. I did average 11.4 L/100 km after including 600 km of gentle highway driving. Let’s leave it at that.
Let’s talk about this V8. It’s a beautiful thing. There are no turbos, no blowers, nothing other than modern engineering on a very old take – that there’s no replacement for displacement, of which you get a full five litres of. With this exhaust system, you get a raucous bark upon ignition. It’s grin-inducing, and even my wife, who doesn’t like stuff like that, smiled every time. Thankfully, the engine backs up the sounds it makes. There is prodiguous power at all RPMs, and because it’s naturally aspirated, it builds. There is something delicious about how this V8 makes its power, and that linear freight-train of jam is addictive. There’s simply no situation where you don’t get served up with a hot, steaming plate of torque when you touch the go-pedal and the ensuing rumble which builds into a frenetic crescendo is equally addictive. It’s a dangerous combination where you want to hear that beautiful V8, but before you know it, you’re looking down at illegal speeds on your gauges.
Speaking of that exhaust, it opens active valves when you step it up to sportier drive modes, and the volume of the exhaust sound increases dramatically. Put the hammer down in Sport or Track mode, and it bumps things up to obnoxious levels of loud, raspy, flatulent exhaust noises – so that’s something to be aware of. It’s fantastic fun for those inside the car, but it’s highly possible not everyone around you will be as impressed unless you’re on the track. Ford lets you actively adjust the exhaust mode in the menus as well.
The biggest change from any other Mustang I’ve driven was the 10-speed automatic, an in-house designed and built unit for Ford. It’s mostly good stuff. I would say the one nitpick I had would be that it’s not as sporty as I wanted it to feel sometimes. Even in Sport mode, it would occasionally ease on up to higher gears than I’d wanted. Also, in contrast to a few of the greats out there right now, like BMW’s 8-speed or Porsche’s PDK, it isn’t quite as much of a mind-reader as I’d love for it to be. Those boxes seem to know, with almost no exceptions, what gear I want them to be in. That wasn’t the case here. And the last ding I’ll give it is that this Mustang is actually faster than it seems because the transmission is so smooth – and that takes a bit of the edge off of this car’s sportiness.
But let’s not let that detract from how good it is. It is a very good transmission. It’s smooth, quick and precise. It can be shifted manually. And it has a few tricks up its sleeve. For example, in Normal drive mode, if you’re not on the gas pedal heavily, it will shift from 1st to 3rd to 5th gears. And it will happily kick down a bunch of gears if you’re cruising along and suddenly tromp on it. I often got asked if the 10-speed shifted gears too often, and it’s ability to skip a gear in either direction makes that an easy question to answer – no, it doesn’t shift too often and no, it never really felt lost in a world of too many gears. And if the raw numbers matter, the Mustang is faster with this transmission than with any other before it. Hard to argue with that.
Braking is monstrous, thanks to insane 15″ rotors in front with 6-piston Brembo calipers. Visibility out of the car ranges from a bit scary with the top up (in terms of shoulder checking) to nearly perfect with the top down.
We ended up taking the Mustang on a road trip, traveling the 300 km each way to Calgary and back. Those top gears in the transmission allow it to cruise at incredibly low RPMs, which made for reasonable fuel economy readings (9.6 L/100 km for the highway portion) and a surprisingly quiet trip.
Speaking of road trip comfort, the ride in the Mustang is ridiculously good – particularly considering the capabilities of this car. This is thanks to the optional MagneRide active damping suspension. It is a very impressive suspension that balances astonishing grip and indefatigable road-holding agility (I never even got close to the limits) with a jiggly, but highly comfortable ride around town and on the open road. Ford has done a great job with the electronic steering, offering numerous levels of selectable effort. It does offer some legitimate feedback and is sharp.
If you want to get into stuff that will get you into trouble, the Mustang plays along too. There are plenty of performance metrics to be found in the instrumentation – lateral and longitudinal g-forces, acceleration times and lap times as well as countdown starts. You can also engage an electronic line-lock that keeps the front brakes locked while you “warm up” the rear tires.
WAF (Wife Approval Factor) was higher than I expected. She enjoyed firing it up and cruising in it, although she would never want one in the garage long-term. It looked great on my girl and she said it was fun.
What can I say about the Mustang? It was a blast. Even with the automatic transmission. I would personally buy it with a manual, because I like feeling more connected to the car and I want to make the decisions when it comes to the gear I’m in. But it’s a great car with this new automatic, and it’s fast and it’s fun. And the convertible top coincided with some of the best summer weather we had in Edmonton this year, so I loved that too. Sure, it gets pricey in this guise, once you tack on some of the options and the convertible top, but before you go down that road, the entry price for this level of fun is perfectly reasonable.
There aren’t a lot of choices when it comes to V8-powered North American sports cars and nearly everyone looking for one would be cross-shopping this car with the equivalent Camaro, and perhaps less so the Corvette. They’re all incredible cars, with mind-blowing capabilities and more smiles per mile for your dollars than I can describe with words. Get behind the wheel of one, and you’ll understand what I’m saying instantly. Stay behind the wheel for a while, and it will take a lot to wipe that grin off your face. Thanks for the memories, Mustang! I will miss you!
Disclosure: Vehicle was provided by Ford Canada.
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