Things started off fast with our long-term 2018 Ford Mustang GT. Three days after the Magnetic Metallic coupe showed up on our doorstep, I was at GingerMan Raceway in South Haven, Michigan, thrashing it around to break the ice on our two-month-long relationship.
The slightly longer commitment was fitting and welcome, especially given the Mustang's noteworthy . This year brought a more powerful engine, available adaptive suspension and new 10-speed automatic transmission. Admittedly, only the engine and suspension improvements excited me, but I approached the gearbox with an open mind and hoped to be pleasantly surprised.
Road course stallion
As expected, the revised Coyote 5.0-liter V8 was sensational around GingerMan. Output was increased to 460 horsepower and 420 pound-feet of torque -- gains of 25 and 20 respectively, over the. Immediate throttle response and linear power delivery shoved the Mustang out of corners and down straights with authority. I consistently flirted with 130 miles per hour down GingerMan's back straight as the engine sang its menacing, naturally aspirated soundtrack. Its song was a little louder than before, too, as the 5.0-liter's redline was increased from 7,000 rpm to 7,500.
An optional $3,995 GT Performance Package helped keep things neat and tidy around GingerMan's 2.14-mile road course. Functional upgrades likefront brakes, revised front springs, a larger rear anti-roll bar and new Torsen limited-slip differential were all welcome improvements. But the best, without question, was the adaptive MagneRide suspension. These continuously adjusting dampers trickled down from the , and though they tacked on $1,695 to the bottom line of our test car, they're worth every penny.
Through GingerMan's gradual bends and tight hairpins, the GT felt eager to turn in and change directions, the body staying nearly flat. The3,700-pound curb weight could still be felt during braking and through quick transitions, but overall the car felt poised and like it belonged on a road course. Sticky front and 275/40ZR19 rear Pilot Sport 4S tires also helped matters, as did the hefty steering feel and brakes that only faded slightly at the end of hard 15-minute track sessions.
Strong in other disciplines, too
How did the Mustang GT do around a tight autocross? I took it to one, and again walked away high thanks to its tight turn-in ability, not to mention how easily the rear swung around just by goosing the throttle. Eventually, the autocross turned into a drift course, where the Mustang's power and balanced handling character were an absolute riot to play with. It was so, so easy to get things sideways with total control. No wonder whyuses the as a foundation for his .
Sadly, I didn't get to a drag strip to run the car through the complete gamut of motorsports disciplines. That's a shame, because the Mustang GT's standard line lock feature could have helped me turn in marginally more respectable quarter-mile times with warm rear rubber. However, and only in the name of thorough testing, I did activate line lock once or twice and can report that theproduce a killer smoke show and are indeed sticky after.
High street cred
Away from the race track, the GT was up for any task. With its suspension in Normal, damping for regular commutes around town were plenty compliant, and a roundtrip jog from Detroit to Chicago ferrying two adults and two four-legged friends was handled without complaint.
Ford's familiar Sync 3 system took care of infotainment functions with a responsive 8-inch touchscreen to control navigation, a respectable 12-speaker Shaker Pro audio system, 4G Wi-Fi hotspot, Bluetooth and both Apple CarPlay and . menus aren't the most visually compelling, but were intuitive to work through.
Visually, some Roadshow staffers couldn't get behind the 2018 model year facelift, and called the new nose droopy in comparison to the previously sleek and sporty front end. Inside, however, we all loved the vibrant red seats, especially against the gray exterior. Even one McDonald's drive-thru worker had a number of nice things to say as she passed two Happy Meals through the window.
Now, about that transmission…
After I gave the new 10-speed automatic transmission a fair shake, it turned out to be everything I feared. It's not tuned well. In both high-performance and normal driving scenarios, it performed slow, jerky cog swaps and constantly hunted for gears. Whether in Normal or Sport modes, the transmission was a huge disappointment.
Things weren't too much better in manual mode, while using the steering wheel-mounted paddles. A noticeable delay followed shift commands that frustrated me on track, autocross and street alike. Luckily, the automatic headaches can be avoided because theoffers a stellar six-speed manual transmission as standard equipment. Plus, it would've cut $1,595 from the $53,160 as-tested price of our tester.
If there was something redeeming about the automatic you think it would be decent EPA-estimated fuel economy ratings. But as it turns out, that's not the case, with the auto only bettering the manual's 15 mpg city, 25 mpg highway and 18 mpg combined by a single mpg in the city and combined cycles. We did average 18.1 mpg over the course of two months, though.
Performance value champ
After handing over the keys to theGT following a couple of action-packed months, I mostly look back on our time together with fond memories. The romp around GingerMan, using line lock to light up the tires and drifting around the autocross -- all of these things make me smile. But for all of those cases, I wish our car had the manual transmission. The automatic, well, sucked.
That aside, the Mustang GT continues to be one of the best bang-for-your-buck performance values on the market today, especially considering its $35,000 starting price. Stepping up to the Premium trim for more features and tacking on the Performance Package along with a few more options turns it into a $50,000 car, which doesn't actually seem that crazy. In fact, it's still a pretty good deal for a car that's this rewarding to drive. Line it up against a $70,000 BMW M4, and I'll take the Mustang every time.
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