2018 Ford Mustang: Performance is the Core

By Frank A. Aukofer, December 23rd, 2017

The 2018 Ford Mustang arrives with unprecedented power, lowdown styling, a new 10-speed automatic transmission, and enough models and colors to satisfy any Mustang enthusiast.

Manufacturer photo: Performance is at the core of the 2018 Ford Mustang, which offers drivers a unique thrill of acceleration and cornering for the ultimate fun-to-drive experience
Manufacturer photo: Performance is at the core of the 2018 Ford Mustang, which offers drivers a unique thrill of acceleration and cornering for the ultimate fun-to-drive experience

strong>There are 10 versions in all: Six fastback coupes and four convertibles, with three engine and two transmission choices. All of them can deliver driving excitement and an adrenaline rush -- even the tested model with the 2.3-liter EcoBoost (Ford's synonym for turbocharged) four-cylinder, which makes 310 horsepower and 350 lb.-ft. of torque.

It now is the only alternative to the V-8 engine in the Mustang GT. The previous V-6 engine is no longer available. Pricing starts at $25,585 for the 2018 Mustang lineup.

The 5-0-liter V-8 delivers 460 horsepower with 420 lb.-ft. of torque. Like other new Mustangs, it is available with a six-speed manual gearbox or the new 10-speed automatic transmission, which can be shifted manually with steering-wheel paddles.

Also offered are two fastback Shelby GT 5.0 V-8 models with 526 horsepower and 429 lb.-ft. of torque. However, only Fastback 2.3-liter four-bangers and 5.0-liter GTs with performance packages were tested at the press introduction in the hills near Los Angeles, Calif. -- the latter with both the six-speed manual and 10-speed automatic.

Manufacturer photo: Performance is at the core of the 2018 Ford Mustang, which offers drivers a unique thrill of acceleration and cornering for the ultimate fun-to-drive experience

Dedicated enthusiasts likely will opt for the stick shift, which features a slick and positive linkage and easy clutch engagement. With all those horses pawing at the pavement, the GT manual can be driven in almost any gear in any circumstance. There's enough power to tool around at modest speeds in fifth or sixth gear, and you can quickly get up to freeway speeds in first and second.

The 10-speed does as well, automatically. But it has a curious quirk. With the shift lever in "Drive," it sometimes gets befuddled at modest speeds, hesitating then lurching. It overcomes that if you stomp on the throttle. The solution, Ford engineers said, is to drive it in the "Sport" mode. That same transmission in Ford's new aluminum-bodied 2018 Expedition full-size sport utility vehicle shifts almost as smoothly as a fidget spinner.

The 10-speed's paddle shifters are there for the entertainment value. But modern, computer-controlled automatic transmissions handle the shifts with more dexterity than humans. Even professional drivers on road-racing courses now often allow the computer to determine the shifting, especially when driving cars with rev matching on downshifts. The GT has both rev matching and drag strip launch control.

In spite of the GT's 0-to-60 mph sprint at a hair shy of 4 seconds and a top speed of 155 mph, the 2.3-liter is no slouch. It can reach 60 mph in 5.9 seconds, with a top speed of around 140, and still manages a city/highway/combined fuel economy rating of 21/32/25 miles to the gallon compared to the GT's 15/25/18 mpg. Premium gasoline is required for both engines.

Some enthusiasts might even prefer the 2.3-liter because its lighter front end delivers better cornering balance on curving mountain roads. But that's at speeds of 40, 50, and 60 mph, dictated by the tightness of the turns. On a road-racing course with long straightaways, you'd obviously prefer the GT for its massive power, or even one of the Shelby variants.

Manufacturer photo: Performance is at the core of the 2018 Ford Mustang, which offers drivers a unique thrill of acceleration and cornering for the ultimate fun-to-drive experience

The Mustang's membership in the high-performance and handling club does not bar it from the grand touring class. With comfortable and supportive front seats, it celebrates long-distance motoring for two. Anyone relegated to the difficult-to-access back seats, however, will rebel.

Besides its slicker profile, the 2018 Ford Mustang, depending on the model, comes with full safety equipment, including lane-keeping assist and a pre-collision system that can detect pedestrians. Other features include LED headlights, a dozen wheel options, 11 colors, customizable instrument cluster, and even an "active valve performance exhaust system" that allows you to drive your Mustang in quiet mode or bellowing like an agitated moose.

The Mustang has come a long way from the original 1965 model with a 101-horsepower, 2.8-liter six-cylinder engine and a three-speed floor-mounted gearshift. Evolution is exciting.

Specifications

Base price $31,500 (as tested: $39,880)
Curb weight 3,535 lbs.
Displacement 2.3-liter
Engine type EcoBoost 4-cyl. w/DI
Epa mileage rating 21 mpg city, 32 mpg highway
Fuel capacity 15.5 gal.
Horsepower (net) 310 at 5500 rpm
Overall length 188.5 in.
Torque (lb.-ft.) 350 at 3000 rpm
Transmission 10-speed automatic
Vehicle type 4-passenger RWD coupe
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