2018 FORD MUSTANG: THE VERDICT
FORD HAS GONE OVER THE MUSTANG WITH A FINE-TOOTH COMB TO PRODUCE A FITTER, FASTER MUSCLE CAR
New Blue Oval muscle car assessed on road, dyno and drag strip
TICK-TOCK-tick-tock-tick-tock. Indicators aren’t usually very interesting. They vary slightly in tone, volume and speed, but in almost every car they’re as even and steady as a Ringo Starr drum beat. Not so in the 2018 Mustang; its indicators shuffle like an old-school blues band, imitating the hooves of a galloping horse: tick-tock-tick-tock-tick-tock.
This is far from the most important change to Ford’s heavily revised muscle car, but it’s an indication of the thoroughness of the update. Presumably, you have to go a long way down the priority list before you get to “change the indicator tone”.
Few could have predicted just how successful the Mustang would be in Australia. Ford certainly didn’t see it coming, the onslaught of initial orders resulting in year-long wait lists as demand vastly outstripped supply. As of May 2018, 17,779 Mustangs have been sold since its January 2016 introduction. This success only makes the extent of the changes to the latest iteration of Ford’s icon even more surprising – why radically change a winning formula?
We covered off these technical changes extensively in our June 2018 issue, now it’s time to discover what, if any, effect these changes have on the Mustang drive experience. Over the next three days, we’ll visit the dyno, the drag strip and cover hundreds of kilometres on road in an effort to definitively answer a very simple question: is this new Mustang better than its popular predecessor?
Our story starts at Ford’s Broadmeadows HQ, a few weeks ahead of the Mustang’s local launch. A pair of MY2018 cars await evaluation: a Kona Blue automatic, fitted with optional Recaro seats, MagneRide adaptive dampers and forged alloys, and an identically-specced Orange Fury manual wearing black OTT ('Over-The-Top') stripes and a wing spoiler. It’s a cliché, but the new Mustang is a much better looking car in the metal than the awkward initial press photography would suggest. Narrower LED headlights are matched with a restyled vented bonnet, new bumpers front and rear, LED taillights, new grille and quad exhaust tips for the V8. Our first stop on this journey is Herrod Performance and it’s remarkable how dated the 2018 model makes its predecessor look when parked side-by-side.
Herrod Performance has been at the forefront of local Coyote development, making them the perfect people to dyno test our 2018 cars. Rob Herrod and his team have built well over 200 ‘Compliance Pack’ supercharged Mustangs, Herrod’s close ties with Ford Performance in the US ensuring he has as good an understanding as any as to what makes Mustang engines tick. “We’re a little bit different to most aftermarket people because I’m dealing with calibration engineers at Ford Performance,” explains Rob. “We have these avenues other people don’t have. Not that we’re trying to keep it all to ourselves, but it’s that
According to Rob’s son Chris, standard 2015-2017 Mustangs typically produce around 250-260kW on Herrod’s Mainline hub dyno, used to eliminate variables such as tyre pressure, tyre compound and strapping force. The manual is up first, Chris using fourth gear (for its 1:1 ratio) with the giant fans ensuring the intake air and cylinder head temperatures are at 18 and 90 degrees Celsius respectively. Based on the previous Mustang, driveline loss appears to be roughly 50kW, so I’m expecting a figure of around 280kW. You can imagine the surprise, then, when the 2018 manual produces 311.6kW at the hubs on its first run. Two runs later that increases to 314.8kW and my jaw is firmly on the floor.
It’s no fluke, the auto – run in seventh (1:1) with identical temperatures – backing up the manual’s figures with 306.4kW; either Ford has developed the world’s most efficient transmissions or this new 5.0-litre is pumping out a lot more than the advertised 339kW. The entire power curve has shifted, too, a slight loss in low-to-midrange torque compensated for by a massive increase in top-end power. The 2018 Mustang might wear the same ‘5.0’ badge as its predecessor on its front guards, but it’s clearly housing a very different engine under that restyled bonnet.
Regardless of whether the Mustang needed that extra grunt or not, it now has the soundtrack it’s needed since launch. From a deep bark at start-up – unless the neighbour-friendly ‘Quiet’ mode is selected – to a steady growl on light throttle to a crisp snarl at higher revs, like the LS3-powered VF II Commodores, it’s difficult to imagine too many 2018 Mustangs sprouting aftermarket exhausts.
The 150km drive to Heathcote offers an opportunity to assess the car’s cruising capabilities. Aussie Mustangs now feature the ‘Premium Plus’ interior as standard, including the snazzy 12-inch digital instrument display, heated steering wheel, hand-stitched centre console and wrapped knee bolster. There’s also a new metallic starter button; small touches, but they eradicate a lot of the hard, scratchy plastic that made the previous Mustang’s interior feel so built to a budget.
Fiddling with the digital instruments, it takes some time to figure out how to navigate the various modes and screens, but there’s plenty of useful information available if you dig hard enough and the different screens for each drive mode – Normal, Sport, Track and Drag Mode – are a nice touch. The rest of the buttons will be familiar to current Mustang owners, bar the few that have moved to accommodate the new active safety systems – Lane Keep Assist, Pre-Collision Assist, Active Cruise – vital to improving the Mustang’s two-star ANCAP rating (it’s now three).
The Recaros are snug and comfortable, though whether they’re worth $3000 is another matter. That money is possibly better spent on the $2750 MagneRide adaptive suspension. Having not yet tried a car without it, it’s difficult to say for certain, however, the 2018 Mustang rides with more fluency than its predecessor. It’s still firm, but with sensors monitoring
ONE Interior is fundamentally carryover, however, upgraded materials and more technology makes it feel a little more fitting for the price tag 01
03 THREE Extra engine power required a brand new six-speed manual; the shift is nice but the ratios are very long, limiting cog-swapping opportunities
02 TWO New-for-2018 Drag Mode the key to the quickest performance times, adjusting the suspension, engine and gearbox for maximum attack