2018 Ford Mustang Performance Pack 2
We Get Behind the Wheel of Ford’s Latest Mustang Go-Fast Package
The release of a new Mustang is cause for enthusiasts to flock to Ford dealerships. Team Mustang has done it again—this time with the all-new Performance Pack Level 2, which is guaranteed to excite the Mustang faithful.
Performance Pack Level 2 was born from Ford’s desire to fill its stable with exciting pony packages that meet the rigorous demands of performance, personalization, technology, and, at the same time, hitting important price points. There is a full palate of Mustang models, including the base EcoBoost Fastback, a Premium package with every imaginable comfort and convenience option. There are topless versions, too, and don’t forget the ultra-highperformance Shelby GT350 and GT350R. The long, wide range lets you spec your Mustang for cruising, tracking, weekend shows, the daily commute, or a mix of them all. And now, the PP2 becomes available to slide in nicely between the Performance Pack 1 and the Shelby GT350.
Truth be told, this was more of skunkworks project worked on by passionate engineers who created a Mustang to bridge the gap between the Performance Pack 1 and the GT350. They worked afterhours in the shop and at the track to create a Mustang with a hunkered-down, aggressive stance and aerodynamic enhancements, including a Boss 302–inspired splitter and rear spoiler, and mechanical upgrades like specially tuned MagneRide dampers, improved brake feel, and revised steering calibration to give drivers reduced body roll, balanced handling, and confidence at speed.
“Mustang is a huge passion project,” said Mark Schaller, Ford Mustang brand manager. “It’s been the best-selling sports coupe globally for three years, and we always ask, how can we keep it relevant? We do it by offering personalization and with a variety of personalities. The Performance Pack
Level 2 is the best-handling Mustang GT ever produced.
“There’s always a trade-off between performance and day-to-day livability,” he continued. “The engineering team spent countless hours at VIR, Grattan, Gingerman, NOLA, and at the Ford Proving Grounds, developing and refining this package. It’s understated [in appearance], but has so much grip that it’s perfect for someone who doesn’t race cars every weekend. It’s giving you great feedback, and you feel comfortable because you know when you’re pushing it too far.”
Mechanically, engineers upgraded to 20-percent stiffer front springs and rear springs that are 13-percent stiffer (from the PP1 package). They combined that with stabilizer bars that are 12-percent stiffer in the front and 67-percent stiffer in the rear. “Performance Pack Level 2 includes all of the features of Performance Pack Level 1, plus unique chassis and antilock brake tuning, unique stability control, and electric powerassisted steering,” said Tom Barnes, vehicle engineering manager on Ford Mustang.
Like the PP1 Mustang, Brembo sixpiston front brake calipers squeeze on large 15-inch rotors, but PP2 features revised calibration in the ABS, and the chassis is fortified with a K-brace and silver-painted strut tower brace and a lower V-brace. And to ensure performance under all spirited drives, there’s a larger radiator to maintain optimum engine temp.
Hot laps came at Monticello Motor Club (Monticello, New York), but we first strapped in for a street cruise through the scenic Catskills region of New York. We settled in and enjoyed a spirited drive, switching between Normal and Sport modes. Our route was abbreviated due to a blitz of foul weather, including a tornado the day prior, which left the area littered with downed trees and debris.
The minute you slide into the Recaro seat, you feel connected and ready to pounce. These chairs provide excellent support, comfort, and adjustability, yet they’re not overly aggressive with massive side bolters like the GT350. They are offered in either leather or cloth.
On the road, the PP2 was firm but with livable ride quality. The big 305s create some “rut wander” where the car tends to follow imperfections in the road surface, but this is commonplace with wide front rubber. If you’ve driven a GT350, the nuances are similar. We engaged Sport mode, dropped a gear, and gave it some throttle. Clutch and shift actuation is ultra-smooth (same as the GT and the PP1), and steering feel is weighted slightly heavier than the PP1, which was to our liking. In fact, the clutch take-up is a tad heavier and nicer than the GT350. The aforementioned road conditions kept us around 60 percent, but we pushed a bit and loved the aggressive nature of the chassis and suspension.
Providing essential adhesion are those lovely Michelin Pilot Sport Cup 2 tires sized at a beefy 305/30/R19—the same ones found on the front of every Shelby GT350R. “The tires are 1.5 inches wider than those found with Performance Pack Level 1,” Barnes said. “They provide firmer grip and work with a retuned chassis to put the car more than a half-inch closer to the ground.” The Sport Cup 2s are the same at each corner and are mounted on 10-spoke Dark Tarnish wheels measuring 19x10.5-inch front and 19x11-inch rear. They are exclusive to the PP2 package, but in our opinion, would sell like hotcakes if offered by Ford Performance Parts. The positive is massive grip once warmed up in dry conditions. The negative, they are not terrific in the wet, and with a short tread depth, we recommend keeping a few bucks in reserve for tires.
Compared to a Performance Pack 1, the PP2 Mustang sits lower (about 1 inch), and the wide 305 Michelins on 19-inch wheels give it that “track-day” look. Smartly, the overall OD of the wheel and tire package is reduced to lighten weight and improve braking. Ford is careful not to call the car track-ready because it lacks external auxiliary engine oil, transmission, and differential coolers, but we’ve seen many Mustang owners enjoy a weekend at the track with lesser-equipped models.
The enhanced rubber is paired with specifically calibrated MagneRide dampers that offer lightning-quick reaction to allow variable damping rate, with changes occurring in milliseconds. Four-wheel suspension sensors monitor driving conditions and constantly adjust, actually predicting what will be required to maintain flat cornering and maximum adhesion at the contact patch.
Make no mistake, this is a purpose-built package targeted at a buyer with a desire for a high level of performance. Hardcore enthusiasts will have no issue daily driving the PP2, and if you like your handling, it’s worth the $6,500 price tag for the package. Priced out on Ford.com, a base GT with the PP2 came in at $44,590.
With a few miles under our belt, we headed back to scenic Monticello Motor Club to turn a few hot laps. I say “a few,” because our planned track day was cut short when the sky opened and dumped enough rain to cut into our action. Regardless, it didn’t stop us from laying into the 460 hp and feeling that wonderful grip, even if for a short stint.
We’d classify the Performance Pack Level 2 as a baby Shelby GT350, with amazing braking, precise turn-in capabilities, and balance through the corners. The brakes have excellent modulation, and applying them at the right moment let us plant the nose and turn in aggressively with no understeer or chatter from the big 305 Michelins. When pushed hard, the body remained flat, the rear tracked nicely without so much as a shimmer, and we never lost compliance in the tires, which gave us a feeling of confidence.
We also liked the low 3.73:1 gearing (with
Torsen rear differential) that was matched nicely to the 5.0L engine’s output and rpm band. We found it easy to pick the right gear and get off the corner fast with a smooth transition from apex to the straight. The track’s sprawling layout provided nice mix of elevation change, sweepers, and switchback corners that let us experience the Mustang’s brakes, acceleration, and grip level. And the Mustang never complained, even when the track was damp.
Our biggest takeaway was the connection between the power, grip, and balance. Much of the credit goes to Jamie Cullen, Ford supervisor for vehicle dynamics development, who led road-test efforts to ensure the car delivered ultra-responsive steering, world-class braking, and handling performance to match. “It will just beg you to go faster. The car has lightningquick response and never gives up grip,” Cullen said.
While the on-track performance speaks volumes, the styling is somewhat understated. The only visual cues are black detailing on the splitter and spoiler, the tire spat on the back edge of the rear wheelwells, and the 19-inch wheels. Mustang veteran Jonathan Gesek, former aerodynamics specialist at NASA and now with Ford’s aerodynamics group, spearheaded development of a high-performance front splitter and rear spoiler. Using the splitter from the famed Mustang Boss
302 Laguna Seca as a benchmark, his team attached the piece to the underside of the front to fan out as much as 3 inches around the corners of the Mustang GT. It creates roughly 24 pounds of downforce at 80 mph, helping overall grip. To balance the downforce, a subtle, redesigned rear spoiler adds style and performance. Those with a keen eye will also pick up on the lowered stance.
Overall, the PP2 hits its mark. Those who enjoy ripping through the turns will realize maximum enjoyment, and the team at Ford should be proud. But there’s one more slot that needs to be filled. If we could add one more Mustang to the lineup, it’s one with the emphasis on quarter-mile performance. We’ve gone 11.83 at 119 mph with a fully loaded PP1, and Ford can make one go quicker. Combine the 480 hp 5.0L engine from the Bullitt with the 10-speed automatic transmission, add 3.73s, drag radials, and they’d have a Mustang capable of low-11s.
It’s food for thought, and we know Mustang owners have the appetite.