2018 Ford Mus­tang Per­for­mance Pack 2

We Get Be­hind the Wheel of Ford’s Lat­est Mus­tang Go-Fast Pack­age

Hot Rod - - Contents - Evan J. Smith Courtesy of Ford Mo­tor Com­pany

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.

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