:12 An­gus Macken­zie: In­ter­na­tional Bureau Chief There’s a ton of grip — those tires earn their keep — but the pro­nounced ver­ti­cal body mo­tions mean the car feels busy as speeds rise.”

Motor Trend - - 2018 Best Driver’s Car -

Although our Best Driver’s Car com­pe­ti­tion is by no means a num­bers game, the 2018 Mus­tang GT Perf Pack 2 re­ally needed to smack down its arch­neme­sis, the Ca­maro SS 1LE that fin­ished fourth here in 2016. The Mus­tang justly earned its ca­boose rank­ing by miss­ing that bo­gey, sub­jec­tively and ob­jec­tively.

First the ob­jec­tive: A lap-time gap of 0.65 sec­ond at Weathertech Race­way La­guna Seca is a life­time. It even trails the Chevy by 0.3 sec­ond on our tiny fig­ure-eight course. Time lost be­tween the cor­ners as a re­sult of the Mus­tang’s 35-lb-ft torque deficit is eas­ily for­given for its fab­u­lous sound­track.

Randy Pobst felt the ’Stang is “not bal­anced like the Ca­maro. There’s a lit­tle too much over­steer in the en­try phase and when I go to power. I would put a lit­tle more front anti-roll bar in it.” He was also vexed by the sta­bil­ity con­trol, which, although dis­abled, seemed to res­ur­rect af­ter a lap or two.

In the brak­ing depart­ment, how­ever, Kim Reynolds gushed, “When did the Mus­tang get such great brakes?”—a sen­ti­ment backed up by a Ca­maro-match­ing 94-foot stop from 60 mph. But Pobst and Chris Wal­ton wished for ini­tial bite that was a bit less abrupt.

Sub­jec­tively, Pobst loved the Mus­tang on the smooth track—but was sur­prised to learn the Audi TT RS ran quicker. On our bumpy Route 198 hill climb, the rest of the jury was un­der­whelmed by the Ford. A balky high-fric­tion shifter and too-roomy seat drew near uni­ver­sal dis­dain, as did the front end’s propen­sity to fol­low ruts.

The Miche­lin Pilot Sport Cup 2 steam­rollers are im­mensely sticky, good for 1.06 g on our skid­pad, but they send vague, con­fi­dence-sap­ping mes­sages to the helm—es­pe­cially when tran­si­tion­ing into a curve, be­fore the chas­sis set­tles into the cor­ner. Many driv­ers re­ported mak­ing con­stant mid­corner course cor­rec­tions—es­pe­cially in cor­ners that pro­voked bump steer.

Scott Evans sum­ma­rized the staff’s sen­ti­ments: “I was hop­ing for a bud­get Shelby, and what I got was a bet­ter GT.”

Words Frank Markus

STICKY Man­ual trans­mis­sions are an en­dan­gered species, and this one does lit­tle to aid the preser­va­tion ef­forts. It’s balky and doesn’t like to be rushed. The big-screen in­stru­ment clus­ter is cool, though.

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