Ford Mustang GT 2018 new car review
Inarguably the 2018 Ford Mustang GT couldn’t have galloped in at a better time.
Even Ford placed the pre-facelift Mustang at long odds to win over the buying public as much as it did, but since its launch in 2016 the turbocharged four-cylinder and – more closely – naturally aspirated V8 coupe and convertible have proven to be an enormous sales success.
Now, a squinty new face has stared down the wrath of independent ANCAP – Australasian New Car Assessment Program – which awarded the outgoing sports car just two stars owing to airbag deployment issues and active safety technology omissions. The latter is now addressed with autonomous emergency braking (AEB), active lane-keep assistance, as well as adaptive cruise control standard across the range. And it still only gets three shiny stars…
However, cheers from punters come courtesy of a 5.0-litre petrol V8 that moves from 306kW to 339kW of power, and from 530Nm to 556Nm of torque, allied to the six-speed manual tested here or a 10-speed automatic that rises four gears on the previous model. There’s also optional adaptive suspension, as tested here, and an active exhaust – but for a higher price…
Vehicle Style: Sports coupe
Price: $62,990 plus on-road costs
Engine/trans: 339kW/556Nm 5.0-litre V8 | six-speed manual
Fuel Economy Claimed: 12.7 l/100km Tested: 14.5 l/100km
At launch the Ford Mustang GT with manual or auto cost $57,490 and $59,990 plus on-road costs respectively, as a relatively small step-up for buyers of the now-deceased, locally built Ford Falcon XR8 and also Holden Commodore SS V Redline. With this 2018 model, though, the V8’s price with manual or auto leaps up to $62,990 and $66,259 (plus orc) respectively.
Of course there’s more power, and in the case of the auto extra gears, an exhaust with an active flap, plus all the extra active safety equipment listed above. And it doesn’t stop there. The Blue Oval has also boosted the cabin with more soft-touch surfaces, a 12.0-inch widescreen driver display and an ear-shattering 1000-watt Bang and Olufsen audio system.
Clearly on paper, what is lost in attainability, is gained materially. At least with the Mustang GT tested here, though, the traditional three-pedal option keeps things more affordable.
It’s money left to spend on Recaro racing buckets, MagneRide two-mode adaptive dampers, and forged alloys, as fitted to our Blue Lightening test car for $3000 extra, $2750 more and a further $2500 respectively. Suddenly, it’s a $71,240 (plus orc) ‘Stang … or is that sting?
THE INTERIOR | RATING: 3.5/5
Standard Equipment: Keyless auto-entry with push-button start and electric-folding door mirrors, automatic on/off headlights and wipers, auto up/down high-beam, auto-dimming rear-view mirror, leather-wrapped steering wheel, adaptive cruise control, dual-zone climate control, leather trim, and electrically adjustable and heated/ventilated front seats.
Infotainment: 8.0-inch colour touchscreen with Bluetooth and USB connectivity, Apple CarPlay/Android Auto smartphone mirroring, digital radio, satellite navigation and 1000-watt Bang and Olufsen audio system.
Options Fitted: Recaro sports seats ($3000), MagneRide adaptive suspension ($2750) and 19-inch forged alloy wheels ($2500).
Owners of Falcons – especially, but also Commodores – will be stunned when first entering the Mustang’s cabin, owing to a driving position that is incredibly low and snug for a big car. There’s no more sitting high on, rather than in, a V8 rear-wheel drive sports car, because this Ford feels every bit like an individually designed coupe instead of a spruced-up family sedan.
The dashboard is as blocky as it is plasticky, though the retro-inspired trio of circular centre air vents, broad-shouldered passenger-side airbag pad, and aircraft-style lower console switchgear ‘toggles’ all say ‘Mustang’ as much as the Pony-embossed steering wheel does.
The 8.0-inch touchscreen also contains features that Australian-made vehicles never did, such as Apple CarPlay/Android Auto smartphone mirroring technology, a digital radio and satellite navigation with predictive-text address entry – such as that used by Google Maps.
Nor will have locals experienced the booming, thunderous audio system, curiously from a brand – Bang and Olufsen – more renowned for delicate high-end tuning of premium vehicles than the sort of heavy bass that brash Americans would love. Still, it’s good though.
And likewise the new widescreen driver display, which can’t match the finesse of an Audi or Volkswagen equivalent – and disappointingly it can’t display a full nav-map display – but it still looks sexy and slick enough to impress. Most helpfully, though, it does show the myriad mix-and-match settings for drivetrain/suspension, steering, launch control and exhaust.
It also provides a glitzy distraction from some fit-and-finish issues inside this GT. The new, soft-touch lower console trim comes complete with exposed stitching, and its rubbery finish at least now matches the door and dashboard trim.
However, there’s a cheapness to the way the bin lids open and close, the way the shiny silver doorhandle material doesn’t sit flush, and the way some of the other surrounding pieces don’t really clamp tight around each other. The leather trim, too, isn’t the most high-end stuff around, and for circa-$70K, it ought to be.
At least the front seats themselves are wide yet supportive, snug yet comfortable, and the twin rear chairs are more than just token items. Sure, adults will nudge their heads and crimp their knees, but kids will be fine. And the boot size is somewhere between that of a light hatchback and a small sedan, which is okay for a couple’s weekend and not much more.
ON THE ROAD | RATING: 4.0/5
Engine: 339kW/556Nm 5.0-litre petrol V8.
Transmission: Six-speed manual, RWD.
Suspension: Strut front and independent rear.
Brakes: Ventilated front and rear disc brakes.
Steering: Electrically assisted mechanical steering.
It might surprise some who think the Mustang GT is a large car, but the 4789mm body length is only underpinned by a 2720mm wheelbase. Compare those numbers with, for example, a $77,629 (plus orc) BMW M240i, 4454mm long with 2690mm between axles. Or an $85,990 (plus orc) Chevrolet Camaro 2SS, 4782mm from tip to toe with a 2811mm wheelbase.
So the Ford sides closer to a German than its traditional American-turned-Australian (where HSV converts the Camaro to right-hand drive) rival. With a tare mass of 1701kg, the Mustang is also heavier than the M240i (1443kg) and the 2SS (1664kg).
That all means little to the upgraded 5.0-litre naturally aspirated V8 engine, though, which now includes port and direct injection, revving briskly and enthusiastically to 7800rpm – passing peak torque (556Nm at 4600rpm) and power (339kW at 7000rpm) along the way.
The six-speed manual is also delightful, with a surprisingly slick and short shift gate that seems at odds with the willowy, muscle car character of old. We do mean ‘of old’, too, because the GT’s optional MagneRide adaptive suspension transforms its on-road behaviour.
In the default Normal mode there’s a cushy comfiness that really does suggest Grand Tourer, yet it avoids the sponginess and front-end slap that were inherent in the old (and possibly still standard) single-setting suspension. As road surfaces became worse, so too did the ‘Stang…
Even switching to Sport mode reveals no great harshness, only really disciplined and sometimes busy ride quality that also happens to deliver the sort of tight body control unimagineable before. Thankfully, it’s also possible to individually amp up the exhaust noise or tone down the steering weight individually, as part of a My Mode mix-and-match setting.
The tighter suspension works a charm for the Ford’s handling too. This chassis is basic in its balance, without the surprisingly sharp turn-in of a VF Series II Commodore or new Camaro, let alone the natural roll onto the rear axle of the best coupes such as M240i.
Look under the bonnet and the V8 sits up high over the axle line, and with plenty of rear overhang it’s clear the suspension is working hard to contain the mass around and over it. But it works, with both front and rear axle feeling faithfully pinned down. Be patient with turn-in, feel the grip of the new, superb Michelin Pilot Sport 4S tyres, then blast off on exit – simple.
The faster-reacting electronic stability control (ESC) could now use a proper Sport mode, and the previously mute steering is now imbued with at least some tightness, if not real road feedback or feel. Despite a higher starting price, the new Camaro is the sharper drive with demonstrably superior steering.
ANCAP rating: 3 stars – this model scored 27.7 out of 38 possible points when tested by ANCAP in 2017.
Safety Features: Eight airbags, ABS, electronic stability control (ESC), forward collision warning with autonomous emergency braking (AEB), lane-departure warning with active lane-keep assistance, rear-view camera, and rear parking sensors.
WARRANTY AND SERVICING
Warranty: Five years/unlimited km.
Servicing: Annual or 15,000km intervals are charged at a capped-price $395/$540/$450/$540/$395 each respectively, to five years or 75,000km.
RIVALS TO CONSIDER
For a bit more coin, a 500Nm 3.0-litre turbo-six M240i feels lighter, more fluent, and just plainly more dynamic – though the optional limited-slip differential (LSD) is a must.
The Camaro 2SS is far more expensive, and auto only, but it takes a hard-and-fast approach to dynamics without a hint of ‘GT’ cushiness - it is, however, the better driver’s car.
A wild card, perhaps, but a Q60 Red Sport is equally fast with a superb drivetrain, and fun but slightly unhinged handling that contrasts with its flawless build quality.
TMR VERDICT | OVERALL RATING: 3.5/5
The facelifted Mustang GT would have been a clear four-star performer if its pricetag had remained under $60K, with the adaptive suspension as standard. But sales success has left Ford feeling fine to raise prices, admittedly in line with mechanical and safety upgrades.
Objectively, however, it now faces tougher competition in these lofty regions, including with the BMW M240i that is less muscle car and more driver’s car. Some build quality issues, plus steering feedback and chassis balance deficits, could easily be more easily overlooked when this sports car was more attainable.
On the flipside, the 5.0-litre is fantastic, the gearshift is great, the body control is now brilliant (with optional suspension), and the interior is injected with technology. A part-time GT, part-muscle car, the facelifted Mustang GT proves to be a much better Mustang GT.
The question for buyers now is, can you afford this better Ford?