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2018 Ford Mustang: Traditional styling with modern amenities

2018 Ford Mustang 6.JPG
2018 Ford Mustang (Sinclair Broadcast Group / Jill Ciminillo)

There is something special about American muscle. From the classic looks to the deep throaty exhaust, you can look at a modern-day muscle car and see the family genes reflected through modern, LED headlights.

While the 2018 Ford Mustang has certainly entered the 21st century with high-tech infotainment and modern safety equipment, it’s easy to see the original fastback in the lines of its current-generation brethren.

And that is a huge part of the charm.

Design

Though Mustang design went slightly astray in the 1980s and ‘90s, Ford brought it back to its heritage with the 2005 model, giving it a fastback profile and throwback interior styling.

Now in its 6th generation, the Mustang is very clearly a Mustang. The deeply raked rear window and forward sloping grille hearken back to the early generations, even if the horizontal lines on the side and rear are more well-defined.


The interior maintains the air of retro chic with toggle switches and physical buttons and dials for audio and HVAC.

But the center stack nicely integrates an available 8-inch touchscreen to house the very modern Sync3 and standard Apple CarPlay/Android Auto.

It’s been while since I’ve driven a Mustang, but one of my previous complaints was the interior – though it looked nice – felt kind of cheap. Thankfully, I think a lot of that has been ironed out, and the dash materials, seating surfaces and touch points on the center stack felt solid and well made.

Ride & Handling

The ride and handling of the Mustang is exactly what I expected it to be: stiff and unyielding. Which is great for shorter stints behind the wheel – including a daily commute. But it’s not so great for a really long road trip -- like, say, from Chicago to Detroit.

After a while, the soft leather seats don’t provide enough cushion, and the lumbar support isn’t quite enough.

The test vehicle was a GT model, which means it came equipped with the 5.0-liter V-8 engine delivering 460 horsepower and 420 pound-feet of torque.


This made it plenty fast and created several heart-flipping moments when merging with highway traffic.

Every bump and pothole is a hazard, though, and I found that city streets were a maze of “avoid that pockmark” and “slow down to 5 mph to crest that speed bump.”

Highway straights were great for cruising, but as previously mentioned, only for shorter stints.

Plus, the test vehicle opted to add the 10-speed automatic transmission instead of the standard 6-speed manual. Yes, this makes stop-and-go traffic easier to manage, but it also takes a lot of fun out of the drive for the enthusiast.

Fuel economy

My husband and I took the Mustang on an 8-hour round-trip road trip, and we were surprised by the fuel economy – especially since we weren’t driving 55 mph the entire time. (For the record, the speed limit most of the way was 70 mph.)


EPA estimates that you should get 15 in the city and 25 on the highway. We averaged 24.7 in about 300 miles of mostly highway driving, and I averaged 23.1 mpg overall in 1,000 miles of combined driving.

I think that’s decent for a vehicle that delivers 460 horsepower.

Tech & gadgets

The 2018 Mustang is equipped with Sync3, which works well as an infotainment system. Apple CarPlay/Android Auto is also standard, and I kept my phone plugged in most of the time to take advantage of the easy talk-to-text function that CarPlay offers.

Ford also offers Waze integration. However, I haven’t upgraded my iOS, so every time I plugged in to use Waze, it took me away from the radio and stuck me into the CarPlay environment. So, I’d have to set my Waze instructions before switching back to the radio.

The good news is, once I set my destination, Waze didn’t constantly interrupt my music and flip me back to the CarPlay environment when it offered a new directional.

Other available tech features include a B&O premium audio system, MagneRide Damping System, selectable drive modes, a 12-inch LCD cluster with MyColor and voice-activated navigation.


Trims

One of the things I really like about the Mustang is that you can buy one at a reasonably affordable price at a base level – and it still gets decent performance. Plus, it’s available as both a fastback and a convertible.

The trim breakdown is as follows:

EcoBoost ($26,675): Available as both a fastback and a convertible, this base trim comes with the 2.3-liter V-6 EcoBoost engine, a rearview camera, track apps LED headlights, passive entry and push-button start. The convertible adds $5,500.

EcoBoost Premium ($31,690): Available as both a fastback and a convertible, this trim adds leather seats, heated and cooled front seats, Sync3, heated side mirrors with integrated turn indicators and selectable drive modes with toggle switches. The convertible adds $5,500.

GT ($31,690): This is the only trim that isn’t available as a convertible model. This model has the 5.0-liter V-8 engine, dual exhaust with quad tips, LED fog lamps and a reverse sensing system but does not have the up-level amenities added at the premium level.

GT Premium ($40,185): In addition to the 5.0-liter V-8, this trim adds leather seats, heated and cooled front seats, Sync3, heated side mirrors with integrated turn indicators and selectable drive modes with toggle switches. The convertible adds $5,500.


Safety

The Mustang includes things such as electronic stability control, anti-lock brakes, dual-stage front airbags, rearview camera, side-curtain airbags and a post-crash alert system as standard.

Available safety features include adaptive cruise control, forward collision warning, pre-collision assist with pedestrian detection and a reverse sensing system.

Thankfully, as a sports car, the Mustang gets fairly good ratings from the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety and the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration.

The NHTSA gives it an overall 5-Star Rating. IIHS, which has some more detailed testing, gives Mustang mostly “Good” ratings, with an “Acceptable” rating for the driver’s side small front overlap test.

Not sure what the safety ratings mean? We break it down for you here.


New for 2018

The biggest changes for 2018 include a more powerful V-8, an all-new 10-speed automatic transmission and an available Drag Strip mode.

Also new: a refreshed front and rear design, a 12-inch LCD behind-the-wheel digital instrument cluster, active valve performance exhaust and pre-collision assist.

A few of my favorite things

I loved the retro interior styling. I’m a huge fan of the textured aluminum on the dash, and the toggle switches below the HVAC controls look pretty suave.

Plus, with the addition of the PP1 option, the Mustang’s exhaust note gets deeper and throatier, and it fairly roars when you start the engine or punch it in hard acceleration. It’s music to the ears.

That pony puddle lamp, however, was absolutely delightful. Every passenger commented on it, and I loved the level of detail on something so seemingly simple.


What I can leave

I had a hard time understanding why the test vehicle would add the PP1 option, and then mate it to an automatic transmission. This somehow just hurts my soul. I absolutely would ditch the 10-speed automatic.

I’d also like to find some more comfortable seats. I know there are Recaros available, and that might be the better option here, even though they will add about $10K to the base GT pricing because you have to add the Performance Package Level 2 ($6,500) and the 301A equipment package ($2,000) to get them ($1,595).

The bottom line

One of my Instagram followers asked me if I liked the Mustang or the Camaro better, and I really had to think about that. They’re both great cars, and while one was a GT while the other was an SS, it’s kind of like comparing apples and oranges because the two vehicles were not similarly equipped.

I liked the seats better in the Camaro, and I loved the short-throw shift of the 6-speed manual. But the retro interior styling is more to my taste in the Mustang, as was the ultra cool pony puddle lamp. Half a dozen one, six the other.

I would certainly equip the Mustang a bit differently if I were purchasing it, including adding the manual transmission and PP2 option.

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