2018 Ford Mustang Review

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2018
The Car Connection
2018
The Car Connection

The Car Connection Expert Review

Brandon Turkus Brandon Turkus
May 30, 2018

Athletic performance, decent fuel economy, and surprising technology make the 2018 Ford Mustang even better.

The 2018 Ford Mustang is an iconic muscle car.

Top down or top up, four or eight cylinders, with or without track weapons, the two-door, rear-drive car soldiers into 2018 with new body panels, a new transmission, available suspension setup, and digital dash. The rental-fleet stalwart V-6 is gone.

For its more potent V-8 engine, improved turbo-4, available digital instrument cluster, active exhaust, and adaptive suspension, we award the 2018 Ford Mustang a 7.3 out of 10. (Read more about how we rate cars.)

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The 2018 Mustang is available in four trims—EcoBoost, EcoBoost Premium, GT, and GT Premium. The Mustang Convertible drops the standard GT trim. EcoBoost models rely on a new 2.3-liter, turbo-4 that generates 310 horsepower and 350 pound-feet of torque. The Mustang GT retains last year’s 5.0-liter V-8, which now packs 460 hp and 420 lb-ft of torque. Both engines work with standard 6-speed manual transmissions or optional 10-speed automatics.

Extra power and torque are only part of the 2018 Mustang equation. Ford now offers adaptive shocks on every trim level. These advanced magnetic dampers—a fixture on the Mustang’s rival, the Chevrolet Camaro, for the past few years—allow drivers to flip between a softer suspension setting for everyday driving to a firmer tune for sharper handling.

GT models offer an available active exhaust system. With the press of a button, owners can go from a quiet setting to a more vocal driving mode. At just $895, it’s an affordable feature, and while it doesn’t enhance the Mustang GT’s performance, it transforms its character and makes its power more enjoyable.

The other big addition is a new digital dash. Available only on the two Premium trims, the 12-inch display replaces traditional gauges with a beautiful, reconfigurable screen. It’s focused almost exclusively on driving information—don’t expect a sprawling navigation interface like with Audi’s Virtual Cockpit—but the ability to adjust the gauge layout is fun. Functionally, drivers can program shift lights and pull up different bits of driving data. It’s also a better interface for the Mustang’s Track Apps, a suite of performance features. The new digital dash isn’t cheap, but as a performance tool, it’s a welcome addition that sets the Mustang apart from the Camaro and Dodge Challenger.

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2018 Ford Mustang

Styling

After a polarizing redesign, the 2018 Ford Mustang gets a fleshed-out look and the option of a more premium cabin.

The polarizing design Ford applied to the Mustang for its big 2015 redesign gets slight tweaks to its front and rear end for 2018. Combined with a cleaner interior made up of better materials, the 2018 Ford Mustang earns an 8 out of 10 on our style scale. (Read more about how we rate cars.)

Like most facelifts, the 2018 Mustang’s refresh focuses on the front and rear, leaving the bits in the middle largely unchanged. But rather than just updating the headlights, taillights, and front and rear bumpers—Ford addressed all that stuff—it made a larger change by lowering the height of the car’s nose, accentuating the shark-nose style. The change is minor, only about 20 millimeters, but it gives the Mustang’s face a different look.

Ford paired the more stylish nose with new headlights. After fanboy complaints that the Mustang’s last redesign made it look like a Fusion Coupe, the 2018’s headlights are more shapely, and pair with more attractive running lamps. Those headlights sit in deeper housings, which make the lower nose more noticeable. Beneath those headlights sit new marker lights that Ford attached to vertical vents. The overall result is a face with a lot more presence (something that isn’t reflected as well in photos).

In back, Ford angled the new C-shaped taillights and seemingly slimmed down the black surround. It’s a subtler adjustment than what’s going on in front, but it still works. What doesn’t work is the available performance spoiler, a pedestal unit that looks cheap and bolted on. Thankfully, it’s only available with the Performance Package and Ford gives owners the option to delete the offensive aero piece at no charge.

Like the spoiler, you’ll need to spend some money to see the biggest changes in the cabin. The new digital gauge cluster requires the Premium trim and a trim-specific Equipment Package, but it immediately classes up the interior. Part of that package is upgraded interior leather in black, red, or a very stylish black with blue piping. On the flipside, the optional Carbon Sport Interior Package adds huge swaths of carbon-fiber trim on the dash, door panels, and even on the gear lever. The downside is that it’s not available with the upgraded leather/digital dash or even the available Recaro-branded sport seats. Outside of those additional items, the interior design isn’t all that different than last year’s Mustang, which is no bad thing—this is still the best muscle car cabin on the market.

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2018 Ford Mustang

Performance

The 2018 Ford Mustang is a more fun, more capable, better balanced, and smarter performer than ever before.

Charming, powerful engine options, magnetic dampers that seamlessly switch between ride comfort and agility, stout brakes, and a wonderfully weighted steering rack yield a more complete, compelling Mustang. But a frustrating 10-speed automatic transmission ruins the perfect score. The 2018 Ford Mustang has to settle for 9 out of 10 on our performance scale. (Read more about how we rate cars.)

The star of the show is still the Mustang GT’s 5.0-liter V-8. Power output is up from 435 horsepower and 400 pound-feet of torque to 460 hp and 420 lb-ft of torque, helping the Mustang GT hit 60 in less than four seconds. We repeat, a car that starts at just a hair under $36,000 can now hit 60 in under four seconds.

The extra power makes the Mustang GT even more charming. Perfectly able to destroy its standard 18- or available 19-inch tires, it offers accessible power at every engine speed. But part of the charm comes from the new active exhaust system. Retaining the now-standard quad-tipped exhaust setup, the optional exhaust gives drivers the ability to adjust the exhaust volume on the fly. You can flip from a quiet setting perfect for cruising and commuting to a sonorous, sexy Track mode that probably is audible across entire counties.

With the death of the V-6 model for 2018, the Mustang’s 2.3-liter, turbo-4 serves as the new base model, and it has been upgraded too. According to Ford, lessons from the Focus RS, which features a similar engine, help the Mustang’s new starter engine increase its torque output from 320 to 350 lb-ft, while the horsepower is unchanged at 310.

The Mustang’s turbo-4 option has been the smart choice for folks that want the Mustang’s styling statement but don’t need the expense or the performance of the GT. It’s never been slow, but adding an extra 30 lb-ft of torque to the 2.3-liter makes for more pleasant everyday performance without making the starter Mustang any more difficult or frenetic to drive.

We can’t say the same of the new 10-speed automatic. A joint project between Ford and General Motors that has already appeared in the F-150, Expedition, Lincoln Navigator, Chevrolet Camaro ZL1, and (soon) GM’s full-size SUVs, doesn’t work all that well in the Mustang.

The less powerful engine cooperates with the 10-speed better. Shifts are predictable and crisp both up and down and regardless of whether the car is in Normal or one of the performance driving modes. The V-8 has troubles, though. It revs quicker and is so much more powerful that it regularly feels like the 10-speed can’t cope with the 5.0-liter engine.

During our test drive in southern California, the automatic transmission spent too much time trying to figure out how and when to deploy power, sometimes dropping gears in two-cog batches multiple times. And in between those multi-gear changes? Nothingness. The 10-speed is too slow to respond when exercising the V-8, a trait that’s exacerbated by the overabundance of gears.

Like the quad-tipped exhaust, the Shelby GT350 shares its magnetic dampers with the lesser Mustang as an option. Snag the Performance Package and then add Magnetic Ride Control and you’ll be cruising in the most agile, composed, and capable Mustang available from the factory. In Sport mode, the dampers firm up and deliver sharp, predictable handling, even along rough roads. The Mustang’s ability to handle mid-corner imperfections is scarcely believable considering how terrible the old solid-rear-axle Mustang behaved. Set the dampers to a softer mode (and switch the optional exhaust to its quietest setting) and the Mustang feels more like a grand tourer, shrugging off small to medium impacts without complaint.

And while it doesn’t strictly affect performance, we have to level some praise at the Mustang’s new digital instrument cluster. It’s almost entirely devoted to driving information, offering drivers everything from programmable shift lights to a variety of gauge setups. There are few better ways to monitor a car’s behavior.

As for the stunning GT350, it's an outlier, what with its flat-plane 5.2-liter V-8 and its magnetically damped ride. It's a thrilling track specialist that can feel a little brittle on everyday roads, but we can say truthfully it's the best Mustang in history. For a deeper dive into that model, take a look at Motor Authority's first drive of the Ford Shelby GT350.

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2018 Ford Mustang

Comfort & Quality

If you’re in the front seats of the 2018 Ford Mustang, life is good.

The 2018 Ford Mustang is a two-plus-two in name, but not in function. The back seats can house a pair of humans for short stints (particularly with the convertible model’s roof down), but those chairs border on vestigial. Combined with a snug trunk and a lack of suitable storage for in the cabin, even the Mustang’s impressive front seats can’t help its comfort score reach above a 4 out of 10. (Read more about how we rate cars.)

Those front seats are very good. Whether the base chairs, the leather-lined thrones in on the Premium models, or the optional Recaros, the Mustang’s seats are supportive both around town and when carving canyon roads. They are, however, snug. The side bolsters have some give, so big-boned drivers won’t be too uncomfortable, but the Mustang’s sporting intentions are clear.

Once underway the cabin comes together well. Even the base seats offer a good range of adjustability, even for tall drivers, who will find plenty of leg and head room in front. A tilt/telescopic steering wheel complements the driver’s side setup.

The dash still is a mixed bag. When Ford first installed the Mustang’s retro design language back in 2005 it seemed to forget the cabin. It retained hard, unpleasant plastics well into the early 2010s. The 2015 redesign didn’t do away with those cheap bits entirely, and the 2018 refresh has failed to exorcise them as well. The door uppers are the main culprit, retaining a cheap, hollow feel despite attractive fabric or leather inserts. It’s a similar story on the center console, aside from the elements around the shifter, which feel much more premium.

The center stack is a pleasant design, particularly in the Premium with its handsome toggle switches. The new carbon-fiber dash is an $1,195 option and adds a premium flair to the cabin, but it requires owners give up too much—you can’t get the Mustang’s main upgrade package or the Recaro seats with the carbon style pack. The Premium’s standard machined aluminum look is just fine, even though it’s just plastic.

The second-row seats are certainly supportive. With just a pair of buckets in back, passengers sink in. The problems are head and leg room, as well as ingress and egress. The only thing less graceful than climbing into the backseat of a two-door coupe is exiting them at the end of the journey. Although the Mustang’s lack of head room isn’t as dramatic as the Chevrolet Camaro’s, the 34.8 inches is tight enough that getting your noggin in and out without bumping it is difficult. Tall folks brush the roofline once they’re settled into the backseat. The 29 inches of leg room—less than Camaro—is also an issue, unless you have a very short driver behind the wheel.

Cargo room in the Mustang sits squarely between its main rivals, the Chevrolet Camaro and Dodge Challenger. Blessed with 13.5 cubic feet in the coupe and 11.4 in the convertible, there’s more space than the minuscule 9.1 in the Camaro Coupe (7.3 in the convertible, but less than the Challenger’s 16.2). In other words, the Mustang offers enough space for a weekend’s worth of bags, provided you pack frugally.

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2018 Ford Mustang

Safety

Federal and independent crash tests are mostly good, but the 2018 Ford Mustang bundles active safety in pricey packages.

Federal and independent crash tests for the 2018 Ford Mustang are mostly good, but leave room for improvement.

Federal testers give the Mustang top, five-star scores across the board, which is relatively rare. Independent testers aren't as kind. The Mustang received mostly top, "Good" scores on its crash tests, except for a lone "Acceptable" rating for front small-overlap crash protection. The IIHS hasn't yet rated its automatic braking system or the Mustang's headlights.

We give the Mustang two points above average for the federal scores. It earns a 7 out of 10 for safety. (Read more about how we rate cars.)

The 2018 Mustang reserves the bulk of its active safety equipment for its EcoBoost Premium and GT Premium models. Grabbing either of those Mustang variants grants access to the Safe and Smart Package, a $1,495 goodie bag that adds adaptive cruise control, blind-spot monitors with rear cross-traffic alert, active lane control, forward-collision warnings with automatic emergency braking and pedestrian detection, automatic high beams, and rain-sensing wipers. It also adds a memory function for the driver’s seat.  

Standard safety features include LED headlights, as well as front, side-curtain, and seat-mounted airbags (the side-curtain airbags are obviously not available with a convertible body). There’s also an airbag in place to protect the driver’s knee in the event of a crash.

A rearview camera is standard. Outward vision on Mustang coupes is decent, compared to the horrible view out of a Camaro.

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2018 Ford Mustang

Features

Advanced, driver-focused technology blended with premium content elevates the 2018 Ford Mustang.

A wealth of standard equipment, a wide range optional goodies, a dynamite class-exclusive piece of tech, and more performance-focused gear earn the 2018 Ford Mustang a 9 out of 10 on our features scale. (Read more about how we rate cars.)

Prices for the base Mustang EcoBoost start at $26,485 (including a mandatory $900 destination charge) and the Mustang GT rings up at $35,995. The EcoBoost’s Premium trim adds $5,015 to the price tag, while the GT’s is an even $4,000. The convertible body style adds $5,500 to the price across the board. Curiously, the Premium trim is required if you want a Mustang GT Convertible. A 10-speed automatic is a $1,595 option on all trims.

Every 2018 Mustang, regardless of engine, comes standard with automatic LED headlights, active noise cancellation, keyless ignition, a leather-wrapped steering wheel, a six-speaker audio system, and a rearview camera.  Ford’s hilarious electronic line lock is standard on every car, allowing all 2018 Mustang owners to execute flawless burnouts at the push of a button and press of a pedal.

That’s just the start. Both the Mustang EcoBoost and the Mustang GT are available with a Premium trim level, that adds heated and cooled front seats, leather upholstery, the Sync 3 infotainment system with an 8.0-inch touchscreen, and dual-zone automatic climate control. You’ll want the Premium trim as it opens access to one of the Mustang’s best new features.

The new, all-digital instrument cluster is the star of the Premium trim’s main equipment package, a $2,200 bundle that also adds a navigation function for the infotainment system, improved seat upholstery, accent stitching, and colored door trim, a heated steering wheel, a wi-fi hotspot, and remote start. It’s a must-have item.

The new display, while focused on the business of driving, looks more premium than the traditional gauges. It may sit on the driver’s side, but it’s unquestionably the centerpiece of the Mustang’s cabin.

Ford has also amplified the performance equipment available in the 2018 Mustang. A new Performance Package is available on the EcoBoost and GT ($2,495 and $3,995, respectively) that adds larger wheels, stickier tires, stiffer suspension tuning, an upgraded rear differential, enhanced cooling, and Brembo six-piston front brakes. If you’re buying the Mustang for performance, you’re not done until you’ve ticked this box.

Or maybe you haven’t started. The Performance Pack—and the even more aggressive, GT-only Performance Package Level 2—works best alongside the optional MagneRide suspension. These magnetic dampers transform the Mustang’s ride and handling and level the playing field against the Chevrolet Camaro. They’re a $1,695 option regardless of engine. And if you’re going with a V-8, you’ll want the $895 active exhaust. It allows owners to set the exhaust volume between several different modes, bouncing between a bassy, menacing bellow for enthusiastic driving and track work, and a quieter, more restrained setting for commuting. There’s even a preset that turns the exhaust to its quietest setting, so owners won’t wake up the family or their neighbors when setting off each day. It’s a cheap, ear-pleasing option that we strongly recommend.

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2018 Ford Mustang

Fuel Economy

Fuel efficiency and a fun-to-drive character are not mutually exclusive in the 2018 Mustang.

The most efficient Mustang also will be the most common, with the 2.3-liter turbo-4, 10-speed automatic transmission, and hardtop body. It returns 21 mpg city, 32 highway, 25 combined, numbers that are high enough to earn a 7 on our green scale. (Read more about how we rate cars.)

But while the turbocharged, auto-equipped coupe is the most efficient, it’s very easy to order a Mustang that isn’t so kind at the pump. Grabbing the standard 6-speed manual drops the 2.3-liter Coupe’s fuel economy by 1 mpg on the highway.

Regardless of whether you go with the hardtop’s Performance Pack or the Convertible body style, the Mustang returns just 20/28/23 mpg with the auto—the stick sacrifices the same 1 mpg highway. The EPA hasn’t evaluated the Performance Pack-equipped Convertible.

For a more red-blooded experience, there’s the Mustang GT and its 5.0-liter V-8. Look for 16/25/19 mpg with the 10-speed auto. Going with the manual GT—a great idea—drops fuel economy to 15/25/18 mpg, while the softtop loses 1 mpg on the highway.

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February 15, 2018
2018 Ford Mustang GT Premium Fastback

This is my second GT (first 1993). This one has a manual transmission that is the smoothest shifting ever.

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I have had this car for two weeks. It is the most fun to drive car I have ever had. Plenty of power and looks fantastic.
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7.3
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Styling 8
Performance 9
Comfort & Quality 4
Safety 7
Features 9
Fuel Economy 7
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2018 Ford Mustang Pricing Insights

  • 2019 Mustang arriving; 2018s in good supply
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