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2018 Ford Mustang review: First drive

The Good

  • Even nicer to look at
  • Safer and better equipped
  • It's a V8

The Bad

  • A bit pricier these days
  • 2.3-litre EcoBoost still a little jarring
5

Forget moving abroad for a slice of the American Dream, the right-hand drive 2018 Ford Mustang is here. Ben Griffin drove the V8 GT and 2.3 EcoBoost along Route Napoleon in the South of France as part of the European launch.

Despite emissions killing all the fun, somehow Ford managed to sneak out a right-hand drive V8 Mustang in the UK. Finally, after decades, Brits could join in the fun without having to pay import costs and put up with having the steering wheel on the wrong side.

Three years later and the noose of regulation has tightened and more polar ice has melted yet emerging from the shadows like the villain in a play comes the 2018 Mustang. Faster, more powerful, sleeker and so much louder – say hello to the antithesis of that eco-friendly, electric future.

Quite how long a V8-powered American muscle car can survive in this day and age is unclear. But then Ford shifted more than 33,000 units worldwide and only around half of those were fitted with the smaller 2.3-litre EcoBoost alternative. Seems, then, that petrolheads want to ride the high-powered combustion engine wave for as long and as far as possible.

Basically everything about the 2018 Ford Mustang has been improved, a point Ford has compensated for with a higher price. But despite costing around that of a BMW M2, there is nothing quite like it on the road. Performance for pound, the old car was unrivalled. Can the same be said for the second-generation ‘stang?

Having been invited on the European launch, we spent more than seven hours behind the wheel – cruising along the rather spectacular Route Napoleon in the South of France – to find out.

What is the 2018 Ford Mustang?

2018 Ford Mustang GT in Orange Fury (side profile)

A modern-day realisation of a car that began life in 1964, that is what. It arrived in the UK in 2015 and has been refreshed quite heavily for the second-generation 2018 edition. It has grippier tyres, more horsepower in the case of the V8, more torque, superior performance, improved safety, 10-speed automatic cruising and ‘Magneride’ adaptive suspension bump-soaking.

You can have it as a fastback hard-top or a convertible soft-top, with the latter being more expensive. A six-speed manual is also available, which now features an auto-blip function to ensure smooth down-shifts and keep the car balanced.

There are also two new driving modes. Drag Mode provides the best performance from standing and then over a quarter-mile, while My Mode lets you have your own set of custom option settings for the steering weight, exhaust noise and suspension firmness if the Magneride damping system has been specced.

While the 2.3-litre EcoBoost V6 has seen a power drop to 285.9bhp, torque is up to 324lb/ft (440Nm). The V8, meanwhile, has gained 31bhp, at a total of 443bhp and generates 390lb/ft (529Nm) of torque. This provides a 4.3- second 0-62mph, half a second quicker than its V8 predecessor.

You also get more tech in the form of a new optional 12-inch TFT display behind the steering wheel and various autonomous safety systems as standard, which should mean a better Euro NCAP rating than the two stars it got last time.

Then there is the slightly revised look (that we prefer to the original), which incorporates exterior LED lighting and new alloy wheel designs. Last but definitely not least, the 2018 Ford Mustang has an adjustable exhaust system.

How does the 2018 Ford Mustang drive?

2018 Ford Mustang GT in Royal Crimson on Route Napoleon

Ignore the American looks, the 2018 Ford Mustang can really handle. Those new Michelin tyres make it grippier than last time and the Magneride suspension is more capable of keeping things steady. For what is a big and heavy car, you would have to drive like a complete idiot to reach its limit.

It is possible for things to get slidey, but the default is remarkably civilised and surprisingly sharp despite a satisfyingly heavy steering setup. Chuck it into Sport mode and the steering gets heavier still, which improves intuitiveness.

Ride comfort is another benefit of that new suspension system. It certainly comes across as more refined, thanks to a smoother drive, although smaller bumps can be problematic. That and big-old comfy seats and the ability to near-silence the V8 make it preferable for long cruises – and that is a good thing because you are going to see anything but the claimed 23.3mpg around town.

That beefy V8 provides decent low-end and mid-range grunt, but it also needs to be pushed hard for maximum performance, which helps make it satisfying at any speed. Side by side with the old car, you can definitely feel the extra speed. It’s gone from fast to almost ballistic.

You can sense greater urgency in the EcoBoost version, too, which was never slow last time around but who are we to argue with having more torque. The real-world weight difference is nothing too severe, but the balance of the car and its eagerness to go into a corner is subtly better.

As for the noise, the ‘Good Neighbour Mode’ means you can enjoy a quiet start-up in the mornings (or whenever you specify). But we preferred using Race Track and Sport as both are gloriously loud. Loud enough, anyway, to make you question their legality.

The V6 is also noisier, but it is a distinctly different note – less throaty, more thrashy. It delivers a decent rawkus if you want it to, but somehow the lack of V8 thunder makes it a more sedate, though still exciting, experience.

10 gears is a lot to manually go through using the paddle shifters (unless you like pretending to be a truck driver), but the automatic system is clever enough to do its thing without you complaining too much. The up-shifts are seriously blunt in the sportier modes, which goes nicely with its eager down-shifts that keep the revs are high enough for maximum attack.

Where the old automatic was terrible, the new one makes actual sense. The fuel economy and efficiency benefit is negligible, but you could now make a case for taking the lazier American approach and letting the ‘stang do most of the work for you. It is odd having so many gears on a car that used to make do with four, but it rarely eats into the fun.

Even so, the six-speed manual remains our preferred choice. There was no auto-blip on the press cars used at the launch, but if it works anything like it does in the Focus RS it will be a great addition. Even if not, you can enjoy short, meaty changes that make you feel more in control.

What about value for money?

2018 Ford Mustang GT 12-inch TFT display dials

If you go V8, and who can blame you, expect to pay from £41,095 for the fastback. On top of that will be a £2,000 first-year tax bill, thanks to its sizable emissions rating, plus a £310-a-year bill for buying a car over £40,000.

Given how its predecessor started off around £36,000, that is a big hike, but then the horsepower total alone is still unrivalled at its new price.

Go for the EcoBoost fastback and prices start from £35,995. The convertible version is around £3,000 more regardless of engine choice, while the 10-speed auto is around a £2,000 premium on the manual.

That means an all-singing and all-dancing 2018 Mustang GT weighs in at £46,595 before you consider Magneride (£1,600), Recaro Seats in Ebony Leather (£1,700) and the ‘Shaker Pro’ 12-speaker audio system (£795).

To be fair, the list of standard equipment is very healthy, with the likes of Adaptive Cruise Control, Android Auto/Apple CarPlay, Ford Sync 3, heated steering wheel, six-way power adjustable front seats and dual-zone climate control all included.

Should I buy the 2018 Ford Mustang, then?

Simply put, first impressions of the 2018 Ford Mustang have shown it to be better than its predecessor in almost every way (we do miss the analogue dials).

But justifying a thirsty, polluting V8 in this day and age? Well, that takes more dedication to the American Dream than many of us will be willing – or able – to give.

But if you do feel brave and have the money, the reward is a competent blend of American and European motoring that never fails to brighten your mood. No other car has the same attitude for the money, nor do many sound or look even half as good.

You have to dig deeper for the privilege than last time, admittedly, bringing it closer to a number of decent alternatives, and there are still some rough edges. Nonetheless there is nothing else like it on UK roads – and all the positive reactions from bystanders will constantly remind you of that fact.

Specification

Engine5.0-litre V8 / 2.3-litre EcoBoost V6
Power442bhp at 7,000rpm / 286bhp at 5,400rpm
Torque390lb/ft (529Nm) at 4,600rpm / 329lb/ft (440Nm) at 3,000rpm
Acceleration0-62mph in 4.3 seconds (auto) / 5.5 seconds (auto)
Top speed155mph / 145mph
Emissions270 to 285g/km / 199 to 211g/km
Economy22.1 to 23.2mpg (combined) / 38.7 to 41.5mpg
PriceFrom £40,095 / £35,995

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