It’s still enjoying a tremendous run ever since its debut back in the Sixties with every subsequent generation outdoing the last (ahem, let’s just ignore the awful Mustang II...) and this latest sixth-gen model — which has just had its mid-life refresh — is proof of this fact. The Mustang keeps getting better, and for the 2018 update, Ford hasn’t strayed from what’s made it such a rousing success — but it’s now incorporating quite a few changes, most of which work a treat, but one in particular that needs a little more refining...
Starting with the styling tweaks and they include a revised bonnet that gains a pair of extractor vents (out go the longitudinal ribs and power dome and it looks a lot better for it) a new-look grille, new LED headlights, fog lights and tail lights. You’ll probably need your magnifying glass to spot the differences to last year’s pony but you don’t require anything more than the kick to your stomach that burying the throttle provides to affirm the big changes have taken place where it matters, and that is under the skin.
The 5.0-litre V8, which barks impressively to life when fired up, gets a 25 horsepower boost and that’s thanks to a new dual fuel-injection system and cylinder heads with an improved flow which bring the total output to 460 rousing horses. Torque is up by 26Nm as well (569Nm) and is delivered with the sort of predictable linearity that only a naturally aspirated engine can provide. The glorious V8 feels like it’s pulling that bit harder to its 7,000rpm redline — and it sounds raspier now too. Not many V8’s out there deliver noise and serious forward thrust like this one. The sensible choice would be the Ecoboost four-pot (the six-cylinder has been discontinued) but where’s the fun in that? And anyway, I’ve always felt that 5.0 is an easy car to live with and it still is — and be it around town or on the open highway, it always induces a very toothy grin.
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Its road manners took a huge leap forward when, for the first time in 50 years, this generation received an independent rear suspension allowing performance capabilities to reach new heights — and now the chassis benefits even further thanks to new shocks, a new cross-axis joint in the rear suspension and innovative stabiliser bars which all go some way in improving the ride further. It feels more buttoned-down on the road, the steering is responsive and the brake pedal is firm yet easy to modulate.
With the Active Valve Performance Exhaust system you get the most muscular soundtrack on the road today (you can engage a new quiet start mode so you don’t annoy your neighbours every morning; don’t bother — the angry growl is worth getting into hot water for) and it’s easy to see why this is the world’s most hashtagged car. The Mustang is loved by millions and even though I’m more of a GM kinda guy, I have a soft spot for it.
There’s a lot of other good stuff going on such as the customiseable 12in all-digital instrument cluster (it offers three separate views; normal, sport and track mode), MyMode with memory function that remembers driving preferences, new driver-assist features such as Pre-Collision Assist with Pedestrian Detection for increased confidence behind the wheel an updated SYNC Connect and more stitching throughout the stylish cabin.
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So far so good, but what about the new 10-speed automatic? Well, there are several ways in which this transmission, jointly developed with General Motors, improves the Mustang for instance, more ratio steps allow the V8 to be kept closer to peak performance and the smaller steps between them means faster shifts. It also improves efficiency (rational concerns such as this should not play a part when considering a Mustang!) but it does feel like an overly complex piece of tech for a muscle car and on a couple of occasions it seemed confused as to which gear it ought to be in and shifted with a bit of a ‘thud’. Downshifting from tenth to third using the paddles was a cumbersome affair, but the transmission isn’t bad, it just doesn’t feel like a fully integrated part of the car, yet. With a tweak here and there it will.
When all is said and done, the Mustang GT represents one heck of a performance bargain and in spite of the high tech updates that it has received, this is still as crude and cool as it’s always been.