Mark Houlahan
Tech Editor, Mustang Monthly
December 1, 2017
Photos By: Ford Motor Company

Right on the heels of the annual SEMA show in Las Vegas we were invited to southern California for Ford’s official media drive of the new 2018 Mustang. Since we were planning to drive our 1966 Mustang Week to Wicked project, which had been on display in our company’s SEMA booth, back to California we couldn’t help but combine the two trips. So, right on the heels of an extremely busy week at the SEMA show, and then a day of driving through the desert, shooting video and still images of our project Mustang, we arrived ready to see what all the hype has been about with the freshened 2018.

Unlike past media events, where much of the morning was used for informative “walk around” presentations, Ford send out walk around video clips in advance to journalists. This allowed us much more time with the vehicles for photography and the all-important driving routes. We got to experience the 2018 Mustang GT and EcoBoost models, including the new 10-speed automatic. All of the Mustangs at our disposal were Premium level cars with varying option and trim packages. Sadly the much anticipated Performance Pack Level 2 option was absent, as it will be a “Job 2” launch option coming early in 2018.

No doubt the most discussed thing on Mustang forums and Facebook groups everywhere is the 2018’s revised front fascia. Gone are the individual fog light assemblies, which are now part of the turn signal housing. Sharp, angular bodywork marks the new fascia with integrated brake cooling ducts and inset headlamps. All exterior lighting is now LED as well. One pet peeve of ours—some trim packages use a gloss black grille, yet the lower grille is still a matte black plastic.

The driving routes were through the California hillside, including the famous Mulholland Drive, where the Mustang really shined. We would have loved a few laps on track or pass or two down the dragstrip, but sadly our day was limited to street driving. Perhaps when the Performance Pack Level 2 option hits the dealer showroom us performance minded drivers will get a crack at driving in a true track environment, similar to the Ford Shelby North American Track Tour (hint, hint!).

Let’s get the styling updates out of the way first, as that seems to be the most polarizing discussion we’ve seen on social media. Much like when the original S550 images first made the rounds in 2014 and everybody cried about the headlights and the “Fusion styling” and so forth, we’ll say the same thing now we did then—wait and see it in person before passing judgment. Ford lowered the hood line (similar to the Ford Shelby GT350) for better aero and front visibility. The new front fascia incorporates redesigned LED headlights set back into their openings, while the LED fog lights are now incorporated into the turn signal assembly for a cleaner look down low. You’ll also find a new front splitter that has just as much to do with fuel economy as it does handling (we’re already hearing of 2018 owners seeing almost 30 mpg with the 10-speed auto).

Further styling enhancements include revised hood vents (more inboard and larger than the previous S550 vents) and at the rear more revisions in the fascia, taillamps, and rear decklid spoiler options. The EcoBoost rocks some nice polished tips while the GT model now wears quad-tipped exhaust similar to the GT350, and the sound from that GT’s exhaust when optioned with the Active Valve Performance Exhaust setup is, dare we say, perfect right out of the box from the showroom floor. The right growl to let people know you’re there, but only when you need it or want it versus living with a potentially loud system every day/all day when behind the wheel. Using the available Active Valve Performance Exhaust System, you can pick from normal, sport, track and quiet modes through the dash display and steering wheel controls. The system includes an industry-first, time-configurable Quiet Start function, which lets you schedule specific times of your to keep the volume down Mustang GT’s Coyote exhaust note. Perfect if you daily your GT and have other than a 9-5 work schedule.

Out back is a new rear fascia as well, quad exhaust tips on the GT, new LED sequential taillights, and a couple of new decklid spoiler designs. The raised spoiler, seen here, is a love it or hate (like most styling on the Mustang) but we happen to love it.
The new taillights have a real “afterburner” glow to them and are more chiseled than the 2015-2017 versions.
If you get down low you can see the Active Valve Performance Exhaust hardware mounted at the rear of each muffler. The electronic valve controls flow through the muffler, opening up to the inboard tip to achieve different sound levels. First seen on the GT350, this is a welcome addition to the GT.

Under the hood you’ll find the 2.3L EcoBoost inline-four and 5.0L Coyote V-8 still offered, albeit with many improvements, while the 3.7L “Cyclone” V-6 has been eliminated. This marks only the second time in the Mustang’s production history that a six-cylinder engine of some sort (inline or V-shaped) has not been offered, with the last era being the 1984-1993 Fox platform, which ironically was also only available with a 2.3L inline-four and a 5.0L V-8!

Both engine options feature more horsepower and torque in 2018 compared to earlier S550 model years. The 2.3L EcoBoost four-cylinder engine improves to 310 horsepower and 350 lb-ft of torque using “Overboost” mode, which we first found in the Focus ST a few years back, while the Coyote 5.0L V-8 of the GT model now cranks out 460 horsepower and 420 lb-ft of torque thanks to the Coyote’s latest edition, a dual-fuel system. The 2018 5.0L in the GT features both a high-pressure direct injection and a low-pressure port fuel injection system. This allows for more low-end torque, higher rpm power, and improved fuel efficiency. The rpm limit has been raised 500 rpm as well to work with the dual-fuel system capabilities and the compression ratio was raised as well. This is the first application of Ford’s new dual-fuel system and we’re sure it’ll be something we’ll see on other engine applications in the future.

While fuel economy is not generally something our readers worry about too much, we do want to mention that the new Mustang has seen improvements in EPA estimated fuel economy ratings, thanks in part to aerodynamic improvements and Ford’s new 10-speed automatic. Official ratings are: EcoBoost-equipped Mustangs with an automatic transmission are 21 mpg city, 32 mpg highway, 25 mpg combined. Manual transmission models are rated at 21/31/25. Mustang GT is rated 16/25/19 (automatic transmission) and 15/25/18 (manual transmission). Of course Ford notes “actual mileage will vary.” Indeed!

When the S550 first dropped one of the easiest ways to determine the engine under hood was from the decklid emblem. The GT was the 5.0L Coyote, the running horse meant it was an EcoBoost car, and the running horse with tri-bar emblem behind it denoted the V-6. That holds true to the 2018 Mustang with one change. The tri-bar and running horse will now denote an EcoBoost car with the Pony Package.

Behind these revised engine offerings is the MT-82 six-speed manual standard. The six-speed has been upgraded for more torque handling and instead of 5th being 1:1 with 6th as an overdrive, the revised transmission features 4th as 1:1 with 5th and 6th as overdriven ratios. This revision allowed Ford engineers to put the Coyote’s increased horsepower and torque to the ground without affecting fuel economy. On V-8 applications the upgraded transmission is mated to the 5.0L Coyote with a new twin-disc clutch and dual-mass flywheel to handle the increased torque output of the V-8 and for better clutch operation.

The big news in the Mustang’s trans tunnel however is Ford’s new joint-venture transmission offering—the new 10-speed SelectShift automatic. The 10-speed is available with both EcoBoost and V-8 engines and if we dare say it, is one of the best shifting automatic transmissions we’ve ever had the pleasure of sitting behind, err, next to. Fully electronically controlled, the 10-speed features a Sport mode with rev-matching downshifts, steering wheel paddle controls, and optimized gear spacing. Several of our “three pedal” friends have stated that this is the first automatic transmission equipped Mustang they’d allow in their driveway. It’s that good! And we concur! Driving the GT with the new SelectShift 10R80 in the tunnel set to Sport mode allowed us to concentrate on our speed, cornering, and more and just let the transmission “do its thing” while we tore up the mountainside. A GT with 10R80, Performance Pack Level 1, and Active Valve Performance Exhaust options would make a great dual mode daily/track vehicle in our minds.

On the chassis side of things Ford has given the Mustang new shocks and struts at all four corners and revised several bushings, stabilizer bars, and other bits. A new cross-axis joint in the rear suspension was added for increased lateral stiffness. The big news however for the 2018 is the addition of the Ford Shelby GT350’s MagneRide active suspension system to the option list. You have to order the Performance Pack Level 1 to even be able to tick the box for the MagneRide, but trust us, the Performance Pack is worth it. If you’re patient (and have the funds) you can order the Performance Pack Level 2 package once it becomes available, which includes the MagneRide as standard. The active suspension system uses a set of sensors that read various inputs, including steering angle, brake pressure, road speed, acceleration (including longitudinal acceleration), and more to provide the optimum suspension setting in milliseconds. It not only helps with fun twisty roads on a Sunday drive, but is a great addition for track days.

Up front the differences in powertrains and trim levels are more subtle, as all Mustangs get fog lamps, the same headlights, and the same hood with vents. Different grille treatments are about all you’ll see up front and a slight change to the splitter. Note the gloss black grille we mentioned earlier with the matte finish lower grille.

If drag racing is more your thing the 2018 Mustang certainly won’t disappoint here either. The electronic line lock Ford introduced on the Mustang GT in 2015 is still there at your beck and call via the Mustang’s Pony button on the steering wheel and is now found on the EcoBoost model as well. Of course while the line lock is a fun to use (track use only, nudge, nudge, wink, wink) the 2018 Mustang’s Drag Strip mode is where it’s at. Using this mode adjusts several parameters to optimize horsepower and torque, while tweaking the 10-speed auto’s shift firmness, shift time, and more to give the Mustang GT sub 4-second 0-60 times. The EcoBoost is no slouch in this contest either, with 0-60 in less than five seconds.

Another aspect of the Drag Strip mode’s excellent track times are the new high-performance Michelin Pilot Sport 4 S summer tires. Similar to the tires found on the GT350, but in a square profile instead of staggered, the Pilots are available with the Performance Pack option. The 2018 Mustang is also the first North American production car to feature these new Michelin tires as well. Designed to improve wet grip, dry grip, braking, and handling, they’re the ultimate Mustang rubber that is also track ready right off the showroom floor. Depending upon trim level and options, such as the aforementioned Performance Pack with Michelin Pilots) the 2018 Mustang will be fitted with one of dozen different aluminum wheel designs, including a new staggered fitment 19-inch forged five spoke you’ve just got to see! The GT we drove featured the new Michelin Pilots with Performance Pack Level 1, MagneRide, Active Valve Performance Exhaust, and the new 10-speed SelectShift auto. Tried as we might, we could not get the car loose in your spirited canyon driving. The tires held extremely well at high cornering forces and provided excellent traction and braking.

While the styling might be up for heated debate, and everyone wants to know how much horsepower (and how much), one thing we’ve become critical of as we’ve aged is interiors. There’s absolutely no reason to suffer with a cheap/poor quality interior just because your Mustang makes great horsepower or handles like it’s on rails. None! Ford finally stepped up its interior game with the S550 and it’s only getting better folks. Yes, the 12-inch LCD instrument cluster is the bomb (we said it!) but before we get to that let’s talk seating, steering wheel, touch points, and more. They’ve all been improved!

The new 12-inch LCD instrument cluster is a thing of beauty. Completely customizable for gauge layout and features MyColor to allow unique driver configurable color combinations, it’s worth ordering whatever package Ford makes you get to have this in front of you.
The Coyote 5.0L V-8 in the GT now wears revised cylinder heads, both port- and direct-injection, and more, but probably the most talked about piece is the new engine cover. Direct injection engines can be noisy and Ford is known for insulating the high-pressure pump and using large covers to keep the noise at bay. The Mustang is no different and we’re sure you’ll start seeing custom pieces from the likes of JLT and others once they get their 2018 “shop cars’ to play with.

Ford’s “Premium” trim level is right up there with the best of them. The base interior is good, don’t get us wrong, but if you’re picky about your interior and options go straight for the Premium in either the GT or EcoBoost. The seats are improved and feature some great new color choices, stitching options, Alcantara suede accents, and more. Hand-stitched accents on the steering wheel, center console, and dash round out the look when equipped with the Premium Plus trim package. New interior colors include Showstopper Red, Midnight Blue (with Grabber Blue accents), Ceramic, Ebony, and Tan. The pushbutton start feature below the center stack is still there, but now pulses in a “heartbeat” pattern that is the same number of beats per minute as the actual Mustang horse (some trivia for your passengers).

So, back to the 12-inch LCD instrument cluster everyone is salivating over. Yes, it is all that and a bag of chips. It’s available only on EcoBoost and GT Premium models with 201A/401A “Premium Plus” equipment package, so whatever hoops Ford makes you jump through to get the dash, trust us, just do it! It’s amazing! The new 12-inch LCD panel was actually created by ex-video game developers Ford tells us and we can see the animations and color schemes coming from that world. You can display up to eight gauges in 26 different color options. Plus, the screen features further personalization and different viewing modes/tachometer layouts for normal/snow/wet, sport, and track/drag modes. New is MyMode, which saves your favorite dash layout, steering mode, suspension mode, and active exhaust note. So when you want to have fun you simply hit the “MyMode” and all your personalization settings come to life at once versus going through each configuration individually each time you want it.

The new 2018 Mustang also reaps the benefits of its brother and sister vehicles with many new safety technologies coming to the Mustang for the first time. Features such as Pre-Collision Assist with pedestrian detection, including Distance Indication and Automatic Emergency Braking, Lane Keeping System, and Driver Alert System are now part of the Mustang’s technological tour de force to keep you and your passengers, and even the people around your Mustang, safe. The driver assist systems use radar and cameras to recognize objects in the road, and may take autonomous emergency action – such as braking – to mitigate or avoid a collision.

The optional Michelin Pilot Sport 4 S tires were super sticky and held the Mustang in place wherever we pointed it. The Performance Pack Level 1 wheels are these 19-inchers in gloss black. Depending upon trim level and options there are 11 other wheel styles to pick from, including a late availability staggered five-spoke forged aluminum setup!

Along with returning options such as heated and cooled seats, dual zone climate control, and memory seating, the Mustang now offers for the first time a heated leather steering wheel as well. Thankfully in our California driving session we didn’t need to try it out (though we do love the option on our wife’s Fusion for cold morning drives!).

We won’t sugar coat it, the new Mustang can really ring the register if you check all the fun and important boxes a true Mustang enthusiast would want. That said, what car isn’t expensive these days? Stop living in the past griping about how you only paid $12,000 for your Fox Mustang GT. As much as we love Fox cars they are like Fred Flintstone’s ride compared to what Ford’s Mustang rolls off the line with now in the name of performance, handling, braking, safety, and more. Never has the Mustang been more track ready right off the showroom floor, had more features/options to make it a great daily driver, and safety to keep you and your family safe in the event of meeting up with a distracted driver or other road going obstacle. We’re already a fan of the S550 platform and had been considering a lightly used one as our next Mustang purchase, but the 2018 is THAT much better that we’re going to keep saving and pick one of these up down the road instead. Take one for a test drive today and tell us we’re wrong.

New interior colors create warm and inviting cockpits that complement the new and returning exterior colors. Tan and Showstopper Red are just two of the new colors we spied in person. Accent stitching and revised seat inserts are also part of the 2018 update.

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New colors like Orange Fury and Crimson Red join long standing Mustang colors like Oxford White, Kona Blue, Race Red, Ebony Black, and others.

2018 Ford Mustang Standard Features

(All models, including EcoBoost, EcoBoost Premium, GT, and GT Premium)

-12-volt powerpoints (two)

-Air conditioning

-Audio – AM/FM stereo/single-CD player with six-speakers

-Cruise control

-Engine – 2.3L EcoBoost I-4

-Front and rear stabilizer bars

-Intelligent Access with push-button start

-LED headlamps with LED signature lighting

-Limited-slip rear differential

-Mirrors – Power sideview with integrated blind spot mirrors

-Power windows and door locks

-Rear sequential light-emitting diode turn signal lamps

-Rear-wheel drive

-Remote keyless entry system

-Selectable-effort electronic power-assisted steering

-SYNC with 4.2-inch color LCD screen in center stack

-SYNC 3 with 8-inch color LCD capacitive touch screen with AppLink, 911 Assist and two smart-charging USB ports (Premium)

-Tilt/telescoping steering column

-Transmission – Six-speed manual

Standard Safety and Security

-AdvanceTrac electronic stability control

-Airbags – Driver’s knee, glove-box-door integrated knee and front-seat side

-Airbags – Side-curtain (fastback)

-Brakes – four-wheel Anti-Lock Brake System (ABS)

-Brakes – Power-assisted four-wheel disc

-Illuminated entry system

-Individual tire pressure monitoring system (excludes spare)

-LATCH – Lower Anchors and Tether Anchors for Children

-MyKey

-Perimeter alarm

-Personal Safety System for driver and front passenger with dual-stage front airbags

-Rearview camera

-SecuriLock Passive Anti-Theft System

-SOS Post-Crash Alert System

Available Options

-12-inch LCD instrument cluster with MyColor

-Adaptive cruise control, forward collision warning

-Ambient lighting with MyColor (Premium)

-Audio – Shaker Pro Audio System

-Audio – SiriusXM Radio with six-month trial subscription (Premium)

-Lane-keeping system

-MagneRide damping system

-Pre-Collision Assist with Pedestrian Detection

-Remote start system

-Reverse sensing system

-Selectable drive modes with four-gang toggle switch pack

-SYNC 3 with 8-inch color LCD capacitive touchscreen with AppLink, 911 Assist and two smart-charging USB ports (Premium)

-Transmission – 10-speed SelectShift automatic with paddle shifters

-Voice-activated navigation system with SiriusXM Traffic and Travel Link with five-year subscription

Available Packages

-Black Accent Package

-Carbon Sport Interior Package

-EcoBoost Performance Package

-Enhanced Security Package

-GT Performance Package

-Premium Plus Package

-Safe and Smart Package

-Wheel and Stripe Package

2018 Exterior Colors

-Royal Crimson

-Kona Blue

-Orange Fury

-Race Red

-Shadow Black

-Lightning Blue

-Magnetic

-Oxford White

-Ingot Silver

-Ruby Red

-Triple Yellow

2018 Interior Colors

-Ebony

-Ceramic

-Showstopper Red

-Tan

-Midnight Blue

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