Manufacturer
January 17, 2017
Contributers: Manufacturer, Brian Vance, Sandon Voelker, Alisa Priddle

We breathlessly await news of a Shelby GT500 Mustang, and Dodge is already teasing us with promises of a crazy powerful 2018 Challenger SRT Demon to be unveiled in April.

In the interim, Ford has some details of a refresh of the sixth-generation Mustang with a lowered nose for a sleeker look to go with performance tweaks to get more power from its current engines and a new 10-speed automatic transmission. The V-6 goes away as Ford improves its four-cylinder and V-8 to take up the slack.

The update of the ponycar that went global for the 2015 model year was to be unveiled today at events in New York and Los Angeles and in Detroit at the North American International Auto Show public days. An update to the convertible will follow, but a timeframe has not been given yet.

When the 2018 Mustang goes on sale in the fall, it will be distinguishable from the '17 model because the hood has been lowered 0.8 inch, which led to new vents, a new front fascia, a lower valance, new upper and lower grilles, and less real estate to squeeze in the updated LED headlamps and smaller but brighter foglamps.

In back, exterior designer Melvin Betancourt has changed the chevrons, and there are new LED taillights, a new rear fascia, and valance and quad exhaust tips from the 2016 Shelby GT350.

For 2018 there are 11 colors, including three new ones: Orange Fury, Royal Crimson, and the return of the popular Kona Blue, as well as the return of the white stripe. And there are 12 wheels to choose from, ranging in size from 18 to 20 inches, a variety that includes black, bright, and machined in black. It has been a while since Ford offered a forged wheel for a different look. You like spoilers? There are four to choose from.

Those who want V-8 power in their Mustang will get increased horsepower and torque from the 5.0-liter, which will use the wire arc spray-bore cylinder lining process Ford introduced on the GT350's 5.2-liter engine. Volume application of the spray-bore technology was first talked about earlier this month when Ford showed updates to the 2018 Ford F-150 with the same engine. It will be tuned differently for the Mustang. Ford is not supplying actual performance figures until closer to the fall sale date but promises improved power and fuel economy.

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The Mustang also has a different exhaust manifold, chief engineer Carl Widmann said, and the new optional active-valve exhaust system allows you to max the sound of the throaty V-8 on the Mustang GT.

Look for more torque and better acceleration at full throttle with the 2.3-liter four-cylinder engine, as well, Widmann said, noting the 10-speed transmission can better deliver torque to the rear axle. Globally 40 percent of Mustang buyers opt for the four-cylinder; the rest go for the base 3.7-liter V-6 or the V-8. But for 2018, the V-6 is dropped.

In addition to the quick-shifting 10-speed automatic, the six-speed manual transmission now has a twin disc clutch and dual mass flywheel, borrowing the tech from the GT350. And the 2018 model rides on new monotube shocks.

There is a new Michelin performance tire as part of the GT performance pack, and Ford is offering the MagneRide damper system from the '16 Shelby and making it available even on a base Mustang for 2018. The car has a new cross-axis joint in the rear suspension for more lateral stiffness.

Performance packs will be available even with the base car and with either engine. Customers can mix and match. For example, they can order a cloth interior but Brembo brakes.

To present more data, the 12.0-inch digital instrument cluster can be customized. You can choose between normal, sport and track view or set your performance shift indicator to a track- or drag-style presentation with a Christmas tree. Track apps now show more detail, such as lap times for your entire track session.

Other interior upgrades include a heated leather steering wheel, a leather-wrapped center console, a nice use of aluminum in rings and bezels, and new appliques to enhance the premium feel. We like the extra padding on the knee bolsters for those who like to toss their Mustang around.

Next: Come on, Ford. Time to spill on the GT500.

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