Tailem Bend Motorsport Park, South Australia. Australia is the world’s largest market for right-hand-drive (RHD) Mustangs, it’s clear we’ve fallen for the famous American nameplate. But since arriving on our shores in 2015 the car hasn’t been without fault. A two-star ANCAP safety rating drew headlines, the interior lacked substance and it handled like a shopping trolley. Plus, on the 5.0-litre V8 models the exhaust note was as blunt as a six-week old Mach3 razor. So, has the 2018 mid-life cycle Mustang update come to save the day? Chris Bowen reports from the Australian launch.
There are few cars that stir the emotions as instantly as the Mustang. The cult classic probably even evokes a tinge of admiration from the staunchest Holden fan. Australia’s number one selling sports car essentially fills the void left by the now defunct Falcon, even though the cars are opposites. Ford Australia couldn’t be happier the yanks agreed to a RHD program.
But Is It Better?
In short, yes and not just by a handful of baby steps. It’s suitably louder and the interior is appropriately upgraded in the right places. There’s more power plus the key safety gear required in a car priced north of $50K. Although disappointingly, and for a new car almost inexcusably, ANCAP has still only award the car a three-star rating.
This year’s Mustang sports a new front end, facelifted if you like. The bonnet has been lowered by 25mm at the front, making for a more modern, sleek look. Gone is the power bulge, in are a couple of functional air vents. The full LED headlights now sport an eyebrow look, said to mimic an eagle’s eye. Google ‘eagles eye’ then you’ll get it. The profile crease lines are designed to more effectively reflect light and give the car more attitude. At the rear there are now old school twin tailpipes sitting both loudly and proudly. Finally, a new take on the taillamps help distinguish it from the 2015 car.
Inside it’s a case of déjà vu, initially for anyone familiar with a Mustang. However, the intended premium sensation has been better executed this time around. The top of the dash is covered in soft leather and many of the important touch places are improved with some hand stitched elements thrown in. The mishmash of chrome brightwork has been banished, replaced with brushed chrome. Even the engine ignition button is made from real aluminium, plus it pulses red to the beat of a pony’s heartbeat when the car is off – true story.
The major change is the instrument cluster, which replaces the old unit with a 12.4-inch colour digital display. The same display is found on top end models in the US, where there’s a choice of four interiors.
But it’s what’s under the hood though that really generates the headlines. The 5.0-litre GT Coyote V8 is now rated at 339kW up 33kW while torque has risen 26Nm to 556Nm. In fact, the engine is slightly bigger having grown from 4951cc to 5038cc. An active exhaust stolen from the Shelby GT350 produces a variable soundtrack, depending on your mood. Ford thinks the new bark is so brutal, it’s made available a ‘good neighbour’ or Quite mode. You can also set it so the full blast doesn’t occur at inappropriate times of the day. Driving modes include Quiet, Normal, Sport and Race Track. But the exhaust mode can be dialled up or down by pressing a pony button on the steering wheel.
I’ll be honest, in Track mode the new car produces a base ridden song. It’s no Chrysler 300 SRT but it’s a substantial improvement over the old uninspiring attempt. In automatic models there are 10-gears on offer, sounds like overkill right? But on the track and at full pelt it’s surprising how well the Mustang finds the right gear. So well in fact does it hunt down the right cog spread across the now 7500rpm range, I just can’t see why you’d ever use the paddle shifters. The box is capable of dropping from 10th to third if required, also 10th is easily obtainable even in Normal mode at highway speeds. I would never elect to option the six-speed manual although it’s simple and easy to use. On the track I was hitting speeds of up to 180km/h down a back straight into a sharp right hand turn. The Brembo brakes seemed to pull the big Stang well but we were only doing three laps at a time.
Then there’s the MagneRide adaptive suspension system, capable of adjusting suspension firmness up to 1000 times per second. Our time with the car probably wasn’t long enough, at least on track to really determine its performance. But there’s little doubt the Mustang is a much better sorted package, basically it’s been to pony school. On public roads with ordinary surfaces, the ride is still overly jarring at times, Ford would really benefit from some local testing and tuning. Oh, and by the way there’s a Dragstrip Mode, essentially a launch control feature. Good luck using that anywhere but the track. But when nailed this feature will see the GT Fastback blast to 100km/h in just 4.3 seconds.
Fuel economy sits at 13.0L/100km, which seems optimistic to me, our track day certainly didn’t provide any real guide as to what real world figures would be. We will wait for a proper week long drive to confirm this.
The four-cylinder EcoBoost model will arrive in September but prices have risen especially if you decide to add options. The latter being a big complaint of the previous model that took on a one size fits all approach. The range is covered by Ford’s five year unlimited kilometre warranty.
- Mustang EcoBoost Fastback (manual) $49,990
- Ford Mustang EcoBoost Fastback (automatic) $52,990
- Ford Mustang EcoBoost Convertible (automatic) $59,490
- Ford Mustang GT Fastback (manual) $62,990
- Ford Mustang GT Fastback (automatic) $66,259
- Ford Mustang GT Convertible (automatic) $74,709
- OTT Stripes – black $650 OTT Stripes (Fastback only)
- White $650 Single-wing rear spoiler (Fastback only) $750
- Recaro leather seats (Fastback only) $3,000
- 19-inch Lustre Nickel alloys (EcoBoost only) $500
- 19-inch Forged alloys (GT Only) $2,500 MagneRide™ Suspension $2,750
EFTM Rubber Stamp of Approval
At the end of the day this is still one hell of a car. It’s very quick and lays down the power in a more controlled fashion then ever before. But still remains a handful at the edge. It’s wild, mental and potentially psychotic in the wrong hands. I award the 2018 Mustang GT Fastback the EFTM Credit Rubber Stamp of Approval.