Caraganza First Drive Review 2018 Mustang GT: A Great American Hero

(Ford)

(Ford)

There are few cars in America that can be considered iconic.  The Model T, Deuce Coupe, Bel Air, Eldorado; and one that is always near the top. The Ford Mustang.  In fact, the Mustang started an entire automotive genre, the pony car.

Among those storied pony cars, the 1968 Mustang GT Fastback is a stand out to me.  It came out during the peak of the Mustang revolution and just a couple of years after the Shelby GT came out in 1966.  With more power than the previous generation, and a price that made it much more affordable than the Shelby it was the common man’s hot rod.

It’s good to know that it’s still around.

For 2018, Ford gave the Mustang a major makeover, its first since it was introduced in 2015.

It gets a new aggressive front clip that includes standard LED headlights and available LED foglights, and a lower hood with new vents and a splitter.  Out back, Ford has also revised the LED taillights and rear fascia, and added quad exhaust tips for the GT. The 2018 Mustang also gains new paint colors, new stripe options, and more wheel choices. There is also a retuned suspension and a new 10-speed automatic transmission. The V6 is gone but the turbocharged 4-cylinder engine is still there, and it now has a bit more torque.

Most importantly perhaps, the Mustang GT is one of the few cars left on the road that comes with a manual transmission…standard.

And that makes it even more glorious than ever.

Ford sent me a 2018 Mustang GT for a recent week; shadow black exterior with red Recaro seats.  Beautiful? You bet. If it were side by side with Mila Kunis I would have to think about it…okay maybe not, but still.

The Mustang GT I had was equipped with the optional Performance Pack with all the driver assistance features. There is also a two-mode exhaust system standard, or as my tester had, an “Active Valve” performance exhaust with 4 modes from “quiet” to “Piss the neighbors off in the morning when you fire it up to go to work”.

My neighbors don’t like me anyway so…

Part of the Performance Pack are magnetic dampers, and the ability to dial up the performance.  There are five drive modes:  Normal, Snow/Wet, Spot, Track and Drag…yes Drag mode. It’s a thing.

Perhaps the coolest thing, in a package full of coolness, is the 12.4-inch all digital gauge cluster surrounded by a hand stitched dash and a center stack with padded knee bolsters.  With over 2000 hours of development the new gauge cluster has over 30 different color choices for up to 900 color combinations. There are 10 different animations ranging from a bar that moves across the top in sport mode, to an animation that is synchronized with the actual wheels spinning on the car showing spinning tires with smoke (thanks in large part to electronic line-lock). And yes, it is just as cool as you think. In all there are eight possible gauges that can give all sorts of info.

What matters most is under that new redesigned hood. The updated V8 can be revved up to 7400 rpm, 400 more than before and the horses have been bumped up from 435 to 460, or 66 hp below he GT350. Torque also rises from 400 pound-feet to 420.

I have driven a Mustang in the past.  But that was with the 4-cylinder Ecoboost. Sure, it was good, but it was sort of like a track and field sprinter trying to run without shoes; a bit hollow.

Not so with the Mustang GT.

Wrapping yourself into the Recaro drivers’ seat and feeling the rumble under that seat is a soul satisfying thing.  Few experiences however can be as good as using a manual transmission in combination with a big old snarling V8.  0-60 is 4 seconds, a 12.4-second quarter mile run at 115 mph, smiling all the while.

When you’re a muscle car lover, grabbing a handful of gear shift and putting down 460 horses to the pavement in an iconic car like the Mustang can make you feel like the greatest of American heroes.

A large part of my week with the Mustang GT was spent at Darlington Raceway in South Carolina. NASCAR was having its “Throwback” weekend and having the Mustang there seem quite fitting.  The Throwback weekend celebrates the 7 decades of NASCAR and having a Mustang there was perfect; heads were turned, questions asked, and more than one photo was taken.  And yes, there may have been a “test” of that animation of the actual wheels spinning on the car showing spinning tires with smoke that elicited a roar from the infield crowd.

Rare is the car that I don’t want to give back; one I’m tempted to run away and live happily ever after with, but this Mustang GT was one.

This most iconic of American muscle cars is still going strong, while many have dropped by the wayside. After my week with it, I can see why we still have the Mustang GT, and I hope that it’s available for many more years to come.

The 2018 Ford Mustang GT Coupe Premium
MSRP: $39,095
MSRP (as tested): $53, 160
Engine: 5.0 liter/301 cu in. V8 460 hp @ 7000 rpm, 420 ft-lb torque @ 4600 rpm
Transmission: 6-speed manual
Fuel Mileage (EPA): 15 city, 25 highway, 18 combined
Fuel Mileage (as tested, mixed conditions): 20 mpg
Base Curb Weight (lbs): 3705

Interior Dimensions
Passenger Capacity:     4
Passenger Volume: ft³     84.5
Front Head Room: in     37.6
Front Leg Room: in     44.5
Front Shoulder Room: in     56.3
Front Hip Room: in     54.9
Second Head Room: in     34.8
Second Leg Room: in     30.6
Second Shoulder Room: in     52.2
Second Hip Room: in     47.4

Exterior Dimensions
Wheelbase: in     107.1
Length, Overall: in     188.3
Width, Max w/o mirrors: in     75.4
Height, Overall: in     54.4
Track Width, Front: in     62.3
Track Width, Rear: in     64.9

Warranty
Basic: 3 Years/36,000 Miles
Drivetrain: 5 Years/60,000 Miles
Corrosion: 5 Years/Unlimited Miles
Roadside Assistance: 5 Years/60,000 Miles

 

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Greg is a published award winning sportswriter who spent 23 years combined active and active reserve military service, much of that in and around the Special Operations community. Greg has been published in major publications across the country including the Los Angeles Times, the Cleveland Plain Dealer and the Atlanta Journal-Constitution. He was also a contributor to Chicken Soup for the NASCAR Soul, published in 2010, and the Christmas edition in 2016. He wrote as the NASCAR, Formula 1, Auto Reviews and National Veterans Affairs Examiner for Examiner.com and has appeared on Fox News. He holds a BS degree in communications, a Masters degree in psychology and is currently a PhD candidate majoring in psychology. He is currently the weekend Motorsports Editor for Autoweek.

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