Even now, Ford’s iconic pony car creates horsepower, memories

Mustang memories

When you review a lot of vehicles, some weeks are more forgettable than others and some are quite memorable. My tester this week will be a memory that stays with me my entire life.

Some of you may be aware, but I now have a book out called Mustang by Design.

In it, I tell the story of the Miami Valley’s own Gale Halderman, who was the designer of the original Ford Mustang.

What does all this shameless self-promotion have to do with this week’s car review? Well, I drove the 2018 Ford Mustang GT. I drove it to Halderman’s barn, which is now converted to a museum-of-all-things-Mustang. On that day, there was a huge Mustang car show where Gale, my co-author Jim Halderman and I signed copies of the book for the first time. This was my first-ever book signing, and I got to roll up to this event in a Fury Orange, fast-as-all-get-out Mustang. It made me feel like a rock star – arriving at my first-ever book signing in such a sweet ride.

During the car show, in a field full of Mustangs – literally 200-plus Mustangs were there – my tester stood out. That’s how impressive it was. The orange fury paint coat helped, but the growl of that 5.0-liter V8 engine fit right in along with all the other horsepower on display.

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The refreshed looks for this model year keep the Mustang current, since it is 54 years old. But what I really appreciate about this Mustang is some of the design elements that are a clear tip of the hat to Halderman’s original design, the one that launched this iconic pony car.

The three taillights on the back, topped by a sexy spoiler, hold up over the Mustang’s entire design history. The side scoop is still there, which is a Halderman original. But, make no mistake, the 2018 Mustang is thoroughly modern and styled in an aggressive manner.

Earlier this year, I drove the Ecoboosted Mustang. A four-cylinder Mustang seems blasphemous, but it was plenty peppy. Still, to be a true muscle car you need a V8 and my tester had that muscle car growl through all eight cylinders. Sure, the 460- horsepower and 420 lbs.-ft. of torque are fun and impressive, but what knocked my socks off most was the new 10-speed automatic transmission.

Purists will want a manual transmission, but this 10-speed is the best transmission I’ve experienced this year. It flung the shifts around in such a smooth way, I looked down and before I knew it, without even sensing many shifts, I was in ninth gear. The engine purred along the entire time. The steering is crisp and responsive, and the braking was confident. The rear-wheel drive performance and squatty ground clearance made my tester hug the road.

The four-passenger Mustang has a nice interior. It crosses the line from macho, muscle-car styling to near-luxury-like amenities in the front seat. The back seat is cramped with very little legroom; I didn’t want my petite, 16-year-old daughter sitting back there.

Up front there are heated and cooled leather seats and a heated, leather-wrapped steering wheel. The new Ford Sync 3 system is dramatically better than the previous generation and now integrates perfectly with smart phones with Apple CarPlay and Android Auto. The 12-inch touchscreen is attractive and well placed in the center stack. A 12-speaker sound system is outstanding, but also can overpower the beautiful sound of that V8 engine.

The original 1965 Mustang was priced at just over $2,300 with lots of customizable options. Though the price has changed, today’s Mustang is still reasonably priced and certainly has a lot of customizable options as well as a slew of aftermarket parts. My GT had a base price of $39,095, which is attractive considering all the power you get. With numerous options, my tester’s final price was $50,570.

I’m obligated to talk about fuel economy. Nobody buys a V8 muscle car with an eye on fuel economy. That being said, the Mustang had an EPA rating of 16 mpg/city and 25 mpg/highway. Despite my heavy foot, I still went over 20 mpg on average during the week.

After my passion project of Mustang by Design, this iconic pony car has a special place in my heart. But I couldn’t think of a more appropriate or memorable way than arriving at a car show and book signing in this hot, modern classic.

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