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.
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.