A summer with the 2018 Ford Mustang GT: Everyday supercar

Supercar makers have a habit of saying the latest million-mph hybrid flamethrower “can be driven all year! It has a soft suspension mode and a nose lift,” they say. That may be technically true in some cases, but in most, it’s more supercar hyperbole. This Mustang, though, might be the real deal.

I know what you’re thinking. “That’s insane. There’s no way a Ford Mustang could be considered a supercar in any sense of the word.” Allow me to make my case.

We picked this color (Royal crimson metallic, $395), we added the GT Performance Pack ($3,995) that includes 19-inch black wheels, summer Michelin Pilot Sport 4S tires, 3.73 rear-axle ratio, Brembo front brakes, larger radiator, K-brace and unique chassis and suspension tuning. We also checked the boxes for dual-zone climate control and Sync 3 ($2,000), the Magne-Ride adjustable dampers ($1,695), active exhaust ($895) and voice-activated navigation ($795). That brought us to a non-supercar-like grand total of $45,770.

For that price, we got a real, naturally aspirated 5.0-liter V8 making 460 hp and 420 lb-ft, a top speed of 157 mph, 60 mph of which is available in less than four seconds. Those were supercar numbers not long ago.

We ordered the latest version of Sync in our season-long tester 2018 Ford Mustang GT.

The 2019 Ford Mustang Bullitt will not make you cool or good-looking like Steve McQueen. I’m sorry, though it would be awesome if it did. But, when the music is down and the loud version of the …

If we would have waited a few more months, we could have checked the Performance Pack 2 box (Ford’s answer to the Camaro SS 1LE), which adds even more track-focused parts: wider wheels, Michelin Cup 2 tires, stiffer and 1.5-inch lower springs, larger antiroll bars, an aggressive front splitter and a slim spoiler, as well as unique traction control and steering calibrations.

From the get, we knew this car would be spending time on the track. And, while most performance cars need at least a few things before track duty — brake pads and high-temp brake fluid — this car is ready to go off the dealership lot. Grattan Raceway in Belding, Michigan, is a small but complicated 10-turn road course that features tons of blind turns, a Monza-like bowl, rising, off-camber turns and even a jump, if you’re brave enough to keep your foot down over the blind hill with a pond on the other side.

The GT ate it up. Lap after lap. Inadvisably, we went back-to-back sessions all day long. That means about 40 minutes at 9/10ths, then 20 minutes off. We beat on it and beat on it and only left the track when one of us, not mentioning any names (ahem, Boss -RTE) ran out of gas and had to be towed off the course (after comfortably outrunning our road test editor all day. -ED) (with 20 more hp and better tires! –RTE) Then came more gas — at track prices — and then more laps.

2018 Ford Mustang Performance Pack Level 2: Second attempt at a first track drive

I ended my intro story on the 2018 Ford Mustang Performance Pack Level 2 (that was cut short by tornadoes and rain) by saying we’re undeniably in the golden age of pony cars. Let’s start …

At the limit, even with the traction control completely off, the GT exhibits some understeer. It might be less stiff than its Chevy counterpart, but it feels more predictable as the car leans slightly into a corner. And those 4S tires are a generation newer than the previous rubber on the GT, which also helps the driver sense what the car is doing.

We haven’t done a back-to-back track comparison with the rival Chevrolet Camaro SS, which is a little tighter and a little lighter, but these two have to be within spitting distance now. A few years ago, the SS would have trounced the GT handily.

We also ran our Mustang at Michigan’s newest local track, Champion Motor Speedway in Pontiac. On that 1.5-mile piece of asphalt, the GT almost felt overpowered. The back straight is about one-third of a mile and speeds still get close to triple digits. That would be a problem if the stock brakes weren’t perfect: short stroke, good bite, even after two long track days.

The new-for-2018 active exhaust is what really brings the package together here. The Ford was inexplicably quiet in the first half of this generation, which made the Camaro and its ilk an even bigger winner. Finally that has been rectified with screaming loud dual pipes, but also a quiet mode so as not to annoy the neighbors.

That’s the crux of my argument. If you put the 2018 Ford Mustang GT in track mode it’s stiff, loud, fast and sharp. In normal mode, it’s docile. Where the Camaro, in its softest mode is still a little stiff, and a little tank-like from the cockpit, the Mustang is easy to drive, easy to see out of and easy to fill with cargo for a family trip. The Chevy might beat it by a tick on the track, but the overall experience in the ‘Stang is way more livable. Every. Single. Day.

 

 

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