Driven: 2018 Ford Mustang GT and EcoBoost (European Version)
Telling the facelifted model apart from the car it replaces doesn't require too much effort, at least not when you get to check out the car's face.
It's no secret that the Mustang's new appearance has received mixed opinions and I'm putting things mildly. Sure, the design is more aggressive, but it seems to take the machine further away from its ancestors and closer to the image of a sportscar.
Oh well, at least the Blue Oval team managed to integrate the hood vents with the European legislation (yes, the vents are functional).
As you step inside the car, the optional 12-inch fully digital instrument cluster instantly catches your eye. Going past the connection to the cluster of the GT halo car, the Mustang's new dash instruments are brilliant, since they go well with the spirit of pony without turning to any physical elements.
You can choose between the multiple layouts, which are tailored to the driving modes of the car or build your own, since the screen is fully customizable.
The Mustang's mediocre cabin quality has been slightly improved through the use of superior materials in a few key areas such as the armrests, while the Sync 3 infotainment system has replaced the second generation.
Alas, the cabin quality of the pony still falls behind that of European sportscars such as the BMW 2 and 4 Series or the Audi TT/A5. And we can say the same about Sync 3, which doesn't feel on par with the infotainment systems offered by German carmakers like BMW, Mercedes-Benz or brands belonging to the VW Group. Then again, you don't buy a Mustang for aspects such as the ones mentioned above.
Even, so the driving position is important and we were disappointed by the optional Recaro seats, whose backrest don't offer proper accommodation. In fact, the standard seats are a much better choice, regardless of your engine.
Since we can't talk about any platform changes, the rear seats remain reserved for children, with headroom limits adult usability to short trips.
By the way, you can check out the new 12-inch digital instrument cluster in the official clip below:
The mid-cycle revamp has brought mixed results for the engine compartment contents, so while the V8 gained power, the EcoBoost turbo-four actually lost a bit of muscle.
It's no secret that the first- and second-gen Coyote motors left a few things to be desired in the ultimate power and aural areas. Well, it seems Ford listened to the feedback, as the V8 is now more muscular and it sounds like it.
The motor's displacement was slightly increased, jumping from 4,951 to 5,038 cc, while the unit now mixes port and direct injection. As such, the power is up, with the engine now delivering 450 instead of 422 PS (if you're reading this from the US, you should know the Euro 'Stang now has 444 hp). Still, due to the stricter European emission regulations, the maximum output still sits below the 466 PS (460 hp) the Mustang GT offers on its home turf.
In its trip across the ocean, the revised Mustang has also lost some torque, delivering 527 Nm (389 lb-ft) instead of 569 Nm (420 lb-ft).
Even the Bullitt special edition, which brought the Steve McQueen attitude to the Old Continent earlier this month at the Geneva Motor Show, comes with 457 hp instead of the 475 ponies it offers across the pond.
The first thing you notice about the third-generation Coyote is the meatier voice of the V8 and that's because you can now have the thing with an Active Valve Performance Exhaust.
The goodie offers four decibel setups, while you can also program the first to be active when you start the car in the morning, a feature aptly labeled as Good Neighbor mode (some might refer to this as the "Keep Rotten Tomatoes Off the Car Mode").
On a more serious note, here's how the new Coyote sounds when waking up without the said gimmick:
Without any unnecessary backfire sounds, the new exhaust allows the V8 to deliver the kind of soundtrack that will become a piece of memorabilia one day in the not-that-distant future. Even in the Quiet mode, the rumble coming from the engine compartment remains you that there's a meaty V8 in there, pleasing one's inner Mad Max.
Things aren't as sweet with the EcoBoost, though, since the engineers had to fit a particulate filter to the exhaust in order to meet emission regulations. Thus, the motor dropped from 314 to 290 PS. Torque stays almost unchanged, with the motor offering 440 Nm (324.5 lb-ft), while the US version offers 474.5 Nm (350 lb-ft).
As for the soundtrack, the speaker-generated voice of the car still feels artificial, even though the augmentation does manage to improve the sound of the engine - speaking to both Widmann and Matt Flis, the Mustang's exhaust specialist, I suggested a custom exhaust for the EcoBoost to be offered at least as a Ford Performance part.
For instance, Widmann mentioned that the Focus RS, which features a beefed-up version of the Mustang's EcoBoost (think: 350 hp), comes with the kind of exhaust sound that only appears to the RS customer. And while I agree that such a crack and pop-friendly exhaust wouldn't be fitting for the 'Stang, I trust that the Blue Oval's engineers have the ability to come up with a setup that would, while also setting the pony apart from, say, your average tuner Civic.
All motorI sampled the gearbox, which was co-developed with GM, on the 5.0-liter V8, where it does a brilliant job at emphasizing the muscle car aura of the machine.
The 2018 Mustang comes with multiple driving modes (Normal, Sport, Track, Snow/Wet, Drag Strip and the customizable My Mode), with the transmission behavior ranging from the smooth Normal mode upshifts, to the neck-snapping changes that play the no-lift-shift card in the Drag Strip mode - together with the Line Lock (only the front brakes are locked, so you can light up those rear tires), which is now also standard on the EcoBoost, the Drag Strip mode truly alows one to live one quarter mile at a time, offering brutal upshifts.
In fact, the US PP1 Mustang GT has demonstrated it can beat the Shelby GT350 in the 1/4-mile, since the latter hasn't received any mechanical changes for the 18MY. And while Ford quotes a 4s 0-60 mph time, the slightly detuned state of the Euro-spec bring the 0 to 62 mph (100 km/h) time to 4.3 seconds.
Nevertheless, I experience slightly jerky downshifts on one or two occasions, even though the tranny would often drop as much as three or four ratios when necessary. Perhaps the engineers will work on the calibration further, as the downshifts could be smoother for when all you want is to cruise.
P.S.: The five-oh engine loves to rev.
What about the (Eco)Boost and the revised manual?The added eco-friendliness of the turbocharged 2.3-liter four-cylinder engine hasn't changed the character of the engine. To put things briefly, the unit delivers respectable real-world acceleration, while offering an uneventful driving experience.
I simply wish the EcoBoost had gained more horses, along with a matching soundtrack, especially since the uber-heavy taxation on the Old Continent determines many, if not most customers to go for this version of the Mustang.
Rowing through the gears now requires a bit less muscle use, while the thing feels a tad more precise. Even though this isn't the sharpest tool in the shed, paring it to the V8 will result in even more thrills than in the case of the automatic. And speaking of automated features, the manual now comes with a rev-matching feature that does the heel-and-toe job for you when downshifting (I might disappoint the few who prefer to pull such stunts themselves, since I didn't find a way to deactivate the otherwise brilliant feature).
The facelifted version of the Mustang can be had with the optional Magneride dampers. Supplied by the BWI Group, these feature the same tech found on cars like Audis, Ferraris, Lamborghinis and Chevys, relying on a magnetorheological fluid to adapt to the driving conditions.
The integration is seamless, as it appears that the car simply handles better, without the new setup delivering abrupt changes in the behavior of the car, which would've been odd for an organic proposal such as the Mustang.
Up to the grip limit, the Magneride does a great job as camouflaging the notable curb weight of the Blue Oval machine (between 1,662 and 1,818 kg, depending on the body style and powertrain choice).
And while the active dampers on the EcoBoost and the GT deliver a brilliant experience, I can't talk about the standard passive shock absorbers, since none of the test cars had such a setup.
The steering has also been upgraded for the facelift, but Ford didn't mention any Euro tailoring. And despite the system offering three levels of assistance, none of them come with proper feedback, which is unfortunate, since this is a muscle car that can handle the bends.
Speaking of the handling, while the 2015 Mustang I drove on the track a few years ago also came with a limited-slip diff, that car's handling felt unpolished.
Things have changed now - fret not, the Mustang is just as playful, as it will instantly get the tail out. However, the car almost pats you on the pack to let you know when it's going to let go, while feeling a bit easier to control once it breaks traction.
Then again, a rainy episode convinced me not to push things too far through the twisties. As it happened, I came across a Toyota 86 while behind the wheel of the GT and I didn't feel motivated to see if its driver was willing to play games.
Oh, and there's one more thing: be confident when stepping on the brakes, as the uneven setup of the pedal might have you believe that the rather shy deceleration you get in the first part of the travel can be used as an overall indicator. Well, once you get serious, the Mustang proves it can stop properly.
Nevertheless, navigating tight urban areas isn't the Mustang's favorite activity, with the width of the car and the mediocre visibility requiring a bit of effort from the driver. Fortunately, Ford offers a rear-view camera along with rear parking sensors.
While I didn't record the real-world fuel efficiency of the EcoBoost, I did cover this part for the GT.
Babying the V8, as you would while engaging in conversation with your SO on a Sunday drive, the muscle machine returned a respectable 9.5 liters per 100 km (25 US mpg). However, a spirited drive allowed things to climb to 20 l/100 km (11.8 mpg).
Nevertheless, throwing a glance at the official efficiency figures revealed a strange aspect, namely that the ten-speed auto actually increased the fuel consumption of the EcoBoost compared to the six-speed manual, albeit not by much - things happen the other way around with the V8 model, as is the case with most contemporary setups involving automatics.
Since the Mustang's chief engineer, Carl Widmann, was present at the European launch, I got to ask him about the unusual numbers.
“The manual is still the more efficient setup, in the places that matter. It can do the cycle with lower engine rpm, just because of how its geared," the chief engineer explained.
It appears there are three main factors that determine the torque converter hardware to increase the official fuel consumption of the EcoBoost compared to the stick shift. These involve the test weight class (the auto might be just 12 kg/26 lbs heavier on paper, but it actually puts the car into a different testing category), the heftier real-world scale footprint of the automatic model and the taller rear axle used by the two-pedal model - the manual comes with a 3:31, while the auto has a 3:55 (this is a Euro-only aspect).
What about those Performance Packages offered in the US, are they coming to Europe?In the US, you can now have the Mustang with a Performance Pack Level 1 and, trust me, you want this. For the EcoBoost, it brings a 3.55 rear axle featuring a Torsen limited-slip diff, 19-inch wheels shod in summer tires, stiffer front springs, a larger rear sway bar, heftier front springs, a heavy-duty radiator, along with a sportier setup for the traction and stability control.
Tick this option for the GT and you'll get the same goodies, plus larger Brembo brakes, staggered wheels and a 3.55 rear axle (make that 3.73 for the manual).
With the Euro Mustang being just as capable as the US car fitted with the Performance Package Level 1 (there are a few changes, but these are small), I had to find out what happens when an Old Continent customer wishes to upgrade to the Performance Pack Level 2. After all, Euro aficionados are known for getting their kicks from track days. Once again, I turned to Carl Widmann for an answer.
And the recipe for track day fun sounds like this: all the parts that make up the PP2 are available to order in the US through Ford Performance Parts and from that point on, bringing them to Europe would be a matter of individual shipping.
As for why the carmaker doesn't officially offer the said pack on the Old Continent, this is a kit built around the new Michelin Pilot Sport Cup 2 tire. And it seems that this rubber doesn't meet the Euro requirements for rolling resistance, at least not in the size required by the Mustang.
Widmann mentioned the aftermarket blowers that make their way into European Mustangs as an example: "People put superchargers on our cars. The s/c kits are set up for the US, but you can bolt one on [in Europe],”
While we were at it, he also shared the tale of how the Level 2 Package was born.
“It [The PP2] was a study that gained a lot of momentum, that the guys kept working on afterhours, so we played with various setups and we ended up with the Micheline Pilot Cup 2 tire from the GT350,”
The Mustang chief engineer also mentioned that the PP2 "was really a study and it came together as a fun car to drive, especially if you live in an area where it doesn't rain a lot”
The study part of the equation implies that the engineers were doing their homework for the new Shelby GT500 while developing the Performance Package Level 2 and with the 700+ hp beast being almost ready to land (here's the latest teaser), we can't wait to see what they've prepared for us.
Meanwhile, I must mention that the 2018 Euro Mustang also comes with a host of driver assistance technologies. On paper, we're talking about active safety features like Adaptive Cruise Control with Distance Alert, Lane Departure Warning with Lane Keeping Aid and Pre-Collision Assist with Pedestrian Detection.
Interestingly, I was surprised to see the Pedestrian Detection feature at work when somebody jumped in the path of the car while we were in a remote parking lot. The active part of the system didn't kick in (the brakes weren't applied) and I received a mere warning - given the circumstances, I found the calibration as conservative, with the car being extra-sensitive (I mean this in a positive way).
These features should help the Mustang get over the three-star Euro NCAP issue the pre-revamp model experience - the car delivered a 72 percent adult protection score, while its child protection number only sat at 32 percent. The pedestrian safety rating sat at 78 percent, while the active safety assist area received a 61 percent rating.
As for the top asset of the Mustang, this title goes to the sense of occasion delivered by the Mustang GT.
If the Mustang were one of the options on my radar, I would either chose a GT for the pure American feel or go for a European sportscar instead of the EcoBoost.
However, since the 1964.5 Mustang came to the world with a four-cylinder base engine as a budget proposal, the turbo-four incarnation of the 2018 car makes all the sense in the world, as also proven by the large number of customers who have opted for this powerplant.
Deliveries for many European markets are set to kick off in June, but the updated pricing hasn't been announced for all countries. However, you can expect the revamp to deliver a financial boost of around €2,000. And while this isn't difficult to justify in the case of the GT, explaining the extra cash can be a bit more complicated when it comes to the EcoBoost.
Ford has managed to convince 33,000 European customers since it introduced the Mustang on the Old Continent back in 2015, so the sales expectations for the facelifted model are high.
In a world that's sprinting towards a point where we'll all be moved around in self-driving, electric pods, the Mustang is a superhero. Like all superheroes out there, the pony is far from perfect, but its flaws are part of what makes its personality memorable and we're glad to see it fighting to protect the freedom of car aficionados.
In his quest to bring you the most impressive automotive creations, Andrei relies on learning as a superpower. There's quite a bit of room in the garage that is this aficionado's heart, so factory-condition classics and widebody contraptions with turbos poking through the hood can peacefully coexist.