But it could be worse. After experiencing the difficult automatic in the GT, Ford confirmed that 60 percent of GT buyers continue to opt for the standard 6-speed manual, which I'm happy to report is a gem. The perfectly sized shift lever is close enough to the steering wheel, while its appropriately long throw hints at the Mustang's muscle-car roots. Drive aggressively and the throws are fine, with a precise-feeling gate at the end of the travel. While some of the media on my wave of the event complained of heavy damping in the clutch pedal, I found the new twin-disc clutch simple enough to operate with a broad catchpoint and linear travel.
Once underway, the 5.0-liter V-8 remains a lovable engine. The addition of direct injection and a higher compression ratio let Ford increase the GT's redline from 7,000 rpm to 7,500. That's as high as the old Boss 302's “official” max engine speed, but with more power and torque—it's a good time to be alive.
This engine feels fantastic at any engine speed. The throttle response, particularly in the aggressive Sport+ driving mode, feels supremely manageable, allowing the driver to strike the right balance between power and traction from a standstill—a new Drag Mode is available, as is launch control, in case the power is too much to handle. Under way, there's no discernible drop in output, straight on up to the 7,500-rpm redline. This is an addicting engine, and the official numbers aren't bad either.
Ford quoted me a sub 4.0-second sprint to 60 mph, although no amount of prodding or plying with The Macallan 12 could convince the PR people to give a more accurate number—assume a time between 3.90 and 3.99 seconds. Meanwhile, the GT is limited to 155 mph, although its V-8 sounds like it can go much faster thanks to the new $895 Active Valve Performance Exhaust.
2018 Ford Mustang first drive reviewEnlarge Photo
Let me sing you the song of my people
You won't be able to see a difference in models with this affordable option—all 2018 Mustangs wear GT350-inspired quad exhaust tips—but you'll certainly be able to hear it. With four separate exhaust modes, owners can tailor the Mustang GT's sound to the setting. In the Normal mode, the 2018 Mustang GT sounds just like the 2017. Sport and Track amplify the volume considerably. This is a loud, booming, ever-present exhaust note that just begs to be exploited. But Quiet mode is the revelation.
Ford widely publicized the so-called Good Neighbor mode, which allows owners to start their Mustang GT's without the usual look-at-me bellow that accompanies the 5.0-liter V-8. Quiet mode has the same effect while underway, subduing the engine to what feels like the same cruising volume as, say, a V-8-powered F-150. It's perfect for a long, boring drive.
So yes, this new Mustang is quick. And it's arguably the least important thing about this facelift, because the 2018 Mustang is smarter and more agile.