Octane's Mark Dixon samples the revised 2018 Ford Mustang in both 2.3 EcoBoost and 5.0-litre V8 form.
What do you think was the world’s best-selling sports car in 2016? According to Ford, it was the Mustang. How you define a sports car is obviously a moot point, but Ford says it is one, and as such it outsells more obvious contenders such as the 911 and MX-5.
The current model has proved a surprise hit in Europe and the revised 2018 version tested here is unlikely to disappoint, either. It’s better finished inside and there’s a new ten-speed auto ’box to feed the upgunned 5.0-litre V8’s 444bhp to the tarmac; rather endearingly, the V8 Mustang also features a ‘line lock’ setting to hold the car on the front brakes while you spin up the rear tyres to warm them for drag-race starts.
Less lairy types can order their Mustang with a 2.3-litre supercharged EcoBoost four-cylinder. While not the most aurally inspiring unit, the EcoBoost is still a mighty performer: 0-62mph in 5.5sec and a top speed of 145mph. Being some 80kg lighter than the V8, the EcoBoost gives the Mustang a pointiness and agility that the V8 can’t match and, of course, it’s more frugal.
But – and it’s a big but – you can’t ignore the kerbside appeal of a rumbling V8. The Mustang’s 5.0-litre motor announces itself with a proper old-school muscle car roar of a kind that’s rarely heard these days: you can choose four levels of exhaust noise and at least three of them will stir the blood of any petrolhead. Sensibly, though, you can also choose a ‘good neighbour’ mode that mutes everything for those 5am departures (or arrivals). It is also blisteringly fast, despatching the 0-62mph sprint in 4.3sec.
Ride, steering weight and engine response are customisable by the driver, although the first and last of those are paired and can’t be set individually. Nevertheless, on the fabulously flowing roads of the South of France test route, Sport+ proved a good compromise between comfort and high-speed poise, aided by the optional new magnetorheological dampers. In this mode the ten-speed auto’ works well when you’re pressing on, but it can be snatchy when pootling through town; the six-speed manual is slower to use but suits the car’s character.
The Mustang’s trump card for UK buyers is its value for money. You can get into a 444bhp V8 fastback for about £41,000, although the Government will sting you heavily in extra tax for the first six years of ownership. We think the V8’s noise alone makes it worth the hefty additional penalty, however. To mix metaphors, the writing is on the wall for big petrol engines, so should you not make hay while the sun shines?
Words: Mark Dixon