Ford Mustang GT — The muscle car lives

By Jim Meachen and Ted Biederman

In about a year the iconic Mustang will be the last car standing at Ford Motor Company. The entire fleet of coupe and sedans is scheduled to be terminated in the U.S. in favor of the current popular flavor — crossover SUVs and light trucks. Lucky for Mustang fans — and sports car enthusiasts — the current pony car is enjoying worldwide success or it would have probably been on the chopping block as well.

The pony car for sports car enthusiasts that continues to enjoy worldwide success for more than a half century still brings us driving fun and enjoyment. Today Mustang has gotten stronger and faster, and is still a sports car people dream of owning.

The current generation that debuted for 2015 has received a refresh for 2018, with a host of improvements including revised front and rear styling for a more aggressive appearance; more power; better handling; and more technology.

Our test car — the Mustang GT Premium in Orange Fury paint and powered by a 5.0-liter V-8 — produces an impressive 460 horsepower with a massive 420 lb-ft. of torque. Our GT came with the standard manual six-speed transmission, which imparts the true muscle car feel of old. More people, however, will chose the new optional 10-speed automatic which we also drove.

Unlike the days of yore, the automatic transmission actually produces a better 0-to-60 time than the six speed because of the advancement in transmission technology that allows for instantaneous shifts even if it isn't of the dual-clutch format. For example, the Mustang 10-speed GT has been recorded by a major automobile magazine from 0-to-60 in 3.8 seconds. That number jumps to 4.3 seconds with the manual shifter. Quarter mile time with the 10-speed is an exhilarating 12.1 seconds at 120 mph.

Our test GT also came equipped with the optional Performance Package, adding a firmer suspension with Michelin Pilot Sport 4S performance tires — 255/40R front, 275/40R rear — on 19-inch ebony black multi-spoke alloy wheels, additional engine cooling, and a Torsen limited-slip differential.

We found the Mustang is as much a cornering and handling beast as it is a straight line performer. We experienced great satisfaction in carving up our usual rural paved road "test tracks.”

An $895 optional feature called Active Valve Performance Exhaust lets the driver select between varying levels of exhaust volume, including normal, sport and track modes along with quiet mode for those late night or early morning drives through the neighborhood.

There is a second and very interesting engine option for people who want to cut insurance costs, reduce gas consumption, but yet enjoy high-energy performance — the 2.3-liter turbocharged four-cylinder making 310 horsepower and 350 pound-feet of torque. It's no slouch in going very fast in a hurry, measured at 5.6 seconds from 0-to-60 and 98 mph at 14 seconds in the quarter mile. It has all the sports car traits when appropriately equipped as the monster GT. It starts at an affordable $26,580 compared to the GT's starting price of $36,090.

Unlike some Mustangs of the past, the new pony car's interior is an impressive effort with quality materials. The newly styled dual-cowl dashboard is terrific. The infotainment system is easy to use and Ford's Sync 3 has a clean design and comes with Apple CarPlay and Android Auto capability.

The optional 8.0-inch touchscreen comes with voice activated navigation, SiriusXM satellite radio, and a nine-speaker Sony audio system. If you are more of a true hard-core muscle car driver, you can opt for the 12-speaker Shaker stereo, which can rattle the windows. And as a bonus, every Mustang has Track Apps in the gauge-cluster display, which enables the driver to monitor everything from cornering g-forces to acceleration times.

Like all the American two-door "pony cars" — Chevy Camaro and Dodge Challenger included — the doors are extremely wide making entry and exit difficult in tight spaces.

While the front seats are comfortable, rear-seat passengers will find the quarters tight — if they can contortion themselves into the back. Cargo space is adequate at 14 cubic feet, but if you opt for the Shaker sound system, the rear-mounted subwoofer takes up some of the otherwise useable space.

The early Mustang's charm back in the '60s was its affordability. As noted above, that's no longer the case. For instance our top-of-the-line Premium test car came in at a rather breathtaking $53,260. Included in addition to the $3,995 Performance Package, was the Safe and Smart Package, which we highly recommend, for $1,495. It includes several safety features including adaptive cruise control.

Base price: $26,580; as driven, $53,260
Engine: 5.0-liter V-8
Horsepower: 460 @ 7,000 rpm
Torque: 420 foot-pounds @ 4,600 rpm
Transmission: 6-speed manual
Drive: rear wheel
Seating: 2/2
Wheelbase: 107.1 inches
Length: 188.5 inches
Curb weight: 3,705 pounds
Turning circle: 36.5 feet
Luggage capacity: 13.5 cubic feet
Fuel capacity:  15.5 gallons (premium recommended)
EPA rating: 15 city, 25 highway, 18 combined
0-60: 4.3 seconds (Car and Driver)
Also consider: Chevrolet Camaro, Dodge Challenger

The Good
• Powerful V-8 engine
• New, modern 10-speed automatic
• Very attractive cabin
• Handling and braking first rate

The Bad
• Long, heavy doors

The Ugly
• Extremely tight rear seating