Some of the major auto news outlets are giving the redesigned 2018 Ford Mustang mixed reviews. They’re raving about the 10-speed automatic transmission with paddle shifters, magnetic ride control, small power increases for the 2.3 Ecoboost and the 5.0 V8, and the demise of the V6 engine option. I agree that these are all wonderful changes for this version of the Mustang’s midlife
crisis facelift. But Jalopnik calls the new styling a “sad new face.” The Truth About Cars calls it “controversial,” with “a taste of Jaguar XKR in the new look.” Others are sticking to reporting the facts, mainly that there’s been a facelift – well, duh. But some of us at RFD love the new look. I know I do. It looks great in Orange Fury (the first leaked photos didn’t do the color justice), and I’m a huge fan of Kona Blue, which is making a comeback for 2018. (That’s the color I want my Focus ST, please.)
This split-screen comparison between the current and new nose is a great demonstration of the styling changes. The grills sit much lower in the new model. I liked the earlier car, but found some of its styling a bit busy – the odd angles around the turn signals and fog lights, for example. The 2018 model integrates the turn signal and fog light into one unit (all LED) for a much cleaner overall look. The corner air intakes – I don’t know whether they’re real or fake – are all cleaned up, partly because they no longer have to accommodate fog lights. And is that yet another intake I see in the large gap under the headlight?
I also didn’t care for those weird asymmetrical triangular ridges on the hood. I prefer symmetry in car design, which is why cars like the Nissan Cube and Hyundai Veloster annoy the hell out of me, no matter how good they are (well, maybe not the Cube). I couldn’t even see the ridge on the passenger side while sitting in the driver’s seat of the current Mustang, which makes me wonder why they bothered adding that styling cue at all. But the new hood does away with the funky ridgey things in favor of heat extractors on all models. I have no idea if these are functional, and I don’t care. The original Subaru Impreza 2.5RS looked awesome with its fake hood scoop, and even if these heat extractors are fake, they look great, and are a legit styling throwback to some earlier Mustangs. Overall, I think the new nose looks cleaner and meaner than the previous one.
The rear isn’t much different, though the vertical tail lights are now vaguely C-shaped – a shape I’m seeing in many cars lately. Though these three lights are traditionally vertical, it’s a tasteful, if common, modernization, and definitely still screams “Mustang.” But I don’t like the new rear wing at all. It looks more Subaru STi than “Five. Point. OMG,” as Ford’s web site says (marketing to millennials much?) Fortunately, it costs nothing to omit this wing, which I would definitely do on my own Mustang. It’s not that it’s a bad wing in itself. It would look good on a sport compact sedan, like if the Focus ST was available as a sedan (I’d still take the hatch), or maybe on the Fusion Sport or Taurus SHO. But I think a rally car style wing looks seriously out of place on a pony car, even though you can rally a Mustang.
The interior is quite similar to the old one, though Ford’s photo gallery displays Apple CarPlay prominently on the infotainment system – a welcome addition for those of us with iThings. But the part I love is this optional 12″ LCD instrument panel. It can replicate the original gauge cluster, and in sport mode it shows a variation with coolant, oil, and transmission temperature gauges – quite useful for attacking the twisties. But in track mode, it completely changes to show you exactly what you need to know on the race track. The horizontal bar tachometer is a modern throwback to the similarly shaped speedometers of classic cars, but it’s also big, bright, and at the very top of the screen – exactly where you need it in your peripheral vision at the track. Other information is quite intelligently laid out across all of the digital versions of the “gauge cluster.” We’ve seen digital dashboards before in more upscale cars, but this is the first one we’ve seen in a Mustang, and I love how they’ve done it here.
Overall, I think the 2018 Mustang is a winner. Many others seem to agree, except for the front styling. But styling is subjective. Everyone can believe what they want – even if they are wrong.