CTzens, I come to you today not as a veteran American auto journalist or former Ford Racing staffer. Nor do I hash this keyboard because I’m a Mustang fan and owner thrice over.
I’m here today because, as an objective auto enthusiast with Blue Oval roots and a keen eye to Mustangs, I really don’t understand the sizable chunk of petrolheads who are up-in-arms over the mildly facelifted and otherwise tweaked 2018 Mustang. Per my background, I’m in the key demographic that’s supposed to be either insanely critical of every Mustang bit that’s not true to the original, or gushing absurd fanboy praise while swigging Budweiser and farting the national anthem.
There seems to be quite a bit of hype over this new Mustang, but from my vantage point in the geographical center of ‘Murica, it’s all basically a non-issue. Yes, there are those who desperately want to live like it’s still the 1960s. There are those who cry foul over the Mustang’s ever-increasing price tag, blaming technology for ruining its bang-for-buck performance reputation. And there are those who think a few minor styling cues suddenly make the Mustang look like a poster child for clinical depression.
I can’t speak for those outside the realm of Mustang influence, but as a ‘Stang owner who’s attended far too many Ford car shows and never once crashed into anything, here’s my take on the new car.
I’m really surprised at the amount of people railing against the styling updates. Had photos of this car been released without any mention of it being a revised model, most people wouldn’t have even noticed without a close look, or assumed it was wearing some aftermarket front clip. Styling is subjective, so everyone is welcome to an opinion. But I call shenanigans on those who liked the previous car but think Ford ruined this new one, because they look virtually the same despite the changes. For me, there aren’t enough differences between the two styles to even have an opinion on which is better.
I was not surprised to hear that Ford dumped the V6 in favor of the superior turbo four in the base model, but I am surprised to hear people lamenting its passing. Forget the whole no replacement for displacement nonsense - you can still get a thumping big American V8 if you want. This is the base model Mustang, and folks, there have always been base model Mustangs with either four or six cylinder engines. They’re the bread and butter for the entire Mustang line, only now they have some legitimate performance cred of their own. The 2.3-litre turbo offers good power, it handles better, and it’s easier to upgrade. There’s never been a better time to own a base model Mustang.
This one really gets under my skin, because the Mustang has been lauded by people for decades as a low-tech dud that couldn’t possibly be a fun-to-drive performance car. And now that it’s evolved to become a proper, modern sports car, people are going to complain? I believe the word I’m looking for here is hypocrite, but I do understand a bit of the argument.
Added tech like a digital dash, lane assist, distance alert, and MagneRide suspension equals added cost, but it’s not like the top-level Mustangs have always been cheap. Go easy on the options list and V8 Mustangs are still affordable to most buyers, never mind the EcoBoost models. You can’t trash the Mustang for being old-school then trash it because it’s not old-school.
I went on a tirade some time ago about the ridiculousness of auto gearboxes with a bazillion speeds. They’re heavy, complicated, and any real-world advantage they might offer in performance or fuel economy can be offset by something as simple as a mild temperature change or how much you ate for lunch. It’s just a numbers game - a bragging point for Ford that unfortunately adds both cost and weight to a car that needs neither. Fortunately you can still get a proper six-speed manual. That’s the only box you want with a new Mustang.
Let me wrap this piece up with a personal observation from a few years ago. I was at the official launch of the redesigned 2015 Mustang in Dearborn, Michigan; it was an automotive event hyped to the max and everyone had an opinion heading into it, but here’s the thing: The people at the event - from journalists to enthusiasts - had overwhelming praise for the car.
Meanwhile, the people back home looking at photos jumped onto forums and social media to express heaps of grief. They didn’t like the looks, didn’t like the options, didn’t like the independent suspension, and so forth. It was too heavy, too ugly, and without a solid axle in the back somehow it ceased to be a Mustang. That negativity faded fast once people actually saw it and drove it, and I suspect the same thing will happen here.
Unless you’re a Mustang hater, which is completely fine. Just come up with a legit reason to hate it, because honestly, it’s pretty much the same car it was a week ago.