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Ever pictured yourself glidin' down Route 66 basking in the warm Texan sun? Of course you have, and there can only be one car in such a daydream: a big, burbling V8 Ford Mustang.
Yet, the reality is, even if you do make it to Route 66, your hire-car 'Stang will probably have a wheezy V6 under the bonnet. And, for most of us, it's more likely to be the A36 on a grey, drizzly morning commute. Anyhow, the new 2018 Ford Mustang is here to brighten your day and transport you to the land of steak and cacti.
It's been given a lightly refreshed look on the outside, while inside there's new tech to bring the 'Stang bang up to date. Most notable, though, is a brand new 10-speed automatic gearbox, which can be had with either of the two petrol engines: the 2.3-litre four-cylinder Ecoboost or the full-fat 5.0-litre V8. There's still the choice between Fastback (coupé) or Convertible bodystyles, too.
We've been given a brief drive of the new 5.0 V8 GT Fastback fitted with that new automatic 'box.
2018 Ford Mustang Fastback GT on the road
Our drive was short, but it's clear that Ford's throaty V8 petrol engine still means business. The GT never feels supercar quick, but with nearly 450bhp and excellent low-rev pull to haul the Mustang around it certainly delivers acceleration that will put a smile on your face. A new sports exhaust system ensures the V8 soundtrack is suitably raucous at all speeds, too.
But it's the improved control that comes with this performance that is most welcome, thanks to that new 10-speed automatic gearbox. It replaces the old six-speed unit and has been developed in-house by Ford, allowing not only gains in efficiency, but also responsiveness. Where the old six-speed 'box felt slushy and lazy, this new 10-speed 'box is really quite snappy and can flick through multiple gears in one go. Happily, steering wheel-mounted paddles allow you to take full control when you want to.
It all goes a long way to making the Mustang feel more energetic – more of a sports car and less of laid-back wafter. It can still play the cruiser role in Normal driving mode, mind, but there are no less than six driving modes (Normal, MyMode (allows you to tailor your settings), Snow/Wet, Sport+, Track and Drag modes) with which to alter the Mustang's accelerator pedal and gearbox responsiveness, exhaust note and traction control. And, if you add them as a (£1600) option, the MagneRide adaptive dampers can also be stiffened and slackened accordingly.
That's all very well, but while the Mustang certainly feels more alive and responsive, it still isn't as agile as sporty rival coupés, such as the Audi TTS and BMW M240i. That heavy V8 over the front wheels is partly to blame, but the fact that its steering is relatively heavy and slow doesn't help, either.
At least the Mustang still seems to ride well. Our test car was fitted with standard non-adaptive suspension and it did a good job of soaking up broken surfaces while keeping the Mustang's heavy body in check over tricky undulations. The interior is decently quiet at a steady cruise, too, save for that V8 burble, of course.
2018 Ford Mustang Fastback GT interior
This Mustang has received no dimension changes inside for 2018, so for a full breakdown of how spacious it is, its seating flexibility and how much you can fit in its boot, head over to our full Mustang review.
In short, tall adults will have no issues with space in the front seats and the driver is treated to a good driving position with a generous amount of adjustability. In the back, there are a couple of seats fit for kids, but adults will find it a real squeeze. True, there's more headroom than you'll find in the back of a TT Coupé, but a BMW 2 Series is more spacious than both.
On paper, the Mustang's boot is bigger than either rival's, but its narrow opening and awkward shape means a TT's boot is actually more practical.
You still get an 8.0in touchscreen infotainment system, but it has been upgraded to Ford's latest SYNC 3 system, which is slightly easier to use than the old system, while all Mustangs now come with a 12in digital display in place of the old analogue instrument dials. They're bright and easily customised to display the infomation you want.
The trouble is, while all this is a step forward for the Mustang, cars such as the TT S and M240i still have far better infotainment systems, while Audi's Virtual Cockpit digital dials are higher in definition. Similarly, Ford's efforts to improve the Mustang's interior quality haven't gone unnoticed, but the car is still some way behind its German rivals in this area.
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