- I drove the new Ford2018 Mustang GT last year.
- Recently, I had the chance to try an upgraded version of the MustangGT of the iconic car on a race track. The version I drove costs about $US53,000.
- It was well worth the $US6,500 extra cost associated with the Ford performance goodies.
I was already a big fan of the 2018 Ford Mustang GT after taking it for a multi-day spin in Southern California last year.
So when Ford offered to let me sample an upgraded version of the car – Performance Pack Level 2 – at the Monticello Motor Club’s track in New York’s Catskills, I jumped at the chance.
Interestingly, the last time I tracked a vehicle it was also a Mustang: the GT350, which I piloted around a circuit in Utah last year. I’ve driven Monticello many times, but my skills have degraded after almost 12 months without practice.
Would I be able to match up to the Mustang, optimised for speed? Let’s find out.
My first look at the all-new 2018 Mustang happened last year in Los Angeles.
Ford kindly loaned me a Ford Mustang Convertible with an EcoBoost four-cylinder turbocharged engine for the roughly one-and-half-hour drive to Monticello from my home in New Jersey.
Look for a review of the Mustang turbo four in the near future.
The Monticello Motor Club is a private facility located in New York’s Catskills. It consists of two courses that can be combined into one; or diced and sliced to provide various driving experiences.
My last crack at a Mustang occurred in 2017, when I headed out to Ford’s Performance Driving School in Utah to learn my way around the Shelby GT350.
Read all about the fun here.
The Performance Pack Level 2 can get an owner close to GT350 specs at a lower cost.
The GT350 has a 5.2-litre V8 engine, dubbed “Voodoo,” that can make 526 horsepower and, thanks to its flat-crank design, a sweetly aggressive exhaust note. You can pick one up starting at $US57,000.
The Mustang GT that I’d be driving is a notch or two down from that beast of a car. It has a mere 460 hp.
However, the GT platform has been upgraded with some performance goodies. According to the automaker, the GT Performance Pack Level 2 was conceived about “grip”: Just how stuck to the track surface could this car be?
The answer is very stuck. “Michelin Pilot Sport Cup 2 tires add incredible grip to keep Mustang with Performance Pack level 2 planted on the road,” Ford says, and the “track-calibrated MagneRide suspension delivers ultra-responsive handling for a more engaging driving experience.”
Prior to track time, I took the ‘Stang for a brief spin on the roads around the club. That big V8 made a sweet rumbling noise, so I kept the windows down.
Back at the race track, we have ourselves a GT lineup to die for.
The Mustang GT found itself in some good company, alongside a distant, vintage relative.
Not to mention a second-generation Ford GT supercar from the mid-2000s.
Inside, the GT isn’t any different from the car I drove last year.
The engine is thoroughly impressive, bringing 420 pound-feet of juicy torque to the party, to go along with the 460 ponies.
The six-speed manual transmission is a joy to use. But the GT an also be had with a fuel-saving 10-speed automatic.
Say hello to some Recaro racing seats. The holes are for shoulder straps, should you want to go for a full racing harness.
Brembo brakes keep the speed in check. The GT can complete a 0-60 mph run in less than four seconds.
A key aspect of the Performance Pack Level 2 is the front aero, which assists in pressing the ‘Stang into the asphalt and channels airflow. There’s also a spoiler out back to glue this rear-wheel-drive’s back end to the pavement.
A closer look at the front aero.
To the track! My chariot is Mustang GT in “Orange Fury Metallic Tri-Coat” colours. To buy this baby as equipped will set you back about $US53,000 — a ridiculously good deal for the performance you get in the bargain.
And I’m off!
I drove like crap. Hey, there’s no point in sugarcoating it. We didn’t get in very many laps due to some rain threats, but I could have turned 20 and still botched all my corners and messed up my braking.
On the plus side, I was reflexively better at overcoming my biggest problem with performance driving, which is to keep my eyes moving ahead, down the track, to the next objective. So I learned something valuable in Utah last year, and it seems to have stayed with me.
What I also learned is that skills degrade. I haven’t had any track practice since last year. If you’re the type of person who buys, say, a Mustang GT and adds the Performance Pack with the expectation that you’ll turn some laps from time to time, make sure to budget in at least three or four track days a years to stay sharp.
Ford thoughtfully provided us with some images of what the Mustang GT looked like on the track with more favourable weather. The upshot: This car a performance steal!
Mustang’s with V8 engines are some of the absolute best deals in high-performance motoring currently available. The GT with the Performance Pack Level 2 adds just what a racer wants: grip, grip, and more grip.
The track at the Monticello Motor Club was damp when I drove it, but even then I could feel the locked-down stability of the GT’s combination of tire, aero, and suspension. You really attack and turn fast laps in a car this powerful if you can forget about taxing the rear end and having to compensate for oversteer.
The Mustang GT’s partnering of horsepower and torque means that you can tackle a course with limited long straights in third gear; you won’t lack for oomph when you need it, and you won’t threaten the redline on the tachometer, which sits at 7500 rpm. In practice, I could focus on steering, braking, and throttle rather that worrying about hitting my shifts or matching engine revs. This is something I always enjoy.
The Performance Pack Level 2 adds a few grand to the Mustang GT’s price tag, but the carmaker says that’s to continually maintain the relevance of the platform, which is now over 50 years old. For a track-obsessed owners, this package is definitely worth checking out.
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