As the covers were whipped off the update to this sixth-generation of Mustang it wasn’t the increased power, digital dash, optional ten-speed automatic gearbox or even the new nose that occupied my mind, it was the colour. Orange Fury is one of three new colour options and it smacks you in the face with all the subtlety of glass of fruit juice thrown across the breakfast table. Apparently the metal flake in this new paint means it pops even more in the sunlight. Indeed one of the designers said to me ‘it’s not just memorable, it’s unforgettable’.
I was given this sneak preview of the 2018 Mustang out in Detroit where I was whisked away from the motor show, with great secrecy, to Dearborn where I signed stern forms saying that I wouldn’t tell anyone about what I’d seen until today. Apart from the paint, what I saw was a nose that has a wider and slightly shallower grille, giving the face more of that slightly hooded look of the Boss 302 Mustang. I saw new LED lights too. Walk around to the rear and things are much the same as before, but there has been a slight tweak to the shape of the three-bar rear lights and two new wings are also available depending on the pack you choose.
Owners also have the dilemma of picking between 12 different wheel designs that cater for almost every conceivable predilection in terms of spoke count. A white stripe is back on the menu for the first time in years too, although this time it has an offset line running through it.
Get inside and you find a thoroughly modern 12-inch digital screen replacing the analogue dials of the past. This is customisable in numerous ways, but there are essentially three different layouts to choose from with the rev counter and speedo slickly morphing shape with each press of the button. Talking of buttons, the starter button is now a rather attractive brushed aluminium. Less noticeable, but more practically significant are new knee bolsters that help you support yourself during cornering.
Under the new skin, the changes are arguably even more significant. If two pedals rather than three are your preference then you’ll be interested to hear that the old six-speed auto has been ditched in favour of a new ten-speed ‘box that offers faster responses and quicker shift times as well as increased efficiency. This will be available on both the EcoBoost four-cylinder and the V8. The manual gearbox has been improved too, particularly in the V8 application where it has been redesigned with a new stiffer case, new synchros, a new twin-disc clutch and a new twin-mass flywheel. Although it is still a Getrag unit rather than the GT350’s Tremec transmission, it feels a little more like the latter (albeit just from a brief waggle at standstill). According to the engineers, great attention has been paid to making it a smoother, less restrictive manual to use everyday, yet one that also rewards when you’re popping shifts through quickly under hard acceleration.
In terms of grunt, again it is the V8 engine that receives the more significant upgrades, as while the four-cylinder has a bit more torque at full throttle, the 5.0-litre now revs higher and produces more power than any Mustang GT before it. This is thanks to Ford introducing new high-pressure direct injection and low-pressure port fuel injection to the V8. Perhaps even more noticeably there is now a switchable exhaust. Ford provided recordings of the old and new cars for us to listen to and even heard through headphones there is certainly a much more rugged sound from the new system. However, according to those that have heard it testing it sounds significantly louder and more raucous out in the wild.
Finally, the MagneRide suspension that we’ve experienced on the GT350 is now available as an option on the 2018 Mustang. Naturally it has been recalibrated for the GT, but there are four settings available to scroll through - Normal, Sport, Track and Drag – with the last of those softening the rear for maximum traction. Even on the (new) standard shock absorbers, Ford says it has improved the handling thanks to increased lateral stiffness at the rear and new stabiliser bars. New Michelin Pilot Sport 4 rubber (255/40 ZR19 ant the front, 275/40 ZR19 at the rear) almost certainly helps too.
If any or all of that has tickled your fancy, then it will be available in North America in the fall of this year.