I’ve been driving around for the last few weeks in a bright-orange 2018 Ford Mustang GT with a sticker price of more than $50,000. To be more exact, it’s about $53,000, which is a lot of money for a Mustang that doesn’t say “Shelby” on the trunk, or possibly “Saleen.” This is just a regular Mustang GT with a $53,000 sticker price. To Mustang fans, that may be unfathomable.
I say that because the V8-powered Mustang GT was once the Mustang you had to buy if you wanted something sporty; the base-level V6 models just couldn’t cut it. And so, to charge $53,000 for the GT… it seems like Ford is making the excitement of the Mustang a lot less reachable for most people.
Except, not quite. These days, the base-level Mustang is now the 4-cylinder EcoBoost model, following the cancellation of the V6 with a facelift for the Mustang’s 2018 model year. The EcoBoost Mustang makes 310 horsepower, it goes 0-to-60 in 5.3 seconds, and it starts around $26,000. The dream of fast and fun — for cheap — is still alive and well in the Mustang.
But as the base models have grown in performance, the V8-powered GT has grown, too — and, so, its performance has increased dramatically. The new Mustang GT has 460 horsepower, and it’ll do 0-to-60 in 3.9 seconds if you opt for the new 10-speed automatic transmission. Suddenly, the $53,000 price tag doesn’t seem so wild — and it’s even more reasonable when you consider that the GT actually starts right around $40,000. That’s still steep for a Mustang, but a bargain for a 460-horsepower car that does 0-to-60 in 3.9.
Of course, that’s all it does, right? The Mustang has always been known as a 1-trick pony — it goes fast in a straight line, unless you accidentally cock the wheel and fly off the road, as so many Mustang drivers have — but it can’t do curves. This is Mustang canon; a generally accepted fact about the Mustang at this point. But is it true?
Emphatically, no, it’s not. I haven’t spent much time in newer Mustang models, but I’ve now recorded quite a few miles in this 2018 GT, and I’m truly shocked at just how exciting it is to drive. It’s fast in a straight line, sure, but it also handles wonderfully: The steering is quick and precise, the car doesn’t have any body roll, and it’s truly a joy to throw around corners. It’s not as precise as a supercar, no, or even a Porsche — but this is no longer a car that deserves to be known only for its straight-line speed. It’s a hoot in all situations, including the curviest roads, and I had a great time driving through rural Pennsylvania Amish country, down twisting roads, feeling perfectly confident as I downshifted into corners and received excellent steering feedback throughout each turn before pushing down on the throttle on my way out.
And then there’s the sound. Oh, my, the sound. It seems every Mustang generation gets a little louder, to the point where this Performance Package-equipped Mustang now sounds like a 1960s muscle car every time you press the throttle. Note I didn’t say “every time you floor the throttle” — I mean, every single time you press the throttle, it spits out this wonderful exhaust gurgle, to the point where I was dropping the throttle in sixth gear on the highway, not to gain speed, but just to hear it. Then I’d back off, drop the throttle again, and repeat, endlessly. This is the only enjoyment you can get from driving through Maryland.
There are, of course, some drawbacks. The interior is still pretty cheap, with hard plastics in a lot of places — but to me, that’s sort of the point of the car: If you want 460 hp and a 3.9-second 0-to-60 along with nice materials, you get an AMG. If you just want the performance, you get a Mustang. I also found the ride quality to be exceptionally harsh, to the point where driving in the pothole-laden springtime in a Northeastern city is just brutal. It’s certainly driveable every day, but some days you might wish you weren’t driving it.
Mostly, though, it’s just an excellent package. It’s not the most refined package, but it’s far better than it’s ever been — and the refinement is sort of a feature at this point; a byproduct of its excellent value. And yes, even at $53,000, it’s still an excellent value: It’s faster than cars that cost twice as much, it handles nearly as well, it sounds better and it’s just as exciting to climb behind the wheel.
The Mustang name comes with a lot of baggage, both good and bad — from dangerous car show burnouts to Steve McQueen; from the lowly Mustang II to wild, quarter-mile dragsters. Some people avoid this car because they don’t want to be part of the Mustang culture; others buy it solely because they want to embrace it. But regardless of your opinion on “the Mustang,” the latest model is no longer a good Mustang — it’s just a good sports car. And you’re reminded of that every time you turn it on. Find a Ford Mustang for sale
Doug DeMuro is an automotive journalist who has written for many online and magazine publications. He once owned a Nissan Cube and a Ferrari 360 Modena. At the same time.