Part of the reason we trekked to the Barrett-Jackson auction in West Palm Beach, Florida, was to get a first look at the 2018 Mustang in person. We wish it had been right next to a 2017, so we could do a side-by-side comparison, but that will have to wait.
Like many of you we have seen photos of the 2018 Mustang. However, because we have yet to hit an auto show, we had not seen the car in the sheetmetal flesh. That would change when Barrett-Jackson announced the car would be on display at its Palm Beach auction. We took the ride down to see if our photographic first impressions matched our real-world reaction.
Shortly after entering the South Florida Fairgrounds building, we navigated the throngs of onlookers along the display of current Fords and arrived to the corner display where the 2018 Mustang GT convertible sat atop a turntable. Last year in this same spot, the Ford GT rotated to the delight of onlookers, so it is prime real estate on the Barrett-Jackson property.
While looking over the 2018 Mustang GT convertible for the first time we were able to chat with one of Ford’s most enthusiastic spokesmen, Ford Performance marketing manager, Jim Owens.
The turntable is a great feature at these events, as the space is tight. It allows you to stake out a spot and see all the angles of the car. Obviously, the big change with the refresh of the S550 is the front fascia with its angular lines fitted withe new trapezoidal headlamps. We were fond of this look from the moment we laid eyes on it, but the new look has received mixed reviews from fans of the current styling, which is expected.
We really appreciate the new angular front visage, which Ford Performance marketing manager, Jim Owens, described as “aggressive, but not mean.” Therein lies the styling tightrope a Mustang design must gallop along. If anything, after seeing the car in person we felt as if the car’s flanks and rear are a bit tame in contrast with the its feral beak.
It starts off as unmistakably Mustang and then evolves into the design to be the modern American sports car. — Jim Owens, Ford Performance
“It starts off as unmistakably Mustang and then evolves into the design to be the modern American sports car,” Jim explained. “In this segment, you and I would think that the performance is the whole key to doing it. But, for the whole Mustang portfolio, exterior design is one of the leading items that brings the new people in.”
There is no doubt it’s a Mustang. The lines of its sides offer faint echoes of the current GT350, while the rounded rump and angled taillights let you know this isn’t your older brother’s S550, but these changes don’t beat you over the head.
“It has to be unmistakably Mustang: the long front with the little clip over the wheel, the back with the three rear taillights, and that little haunch over the back where you could imagine a side scoop,” he said. “A lot of changes to the exterior are to make it more athletic-looking.”
With less bare plastic and more painted angles the 2018 Mustang’s front end is decidedly more aggressive than its predecessor. The headlights are a bit recessed and more angular, while the sculpted hood lines flow into the body. This example wore one of the many available wheel options, the 19-inch polished hoops.
As we said, subtlety leads the way with the rest of the styling as the hood is more sculpted and its swoopy line carries through onto the door. The hood vents are more traditional and the sculpted trenches they reside in remind us of those seen on the Terminator hood. In fact, while this model doesn’t resemble its predecessors, the feel of the refresh is reminiscent of the move from SN-95 to New Edge styling in 1999.
“When you come up on a three-quarters front it (the sculpted hood line) gives it that athletic haunch in a way that when you are in the driver’s seat you can still see the slope of the hood, but it still makes it look fast and athletic standing still,” Jim said.
As it slowly rotated in front of us, the new Mustang definitely looked fast. After we decided that we indeed still liked the look of the 2018, we had to ask a few questions about the beauty on the inside. Mainly we are curious about the move to include a dual-fuel system (high-pressure direct injection and low-pressure port fuel) for the first time on a naturally aspirated V8.
Heretofore, Ford engineers had downplayed the efficacy of direct injection on a larger, naturally aspirated engine. Moreover, dual fuel had only been deployed on high-output EcoBoost engines, like the 3.5-liter in the Ford GT.
Ford designers always work to retain those hints of the Mustang styling DNA that give the car its signature look. Tri-bar taillights are definitely part of that DNA and the 2018’s feature slightly angled wingtips that give the whole light almost an arrow shape.
“You need compression, you need spark, you need air and you need fuel. The way you manipulate those things is what drives the performance you get out of it,” Jim explained. “…Now, electronically, the better that you are able to control what goes in, the better the performance is going to be. When you are at this level of advancement and you are tweaking everything that you can, you focus on the finite, small increments and that (dual fuel) allows us to do that.”
…We also know that it has to have that deep, throaty rumble of the V8, so you have to do things that help the efficiency of the vehicle. — Jim Owens, Ford Performance.
So, Ford is looking to squeeze every last drop of efficiency out of the Coyote eight-banger and if it means that we retain that option in the Mustang, we are all for it.
“These cars continue to get higher and higher fuel economy numbers, and we understand that, but we also know that it has to have that deep, throaty rumble of the V8, so you have to do things that help the efficiency of the vehicle,” he added.
Of course, we couldn’t waste an audience with a Ford Performance marketing advocate without asking about forthcoming performance derivatives. The standard answer is that Ford doesn’t discuss future product, but that declaration to build 12 new performance variants by 2020 gave Jim a bit of wiggle room…
Convertibles have never been our thing, but the 2018 Mustang GT droptop is sharp in person. We look forward to seeing these cars on the street and modded. Those more aggressive lines definitely lend themselves to customization.
“We are always looking at what the next one will be. GM and their recent announcements have really stepped their game up. Dave Pericak does not want to be the second-place finisher,” Jim said coyly. “We are going to continue to advance the performance attributes in the nameplates that you are familiar with and some of them that you aren’t — Ford GT stands alone. So, we are always evolving in the Ford Performance world.”
As is the Mustang design, and the latest version definitely pushes the styling forward. While the stock, albeit preproduction, car looks good in person, we can’t wait to see how it translates to the real world with modifications, like lowering, wheels and tinted windows.