2018 Ford Mustang GT Performance Pack 2 Group Review: Where Muscle Car Meets Track Attacker

Packing a stiff MagneRide suspension, aggressive tires, and a 455-horsepower V8, the PP2 Mustang shows just how far the pony car has come.

byJosh Condon, Will Sabel Courtney| UPDATED Jun 4, 2018 2:26 PM
2018 Ford Mustang GT Performance Pack 2 Group Review: Where Muscle Car Meets Track Attacker
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Two of The Drive’s editors—Will Sabel Courtney

and Josh Condonrecently spent time with the 2018 Ford Mustang GT with Performance Pack 2. They discussed the finer merits and detractors of this super-speedy station wagon via Slack, an instant message program with a fun ability to summon random gifs based on what users type. The following is a partial transcript of that conversation.

josh

You had that new Mustang GT this weekend, right? Thoughts?

willscourtney

This weekend, and the last. I've been blessed with a lot of Mustang time lately. And it wasn't just any Mustang—it was the 2018 Ford Mustang GT with Performance Pack 2, in full FoMoCo parlance. It was...delightful.

josh

It's a lot of car. And of course I mean that in a good way.

willscourtney

I've always been a big fan of the Mustang, but in recent years, it's been hard not to acknowledge that the Camaro is a better drive. This was the first 'Stang in this generation where I felt like it took the lead.

josh

Magnetorheological dampers, yo.

willscourtney

THE BEST. Why every carmaker doesn't use 'em I don't know.

Will Sabel Courtney

josh

Well, lots do. Cadillac, Ford, and Ferrari, to name a few. All from the exact same supplier, by the way. A little tidbit I learned when I was driving the Mustang up at Monticello.

[After-the-Fact Check: All the automotive industry's magnetic dampers are made by Delphi Automotive.]

Which sounds a little misleading, because I had four laps of the track—my first time ever driving it, notably—while racing against one giant bucket of a rainstorm. Which showed up as soon as I hit pit lane and cancelled the on-track driving for the rest of the day.

willscourtney

/giphy aaaand scene

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josh

Still, the amount of performance you can pull out of that car is breathtaking.

willscourtney

Yeah. At least you were lucky enough to try it on the track at all. On the road, you've always gotta be careful. Not in the usual muscle car "Oh shit, here comes the slide" way, more in the true sports car "I have to go twice the speed limit to push this car" way.

josh

Well, there's also the "Oh shit, here comes the slide" moment the second you get a little fresh with the throttle.

willscourtney

True. But those giant sticky tires mitigate a lot of that.

josh

/giphy Tail Happy

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willscourtney

I can't remember the last time I saw rubber that jutted so far out of the body.

josh

We had Sport Cup 2s on the track.

[After-the-Fact Check: The Michelin Pilot Sport Cup 2 was originally developed for hypercars like the Porsche 918 Spyder; it was also used on the Koenigsegg Agera RS during its record 277-mph top speed run.]

willscourtney

Yeah. I had 'em too.

Will Sabel Courtney

josh

Those come with the Track Pack. Along with a half-inch lower ride height, MagneRide, 19-inch wheels, and quicker steering. Not bad for $6,500.

[After-the-Fact Check: In addition to the above, Performance Pack 2 also includes six-piston Brembo brakes up front with upsized calipers, a larger radiator, a strut tower brace and K-brace, a new front splitter, and a Torsen limited-slip diff.]

willscourtney

Which, to be honest, almost seem like enough of a deal to warrant PP2 on its own. It's actually kind of a steal, even though it marks the car up to around $50K. Ours was $51,000 and change, if I recall correctly.

josh

Not cheap, but still a bargain, as you said. BUT, only if you're really tracking the thing. If not, you're kind of ruining the car a bit for everyday use. It's too aggressive.

willscourtney

See, I disagree. I didn't think it was over the top at all for the street. It's a muscle car. I want it to be a bit of a brute.

josh

/giphy You're high

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willscourtney

Then again, the 2013 Shelby GT500 is one of my favorite cars of all time.

[After-the-fact check: The 2013 Ford Mustang Shelby GT500 packed both a 661-horsepower supercharged 5.8-liter V8 and a solid live axle.]

josh

Those huge tires and low stance are just brutal on non-ideal pavement.

And the GT500 was the Dodge Challenger Hellcat of its day: so overpowered as to be unusable.

willscourtney

It was goofy. That was the fun part.

josh

That's some expensive goofy.

willscourtney

But if I had the PP2 I'd probably get a second set of wheels and tires for street use. Save the Cups for the track.

Will Sabel Courtney

josh

So...it's not a $51,000 car anymore.

Also, I'd like to take exception to your assertion that the modern Mustang is a muscle car. Because Ford is definitely trying to turn it into a sports car.

willscourtney

True. But that's broadly true across the category.

(Of three cars.)

josh

To compete with the Camaro, as you noted earlier. The only real muscle car left is the Challenger. Oh, and the Charger.

josh

The Challenger is totally still a muscle car.

willscourtney

Oh no, I was excluding the Charger. 

Ford and GM have redefined the muscle car to basically be a sports car. The Chally is a holdover from the olden days.

josh

I mean, if we're going by strict definition, the Charger is as much a muscle car as the Challenger.

willscourtney

There's the whole two door / four door thing, which I think represents a modern-day demarcation line between muscle car and not.

But I digress.

josh

Ah, yes. You're right.

Will Sabel Courtney

willscourtney

Back to the Ford: I will admit that the 2018 facelift for the Mustang is growing on me. It's still uglier than before, but I hate it less with time.

josh

I really liked it out of the gate. I was never a traditionalist about those things. I don't really care about taillight shape or whatever.

The profile is beautiful—the way the roof slopes to the rear. It just looks fast.

willscourtney

I've always loved the general lines of this generation Mustang. It's one of the best designs in autodom today, IMHO.

josh

But wait, I want to go back to the muscle car / sports car issue.

willscourtney

/giphy boomerang

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josh

Because it makes for a bit of a weird driving experience, no?

willscourtney

It does, yeah. It's nimble, but massive at the same time. Like an NFL player who does ballet.

josh

Not bad per se, but it's a bit of a houseboat—neither a great muscle car, nor a great sports car. 

Yeah, good analogy. And a nose tackle that can run a 4.4 40 is a hell of a thing.

willscourtney

Exactly. But he's never gonna work for the Bolshoi. It's always gonna feel lacking compared to, say, a BRZ or a Miata or a Porsche.

josh

In terms of pure feel, yes. And those cars are never going to feel or sound as good opening up on the back straight at Road America.

Will Sabel Courtney

willscourtney

Nope. Oh, God, the sound.

josh

Best-sounding car for $50K?

willscourtney

It's right up there. I'd have to do a taste-off between it, the Camaro SS, and the Chally 392.

/giphy old school

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josh

392 probably wins, in my opinion. Still, there are no losers in that group. 

I could use much less bobbing and weaving when the road goes squidgy, though. I scared myself a bit on a few occasions, thinking I was going to bounce into the next lane.

willscourtney

The suspension does feel very much track-oriented. You gotta be on your toes with it on the street.

That actually makes me think of something: I wonder if Ford gave the engineers the green-light to develop this because they knew the Shelby GT350 was going away to make room for the 2019 GT500. Because it does use goodies from the GT350, right?

[After-the-Fact Check: The PP2 Mustang's Michelin tires come from the Shelby GT350R, and the MagneRide dampers—also found on other 2018 Mustangs—also were first found on the GT350.]

josh

Interesting...

willscourtney 

And with it gone, there's room for a new naturally-aspirated track-happy Mustang around $50K.

josh

/giphy Interesting

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willscourtney

Speaking of track-tastic features, what'd you think of those buckets?

[After-the-Fact check: Unsurprisingly, the optional bucket seats are made by Recaro.]

josh

If you're going to use that car as God intended, they're great. And if you're my size—a person-sized person, unlike you—they're fine for the road, too. I thought they were comfortable.

willscourtney

They were actually fine for me, too. Girth, not height, would be the overriding concern.

josh

I wouldn't have guessed that. They're bolstered eight ways to Sunday.

What did you think of the rest of the interior, not that there's much of it?

willscourtney

I love that all-digital dashboard. Love how customizable it is, love how it changes with each mode, love how clear and legible it is.

josh

Agreed. Well done there for sure.

willscourtney

Also love that it shows the rpm down to the 10s. Nerdy fun.

josh

Well, and just based on the available data and the legibility, it was designed by people who know their way around a track drive.

So basically, this is the "new" Mustang that everyone (mostly) loves, just optimized for the track, and therefore (mostly) better. Except for the fucking tramlining. I forgot about that with those tires. They would find any groove in the road and follow it like a cult leader.

Will Sabel Courtney

willscourtney

Oh, fuck. YES. That was so obnoxious.

josh

That issue was so bad it would disqualify those tires for me if I owned the car. It would make day-to-day driving 50 percent more work than it should be.

/giphy slot car

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willscourtney

I more or less got used to it, but whenever it reared its head, it was obnoxious as hell. But overall, I think Ford did a solid job with this.

josh

That suspension wasn't too stiff for you?

willscourtney

No, because I'm not a wimp.

/giphy take it like a man

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josh

Fair enough. I mean, on the track it was actually a bit shocking how flat the car stayed—on my later laps I was getting on the throttle earlier and earlier through the apex, and it just pulled the car along like a sled. But the roads around Monticello were basically bombed out after a few big storms, and it got a bit punishing.

willscourtney

In all fairness, it is really aggressive. You do have to suck it up.

josh

If you're opting for a $6,500 track package with all those goodies, I have to assume you know what you're getting into.

willscourtney

Exactly. Including a six-speed manual as the sole transmission.

josh

Yeah. That's a lovely thing.

Ford

willscourtney

Which I loved, but I'll admit, it's not a real performance-oriented gearbox. The gates are too notchy. I whuffed the shift once or twice trying to do full-throttle runs.

josh

Redline comes fast in that car.

willscourtney

It does. Which is incredible, 'cause it's so high for a muscle car. 7,400 rpm, IIRC.

josh

Obviously I'd rather have the shifter set-up in, say, the Porsche 718, but again, this is a muscle car we're talking about, not a sports car. Mustang owners would probably be pissed if it weren't so notchy. That's part of the expectation. Gotta play to the base with a car like this.

willscourtney

/giphy because mustang

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All right, final thoughts?

josh

I've loved the new Mustang since it came out, mostly for how it mixed muscle-car feel with a newfound sportiness and everyday usability. And Ford clearly takes its stewardship of the nameplate, and its die-hard Mustang customers, very seriously. This new Performance Package Level 2 is a testament to that: nothing about it is superfluous, it all makes sense as a whole, and it really does turn the car into a shockingly fun track machine. It absolutely fixes some of the dynamic issues—I know I bitched about the bobbing and weaving, but even that is much reduced from the base car—but, as expected, that comes at the price of everyday comfort. I wouldn't make that sacrifice myself if it were my everyday driver, but for a track rat, this seems like a no brainer.

Will Sabel Courtney

willscourtney

Yup. It's interesting how the Mustang, unlike the Camaro, has to serve as basically the halo car for the entire lineup—it doesn't have the advantage of a Corvette-type vehicle above it. So it's the only option Ford fans who want to hit the track have, assuming they don't have $400K for the GT. Adding in more and more track-friendly choices just makes sense, given that. Especially with the 700-plus-HP GT500 coming soon at a lofty price point, adding in more performance choices below to fill in the gaps makes a ton of sense.

josh

That goddamn car is going to be undriveable.

willscourtney

It's gonna be so much fun.

So on that note:

/giphy ford mustang gt performance pack 2

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josh

/giphy That's all folks

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