Speculation was running rampant among the small group milling around the otherwise empty Ford display on the second preview day of the Detroit Auto Show.
A mysterious invite had us gathered early that morning before the show had even opened for the short trek from downtown Detroit to the automaker’s product development center in nearby Dearborn, Mich., for an “embargoed product news backgrounder.” With a description about as vague as the clutch pedal in the Subaru Crosstrek, our ever-inquisitive minds couldn’t help but wander.
Of course, the first — and most obvious — conclusion was that we were about to see the refreshed 2018 Ford Mustang. With plenty of rumors swirling as of late about what an updated version of the pony car should have in store, it only made sense for Ford to choose its hometown for the big debut. But if a new version of Ford’s quintessential coupe was ready, why not show it off at an unexpectedly unexciting Detroit Auto Show?
Moving along, we quickly speculated that it might be the next Ford Ranger. After all, the automaker conveniently confirmed its long-rumored return to the midsize pickup segment just one day earlier. But then why not show the truck at the Cobo Center when the announcement was made? OK, so maybe we were about to feast our eyes upon the new Bronco, we surmised in our collective caffeine-deprived state. Ford also confirmed just one day earlier that the hotly anticipated sport utility is set to return alongside the Ranger. But no, it couldn’t be; that’s not coming until 2020, making the lead time far too long.
And so the conjecture continued as we cruised along Interstate 94 on the way to the sprawling suburban facility. It didn’t take long after we arrived, and agreed to leave our cameras and cellphones at the door or risk being tackled by William Clay Ford Jr. himself, that the cat — or, perhaps more appropriately, pony — was out of the bag: The 2018 Ford Mustang will soon be here, bringing with it some serious changes.
While it’s not the all-new Mustang that some of you have been hoping for — for that you’ll have to wait until 2020 — the car does receive some significant styling tweaks both inside and out. Starting outside, it’s clear the design team’s directive was to fine-tune what has largely been a well-received retro look. No one piece of the Mustang’s aesthetic puzzle has been radically revamped for 2018, with a handful of incremental changes made instead.
A new front fascia has a slightly more modern look, while the nose has been raked a little steeper, leading to a hoodline that has been lowered for a sleeker profile. Around back, the 2018 Ford Mustang gets a new set of tail lights and trunk applique that complement a revised rear bumper replete with available quad exhaust tips.
Further design refinement has gone on inside the car, with the cabin featuring a largely unchanged appearance outside of some new materials and finishes. But the biggest difference inside comes by way of the available digital display that replaces the car’s gauge cluster. Much like Audi’s Virtual Cockpit, the 12.3-inch screen can be configured and reconfigured to prioritize performance-related info.
When it comes to performance, a lot has been done in terms of upgrades. The big news under the hood involves the Mustang’s V6, or lack thereof, with Ford finally giving the aging Cyclone engine the axe. Currently the entry-level engine offered in both coupe and convertible versions of the pony car, the 3.7-liter V6 was rendered obsolete by the increasingly popular turbocharged four-cylinder that was added to the sixth-gen car.
In its stead remain the 2.3-liter EcoBoost and the tried-and-true 5.0-liter V8 that’s become as synonymous with the Mustang as its galloping-horse emblem. The former, which makes 310 horsepower and 320 lb-ft of torque in the current Mustang running 93-octane or better, will see its torque count and full-throttle performance increased for 2018, according to Ford. Don’t, however, expect anything in the neighborhood of the outrageous Ford Focus RS, which uses the same turbocharged engine to make 350 horsepower and 350 lb-ft of torque.
ALSO SEE: 2017 Ford Focus RS Review
When it comes to the famed Coyote eight-cylinder, both horsepower and torque numbers are expected to rise above their current levels of 435 and 400, respectively, when the 2018 Ford Mustang hits the market. Behind the engine’s increased output is a higher compression ratio, as well as the addition of both port- and direct-injection.
Also making major — though largely expected — news is the inclusion of a 10-speed automatic transmission on the 2018 Ford Mustang’s option sheet. Replacing the six-speed auto box between the seats is the new 10-speed automatic jointly developed between Ford and General Motors. The transmission has already made its way into the 3.5-liter EcoBoost versions of the 2017 Ford F-150, as well as the Chevrolet Camaro ZL1. In other transmission news, the manual gearbox has been upgraded to include a new twin-disc clutch built to handle both engines’ increased torque output.
Streamlined Model Choices
With the Mustang’s engine options set to be reduced to just a pair, its model lineup will also be simplified for 2018. Two four-cylinder powered versions, dubbed i4 and i4 Performance, form the base for the new Mustang, while GT and GT Performance round out the offerings. Both Shelby siblings will still be sold, though neither will feature the updated styling.
All four non-Shelby versions of the car are underpinned by a new suspension setup that includes components like monotube shocks brought over from the current Performance pack. Doing so was aimed at increasing the sportiness of the Mustang’s ride, while also opening the door to the inclusion of MagneRide magnetorheological dampers in the Performance pack beginning with the 2018 model year.
ALSO SEE: 2017 Ford Mustang GT Convertible Review
And while the number of models on offer will be pared down, the factory customization options are set to grow, with Porsche-like levels of aesthetic upgrades on offer. Expect 12 wheel choices across the trim range to go along with a whole host of paint and striping options. An active exhaust system will also be offered, though it will be limited to GT models only.
Expect much more on the 2018 Ford Mustang, including detailed output figures, closer to its fall 2017 launch.