The Ford Mustang is the granddaddy of muscle cars.
Its existence led to the creation of competitors such as the Chevrolet Camaro and Dodge Challenger, defining the muscle car segment as we know it. By definition, the Mustang has always carried the stigma that it can only perform in a straight line. In recent years, we have seen Ford really taking the lead in changing this image. With the introduction of independent rear suspension and models like the Shelby GT 350 (reviewed here), Ford is making a statement that the Mustang is every bit at home on racetrack as it is on winding roads.
However, the GT 350 is not necessarily attainable for the regular enthusiast. The 2019 Ford Mustang GT Premium with Performance Package Level 2 tested here is the bridge for Ford to showcase the car’s abilities to a greater audience by offering a more affordable model with a very defined focus on handling. Let’s see if this new generation can change the definition of muscle cars.
After Ford showcased the Mustang’s potential with the Shelby, they created a package that is more accessible with similar handling capabilities. The Performance Package Level 2, a $6,500 option, includes wide Michelin Pilot Sport Cup 2 tires, sized 305/30/R19 on all four corners. The brakes are upgraded to Brembo six-piston front calipers with larger 15-inch rotors. The MagneRide damping system is upgraded with track-inspired calibration, and unique springs and sway bars are used.
The PP2 car’s ABS, stability control and EPAS all receive special tuning. K-Bracing is added to improve chassis stiffness and a 3.73 TORSEN limited slip differential is also added to improve grip and acceleration. A large front splitter is included to improve downforce and stability. All the upgrades from the Performance Package 2 make this pony pretty much track ready.
With all the handling focused improvements, the Mustang now handles like it is on rails. The wide 305-section front tires have been added to improve front-end grip and steering response. The effects are significant, with turn in response that’s more aggressive and direct. Traction is beyond what you would expect from a front-heavy V8 muscle car. The rear end is extremely planted thanks to a combination of super wide and sticky tires as well as a Torsen limited-slip differential. Breaking traction in the rear on the streets is impossible unless you really have a death wish.
The Michelin Cup 2 tires are essentially semi-slicks, with minimal tread and large contact patches. There is a downside to the handling upgrades in the form of compromised street driving comfort. The grippy front also means the Mustang is now extremely sensitive to road crown, cracks and crevices. Driving on uneven streets means the steering is constantly being tugged left and right making an extremely nerve-wracking driving experience. Even though grip levels and body composure are both significantly improved, you can still feel the weight on the Mustang during tighter turns and transitions.
The Performance Pack 2 does not add any power gains to the Mustang GT. It is still powered by the 5.0L TI-VCT V8 engine producing 460 horsepower at 7,000RPM and 420 lb-ft of torque at 4,600RPM. With most cars gravitating towards forced induction for easy power and meeting emissions standards, I really commend Ford for sticking with their special V8. Power builds in a linear fashion and becomes more violent towards the top end. Even though this motor generates lots of torque, you still need to rev out the motor to reap the rewards. The free-revving engine paired with Active Valve Performance Exhaust sounds intoxicating as you rev up to the 7,400RPM limit.
This package gives the Mustang a more aggressively geared 3.73 Torsen rear axle. With this gearing, the engine revs up faster and gets into the power band’s sweet spot in a much quicker manner. Combined with the six-speed manual gearbox that has a shifter with great throws and positive feel, the drivetrain is truly special and defines the overall experience of the car.
Ford also keeps the overall driving experience interesting at all times with a very well equipped interior. First and foremost are the lovely leather wrapped Recaro seats, an $1800 option worth every penny. The Performance Package also adds analog oil pressure and vacuum gauges. There is a generous amount of leather wrapped surfaces with contrast stitching, and all touch points in the interior are of excellent quality. The center console and transmission tunnel are all leather-wrapped with added leather knee pads. Overall quality is leaps and bounds over previous generation models.
From a technology perspective, the digital gauge cluster is beautifully designed with high level of customization. Such as exhaust modes or drive modes can be customized using the steering controls and driver gauge cluster. Infotainment is equipped with Ford’s trusty SYNC 3 system that is intuitive and responsive. To integrate your smartphone you can use both Apple CarPlay and Android Auto methods.
Adding the Ford Safe & Smart package will complete the Mustang GT with the latest safety features such as adaptive cruise control, auto high beam control, lane keep assist, pre collision assist with pedestrian detection and rain sensing windshield wipers. Key features such as a rear-view camera and stability control are standard issue on all trim levels.
With this much performance on tap, fuel efficiency is not something you would expect the Mustang to excel at. Rated at 16.1 L/100km city and 9.9 L/100km highway for a combined 13.3 L/100km, my observed fuel rating through my week of testing was very much in line with Ford’s estimates at 13.5 L/100km. Our week of driving consisted of a mix of tamed city driving and some spirited testing. The fuel consumption is a small price to pay for the amount of fun you get from the Mustang.
The Mustang starts at only $27,481, but the GT with its powerful V8 starts at $33,499. This GT Premium trim with Performance Package Level 2, fully loaded comes in at $62,375. Key competitors are the Mustang’s lifelong rivals, Chevrolet Camaro and Dodge Challenger. Your decision on which muscle car to pick will likely depend on a predetermined loyalty to a certain brand, as all three cars deliver fun in a similar formula on paper.
Before driving the 2019 Mustang GT Premium, we already knew the current generation of Mustang has been significantly improved and has great potential in this chassis. The addition of the Performance Package has really amplified and highlighted the Mustang’s track capability. This is an extremely important win for Ford, as it opens up the car to a much broader audience. The Mustang GT is now a much more complete package as an incredible cruiser, canyon carver and weekend track warrior.