The Ford Mustang has some juice right now. In its 2018 refresh, it got a new nose and a power boost to 460 hp. At the Detroit auto show, we learned about the upcoming Bullitt version and, more recently, that the Mustang will stand as one of the few Ford cars left as the company pivots to EVs and crossovers. But the best news, at least for track day and mountain road enthusiasts, was the Performance Pack Level 2 option, which will compete with the stellar Chevrolet Camaro SS 1LE.
The $6,500 package comes with all of the Performance Pack one stuff — Brembo six-piston front brakes, a K-brace, strut tower brace and front subframe V-brace. From there, it adds 1.5-inch wider wheels in front and back (9 inch to 10.5 in front, 9.5 to 11 in back), 305/30 R19 Michelin Pilot Sport Cup 2 tires, stiffer and 1.5-inch lower springs, larger anti-roll bars, an aggressive front splitter (inspired by the Boss 302 Laguna Seca Mustang), a slim spoiler, as well as unique traction control and steering calibrations. Pack 2 also uses Ford’s MagneRide adjustable suspension, a $1,695 value. When considering all that costs just $2,500 more than Performance Pack 1 ($3,995), they’re practically paying you to get it!
Unfortunately, the area where I was supposed to test the new 'Stang — the backroads of upstate New York and Monticello Motor Club — was hit by three tornadoes the night before. The weather managed to knock out power to thousands and dropped trees on what seemed like every road in the tri-county area. That was OK — we still had the gorgeous, 4.1 miles of MMC to push this car to its new, presumably higher, traction limit, right?
Except MMC also didn’t have electricity. The track must have used wires from one of the handful of snapped power lines along the roadside. You don’t need power to run cars on a track, but dry pavement is helpful, especially when driving an unfamiliar car in an unfamiliar place. I got a total of four laps before the track was soaked from rain. I also logged about 50 road miles on the car, which left me with some good early impressions. More will come soon — a makeup track day is already on the calendar.
First, I love these Cup 2 tires. They’re almost required on a car like this and the extra width sends back a ton of road feel to your hands. That also contributes to tramming with the lines in the road, which most drivers don’t like, but I do. All of those sticks and branches on the pavement? I could feel every one.
The steering is faster. On the slightly damp, pre-rained-on track, the car went right where I pointed it. Turn-in, apex, exit, turn-in, apex curb and so on. The whole front end feels rock solid and 100 pounds lighter than a standard GT, though it isn’t. It sits a half-inch lower too, but looking at it, with the extra big splitter in front, it still looks to ride a little high. Same with the wheel wells. It needs a more hunker.
It does feel noticeably stiffer than our Performance Pack 1 car in the fleet.
Like the non-Pack 2 cars, it sounds great, maybe even better than the current Camaro, goes like hell and stops just as fast with a firm, high brake pedal. The third pedal is a tad springy for my taste, and the catch point is small. It takes a little practice to drive smoothly.
The whole package required a traction control recalibration, though engineers said they would do that even if they only changed the tires. A few times, as it was just getting damp at the track, I could feel it throttling the power, but just barely. Like the Corvette ZR1, these systems are so sophisticated that they almost make you feel like you’re the one doing the work, as opposed to a computer chip and sensors.
We now live in a world with 460-hp, sub-4-second Ford Mustangs that sticker for well under $40,000. And since we live in this world, we may as well get a track-day version that has as much stick as it has go. The Performance Pack 2 is this Mustang. In a few weeks, we’ll get another track drive, so stay tuned for that. And longer term, we’ll try to get a SS 1LE for comparison. We’re undeniably in the golden age of pony cars.
On Sale: Now
Base Price: $35,095
As Tested Price: $45,785
Powertrain: 5.0-liter V8, RWD, six-speed manual transmission
Output: 460 hp @ 7,000 rpm; 420 lb-ft @ 4,600 rpm
Curb Weight: 3,705 lb
Options: Equipment Group 301A, Performance Pack 2, Active Valve Exhaust, Royal Crimson Metallic
Pros: Sharper handling than the base GT
Cons: Could use another inch drop