The arrival of the 2016 GT350 made the Mustang GT the middle child of the family overnight. We praised, doted on, and rewarded the GT350, giving it two 10Best Cars awards. But we will admit that its exotic-sounding 8250-rpm 5.2-liter V-8 made us a little neglectful of the rest of the brood. Here we are in a Mustang GT review, and we still can’t shut up about its big brother. Middle children hate this.
For 2018, Ford makes some changes to the GT that earn it more of our attention. Clearly we are gaga for high-revving V-8s, so we love that the GT’s conventional cross-plane V-8 now revs to 7400 rpm, 400 more than before and a mere 850 short of the GT350’s. Direct injection joins port injection, and the compression ratio rises from 11.0:1 to 12.0:1, bumping horsepower from 435 to 460, or 66 shy of the GT350. Torque rises from 400 pound-feet to 420. Other changes include the swapping of steel cylinder liners for a spray-in coating, a change that increases displacement from 4951 cubic centimeters to 5038. Don’t worry; it’s still a five-oh.
In testing, our six-speed manual transmission (a 10-speed automatic is optional) matched the zero-to-60-mph time of the outgoing car at 4.3 seconds but opened 0.3-second and 3-mph gaps through the quarter-mile with a 12.6-second run at 115 mph. By 150 mph, the new GT was 2.4 seconds quicker. The extra power isn’t glaringly obvious, but it gives the GT barstool bragging rights over the 455-hp Chevrolet Camaro SS. Just know that if the argument spills into the streets, the Chevy is still quicker.
An optional GT Performance package brings larger front brakes, a limited-slip differential, and Michelin’s newest performance tire, the Pilot Sport 4S, sized 255/40ZR-19 up front and 275/40ZR-19 out back. Choosing the $1695 MagneRide option also inverts the Stang’s front struts and tweaks the spring rates for greater lateral and vertical stiffness.
Cornering grip rises slightly to 0.96 g (we saw 0.94 g in the old model) thanks to the GT Performance pack, but that’s just a number. It wasn’t until we took the GT through the Angeles National Forest that we learned how it has adopted the stability and willingness of the GT350. Body roll is tightly checked, the magnetorheological dampers glue the tires to the tarmac without brutalizing the ride, and the Michelins give more warnings than a TSA officer. Even the electrically assisted steering reacts naturally and has pleasing heft.
The GT starts at $35,995. One like our test car—equipped with the new digital instrument cluster, power leather seats, the latest Sync infotainment system, MagneRide dampers, and the GT Performance package—pushes $50,000. A GT350 is about $8000 more. Skip a few nonperformance options and you’d have a $44,000 GT, a car we’d never neglect.