After learning more about the 2018 Mustang’s Performance Pack Level 2 option, we can’t wait to see what “most nimble base Mustang” built thus far can do.
Recently we drove the 2018 Mustang GT optioned with the Performance Pack, which includes upgrades like grippy summer tires, increased front spring rate, a beefier rear sway bar, a larger radiator, 3.73 gears, a Torsen diff and more. The result is a car that glides through corners but handily soaks up the road’s irregularities. We were not, however, able to drive the forthcoming Performance Pack Level 2, but we learned a bit more about the package and its benefits.
We thought there was a market between the Level 1 and the Shelby. — Mike Del Zio, Ford
“We changed some of the springs and bars because the Magneride is a monotube damper, so you have all that gas force in the front, so we actually dropped some spring in the front, got rid of the understeer, but you’ve still got that good supported feel from the Magneride,” Mike Del Zio, Vehicle Dynamics Development Engineer, said of the Performance Pack Level 1.
“It’s all a question of a how much daily driveabilty you want,” Mike added. “This car is faster and more daily driveable than the ’15-’17 cars and we went a little more edgy on the daily drivability of the Level 2.”
Compared with the 2017 Performance Pack Mustang, the 2018 PPL1 is 2 seconds faster per lap at Virginia International Speedway. As impressive as that is, Ford’s engineering team believed there could be another level, which is the recently introduced Performance Pack Level 2.
“We wanted to do this Level 2 car. We thought there was a market between the Level 1 and the Shelby. ‘I want the suspension but give me the base engine and brakes,’” Mike said. “So, we grabbed their tire — the GT350R front tire — a 305 in a square fit now. Our team always likes to work with a square fit if we can.”
Those 305/30/R19 Michelin Pilot Sport Cup 2 tires are mounted on gorgeous, 10-spoke Dark Tarnish wheels measuring 19×10.5 inches in front and 19×11 inches out back. With this level of traction available, the Mustang’s dynamics engineers leveled-up the Performance Pack.
Michelin Pilot Sport Cup 2 305/30/R19 tires mounted 10-spoke Dark Tarnish wheels, 19×10.5-inch front and 19×11-inch rear, provide the foundation for the next-level performance pack. Initially found on the front of the Shelby GT350R, these tires offer superb, forgiving traction.
“So we said, everything is unique on the Level 2 car,” Mike said. “The front springs are about 12 percent stiffer. The rear springs are 25 percent stiffer. The front bar is about 10 percent stiffer and the rear bar is 67 percent stiffer than this Level 1 car. It is the most nimble base Mustang we have ever put out, and a I have been working on the program since 2011, so that includes the Boss.”
That is high praise indeed, but it is definitely not unwarranted. This is the first time there have been two Performance Pack options, but the incentive to step up from $3,995 to $6,500 on the option sheet seems completely justifiable for those who want a weekend track toy.
No Holding Back
“This car (2018 PP) is about ¾ to a second faster than the old Performance Pack at Grattan. The Level 2 car compared to the Level 1 car is 3 ½ seconds faster on less than a 90-second lap,” Mike said. “And, the car is hyper-driveable. It’s not an edgy track car. It’s got grip for days, it goes where you point it, and if you get the car in a slide, it’s not one of those track tires that will bite you.”
With that in mind you are probably asking the obvious question. How does it compare with a Shelby GT350? That is yet to be determined, but once these cars hit the dealers, such comparisons are inevitable. However, don’t assume that Team Mustang held back so as not to dent the Shelby’s halo.
While they are subtle and sleek, the front splitter and rear spoiler on the Performance Pack Level 2 are quite functional. Engineers put a lot of effort into balancing the car’s downforce for the racetrack.
“The Level 2 was designed to fit in that gap. I truly believe that we did not leave anything on the table with the Level 2,” Mike enthused. “I will tell you we did not slow that car one bit just to make an artificial gap. That car is as fast as we could possibly make it.”
To ensure that the table was spotless, Ford turned to one of its racing drivers, Billy Johnson, for some analysis of the package. It turned out that the development team was close, but there were a few minor improvements added at the behest of a driver who has driven Ford’s road racing Mustangs and the vaunted Ford GT racer.
“Billy was helping us because what you want for sustained high-speed operation is different from what you want on the racetrack,” Mike said. “We would go run our big, 5-mile oval and say ‘This car feels really stable and planted.’ Then we would go to the racetrack and Billy would tell us where to make adjustments.”
Having a driver that can translate the behavior of the hardware into the feedback engineers can use was invaluable.
Performance Pack Level 2 Features
• Brembo six-piston front brake calipers
• Larger front brake rotors
• Larger radiator
• Silver-painted strut tower brace
• TORSEN rear differential
• 3.73 axle ratio
• Michelin Pilot Sport Cup 2 tires
• 10-spoke Dark Tarnish wheels, 19×10.5-inch front and • 19×11-inch rear
• Stiffer springs
• Stiffer Sway bars
• Unique front Splitter
• Unique rear wing
“One of the gems was when we were tuning the car with the adaptive suspension, and we thought we had it honed and really good. Then we were working with Billy Johnson, one of our Le Mans drivers, and he gave us some critical feedback, and it was like, ‘Oh, OK,’” Jamie Cullen, Ford supervisor for vehicle dynamics development, said. “It allowed us to turn a few more knobs to make the car just that little bit better. We found something in the software to do what he wanted.”
Part of that programming magic help deliver more transitional roll control so the car doesn’t offer up any surprises, even when its pushed to the edge of traction.
“If you don’t have a car with adaptive suspension and you tune it as an aggressive road car or a track car, you bring too much control for the average scenario because you want to control it for all the transient moments,” Jamie added. “Billy was able to tell us exactly where we needed to put the control and we were able to use the software to target that area.”
It certainly sounds like Mustang Team hit the center of the target when it comes to delivering a track-capable Mustang GT. Just how close remains to be seen as this option won’t enter production until Job 2 in early December, but it certainly sounds like the Level 2 option is worth the wait for corner-carving pony-car fans.