Driving A 2018 GT Manual To Mustang Week Was A Late-Summer Treat

Idling into the drive-thru it’s time to swiftly flick the switch to Normal mode to lull the throb of the Gen 3 Coyote’s Active Valve Performance Exhaust. After all, the attendant needed to hear my order. It had been a long day snapping shots at of the autocross and fun run action at Myrtle Beach Speedway. Your scribe needed to fuel up quickly before the burnout smoke started billowing.

As the window rolled down, the first words uttered were unexpected.

“I love your car. What color is that?” she asked.

We still can’t get enough of the Gen 3 Coyote 5.0-liter and its 460-horsepower. Getting the chance to wind one out while rowing through the gears reiterated our longstanding love of the manual-trans Mustang.

“Thanks,” I said, not ready to admit it was only my car for a few days. “It’s called Orange Fury.”

“It’s really nice,” she added. “I asked to work outside today so I could see all the Mustangs.”

In a town filled with Mustangs for a week, a brand-new, unmodified 2018 Mustang still stood out from the crowd thanks to this flashy, optional paint scheme. Despite not owning a second-gen S550, your intrepid author has logged a significant amount of seat time in these Gen 3 Coyote-powered pony cars. As such, it’s easy to forget the striking looks of the latest Mustang after sliding behind the wheel.

The once controversial, the styling of the 2018+ Mustangs has been accepted by many loyalists. We always liked it, but most enthusiasts just can’t overlook how the latest pony cars perform.

Like wiggling into that favorite pair of broken-in jeans, it feels oh so familiar that it’s easy to forget just what you are driving. The interior of the newest Mustang is largely unchanged from its 2015 ancestors, but it’s one of the best Mustang cockpits to date, so I’m not complaining.

What has changed since the debut of the S550 platform is a significant upgrade to the powertrain and rolling improvements to the suspension. As we noted upon first driving the 2018 Mustang, this is more than just a mid-cycle refresh. The car picked up 25 horsepower, and gained a number of options ranging from the vaunted 10-speed automatic to MagneRide active suspension.

Sprayed in the optional Orange Fury paint, our 2018 Mustang GT stood out in the sea of highly modified street stallions that took over Myrtle Beach for Mustang Week.

For Mustang Week 2018, our steed was a Performance Pack GT with the aforementioned paint, a six-speed manual transmission, leather seats, navigation, and active exhaust. In other words, it was nicely optioned, and it served us well for a few days in Myrtle Beach.

While most of our driving was around-town moving from venue to venue, there were a few opportunities to let the pony stretch its legs. In most, cases around down, we set the drive mode to Normal, but put the exhaust in Sport so we could enjoy the growl of the Coyote.

Our tester was nicely optioned, but we couldn’t resist adding a temporary option of our own to represent while cruising around Mustang Week.

There were instances, especially on our trip out the North Myrtle Beach Drag Strip to take in the drag racing action that we were able to open it up. Toggling it into Sport on the way there and Track on the way back, we were swiftly reminded that theses cars are pretty fun in stock form. The Michelins dig in and the Mustang glides around the corner. Winding out the tach, the Coyote howls and the car keeps pulling as the powerband revels in its sweet spot. Before things got out of hand, we had to lift drive like a normal person, but these quick bursts were enough to generate a grin for the rest of the trip. Even in the drive-thru line.

Pulling around to pay for that much needed food the car was still making an impression. “She is still talking about your car,” the cashier said. “She says it looks like a Creamsicle.”

The S550 interior hasn’t changed much over the years, but its driving dynamics sure have. Even the shifting feel of the latest MT-82 manuals is greatly improved in the latest cars. We did, however, get spoiled with the matched-rev downshifts on the 2019 Mustang Bullitt, which were absent on this 2018 example.

Come to think of it, this car does kind of look like the refreshing dessert. Just like a sweet finish to a fabulous meal, our time was up before we knew it. Our treat was melting away as another Mustang Week was in the books. We had to dismount and turn the reins of our steed over to its next rider.

The good ones are always tough to relinquish, but if you own one of these cars, such a week is really just the beginning. These cars respond so well to upgrades that the fun never has to fade.

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About the author

Steve Turner

As Executive Editor of FordNXT and Ford Muscle, Steve Turner brings decades of passion and knowledge to Power Automedia. He has covered the world of Ford performance for over 20 years. From the swan song of the Fox Mustang to the birth of the Coyote, Steve had a front-row seat.
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