It’s been almost four months since I took delivery of my 2019 Mustang GT. The box for Performance Package Level 2 was checked, and it was a wise decision. Since grabbing the keys I’ve gone through 6,000 miles, dozens of trips to the fun roads of north Georgia, and brought the car to its first routine service. With all of that experience in a new car, it’s time for our own brand of long term review. You know, like all the other big cool car mags get to do.
As far as Mustangs go, this is the most hardcore performance version you can get outside of the GT350 twins. This is the most track-focused Mustang GT ever. It’s also an uncommon sight in my neck of the woods. Since last August I’ve seen just three other PP2s. I typically see three GT350s a week.
Unlike some other performance-oriented variants you expect from American manufacturers, the focus here is purely on bringing out the very best of the Mustang’s handling potential. It adds no power or exotic lightweight materials. Just grip. And lots of it.
How does it stack up against other ‘Stangs?
Compared to the GT Performance Package 1 on which its based, the PP2 adds MagneRide adjustable dampers with their own tuning, stiffer roll bars and spring rates for better responsiveness and less body roll, and unique electronic steering tuning. Ditched are the variable ratios in favor of overall sharpness.
A sizable front splitter sits up front. There’s a slightly larger rear decklid spoiler. Gorgeous 19×10.5″ front/19×11″ rear wheels sit at each corner. Providing most of the relentless grip are the Michelin Pilot Sport Cup 2s tires, sized 305/30/R19 all around. This package is only available on the Mustang GT fastback with the six-speed rev-matching manual (a feature that can be turned off).
The PP2 starts to make more sense given the context. Ford realized the performance gap between the Mustang GT PP1 and the Shelby GT350 was too large to ignore. Despite the switch to IRS in 2015, the standard Mustang GT still isn’t as nimble and confident around corners (as I learned for myself before ordering a PP2) whereas the GT350 is a true world-class sports car with handling that’s universally praised.
PP1 fixes a good bit of the Mustang GT’s handling problems. PP2 fixes very nearly all of them.
Prices for the PP2 start at $44,950 and the “as-tested” cost is only a little bit more. I kept mine simple with the cloth Recaro seats and active exhaust as the only other options. Considering a Mustang GT PP1 with MagneRide (not included) and the 301A technology group is only $810 less than a PP2 with even more performance, this is probably the best bargain in Mustang-land right now. I’ve not driven a GT PP1, but I’m confident the difference is worth a lot more than $810.
Living with PP2
I’ve already raved about the effectiveness of PP2. So let’s get to the main point of this review. That is to discuss the Mustang’s qualities and downsides after nearly four months of ownership. After 6,000 miles worth of experience, I’ve crafted an informed, professional, and mature opinion of this car…
IT’S SO FUCKING GOOD, YOU GUYS!
The overwhelming joy and bewilderment I had on my first drive is still very much there. Turn in is ridiculously sharp and immediate. The car has no hesitation following every command I delver. On my usual north Georgia mountain route, the Mustang sits remarkably planted, poised, and is completely confidence-inspiring. I’m no hero so I’ve yet to find the limits of grip even after 6,000 miles on the original set of Cup 2s, which I thought would be long gone by now.
The only thing I can detect that PP2 doesn’t fully address is the rather loose rear sub frame. Say hello to wheel hop and a small amount of unwanted lateral movement at the back. Still, this setup is significantly better than the totally standard Mustang GT I rented some time ago. It’s just not completely resolved here. On a fast one-two shift I still get wheel hop and I can sometimes tell there’s extra movement at the back on a quick direction change over a bumpy surface or on a tight road with lots of undulations. Steeda’s Stop the Hop kit is probably in my near future.
The sheer grip and super-sharp steering come with a price. On any road surface that’s less than decent, the front end darts around significantly. It’ll tug the steering wheel in the direction of any rut or dip in the road. I got used to it quickly but it’s still very annoying. The other big downside is that the car will literally destroy its own paint as there’s very little to prevent pebbles from being kicked up and making it all the way to the rear quarter panel. I even had a pebble land in my lap the other day.
You can direct all the blame for those two issues on the tires. The Cup 2s, while super capable, are the only thing about the PP2 package which creates a compromise. There are plenty of good ultra high performance summer tire options in the 305/30/R19 size that will provide excellent grip without pissing you off. Of course, having to immediately buy a new set of tires with your new car does eat into the PP2’s value proposition as a bargain GT350. That’s ultimately why I stuck with the Cup 2s – that and I figured they’d be long gone by now.
Another potential compromise (and an infuriating one at that) is the lack of proper transmission and differential cooling. Surely Ford would assume a sports car fitted with Cup 2s – the same tires used on the Ford GT, 911 GT2 RS, and 918 Spyder – would be driven hard on a race track and thus be in need of additional cooling. But no. This coming track day season I’ll be able to test the theory that simply changing out the fluids to something more optimized for the track can fix the issue.
Living with a Mustang
So with those downsides eliminated, the Mustang GT PP2 makes for a very easy car to live with. The standard MagneRide does a great job of remaining comfortable in Normal mode and is still one of the best highway cars I’ve ever driven. Wind noise isn’t bad at all. Visibility is better than you’d think. The clutch is light and easy in traffic (but it took me a very long time to get used to finding the bite point without thinking about it – it’s vague). The optional Active Exhaust has a quiet start option to be kind to neighbors, and I’ve only cursed loudly at Sync once so far.
Life inside the cabin is pretty nice. I have picked up on two rattles though; one just above my left ear on the top of the door frame and one around the right rear quarter window. The solution is to just put the exhaust in track mode.
If there’s anything I really wish they didn’t cheap out on, it’s the toggle switches that only move one direction. That makes switching between driving modes really annoying when all you want to do is go from Sport back into Normal. You have to go through all the other modes first, and bless you if you go one too far.
How about that engine though?
As for the stuff that really matters in a Mustang, the 5.0-liter Coyote V8 and six-speed manual are still a great pair. This latest Coyote motor remains one of the most satisfying engines I’ve ever had the pleasure of using. Any time I come upon a tunnel or any sort of concrete barriers near my lane, I always drop down a gear or two so I can hear the exhaust reverb back into the cabin. It’s the kind of engine you never want to stop using.
Hop on any Mustang forum and you’ll certainly hear about ““. This is a type-writer like ticking that you’ll hear on cold starts occasionally. In some instances it’s been proven that this is the sound of piston slap, but for the majority of Mustangs this seems to be a “normal” sound. And if it’s ever not normal, there’s a warranty for that. Just keep an eye on it and ask your dealer if it doesn’t go away after a change to a heavier oil or a Liqui Moly Ceratec application.
The six-speed manual is… okay. It gets the job done and is by no means bad, but this car deserves the Tremec gearbox you find in a GT350 or a Camaro. That’s just a better transmission. And yes, if you do your best Vin Diesel impression and bang gears all the time, you could break a shift fork as has been the talk of Mustang forums since the ’18 models came out. Drive it like a normal human being and you’ll be fine.
The only issue I’ve personally had with it so far is some excessive rev hang when shifting from 3rd to 4th gear at higher speeds. There was about a week-long period where it would happen every time, then later on only 50% of the time. I couldn’t reproduce it at all on my way to its first service… and then it happened twice on the way home. But since then it hasn’t happened at all. If it comes back and I can reproduce it regularly, it’s going back in for service.
But everything else about the car is solid and trouble-free.
By the Numbers
Other cool car publications always put these kinds of numbers in their long term reviews so I will too.
I just ticked over 6,000 miles the day I sat down to type this out. At least a quarter of those miles were spent on the best mountain roads Georgia has to offer and another quarter of those miles were spent getting there. It’s probably been a 50/50 mix between spirited driving and casual cruising.
With that in mind, I’ve averaged 19.9 MPG from the outset. Fuel economy has gone as high as 21.1 mpg at one point. It’s definitely a coincidence that my average is going down with the fuel prices. Yep, totally.
As for other consumables, the Mustang has gone through oil far more quickly than I expected during the break in period. Had I read the manual sooner I would’ve learned that the V8 burns an abnormal amount of oil until 3,000 miles. Since then it’s been nothing out of the ordinary. It needed two quarts’ worth of topping off before its first service at 5,000 miles.
It takes a whopping ten quarts of 5W-20 with each oil change and, unsurprisingly, Ford still recommends their own synthetic blend from Motorcraft. It works, but it’s weird topping off a 460-hp, 7,400 RPM V8 with the exact same oil I put in my 2002 F-150. I got my first free oil change from the dealer but I plan on going full synthetic on my next oil change and most likely going with 5W-30 (which is what they recommend for track duties) given how hard I drive it on any given weekend.
As for the Cup 2s, the dealer said I have 5/32 left on the inner tread patterns. The outer bands are uh… pretty much gone.
Let’s see… did I put enough numbers here to be official like the other guys? No?
Three. That’s the number of people who have approached me at car shows asking if I’d sell them my wheels. There, I’m good now.
Is PP2 Right For You?
But only if your needs for a sports car are like mine: something fast, fun, comfortable enough to be driven daily, and it can be taken to the track a few times a year with relatively little prep. I believe the Mustang GT PP2 fits all of these needs very well. Replace the Cup 2s with something else and it would fit all those needs perfectly.
This truly is an outstanding car and the engineers who worked after hours to make this a reality deserve huge praise for it. It proves the Mustang can be a proper sports car with world-beating qualities that go beyond shutting down car shows. If you suspect this car is right for you, it probably is.
[Images ©2019 Redusernab/Greg Kachadurian]