You wouldn’t normally pay for noise – and the louder, the better.
That’s how muscle-car fanatics are different from you and me.
When Pras Subramanian and I tried out the 2018 Ford Mustang GT, we were struck first by the sound, which approximates the gurgle of petroleum being poured into a wood chipper. This is not accidental. Sound has always been an integral pony-car feature, and modern technology now allows muscle car jocks to dial in their aural settings as easily as changing the radio volume.
Our test car—a $54,000 Mustang GT convertible—featured a $980 option called “active valve performance exhaust” (what, Ford couldn’t come up with something lengthier?) that lets you choose from five different exhaust notes. That includes the clever “quiet mode,” which you can program for certain times of day, so as not to bounce your neighbors out of bed if you leave for work at 5 a.m.
Pras and I didn’t bother with quiet mode as we barreled around my neighborhood in the Mustang, gleefully announcing our presence a block or two in advance. We also hit the highway, of course, and enjoyed the Mustang’s planted feel on narrow curves. You’ll get the rest of our impressions in the video above.
The 2018 Mustang is an all-new model, which means it’s Ford’s chance to one-up its principal competitors, the Chevy Camaro and Dodge Challenger. They don’t have a five-tone exhaust. Yet. Let’s assume, though, that Chevy and Dodge will see and meet the Mustang’s symphony of excess when their own updates come around. A 12- or maybe 50-tone exhaust system has to be on somebody’s do-immediately list.
There’s a lot more to the Mustang than the exhaust, of course, and ecstatic car geeks inevitably compare every juiced-up millimeter of each rocket ship in the muscle-car firmament every time there’s something new to measure on a track. Me, I couldn’t care less about the muscle-car wars. I’m glad these cars exist, because they’re fun to see on the roads, and even engineers should get to have fun designing crazy stuff sometimes. But the cheap thrills wear off, for me. I’d feel especially let down if I were making the monthly payments.
Still, we ought to provide a scorecard on the manhood competition in Muscleland, so here’s the horsepower rating for:
Ford Mustang GT: 460 HP
Chevrolet Camaro SS: 455 HP
Dodge Challenger R/T: 375 HP
Dodge Challenger SRT: 485 HP
There’s no Challenger convertible, so the Mustang droptop we tested bests the only competition in that category by 5 HP. But that won’t last. It’s automotive creed that every muscle car must outgun those that came before, so the next Camaro will leapfrog the Mustang, and vice versa, ad automotive infinitum. (Crazy-brother Dodge will just keep pulling insane stunts aiming to win the outlier award, for as long as the troubled brand is around.)
If you look in deeply ignored corners of the web, you’ll see detailed analyses of how the three muscle-car families stack up on comfort, cornering, cargo space and even fuel efficiency. Bah!!! Nobody cares. Just know this: They’re fast, showy, impractical and loud. Did I mention loud?
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Rick Newman is the author of four books, including “Rebounders: How Winners Pivot from Setback to Success.” Follow him on Twitter: @rickjnewman