There’s one more trick in the ’18 Mustang’s chassis-control bag: electronic line lock. Like the car’s Track and Drag Strip modes, Ford says line lock is intended “for off-road use only.” The system holds the front brakes while allowing the rear tires to spin, helping warm the rubber for better drag strip traction.

Inside, the spinning, smoking tire is depicted in real-time on the all-new 12.4-in. (31.5-cm) instrument cluster, just one of the many gems packed into the full-color digital display.

“It’s not an artificial spinning tire – it’s actually tied to the action,” says Craig Sandvig, Ford design manager-digital experience. “We didn’t want to cheat the customer by just running a video. We wanted it to be interactive.”

The instrument cluster is the most notable interior upgrade, providing a reconfigurable view of everything going on with the engine, auxiliary systems and handling, different views for Normal, Sport and Track driving and 26 color options.

Unique characteristics include a digital speedometer needle that brightens numerals as it sweeps past and leaves an active “comet tail” trail that lengthens and shortens with the accelerator.

“You can select what you want,” Sandvig says. “Part of the beauty of Mustang is the reconfiguration and making it personal.”

Besides the new cluster, interior changes are subtle, mostly involving color and stitching options, while exterior restyling is equally restrained but noticeable for giving the sports car a lower, wider appearance. The car also gets an array of Mustang-first driver-assistance technologies.

Finally, for enthusiasts – including Barnes and his boss, chief engineer Carl Widmann, and the Mustang team – Ford will offer an even higher level of factory-ready capability when the Performance Pack Level 2 debuts next spring.

 

The $6,500 package includes MagneRide suspension, stiffer rollbars and springs, functional aero effects designed to add downforce at speed, a lowered stance and Michelin Pilot Sport Cup 2 tires on 19-in. aluminum wheels.

The high-performance Mustang isn’t for everyone – Ford expects just 1,500 Performance Pack Level 2 orders out of the annual 100,000-plus Mustang sales.

“We wanted to go to that Performance Pack Level 2 more for a person who’s really into the driving experience,” says Barnes, noting many Mustang buyers will be more than happy with either the EcoBoost or standard GT. “We’re trying to keep a broad range.”

bgritzinger@wardsauto.com @bobgritzinger