The internet loves the Mustang – Ford says that it is the most-liked vehicle in the world on Facebook, with 8.5 million people lending their blue thumbs-ups to the cause. And with more than half a century of history to back it up, the muscle car is currently sold on every continent on Earth, excluding Antarctica, across a total of 140 countries.
Apart from in its native United States, that love can’t be much more immediately obvious than on the streets of the UAE, where you can barely drive for five minutes without seeing two or three examples burbling around. It is also, it should be noted, consistently one of the most-read road tests in The National whenever we get our hands on the latest model – in this case, the 5.0-litre GT.
That interest should continue unfettered with the 2018 incarnation, not least because it has been significantly updated. OK, so the uninitiated might be cracking out a magnifying glass to examine the cosmetic differences, but Mustang nuts will have already noted that the car’s sleek, angry outline has been further refined, notably in the origami lines that characterise the car’s front vents and nose – the extremities of the latter appear to dip away more sharply from that bulging bonnet.
From behind, the changes are perhaps more tangible, with chunkier rear quarters that slightly reverse the car’s evolution into a rakish fastback – in terms of melding the best of both worlds, it is a visual success. What all muscle-car devotees are most interested in when it comes to the Mustang, however, is the reassuringly large lump of automotive engineering that drives it. That 5.0-litre V8 remains naturally aspirated, with increased power and torque, up to 460hp and 569Nm. As it did this time last year, Ford claims that those engine tweaks mean that the V8 now enjoys improved fuel economy, but the GT still seems a thirsty beast when you give it some encouragement.
A new innovation is that the exhaust sound is now adjustable, although it does make you question exactly what transpired to cause the famously ear-pleasing default note to require a helping hand. Slightly disappointingly, when toggled to its sportiest setting – a function that would be better served by a simple button, like many modern Porsches, rather than hidden in a dashboard-screen sub-menu – the bassy rumble seems raspier than previously.
Inside, everything is reassuringly solidly put together, although a slightly muddled air to the dashboard remains from the previous model year. Inconsistent switch-work and two different shapes of air vent give the impression of a last-minute scramble through a parts bin rather than a well-thought-out, flowing interior. I might be biased, but as the owner of a 2012 ’Stang, it actually feels as though Ford has been going backwards slightly in this regard in the past few years. That said, the headline upgrades are clear for all to see, in more ways than one, in the displays, predominantly thanks to a 12-inch LCD screen for the instrument cluster taken from Ford’s GT supercar – this is only available on the Premium Plus-spec GTs, which sadly doesn’t include my test car.
Another area in which the Mustang has continued to gain is in adding more and more safety features, the latest of which are pre-collision assist and pedestrian detection. The brakes have also been significantly upgraded in the past few years – although on my test car, the pedal is so stiff I end up with a sore leg for the duration of my drive and a couple of days afterwards. Clearly I need more muscle to drive this enduringly great muscle car.
Meet Maha: the only female competitor in Supercars Club Arabia’s Andelosia race this year
WATCH: How Land Rovers dominated the seven emirates 50 years ago
Latest from The National's Motoring section