One beautiful thing about California is the proximity of diverse landscapes with the ocean and mountains only a short drive away. For drivers, the only way to enjoy the scenery is to get behind the wheel and experience the open road. When the opportunity came to try out Ford’s latest flagship vehicles, the 2018 Ford Mustang in the Malibu area, I quickly jumped at the opportunity.

Ford uncovered the 2018 Mustang earlier this year at the Detroit Auto Show. There was only subtle changes made from the 2015 model, with the biggest change being the removal of the V6 engine. The refresh gave the vehicle a more athletic stance, with sharper angles applied to the hood, grill and front bumper, as well as to the lean and mean front splitter for improved aerodynamics. Even the all-new LED lights (front and rear) and new wheel designs have helped create a more sporty and modern look to the American icon.

2018 Ford Mustang: First Drive
via John Pangilinan / BallerStatus.com

The interior has been redone to include a customizable 12-inch LCD digital instrument cluster. Details within the cabin have been addressed with contrast stitching, padded knee bolsters, and upgraded materials including sleek aluminum trim. One thing that did irk me a bit — in the version tested — was that the driver seat did not have an electronic recline, but rather a manual one.

I had the opportunity to take the 2018 Mustang GT Fastback Premium on the road for a short jaunt through the Malibu canyons to get a first take on the vehicle. The first thing I noticed was the roar of car as the push start is engaged, which gives a satisfactory greeting.

On the open roads is where this pony really shines, as the powerful 5.0-liter V8 pushes the limits on the pavement. The vehicle tested came equipped with the all-new 10-speed SelectShift automatic transmission, which had a ton of torque and shifted smoothly through the great amount of gears.

In the various drive modes, the Mustang excelled. Normal was comfortable and best for cruising, while Sport+ added a bit more of a fun driving dynamic, with improved throttle response and steering. Needless to say, the Sport+ was the mode I opted for 90% of the drive. I didn’t play with the Track, Snow/Wet, or Drag Strip modes and didn’t have the chance to try the 6-speed manual transmission, although I wouldn’t shy away from the opportunity in a track setting to really put the vehicle to the test. I’m particularly curious and slightly intimidated by Ford’s claim that the Mustang GT can hit 60 mph in less than 4 seconds in Drag Strip mode.

One thing that was obvious from behind the wheel was the power. The 460 horsepower and 420 lb.-ft. of torque (25 more hp and 20 lb.-ft more than the previous model) constantly reminds you that the car is a beast that demands respect.

To complete the driving experience, the vehicle came with a 390-watt Shaker Pro Audio system with HD Radio that filled the cabin with bass-heavy tunes by Kendrick and company. The system included 12 speakers and an eight-inch subwoofer in the trunk. One other feature that I think should be included with every vehicle is heated and a/c seats, which just makes driving more enjoyable.

2018 Ford Mustang: First Drive
via John Pangilinan / BallerStatus.com

Overall, the 2018 Mustang GT is a slight step up from the previous model and proves why this is an iconic American sportscar.