I must say that it still feels odd to own a car that’s worth doing long term reviews for. But I just passed two years of ownership with my 2019 Mustang GT with Performance Package Level 2 (PP2) and have found more things to talk about and expand on since my last long term review which I wrote at four months.

The PP2 was at the time the most hardcore, track-focused Mustang you could buy with a Coyote in it. That title will soon go to the Mach 1 which I’m very much looking forward to, but in my mind that doesn’t make the PP2 any less special. As I’ve witnessed with 24,000 miles on the clock in two years and a month since taking delivery, its performance-minded setup doesn’t make it any less of a well-rounded sports car to live with. But there were just a few things it needed to make it as good as it could be in all aspects. So with another 18,000 miles on the road, three track days (coming in another article), and some changes since my last review, here’s what’s been happening.

Refresher: what does PP2 mean?

MUSTANG GT PP2

Image credit: Killboy.com – used with permission

Performance Package Level 2 (which is usually referred to as PP2 by all the cool kids) is a handling package that can be equipped on Mustang GTs from the 2018 model year and on. It’s only available on the fastbacks with a six-speed manual and it forces you to add the 301A equipment group (Sync 3 on a bigger screen, mid-range radio, other cabin features) or the 401A group if you’re building on a GT Fastback Premium.

It builds on the strengths of the GT Performance Package (known as PP1), which adds Brembo brakes up front, various suspension upgrades, and better cooling from the get go. PP2 then goes and adds specially tuned MagneRide dampers, upgraded sway bars, an aggressive front splitter and modest rear decklid spoiler, and absolutely massive 19×10.5 front and 19×11 rear wheels wrapped in impossibly sticky 305/30R19 Michelin Pilot Sport Cup 2 tires. Recaro seats are also an option on the PP2 at both trim levels, which may as well be mandatory.

The goal is to fully exploit the handling capabilities of the S550 chassis in a much sharper and stable package that’s (mostly) ready for track work. According to the Ford press release which I covered in the news back in the day, they stated that this was a passion project for engineers who took an “after-hours approach” to it. They said engineers had fun building their dream Mustang, and you can tell from the driver’s seat.

The PP2 makes the most sense when it’s kept lightly equipped, otherwise you get into GT350 prices fast. My PP2 was spec’d with only a few critical options to go with it: cloth Recaro seats and the active exhaust. The color is Kona Blue and I adore it every single day.

Less Aggressive Tires Make it Better

Continental Extreme Contact Sport

Unsurprisingly, I had to replace the factory Cup 2s fairly quickly. They lasted no more than 7,000 miles and the outsides were much more worn than the inside despite the alignment being within factory specs. They were incredible tires but I can’t afford to buy tires that live fast and die young when they’re this expensive. I chose to replace them with Continental Extreme Contact Sports instead. Auto journalists won’t hesitate to tell you how great Michelins are (and they are without question), but the price difference between these Contis and the Pilot Sport 4S was not insignificant. When dealing with 305/30R19s on all four corners, the savings that Continental offered was enough to cover the cost of my first racing helmet. Welcome to PP2 ownership – tires are expensive as hell.

MUSTANG GT PP2

Image credit: Killboy.com – used with permission

But I must say, the Continentals did wonders for the car. While some sharpness and raw grip was certainly lost over the Cup 2s, the road manners improved significantly. In both my reviews of this car so far, I noted that there was a significant “tramline” effect where the tires would follow every little rut or crack in the road and would tug at the steering wheel. I knew that was due to the extremely aggressive Cup 2s but even I was blown away by how much the more tame Continentals fixed this issue. The tramlining effect is completely gone despite still having massive 305s up front. But the best part is I can now drive it in the rain without fearing for my life.

There are of course plenty of options in the max performance summer tire category that will all deliver the same benefits as I discussed here. It’s all going to come down to how much you’re willing to spend on the set. But it’s the best change I’ve made to the car so far.

Blocking the Rocks

Mustang GT PP2

The second thing I changed related to the aforementioned 305-section tires up front. Tires that size can’t possibly be contained within the stock Mustang fender wells, so they stick out to the point that I’m asked what kind of spacers I’m running at car shows. That also means any debris that’s kicked up by the front tires can very easily spray the whole side of the car. I had enough of dealing with this issue and got some rock guards. I hesitated because I don’t particularly care for how those usually look, but I found that the RokBlokz flaps (dumb name, good product) blend in surprisingly well. This is something I now recommend to all PP2 owners before driving it home. Helping your car to not destroy its own paint is a great quality of life improvement.

Making the Shifter Suck Less

mustang gt pp2 track day

If there’s one complaint lobbed at the Mustang that it’s deserving of, it’s the universally beloved and celebrated MT82. You’ll hear complaints about people breaking shifter forks and a general clunkiness, but I’ve experienced another problem. The first time I missed a 2>3 shift coming out of turn 6 at Atlanta Motorsports Park in front of dozens of people, I thought I was such a dweeb. But then it kept happening, even when I would be extra careful and deliberate with my motions. Turns out I wasn’t missing them, I was getting locked out. This tricky corner exposed a drawback to a design decision which Ford made.

To reduce NVH, Ford mounted the shifter to the body. It worked well in that regard and posed no problems driving on the street (or so I thought). But it completely falls apart on the track. Fortunately, the Mustang aftermarket is amazing and a solution already exists. Blowfish Racing sells a shifter support bracket which effectively turns it into a trans-mounted shifter. It was a night and day difference. There’s more noise and a little more heat coming from the shifter now, but the extra crispness of it alone is well worth it. An unexpected benefit was that the 1>2 shift is also much nicer in casual street driving.

I’m still waiting on a chance to take it back to AMP and see if the issue is fixed for good. But the shifter was flawless at an equally technical but much faster Road Atlanta over five sessions (more on that later). All manual Mustang owners should consider that support bracket or a short shifter.

“The Tick” and Reliability

MUSTANG GT PP2

Image credit: Killboy.com – used with permission

There is no shortage of forum threads about “the tick” that’s been plaguing the newer Coyote motors. It’s a constant ticking noise in the engine bay that can occur under a variety of conditions. It’s very sporadic for me. Sometimes I’d only hear it faintly during warmup and then it would go away. Sometimes it would last my entire drive.

One day I finally had it checked by a dealer and was told it was “within spec” according to TSB 19-2144. I will say that since I switched to full synthetic 5w30 for my last track day and left it in for the summer months, that noise has almost completely gone away. Take care of your engine and this shouldn’t be a problem for you, but it cost me nothing to have a Ford dealer verify. A good number of ’18 Mustang GTs experienced actual problems which would cause that ticking sound and require a new engine.

To date this is the only thing I’ve had to go back to the dealer for. No other big issues have come up whether they be mechanical or electrical. It’s been a drama free ownership experience despite everything I’ve asked it to do. It’s been driven to the Tail of the Dragon in the dead of winter, it’s been on road trips to Virginia International Raceway and Daytona, and it’s been driven as a Mustang should on track. No warning lights or rough starts or eaten crowds. It just does everything I want it to and puts up with it.

It Still Does Road Trips Well

MUSTANG GT PP2

When I first got this car, I was worried that the more aggressive suspension and the Recaro seats would make it less enjoyable on road trips. So far though it’s not completely the case. The MagneRide in normal mode is surprisingly nice over long distances. My drive to VIR and Daytona were around 6 hours each and I can only report some lower back discomfort. But that wasn’t from the suspension or the thin sidewalls.

The Recaros are exceptional at keeping you in place while the PP2’s relentless grip is in full force. However, the lumbar is not adjustable and that takes its toll. I keep a small memory foam pillow to help with that, but it’s still an issue on longer trips. My longest drive to date was a day trip to the Tail of the Dragon which had me on the road for 13 hours. That I’d say is about as long as I’d dare to go with this car in a single day. Even with the pillow, my back and my ass was sore.

Trips to my favorite local driving roads routinely last 3-5 hours. For trips of that length with spirited driving mixed in, there are no issues with comfort whatsoever.

It’s Still Phenomenal on Fun Roads

MUSTANG GT PP2

Image credit: Killboy.com – used with permission

Now while road trips and Friday commutes to work are fine and dandy, there were three reasons why I bought my Mustang with PP2: mountain roads, Atlanta Motorsports Park, and Road Atlanta. A separate track review is coming, but 99% of my spirited driving takes place in the mountains. I knew that would be the case, so its performance here was most important to me. My usual stomping grounds are a series of fast and medium speed sweepers with a few switchbacks thrown in. On these roads and everything else I’ve taken it to thus far, this car is truly outstanding.

The steering is remarkably precise even with the less aggressive tires and the car is eager to change directions. The back follows the nose just fine, but I still get the feeling that there’s some excess movement in the rear. It feels like a little shimmying going on in the rear subframe if the road isn’t very smooth. It’s amplified if I’m on power when I come across a mid corner bump. On most roads though, it flows through sweepers beautifully as long as I manage the throttle correctly. I can aggressively apply throttle towards the end of the corner and the tires never slip. The car responds well to mid corner throttle adjustments and trail braking is a breeze. I never have an issue placing the car exactly where I want. That’s useful because the car’s width makes lane placement especially important.

PP2’s enhancements are all about grip and it’s not just the Cup 2s doing all the work. It has so much of that at its disposal that it’s hard to believe. Traction loss is so rare that you’d have to be trying hard to eat a crowd with a PP2. From a slow roll in first gear with traction control off, the tires won’t even chirp if I punch it. There’s so much grip it’s almost fool proof.

In Summary

MUSTANG GT PP2

Performance Package Level 2 for the Mustang GT quite literally turns this American icon into a whole new car. Its upgrades may seem insignificant and easy to dismiss since it doesn’t add power or massive wings. But it’s nevertheless a substantial improvement over other Mustang GTs which can’t be perfectly recreated in the aftermarket. Initially I believed that the aggressive handling upgrades would ruin the car’s ability to be a comfortable road trip companion. They technically are, but changing tires is all it takes to fix the major drawbacks the car once had.

My PP2 as it sits can do everything I could ever ask of a sports car. It turns better and grips harder than any stock(ish) Mustang has a right to. And while doing so it remains easy to use, reliable, enjoyable at all times, and reasonably comfortable for longer drives. Knowing that a Mustang is capable of such a thing is still impressive after all this time. And knowing that it’s a Mustang that I’m lucky enough to own never gets old.

[Images © 2020 Hooniverse/Greg Kachadurian and Killboy.com whose fabulous images were paid for and used with written permission]