When shoppers think about the Ford Mustang—or other pony cars like the Dodge Challenger or Chevy Camaro—they often forget about the V-6 models.
That’s a shame, because in each of these cases less than $25k—well under the price of today’s average new vehicle—can get you tremendous head-turning potential.
The 2010 Ford Mustang V-6, which TheCarConnection.com just drove for a week, is a case in point; it’s a vehicle that elicits admiring stares, grins, and even some thumbs-up. Though we have to admit the most enthusiastic responses are from those who are close to retirement age.
Take one quick look at the Mustang—in person, as the newly tweaked design tends to ‘pop’ better than it does in pictures—and you’ll see why it has such strong appeal. The nipped-and-tucked Mustang just looks more voluptuous than before, and a little more sophisticated. Though the Torch Red exterior of the test car at first seemed a little garish, it grew on us, too, and was a great combination with the Char Black interior and nice matte-finish mag-style wheels. Overall, the Mustang is a little retro without being sickening-sweet retro; it builds on styling cues of the past, without focusing too much on any particular year.
Most likely, those people you casually pass by have no idea that there isn’t a V-8 in this 2010 Mustang; unlike in some past years, the V-6 model isn’t saddled with penalty-box wheels or silly trim.
Our car came with an unusual combination—the base, 210-horsepower V-6 and five-speed manual transmission. According to Ford, most V-6 buyers opt for the automatic, and although the take rate is low for the stick on V-8 models as well, the typical V-8 buyer is much more likely to get a manual.
The Tremec five-speed in our test car made lots of gear noise, with plenty of clutch graunching, and you could hear the nuances of each shift; in that respect it’s inexcusable if you miss a shift, but at the same time it’s an ever-present reminder that you’re not in a car for which refinement was a priority.
The same goes for the engine. The V-6—which is the updated SOHC version of the Cologne V-6, dating back decades and currently used otherwise in the Ranger and Explorer and their ilk—lopes along at idle quite smoothly, and is definitely present on acceleration but not too obtrusive. But ask it to deliver full throttle a little too early—say from 2,000 rpm on up, and it vibrates through the floorpan and exhaust until the revs increase and things smooth out. Surprisingly, the V-6 doesn’t begin to feel like it’s running out of breath until you approach 5,000 rpm and beyond. The V-6 never feels downright fast, but it’s satisfying.
Part of what makes this engine enjoyable in the 2010 Ford Mustang, despite the lackluster power ratings, is the accessibility of the torque. You can be lugging along just over 2,000 rpm at 70 mph in fifth gear, and a stomp on the gas pedal is met with prompt and surprisingly urgent acceleration; yeah, you can downshift, but you don’t need to.
This spring, TheCarConnection.com drove the Mustang V-6 and said that the suspension “capably absorbs some of Detroit’s worst roads.” West Coast roads are a whole different ball game, though. I took the Mustang out on a favorite curvy road that esses up and down a ridge—and through a fault zone with lots of heaves and patched areas. Overall, the Mustang held its own, but coming out of the tightest corners the tail would predictably step way out; going uphill, even slight heaves would upset the tail and set it bouncing slightly, bringing out a disconcerting fore-aft body motion. But when the surface was reliably smooth, we liked the neutrality in the Mustang’s handling, along with how nice and progressive the grip was through the standard tires and their higher sidewalls; stability control is there, but it doesn’t make its presence known unless you really drive provocatively. .