First Drive: 2010 Ford Mustang

December 13, 2008
After seeing the car at the 2008 Los Angeles Auto Show, we already knew that the 2010 Ford Mustang looks even better in person than it does in pixels. We weren't able to drive the new Mustang back in November, but have just done so--and our impressions keep getting better.

It's clear where Ford spent its Mustang development dollars for 2010; the vast majority went into redesigning the car's exterior and interior, and it shows. Comparatively, the Mustang's engines, transmissions, and chassis received comparatively minor attention, but even these lightly funded changes improve the coupe's dynamics noticeably.

We've already written about the Mustang's new shape, so we'll focus on driving impressions for this blog post.

The Mustang's 4.0-liter V-6 hasn't changed (still produces 210 hp), so Ford only offered 4.6-liter V-8s to drive at its press-only event. The V-8 is essentially in the same state of tune as the 2008 Mustang Bullitt edition, and it produces 315 horsepower. A new cold-air induction system helps fatten up the middle range of the torque curve, so throttle response is immediate and satisfying. Both engines can be had with five-speed manual or automatic transmissions.

We put almost 200 miles on a 2010 Mustang GT outfitted the manual gearbox and newly available 19-inch aluminum rims. V-8 engines are a wonderful thing, especially when you can hear the rumble of their exhaust echo off canyon walls. Acceleration was immediate and ample. The action of the five-speed's linkage was smooth; each gear change delivered a satisfying mechanical "snick."

Based on past experience with Mustangs (cars not known for a Lexus-like ride), we did not have high expectations for a smooth and quiet ride over the less than perfect canyon road were traversing. Our coupe's big wheels and tires (with little sidewall height) further fueled our low expectations. Our expectations were wrong.

The 2010 Mustang benefits from new chassis bracing and a recalibrated suspension that significantly refined the car's ride. These changes, along with grippier rubber give the coupe as much stick as any sane person could ever need for street driving. The result is confidence inspiring; there's nothing like barreling into a blind canyon corner only to discover the arc is more acute than you planned. With the new Mustang, we simply dialed in more steering and the car took to the new track without drama or protest.

The interior's additional insulation made the cabin significantly quieter than previous Mustangs, a surprise given that we were piloting a glass-roof coupe. More obvious than the quietness was the newfound quality. The 2010 Ford Mustang's interior is all-new and is better in every respect. The materials range from good to excellent, with the lone exception of the hard plastic on the upper edge of the doors.

Mustang models outfitted with the Premium interior boast supple leather seats and door inserts that feel even better than they look (which is good). The new instrument panel design is well executed, functions as designed, and shows tight tolerances (a visible example of Ford's improving quality). The aluminum trim on our GT was really aluminum, not silver painted plastic. Playing with the settings for the ambient lighting system is fun when the sun goes down.

The Pony Car War Is on Hold

Because the automotive market has frozen, it's not clear how the new Dodge Challenger has affected Mustang sales. Nor do we know how the introduction of the 2010 Chevrolet Camaro will impact Ford. Both of these competitors have advantages over the Mustang, but Ford's pony car represents a compelling value. The V-6 models begin at just $21,000 while the GT starts at $28,000, undercutting the Dodge and the pricing we expect from Chevrolet.

Let's hope the economy recovers soon enough so that the age-old battle between Mustang, Challenger, and Camaro can begin in earnest. The 2010 Mustang goes on sale early next year.

The bottom line? The Mustang keeps getting better. For 2010, it represents one of the best sports car values ever. Stay tuned for our full Bottom Line report and review over at our 2010 Ford Mustang page--and for now, see tons of wallpaper-worthy Mustang photography there.


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