Driven: 2010 Ford Mustang V-6

May 12, 2009

If you were to look at all the Mustangs sold over the 45 years the pony has been galloping around, you'd notice two things; most articles are written about V-8 Mustangs, while most purchasers go for fewer cylinders. This is the reality; the market gets excited about performance and style, but then buys with their wallet.

Given this reality, we've chosen to spend the next week with a 2010 Ford Mustang V-6 Premium. (Read our full review of the 2010 Mustang here.)

Outside, the new Mustang looks different enough to be easily identified as "new" by even casual observers. The overwhelming consensus is that the 2010 body work looks great. The sequential-firing turn signals in the taillamps catch everybody's attention. People old enough to remember the first Thunderbirds with them smile, as do "kids" to young to know that there ever was such a feature.

2010 Ford Mustang V6

2010 Ford Mustang V6

Enlarge Photo

The "Premium" part of this car's title denotes the fantastic interior. Leather covers the seats, and contrasting stitching gives it a look good enough to be seen in an Audi (it reminded us of the TTS we recently drove). The quality of the hide is very good, unlike the hard, vinyl-like substance passed off for leather in some lower-end cars. Everything else you'd expect as standard inside of an affordable $24,000 car is, plus things like colorful (but kind of silly) ambient lighting.

This 2010 Mustang's engine may be familiar to  many Ford owners, especially if you've owned an Explorer. It's the 4.0-liter V-6.  In this configuration, the engine manages to make 210 horsepower and 240 lb-ft of torque. If you look at just the numbers, 210 horsepower isn't too impressive. However, spend some time behind the wheel, and the engine grows on you.

For example, the 4.0-liter's power delivery feels perfectly linear. The translation is that there's always power available. It's not huge, V-8 power, but the engine never feels breathless. On the highway, the Mustang seems to accelerate from 50-80 mph as quickly as it does from 80-110 mph. There are no flat spots in the engine's output, and this is different from the peaky performance of some smaller in-line four and V-6 engines.

We think that most Mustang drivers would click the option box for the five-speed automatic, but our press fleet loaner came with the trusty Tremec T-5, a manual transmission that's only slightly younger than Methuselah. As far as shift action goes, the T-5 certainly has it. It's heavy and the throws are long. On the plus side, each gear engages positively, so you never miss a shift.

The gearbox also makes manual transmission noises; gear hums and thrums. Geeks might like it, but because the V-6 Mustang doesn't really have the speed chops to warrant the noises, those noises shouldn't be there in our opinion.

Mileage for the V-6/manual is 18 mpg city/26 mpg highway, which isn't terrible, but it's off the pace from the 2010 Chevrolet Camaro (at 17/29 mpg) ... a situation made worse by the fact that the Camaro's 3.6-liter V-6 produces nearly 100 more horsepower than the larger Ford V-6. FYI, with the automatic, mileage is 16/24 mpg.

It's certainly time for this engine to be replaced with Ford's new corporate V-6, the 3.5-liter found in so many other vehicles from the Ford Fusion to the Lincoln MKS. We've asked Ford to tell us when the new engine is coming, but so far, no response.

When it arrived at our Detroit bureau office, the odometer was showing nearly 2,000 miles. In years past, this was time enough for the body to start to shake itself apart, but the new Mustang is tighter than previous models (more body structure), and the compliant nature of the suspension gives us the impression that the car should fend off squeaks and rattles pretty well.

Dynamically, even though the suspension capably absorbs some of Detroit's worst roads, it still feels sporty and responds quickly to the wheel. Most drivers will call it nimble.  Brakes worked fine in every day driving, which is really all that matters on a car like this. ABS is standard, as is traction control.

Stay tuned for a second installment on this car that covers the practicality of this pony car. Will we say the car is incapable of being practical transportation, or will be deem it suitable for everyday driving life? Watch this space...

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