2010 Ford Mustang GT Premium Review


PHOTO (select to view enlarged photo)
2010 Ford Mustang GT

DRIVING DOWN THE ROAD
WITH CAREY RUSS

2010 Ford Mustang GT Premium

The word "icon" has been overused to cliche status, but sometimes it still rings true. As in describing the Ford Mustang, for example. With an uninterrupted run since mid-1964, not only did the Mustang create the "pony car" class that revolutionized American cars in the late 1960s, it outlasted all competitors.

Some of those competitors have been resurrected, and on paper look to be more modern and have better performance than the Mustang, which still sports a (gasp! how positively Paleolithic!) solid axle in the rear. Don't necessarily believe the paper - the Mustang works as well or better than the Chevy Camaro or Dodge Challenger, with smaller size and less weight more than compensating for the relative lack of power* for all-around use. Its solid rear axle is a non-issue -- careful attention to details means it works perfectly well in the real world, and it's remarkably well-behaved even on the crumbling, potholed "pavement" that is the norm in my part of the world.

After a major makeover in 2005, when the long-running "Fox" platform gave way to an all-new and much-improved chassis, 2010 changes to the Mustang are more evolutionary. Refreshed exterior styling is subtle enough that it may not be immediately apparent. Interior refinements, both in style and substance, make it the most civilized Mustang yet, but it's no soft boulevardier. The base 4.0-liter V6 is unchanged, with 210 horsepower and 240 lb-ft of torque. Which is nearly what the 4.6-liter single overhead cam V8 made back when it was new in 1996. That engine, in the GT, now has most of what was once the "Bullitt" package as standard equipment, for 315 horsepower and 325 lb.-ft of torque. Transmissions are five-speed, manual or automatic, and V8 sticks get short-throw shift linkage and a polished aluminum shift knob. Both engines run on unleaded regular, not premium. Both V6 and GT models come in base and Premium trim levels, with coupe and convertible body styles.

I've just finished a pleasant and entertaining week with a 2010 Mustang GT Premium Coupe, with the manual gearbox. Perfect! There is a solidity and refinement to the car that the old Fox-platform versions could not even aspire to, but that in no way detracts from the Mustang Experience. The car feels, and is, solid, and stays planted to the pavement even when that pavement is less than smooth. The 4.6 V8's 315 horses never overpower the chassis, which feels like it could take considerably more power in stride. And while the Premium trim level includes the "Shaker" audio system, the stereo sound from the exhausts has its own classic appeal - at just the right volume, with minimal vibration or harshness thanks to the improved soundproofing.

A Mustang is an "aspirational" car, in that it's a dream possession for people. But unlike the exotics, it's an affordable aspirational car, and buyers are very likely to have a Mustang as their only car. No compromises there, it deals with the real world in a way that a Lamborghini won't. Two medium-sized people fit in the rear seat, and there is a real trunk. And it will still make the driver smile

APPEARANCE: There's no mistaking a Mustang for anything else. The 2005-09 version was self-consciously retro, with an appropriate nod to the second-generation styling of the late 1960s. Styling changes that are each relatively small create a look that, while completely new, pays tribute to most of the Mustang's past while showing the path to the future. At the front, the headlights, as well as the foglamps, are incorporated into a reshaped grille, and the galloping pony mascot is more stylized. A prominent angular power dome breaks up the otherwise flat expanse of the hood. To the sides, the wheel arches are less prominent and the top of the rear fenders is more reminiscent of the original Mustang. The fastback roofline is the same, and the GT 350-inspired quarter windows add both to looks and rear-quarter visibility. The beveled rear panel is the most apparent design change, and the triple-vertical taillights now are LED-lit with sequential turn signaling.

COMFORT: "Comfort" and "Mustang" in the same sentence? Absolutely, and with no detriment to the car's overall nature. Interior design and appointment are more upscale than any previous Mustang, and additional soundproofing decreases noise levels for a more civilized experience. The new instrument panel echos the past with its soft-touch twin-brow design, The Premium trim level adds brushed-aluminum trim to the dash, scuff plates, and pedals, perforated leather seating surfaces (and power adjustment to the seat cushions), the "Shaker 500" AM/FM/6CD/Sirius satellite radio/auxiliary input audio system, Ford's SYNC® electronic communication system, ambient lighting for the door pockets, sill plates, cupholders, and front and rear footwells, and MyColor™ programmable instrument lighting. The front seats are the best yet in a standard Mustang, and the rear seat will hold two medium-sized adults in reasonable comfort. The coupe's trunk is usefully-sized, id a bit small of opening. A space-saver spare tire lives under the trunk floor.

SAFETY: Good handling, four-wheel antilock vented disc brakes, and AdvanceTrac® with electronic stability control (ESC) are the new Mustang's key active safety features. Dual-stage driver and front passenger front air bags, front seat side air bags, a tire pressure monitoring system, the SecuriLock® passive antitheft system, and the SOS post crash alert system are some key passive safety features.

RIDE AND HANDLING: The Mustang pursues the bleeding edge, not the leading edge, of chassis and suspension design and technology. Call it an object lesson in development and appropriate technology. For the 2005 revamp, Ford engineers made modifications previously made by private owners and the aftermarket standard equipment. Most importantly, the solid rear axle has three-link location and a Panhard bar to tame its motion. Front suspension is independent, by MacPherson struts. Spring and shock rates, and stabilizer bar stiffness, have been recalibrated to improve response, with the GT getting a firmer tuning than the V6. The ride is appropriately firm, but not harsh. The result is a car that is very well behaved, even on poor surfaces. Steering and clutch effort are on the light side of moderate, so the Mustang GT won't be a portable exercise machine.

PERFORMANCE: The Mustang's GT's 4.6-liter V8 is, by this time, another lesson in development. An unusual single overhead cam design with three valves per cylinder (two intake and one exhaust), it dates from 1996, at which time it made 215 horsepower and 285 lb-ft of torque. That's now up to 315 horses (at 6000 rpm) and 325 lb.-ft (at 4250 rpm) - with lower emissions, and on unleaded regular, not premium. That's also an improvement from last year, thanks to a cold-air/ram-air induction system that brings cool air from outside of the engine compartment via a duct behind the left headlight. Cooler air is denser, so there is more of it for any given volume. More fuel can then be added for more power. The engine likes to rev, which makes the standard five-speed manual transmission the best choice for performance and the Mustang Experience. Short-throw shift linkage originally developed for the Bullitt special edition now comes in every manual GT, and it makes shifting a pleasure. Even better, the pedal arrangement allows for easy heel-and-toe driving. This is an enthusiast's car. It'll pass anything but a gas station… but at 17mpg overall during its tenure, the GT is no worse than other big-bore performance cars. And Ford has some changes, good ones, coming…

CONCLUSIONS: The Ford Mustang GT has matured as a well-balanced, easy-to-live-with modern muscle car.

SPECIFICATIONS
2010 Ford Mustang GT Premium

Base Price			$ 30,995
Price As Tested			$ 33,230
Engine Type			single overhead cam 24-valve
				 aluminum alloyV8
Engine Size			4.6 liters / 281 cu. in.
Horsepower			315 @ 6000 rpm
Torque (lb-ft)			325 @ 4250 rpm
Transmission			5-speed manual
Wheelbase / Length		107.1 in. / 188.1 in.
Curb Weight			3533 lbs.
Pounds Per Horsepower		11.2
Fuel Capacity			16 gal.
Fuel Requirement		87 octane unleaded regular gasoline
Tires				P235/50 ZR18 98W Pirelli P Zero Nero m+s
Brakes, front/rear		vented disc all around, twin-piston
				 floating front calipers
				  ABS standard
Suspension, front/rear		independent MacPherson strut/
				  3-link solid axle with coil springs, Panhard rod
Drivetrain			front engine, rear-wheel drive

PERFORMANCE
EPA Fuel Economy - miles per gallon
    city / highway / observed		16 / 24 / 17
0 to 60 mph				5.5  sec (est)

OPTIONS AND CHARGES
Color Accent Package - includes:
  charcoal black interior, leather-faced color-accented
  seats, aluminum inlay on instrument panel		$ 395
Safety Package - includes:
  active anti-theft system, wheel lock kit		$ 395
Comfort Group - includes:
  heated seats, 6-way power passenger seat,
  electrochromic mirror with compass			$ 595
Destination and delivery				$ 850

*Addendum: 2011 Mustang Announced

When the 2011 Mustang V6 was announced at the Los Angeles Auto Show in December 2009, I immediately wondered how that would impact the V8. After all, the new 3.7-liter twin-cam (with variable cam phasing on all), 24-valve, aluminum alloy engine looked to be perilously close to the 4.6 V8 in power output -- 305 hp @ 6500 rpm, with 280 lb.-ft of torque @ 4250, vs. the V8's 315 and 325. Ford was quiet on that…

Only because they saved the news for the hometown show, Detroit's North American International Auto Show. The 2011 GT V8 was announced literally as I was writing the 2010 Mustang GT review.

The 5.0 is back! Well, the name is. The new 5.0 has nothing else in common with the old except for its 90˚ V8 configuration. No pushrods, no cast iron block. And not much in common with the 4.6 "Modular" V8 and its derivatives. Like the 3.7 V6, it features aluminum alloy block and head construction, dual overhead cams with four valves per cylinder and continuously-adjusted cam phasing by means of the "Twin Independent Variable Camshaft Timing" (Ti-VCT) system. Like everything these days, computer simulation and design led to its quick development. But unlike some current engines, which don't take increased power well, the new 5.0 is designed and built with strength to spare. It's also made for sustained high-performance operation, with attention to oil flow and cooling. Mustang owners are known for doing track days…

So the 412 horsepower and 390 lb-ft of torque are only the beginning. Transmissions will be upgraded to six speeds, and fuel economy of the V8 is expected to match that of the current 4.6.

Does this mean that the 2010 Mustang GT is a lame duck, and that you should wait until the 2011 comes out in the Fall? Not necessarily. The 315 ponies behind the chrome one on the 2010 GT's grille aren't exactly deficient. And one would expect more power and a 6-speed gearbox to be more expensive…

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