2010 Ford Mustang
Base price: $20,995 – $35,995
As tested: $33,725
MPG: 16 city/24 highway
- Better in every way than previous Mustang
- Gorgeous interior
- Sequential taillights
- Outdated five-speed manual shifter
- Solid rear axle suspension
- Fun but impractical
By Jim Prueter
Revamped Mustang gets better
For 2010, Ford has revamped the Mustang with an updated exterior and interior, hoping to help corral buyers from the recently resurrected, all-new Chevy Camaro and redesigned Dodge Challenger.
The Mustang was last redesigned for the 2005 model year with a stylish retro look that was reminiscent of the 1969 Mustang. Its phenomenal success triggered Chevrolet and Dodge to jump on the bandwagon and with the Camaro and Challenger, respectively. But just as Dodge readied the Challenger, gas hit $4 a gallon and, with the recession, auto sales began to tank. Chevy is hoping pent-up demand for the Camaro will overshadow its lateness to the market and an economy that has Chrysler in bankruptcy and GM not far behind.
Ford responded to the Camaro and Challenger with more extensive changes than initially planned. In addition to an exterior that is all new — other than the roof — the 2010 Mustang has a completely new interior, improved ride and handling with less wind noise, a bit higher fuel economy and slightly more horsepower.
The styling enhancements are noticeable, with a new power-dome hood, sloping nose and a forward-swept grille. The most noticeable change is out back, with new LED taillights that illuminate sequentially when the turn signal is engaged. Still, the traditional Mustang DNA is ever apparent.
The brick-red leather interior in our Premier Trim-equipped GT coupe tester was nothingshort of stunning, especially when mated to the sterling gray exterior color. Real textured aluminum replaces the cheap-looking hard plastics of the previous Mustang. Most surfaces have been replaced with soft-touch materials, with noticeable improvement in fit and finish quality.
Ford restyled the gauges with the speedometer to the left of the tachometer. The new center control panel houses Ford’s fantastic hands-free Microsoft-developed Sync audio system that combines phone, iPod, radio/CD and navigation system. From the bluish illuminated “Mustang” on the doorsills to the exceptionally comfortable bucket seats, the interior by far bests those of Camaro and Challenger.
Ford borrowed the cold air-induction system engine treatment from last year’s limited production Mustang Bullitt for the new Mustang GT, upping the horsepower by 15 to 315 over the ’09 specs. The engine has a terrific non-intrusive growling sound that’s actually piped into the cabin by way of an induction tube. All GT Mustangs get a choice of five-speed manual or five-speed automatic transmission. Our tester came with the manual shifter, with excellent response in the lower gears but giving up performance in fourth and fifth gears to favor fuel economy. The GT desperately needs a six-speed manual to improve performance and compete with Camaro and Challenger both of which offer a six-speed.
As much as we like the new Mustang, it fails to stack up to Camaro and Challenger under the hood. The entry-level Mustang continues to use an old 4.0-liter V-6 that produces just 210 horsepower, while the base Camaro V-6 is a 3.6-liter that produces 304 horsepower and Challenger has a 3.5-liter V-6 with 250 horsepower.
If you opt for a V-8, Camaro uses the Corvette-based 6.2-liter 426 horsepower; Challenger offers a choice of a 5.7-liter 372 horsepower or 425 horsepower V-8 hemi. To be fair, however, Ford does have a significant weight advantage; Mustang is some 400 pounds lighter than a similar Camaro and 500 less than a Challenger.
Mustang has stayed with a solid rear axle, an antiquated design that few cars still use and the result is a tendency to skitter over railroad tracks and rough road surfaces compared to the independent rear suspension used on vehicles like the Camaro. The independent suspension results in a smoother ride and all around better handling.
As much fun as it is to drive, the Mustang is utterly impractical. The front bucket seats sit low, and shorter drivers might even need to sit on a booster cushion for better visibility. The rear seat is small and climbing in and out of there takes some doing, with passengers asking the front seat occupants to move their seats forward.
Standard safety gear includes dual front and side airbags, electronic stability control, traction control and anti-lock braking system. The 2010 Mustang coupe earned the U.S. government’s top 5-star rating in crash tests and rollovers.
The 2010 Mustang is a great-looking vehicle that handles much better, with added performance over the previous generation. But competition from Camaro and Challenger could steal some customers that Ford had mostly to itself before those introductions.