Muscle Car Makeover
by Joe LaMuraglia
I have to be honest; when I was scheduled to drive a 2010 Ford Mustang GT for five days my expectations were not very high. Sure, the Mustang got a new look with all-new sheet metal and a tightened and toned styling but having spent many years in LA I knew that when a face gets lifted it doesn’t change the fundamental personality of the recipient. Happily, my jaded and jaundiced self was blown away after spending quality time with the new Mustang, emphasis on quality.
My doubt about how good the new Mustang would be was based my last experience with a Pony from Ford. It has been a few years since the experience but the last Ford Mustang GT convertible I last drove had such bad cowl shake I actually called the press fleet distributor and had them come pick it up early. I spent all of a few hours driving around Atlanta and the wet noodle effect was driving me crazy. I found out later that the car had been in an accident but it has been difficult to completely erase the experience from my memory. I knew that the new coupe would be better but I wasn’t prepared for the drastic difference in dynamics and craftsmanship.
I picked up the car in Manhattan and in typical fashion was more concerned about getting run over in the service garage than taking in the details of the vehicle. I signed the forms, jumped in the car and quickly exited the insanity of the service area. My next move was to find a parking spot to get myself familiar with the vehicle, set up the Bluetooth connection and make sure seat, mirrors and controls were all where they needed to be. This is when I began to realize the magnitude of changes that went into the 2010 Mustang.
The interior is simply stunning. Gone is the old Ford-issue brick of a radio that always looked that an afterthought in Ford’s products. The new sound system is beautifully integrated into the center stack along with the climate control and information display. The dashboard materials are on par with those of Audi and the neo-retro design is instantly familiar and useful at the same time. My brother got in and immediately re-told the story of how he wrecked my grandmother’s ’67 Mustang within hours of its delivery. The connection to classic Mustangs is that strong yet far from overdone.
One of my biggest pet peeves are steering wheels. To me, they are the most important part of the vehicle. Other than the seat, the steering wheel is your primary touch point with the vehicle. Many vehicles (current VW Jetta anyone?) have wheels that seem like an afterthought and for people like me, ruin the brand experience. Ford got the wheel right on the 2010 Mustang. Its design is superb; proper thickness, fantastic materials and a center hub that is substantial and finished with a high quality Mustang emblem. You feel at once in control and pampered when you grab the wheel; as it should be.
I got my seat adjusted and noticed the high quality leather and overall comfort of my perch. It seems that Ford finally tapped into Volvo’s seat supplier and came up with an attractive, supportive and comfortable seat. Other than the Ford Flex, this is the most comfortable seat I’ve experienced in the Ford product lineup, Lincoln MKS included. I wasn’t alone in my admiration of the interior and seating. My sister and mother spent time in the front and back seats and used “beautiful” and “gorgeous” to described their surroundings. Considering both can be rather critical unless a luxury brand is associated, that is high praise indeed.
It was time to get the Mustang on the road and the jaunt up the West Side highway, over the GW Bridge to NJ was the perfect primer for a few days behind the wheel. The GT features Ford’s proven 4.6 liter V8 engine pushing out 315 horsepower. Matched with the 5-speed manual in my test car, it proved to be an entertaining pair. The Mustang GT launches beautifully and accelerates down the road with a distinctive roar in full gallop and then diminishes to a subdued rumble during prolonged cantering. I was impressed with how easy it was to drive and loved the raw horsepower at my disposal. It was nowhere near as powerful as the beastly Pontiac G8 GXP I had prior to it but it was plenty of horsepower to entertain.
The weekend consisted of a jaunt up the Saw Mill Parkway to CT. This trip does double duty; I get my family fix by visiting my sister and her brood and I have a consistent road to compare vehicles on. The Saw Mill is narrow, curvy and when taken at high speeds, nerve wracking. The Mustang GT attacked it with ease and other than a few bumps along the way, was completely composed.
This leads me to my only major criticism of the 2010 Mustang; its road manners on less than perfect surfaces. Bumps and ruts upset the usually compliant ride of the Mustang and the blame goes to its rear suspension. All the engineering prowess in the world can’t make a solid beam act as well as independently suspended wheels. Ford has done a very impressive job but where the Nissan 370Z and Chevrolet Camaro simply laughed at road irregularities, the Mustang bucked and bounced like a frightened Pony. 8 times out of 10 it won’t be noticeable but on the hideously-maintained roads in Northern NJ and Manhattan, it was pretty evident.
Other minor complaints include the inability for my Blackberry to sync with Ford’s SYNC™ system on a consistent basis. I finally got it to work but subsequent attempts failed. I am sure it was user error but the system isn’t as intuitive as others. I was also surprised at how easily the Satellite radio lost its signal. On the aforementioned drive to rural CT, I lost signal often where other vehicles never had an issue. Finally, as a sunroof lover, I wish the Mustang had a sliding roof as an option. They are offering a fixed glass roof but it isn’t the same. Luckily the Mustang Convertible is available and should satisfy the sun worshipers.
When I drove back into Manhattan to return the 2010 Mustang GT, I went over my experience with the latest iteration of the classic pony car. My impression of the nameplate had been seriously recalibrated based on overall design, level of quality and driving dynamics. The new design caught the eye of a few hotties along the way as well. I’m just saying
Having recently driven the most excellent Chevrolet Camaro and the Nissan 370Z I was prepared to relegate the Mustang to a distant third place but ended up confident that the 2010 model will keep it near the top of the consideration set for people in the market for an affordable sports car with few compromises.
2010 Ford Mustang
Starting at $20,995 for a V6 Coupe. Mustang GT Coupe starts at $30,995
As tested, $31,985
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