When enthusiasts heard the 2010 Mustang would use the existing chassis and powertrain, most assumed Ford was just reskinning the old pony car. You know, giving it a simple cosmetic upgrade. But not so. Besides changing every body panel save the roof, Ford has comprehensively refit the Mustang. Some of this was simply cannibalizing existing factory hot rods such as the Bullitt and GT500 Mustang Cobra. However, much new effort has been put into the redesign as well. Regardless, all of it works well.
One thing unchanged is the model structure. Base Mustangs are V6-powered; all GTs are V8s. All Mustangs continue with 5-speed manual transmissions and optional automatics, and as coupes or convertibles or with the sensational glass-roof option. Likewise, all are best regarded as 2-seaters, with small child or occasional adult seating for two in back.
Hardware-wise, Ford has made the 2010 V6 Mustang similar to the previous GT, and the GTs are now more like Bullitts. For example, the V6s now wear 215/50R-17 tires (18-inch rolling stock optional), while the GTs roll on 235/50WR-18 rubber. An aggressive 19-inch Pirelli summer tire is a GT option.
Besides the obvious new sheet metal, subtle changes were also made. The radio antenna was moved to the rear fender and the windshield-washer jets hidden to distance and reduce wind noise. The exhaust tips for the V6 and V8 engines were increased a half-inch to 3 and 3.5 inches, respectively. Aerodynamic tuning has reduced drag 4 percent and lowered front-end lift 37 percent on V6s, while the GTs benefit by 7 percent less drag and 23 percent less lift.
All shocks, springs and sway bars were retuned for taut handling, and an under-hood brace was fitted for great rigidity.
Under the Hood
No changes were made to the single overhead cam 4.0-liter V6 engine, which remains at a pleasant 210 horsepower and 240 lb-ft of torque. Fitting Bullitt intake parts to the 3-valve V8 has raised it to 315 horses and 325 lb-ft of torque.
As noted, the transmission choices are unchanged, as is the 8.8-inch live axle. The GT does get the Bullitt's short-throw shifter, however.
Completely new to Mustang are stability control and ABS brakes, both now standard. The stability control can be switched off, and GTs have a Sport mode for tail-out antics with a safety net.
By next summer, two GT handling options — Track Pack and Track Pack II — will arrive. The first bundles better front brake pads, 3.73 rear gears (3.55s are standard) and recalibrated stability control. That's nice, but Track Pack II is the real thing, adding the GT500's sway bars and rear lower control arms, stiffer springs and shocks, sticky 19-inch Pirellis and more enthusiastic ABS calibration to the Track Pack gears, pads and electronics.
Ford is stoked about its all-new Mustang interior, citing a huge effort to improve the cockpit design, manufacturing and materials. The styling makes an immediate upscale impression, followed by recognition of tightened gaps, quality materials and more features such as rear-of-seat map pockets.
Further satisfaction comes from detail improvements to everything from the outside rearview mirror's aerodynamics to headliner materials when sampling the quieter cabin. Coupes are hushed 12 percent and convertibles 15 percent. In fact, it's so quiet in GTs that a "sound induction tube" had to be added to pipe under-hood snort to the passenger compartment — silly, but fun for the young.
More substantial are the optional dual-zone climate control, rearview camera, voice-activated navigation system and Sync infotainment system — all Mustang firsts. Steering-wheel audio repeater controls add their luxury touch as well. There's never been such a refined Mustang.
On the Road
Polished as never before, the 2010 Mustang delivers an adult driving experience. Already tour-capable in 2005 form, the new Mustang's refinements comfort while the willing chassis and powerful engines work with whatever enthusiasm the driver injects. For daily putt-putting and occasional zip, the V6 really is plenty, but the big fun is all V8 stuff, of course.
We drew full measure of our test GT with Track Pack II equipment, which amazed us with its claw-like grip and unexpected balance for just a little ride jiggle. Make no mistake: Track Pack is mandatory for driving enthusiasts. It is not needed, nor desirable, for mom and pop. There's no understeer until deliberately provoked — a major step forward — and while the live axle would step out on big upsets, we'll happily trade such an occasional annoyance for the honest, linear grip a live axle provides in such a high-torque car.
Masculine and full of two-ton presence, the Mustang still prefers a light hand on its slightly overassisted power steering. That and the interior refinement seem almost out of character with the race-like speeds the 2010 Mustang can generate. But you'll quickly get used to those foibles. The only real squawks are that the V8 is thirsty for fuel when run hard and that the interior is so quiet that road and transmission noise is now noticed through the center console.
Right for You?
In short, the 2010 Mustang impresses with no-excuse refinement and can be configured for sporty V6 commuting, V8 power sport or — dare we say — sports car poise. Pricing has risen slightly from previous models, with the base V6 coupe commanding $20,995 and the entry GT $27,995. Add a tick less than $1,000 for an automatic transmission, $1,995 for the glass roof and — we hesitate here — $2,195 for the combined nav and dual-zone option. Convertibles start at $25,995 for the V6 and $32,995 for the V8. Mustangs run on regular gasoline, but premium does bump the V8 torque 10 lb-ft between 1000 and 3000 rpm.
Mustangs are not space-efficient and weigh more than some find enjoyable, but they are still the best combination of thrills and daily-living friendliness in the pony car world. We certainly wouldn't hesitate to saddle up.
Longtime Road & Track contributor Tom Wilson's credits include local racing championships, three technical engine books and hundreds of freelance articles.