LOS ANGELES, Calif. -- The fun stuff for this wheel-squealing car test in a newly-minted Mustang GT coupe from Ford occurs on Mulholland Drive, the famed ridge route winding across the Santa Monica Mountains above Los Angeles.
This new version of Mustang for the Class of 2010 represents a tire-to-roof re-make of Ford's classic pony car although it still looks unmistakably like a Mustang with that stretched hood and stubby tail, muscular body bulges and way-big wheels.
Exterior styling looks fresh and smooth yet familiar Mustang signatures have been retained -- the C-scoops on flanks, tri-part lamps on the tail and a shark's pointed nose with round headlamps.
That galloping chrome pony, traditional symbol of Mustang, mounts front and center on the grille.
And note the innovations of a modern design with round fender flares and a power-dome hood that crimps into the grille plus triple-element taillamps as turn signals which fire sequentially -- from inboard light to outboard light -- to indicate the direction of an intended turn.
Mustang tracks back decades in the history of Ford Motor Company to the original Mustang notchback coupe, which debuted in 1964 to set a generation on edge with envy.
Many iterations followed, from the first variation with Mustang Fastback of 1965 and a powerful 1968 GT to such muscle machines as the Boss 302 of 1970, 1984's Mustang SVO and a raucous Cobra in 1993.
Revised models of 2004 traced to a revival of Mustang in 1994 built off Ford's Fox platform, and performance models dubbed Shelby Mustangs after racing legend Carroll Shelby cap at the 2009 Shelby GT500.
The rear-wheel-drive (RWD) chassis with welded steel unibody construction carries front and rear subframes to mount steering and suspension systems. It has an independent front suspension with reverse-L MacPherson struts and a three-link live axle in back with Panhard rod.
A tower-to-tower brace from the Bullitt Mustang adds torsional and lateral stiffness to the chassis to improve cornering ability when rolling on optional 19-inch rubber.
The sculptural body styling on Mustang 2010 is smoother and slicker in aerodynamic efficiency to reduce drag.
Wind test data from Ford reveals the new body design pares aerodynamic lift at the front by 23 percent over the previous model to improve steering feedback as aerodynamic drag drops by seven percent. Further, the new design trims wind noise by 12 percent -- so it becomes a quieter car when moving down the road at highway speed.
Mustang's cockpit also gets a make-over with a new chiseled dash design.
Layout is classic to Mustang with twin seat positions marked by symmetrical instrument panel on a horizontal dashboard with dual arching brows above aluminum face plates.
There are form-fitting buckets up front and a carved-out jump seat in back with fold-down seatback.
A revised ambient lighting kit in the cabin illuminates door pockets, cupholders and footwells, while the optional MyColor color-configured instrument cluster brings 125 color choices for backlighting of dashboard instruments.
Fresh accessories range from a reverse-view video camera to Ford Sync with voice control over in-vehicle phones, media players and USB storage devices, and Sirius satellite radio and satellite navigation through Sirius Travel Link.
Issues of personal safety in the new Mustang are addressed with strong structural elements and energy-absorbing crush zones front and rear plus a variety of active and passive safety systems aboard. All versions contain dual-stage frontal air bags for front riders plus seat-mounted side air bags up front.
Equipment promoting active safety includes rack and pinion steering and four-wheel disc brakes tied to an anti-lock brake system (ABS) and all-speed traction control (ASTC) coupled with Ford's AdvanceTrac electronic stability control (ESC) device. Ford constructs the 2010 Mustang in two versions characterized by engine size.
Mustang V6, the price leader and volume model, stocks a V6 engine while Mustang GT draws from a powerful V8. Standard is the single-cam aluminum-block V6 displacing 4.0 liters and pumping 210 hp at 5300 rpm with torque of 240 lb-ft at 3500 rpm.
Mustang GT has an upgraded 4.6-liter aluminum V8 with electronic throttle control and variable camshaft. It rips to the heady mark of 315 hp at 6000 rpm and pushes the torque out to 325 lb-ft at 4250 rpm.
The V8 links to a Tremec 3650 five-speed manual gearbox, while the V6 uses a Tremec T5. Optional for either plant is a five-speed automatic using a Ford transmission which shifts cleanly and quietly as directed from a console-mounted stick.
Model designations for Mustang divide further by trim packages -- standard or premium.
Mustang V6 standard gets the V6 engine and five-speed manual shifter, stainless steel single exhaust and 17-inch painted aluminum wheels plus cabin equipment like power windows and door locks, dual power side mirrors, remote keyless entry, manual air conditioning, cloth fabric seat upholstery and a stereo kit with single-disc CD deck.
Mustang V6 premium adds six-way power for the driver's seat, leather seat surfaces and a leather-wrapped steering wheel, aluminum trim for dash, pedals, scuff plates and shift knob, a six-gauge instrument cluster with MyColor customization, and a Shaker 500 audio system with eight speakers and six-disc CD changer and MP3 capability.
Mustang GT upgrades to the V8 with twin exhausts, dual foglamps, 18-inch painted aluminum wheels and cloth seat upholstery with a leather-wrapped steering wheel.
Mustang GT premium gets the Shaker 500 audio with a six-disc CD deck and sport bucket seats covered in leather.
Track packages for the GT enhance brakes and add heavier suspension springs and shocks, set a 3.73:1 axle ratio with carbon plates in the differential and install 19-inch aluminum wheels with Pirelli summer tires.
Ford trims MSRP figures for the 2010 Mustang to $20,995 with a V6 or $27,995 for the GT. The premium package lists for $3,000 and an automatic transmission runs to $995.