Steve Turner
Former Editor, 5.0 Mustang & Super Fords
May 1, 2009
Photos By: E. John Thawley III, Courtesy of Ford Motor Company

Horse Sense: Believe it or not, Ford engineers and designers had no internal codename for the '10 Mustang. The engineers just call it an S197 and the designers just call it the 2010. I pestered all of them looking for even a nickname, and they all looked at me like I was crazy. Of course, we hardcore Melvins need to call these cars by their codenames. It's an easy way to separate the generations. Since there isn't a name for these cars, I'm gonna throw one out there and see if it sticks. Since the first press releases remarked about the shark-nosed styling and it's the '10 Mustang, I like SN10 as the unofficial codename. Let me know what you think.

Back in our March issue we told you everything you wanted to know about the '10 Mustang save for one vital tidbit-what it's like to drive it! That's not such a small detail, but it would be pretty easy to surmise that the latest Mustang feels a lot like the last one. They do share the same powertrain and chassis, so how different can they be? As it turns out, the '10 is actually much better than the current Mustang GT in many ways, not the least of which is how the car handles, but I'm getting ahead of myself.

In the span of a few weeks, I took a sneak peek at the '10 Mustang in Ford's design studio; attended the car's big reveal event in Santa Monica, California; then found myself learning more about the car's underpinnings before embarking on a road trip that would eventually put me behind the wheel of the eagerly anticipated next-gen Mustang. Before I took the reins of the new Pony, Ford let us start off by driving '09 Mustangs. When a manufacturer lets you drive the previous car-or even better, a competitive car-before you drive its new ride, you know confidence levels are high.

Rolling on 19s, the '10 Mustang looks sleek on the road, and it it's a blast to drive thanks to its sharp handling, Bullitt-level horsepower, and much-improved cockpit. Don't pick the Grabber Blue unless you really covet attention, however.

Though I have plenty of S197 experience, not the least of which comes from my heavily modified GT500, it's always nice to refresh your memory right before you drive the new car. Our baseline cars were a pack of well-worn S197s, so I had to keep reminding myself how much better this car had been than its predecessor. These had picked up a few squeaks and rattles, and a bone-stock S197 interior has always been the weakest point of the car. Still, I've grown to appreciate these cars for the mark they have made in Mustang history. Following up this car is like being the third singer in Van Halen. It's a tough gig to pull off.

As I pulled into a waterfront lot rowed with '10 'Stangs, I knew the car had already started growing on me. Seeing the cars side by side accentuates how much the current car differs from its more modern brethren. As you know from our prior story, this re-skin is aggressive. The only sheetmetal that remains consistent between the two cars is the roof. However, it's not until you see the cars next to one another that these differences become more apparent.

Whether or not you care for the new girl's looks, there's only one way to determine if you like her personality, and that's to spend some time with her. So I quickly gravitated to a Grabber Blue GT and hit the road on a path through some of Southern California's finest twisty roads, providing a scenic route to Willow Springs Raceway. Immediately the car feels tight-much tighter than your standard-fare Mustang GT-but not the least bit harsh. Moreover, the car is quieter. It's hard to believe that all the talk about stiffening and dampening to make this car quieter wasn't just talk.

You might have seen a video of me ripping up the rear tires on this '10, as some of those Internet types that are used to downloading everything for free co-opted our photo shoot. With 315 hp, 325 lb-ft, and 3.73s on board, smoking the Pirellis is no problem, provided you turn of the traction control and give her some rpm. We haven't had a chance to drag test the '10 yet, but given its Bullitt breeding, I'd say similar mid -12-second performances are realistic.

Of course, while beating on the '10, I was on the other end of that Sound Induction Hose that lifts the engineer's NVH velvet rope to allow a hint of induction noise to enter the cockpit. I have to hand it to the protractor crowd for realizing that Mustang guys want to hear the engine, but in practice, this thing looks silly in the engine compartment and sounds a bit like a vacuum leak from the driver's seat. Maybe version 2.0 will knock off my Pilotis...