Steve Turner
Former Editor, 5.0 Mustang & Super Fords
March 1, 2009
Photos By: Courtesy of Ford Motor Company
With its sleek nose, domed hood, bulging fenders, and slimmer mirrors, the '10 Mustang announces the latest evolution in our favorite ponycar. "The new Mustang will be a distinct presence on the road," Senior Designer Douglas Gaffka says. "Everything flows from the shark-nose front; it sets up the direction and tension of all the surfaces. It's even more aggressive than before--it's a modern interpretation of the strong Mustang lineage."

Horse Sense:
While I only had the opportunity to check out the V-6 and GT iterations of the new Mustang, it's a safe bet that there will be special editions of the new car. In fact, one of the designers dropped the hint during our walk-around while discussing the car's trim levels. "The different materials and levels offer differentiation between the two cars and future feature cars." Hmmm, what could those be?

Like a long-awaited record from your favorite band, the newest offering is always compared to its predecessors. Hardcore fans usually quibble over the nuances but appreciate the new offering, while casual fans have to be wowed to convince them the old standby is still relevant. Such is the case with the Mustang. It's been turning heads and enlisting fans for almost as long as the Rolling Stones, but continuing to please the dedicated fans while recruiting new ones becomes more of a challenge with every iteration of the car.

Flash back to late 2004 when we finally got a look at the first purpose-built Mustang in history. We received a much-improved Mustang in a retro-modern package that required an adjustment period for many of us, not the least of which was your author. Of course, the car grew on me in short order, and I'm now the proud owner of the S197 Mustang.

It seems that just about the time I fall for a Mustang, it's time for the new version--and here we are again, ready to leap forward. As always, it's going to take time to adjust.

What always truly concerned me about going full retro is how Ford would move forward after looking back. Well, it appears the designers attacked that transition much like their predecessors did in making the leap from the curvy, smooth SN95 Mustang to the sharp, aggressive New Edge car. It's an evolution, not a revolution. The changes are massive but the basic platform remains unchanged, not unlike the move from Fox to SN95.

"We are trying to step away from the old Mustang and step into the next generation of modernity on this platform," Chief Designer Douglas Gaffka explains.

"Every element on this car, including the leading edge, is a cohesive, connected part of this new chapter in Mustang DNA," says Senior Designer Robert Gelardi. "Both the exterior and interior are modern, dynamic, yet you'll recognize the Mustang's strong bloodline."

Underhood is the familiar Three-Valve 4.6 we've grown to know and love over the last four years, albeit with 315 hp. Also new are the architectural strut tower brace and a revised induction system, which features a new cold-air induction receiving fresh, ram air from the grille opening rather than the inner fender. You can't see or hear it, but it looks like the familiar flat-panel airbox and features a scoop behind the grille, which contributes to a 20-degree improvement in rise-over-ambient temperature in the intake air and a 0.3-second improvement in 0-60 in hot street testing. As for that hose running off the intake tube, it's not for performance, and frankly, it's a bit hokey, but I haven't heard it in use yet. "We've quieted the inside experience because that's part of that refined interior, but we still need to have that signature Mustang sound," explains Tom Barnes, Mustang vehicle engineering manager. "So we've brought some of this intake sound right into the chamber. This thing is actually tuned. It's not fake; it's taking it right from the system. It makes sure that you are getting this reinforcement. When you hit the throttle, you're feeling it in your back, and you are also hearing it."

Of course, it's easy to get caught up in the hyperbole, but the car really is different. Every body panel, other than the roof panel, is changed. In fact, it might have changed too, but Team Mustang really wanted to roll into 2010 offering a coupe, glass roof, and convertible at the launch of the new car, which is certainly a wise move. From the chiseled Pony badge and bulging hood to the haunched fenders and chamfered rearend, the shark-nosed 2010 Mustang hints at both the car's past and opens the door to its future. Beyond its looks, the car is also far more aerodynamic than its predecessor, with a 7-percent improvement in its coefficient of drag over the previous S197. Though it was still being tested when I viewed it, it's safe to assume the car should perform better with better fuel economy thanks to those improvements.

"We did spend a lot of time with the aerodynamicists on this car to make sure we achieved our goals: making sure fuel efficiency, wind noise, and customer comfort were paramount in the evolution of this car," explains Design Manager George Saridakis. It doesn't hurt that George started out his career as an aerodynamic engineer before becoming a designer.

While the '10 Mustang is leading with its brawny, angular body, the changes are far more than superficial. Inside and underneath, the '10 was revamped as much as is possible on a car with the same chassis and drivetrain. Most obvious is the level of improvement on the interior of the car, where the impact of more players in the segment is overt. "We wanted to raise the bar for Mustang because we know the competition is getting fierce," Design Manager Gary Morales explains. "We wanted to make something to have the competition take notice and say, `Hey, that's really nice. How did they do that?'"