Steve Turner
Former Editor, 5.0 Mustang & Super Fords
March 1, 2009
Photos By: Courtesy of Ford Motor Company

From the smooth edges and soft materials to the gorgeous touch screen and sculpted shift knob, the interior design sets the '10 apart from its brethren. Only the parking brake handle bothers me, as it could have really followed the clean theme by being more smoothly integrated into the console, as on a Pontiac G8. In all, there are three interior trim levels: Base, Premium, and Color Accent. The big step is Premium, where cloth and urethane goes the way of leather and aluminum, and the color choices of Black and Stone are augmented by Saddle. Adding the Cashmere, Blue, or Red accents just further dolls up the Premium interior. "The parking brake handle is shorter than today's car and is much improved in terms of the materials," Gelardi says. "We made it shorter because we wanted to locate the traction control, hazard, and the new-for-'10 interior trunk-release switch closer to the driver. When you get into these cars, be sure to look closely at the graphics on the switches. Every little detail is important to us; if you look, those are tiny little Mustangs."

Paramount in how they did it is banishing hard plastic surfaces from much of the interior, adding plenty of aluminum and leather in the Premium interior, and raising the overall level of fit and finish exponentially in response to customer focus-group feedback. "We've created a theme that is definitely Mustang. We can take off all the nomenclature and you'll know it's a Mustang. It's symmetric. It's got a flow-through console ..." Morales continues. "Now we have materials that have been improved as well. The instrument panel is soft. It has rounded corners everywhere. When you're leaning on it and you drive around hard corners, the center stack is soft. The door panels are nice and padded ..."

Besides improving the interior materials and closing up gap tolerances to fractions of a millimeter, the Mustang team served a super-sized order of new features, including several exclusives like capless refueling and next-gen ambient lighting that you won't see offered on Brand C or D. Among the highlights are the belated addition of Sync and its optional, voice-activated navigation, plus nice surprises like stability control, dual-zone climate control, a rear-view camera, and LED sequential taillamps. Some of these are standard and some are optional depending on the trim level, but the Mustang looks to be moving upmarket yet again.

"When we started this program, there were three things we wanted to do," Gelardi says. "One was to add a lot more shape and sculpture to all of the surfaces. We wanted to maintain and emphasize the link to our bloodline, the link to the Mustang DNA; (second) everything that we've done, we looked at bringing that family tree forward. The third--and very important--thing was to significantly upgrade the materials, the craftsmanship, and the fit and finish ..."

They certainly seem to have succeeded on those fronts, though parts of this car are still going to have to grow on me, particularly the overstyled rearend.

Will history look back on the '10 Mustang as the pinnacle of an era or a stepping stone along the way to greater things? Driving the car will really tell one part of the tale, and the market's reaction to a restyled S197 Mustang in the presence of all-new competitors will tell the rest. Stay tuned.