Evan J. Smith
Mustang360 Network Content Director
March 1, 2009
Photos By: Courtesy of Ford Motor Company

Mustang. It's the quintessential performance coupe known worldwide--and for true enthusiasts, nothing is more exciting. The announcement of each new model brings great anticipation, as a fresh chapter is certain to be chiseled, first on computer, then to steel, and finally into Mustang's glorious history. And never before has Mustang's success been so important.

For 2010, Ford must produce a winner, as we're in an economic crunch, plus serious contenders are lurking. Dodge's Challenger and Chevy's Camaro will provide stiff competition on the street and on the track, but Mustang's engineers and designers know this--fortunately they put the pedal to the metal and produced what may be the best Mustang ever.

Like mustangs of the past, the 2010 will be available in a convertible.

Yes, Ford got it right. It did so using aggressive, athletic, and muscular styling to recreate (yet again), the world's most popular ponycar. What you'll find in the 2010 is that the all-important tradition of "Mustang" gallops on, albeit with a slathering of refinement in style, performance, interior appointments, ride and handling, economy, and safety.

"The advantage we have is you," states Paul Randle, Ford Motor Company's chief nameplate engineer on Mustang. "We have a fantastic resource in the enthusiasts. I may go to an event and speak for 30 to 45 minutes, but I get to listen for hours and learn what people like or don't like about the car.

There is much to be said for the 2010 interior upgrades. Ford went with a one-piece instrument panel, which looks great and cuts down dramatically on squeaks and rattles. The smoothed console is more comfortable, and blends nicely into the center stack.

"This time we had to enhance all the elements. I pulled the team and told them we need to make the base GT better than the outgoing Bullitt. We know there is competition and we wanted to kick it up two notches."

Super Stang Style
The '10 Mustang is reworked with all new sheetmetal, save for the roof skin. Even the famous running horse received a facelift, (it's only the fourth version in the vehicle's 45-year history). The new pony rides proud with a raised, forward-looking head, along with either bright chrome on the V-6, or a darkened gun-metal version on the GT. A major Mustang styling cue has always been the shapely grille, and the '10 opening is horizontally narrow and racy. GT Mustangs get in-grille foglamps, though all Stangs receive inboard turn signals fashioned from the attractive '70 Mustang.

Where the '05-'09 hood was somewhat plain, the '10 gets an aggressive power bulge (we expect the Shelby to have center-mounted ducting). Cleaning up aero, and the overall look, are washer squirters and wipers arms that are hidden neatly behind the back of the hood.

"We spent a lot of time on proportions," states Randle. "We knew we had [the proportions] right when we launched in 2005. If you extend the A-pillar, it should intersect the centerline of the front wheel. This is pleasing to the eye, and that drove us to not alter the roofline, however we will offer the glass roof option co-current with Job 1." Randle adds, "We look at the history constantly. We did the retro thing already so we didn't want to do that, but on the same note, we're not going to let the design go because that's what the customer wants."

At each corner you'll notice less-pronounced wheel openings, with a sharp, wrist-high body line running from the back of the front wheel lip through the door handle to the rear quarter panel. This is reminiscent of early Mustangs. The leading edge of each quarter sports a muscular "raised shoulder," a la '69 Mustang, that flows neatly over the rear wheels into a ducktail in the deck lid.

While the roofline hasn't changed, the C-pillar has, along with the rear-quarter window. It is narrower and laid back to give the Mustang a hunkered-down appearance. Mustang for 2010 also wears smaller side-view mirrors and a reshaped tail. The aft section features sequential LED lights that are canted sharply and blend into a shapely multi-piece rear valance. There are a few rear spoiler options, one including a rear-view camera option, and under the gas filler door you will find Ford's convenient "capless" fuel fill system. This is a new technology that you're sure to love. The antenna has also been moved from front to rear.

"Aero and mpg is so important. We're looking to label it at one mpg over the outgoing car. We've designed a new underbody shield that extends from the front crossmember to rearward of the oil pan. On the GT, these improvements equal 23 percent less lift at high speeds. It's enough for the average customer to notice a difference," Randle adds.

Canted rear corners house the sequential LED taillights and give the car a shorter look, even though the overall length is unchanged.

Under The Hood (And Body)
Power enhancements begin with a dual-spark ignition strategy, which enables the engine to run powerfully and economically with a variety of fuel-octane types. Increasing cool air to the engine is important for power, so the team engineered a fresh-air inlet that draws efficiently from the grille. In addition, the rev limiter has been bumped to 6,500 rpm. The end result is 315 hp, 325 lb-ft of torque, and way more fun.

Owners will feel and hear the engine through the free-flowing exhaust and a new intake sound pipe that channels inlet air to a diaphragm that converts the sound waves into engine sound in the cabin. Randle says that Jaguar and Porsche use similar systems to provide a balanced sound profile. We foresee the aftermarket offering a multitude of diaphragms to alter the volume of the engine noise. Transmission choices are unchanged from previous models, as a five-speed manual and auto are offered.

The Three-Valve 4.6 engine produces 315 hp and revs to 6,500 rpm.

While some high-brow journalists, who wouldn't buy a Mustang for a dollar, clamor for an IRS, Ford knows the majority of its customers prefer the durability and simplicity of the current setup, so the trusty live-axle lives on.

Nevertheless, the Mustang GT now rides on stiffer springs, with improved dampers to match. Said suspension will produce flatter cornering, more responsive steering, and quicker turn-in, with no loss in ride quality. Other upgrades include a rear stabilizer bar and either 17- (BFG) or 18-inch (Pirelli) tires on the V-6, and 18- or 19-inch Pirelli tires on the GT. All Mustangs for 2010 will be equipped with ABS and AdvanceTrac electronic stability control. The V-6 offers the ability to deactivate the system. On the GT there are multiple settings including a sport mode that allows you to hang the tail out before the system kicks in. Look for a full drive report next month.

Performance minded buyers should opt for Ford's new Track Pack factory option that includes 3.73 gears (3.31 gears are standard, 3.55 gears are optional), performance-style front brake pads, 19-inch wheels and tires, and underhood strut-tower brace. According to Randle, Ford will also introduce the Track Pack 2, at a later date, which is likely to include unique suspension tuning with a 10-15mm drop in ride height, 3.73 performance ratio, performance pads at all four corners, and special 255/40/19-inch performance tires.

For extra power, approximately 400-415 hp on GT models, Ford engineers state that a dealer-installed and warranted Ford Racing Performance Parts supercharger will become available.

On The Inside
If the 2010 styling made you consider trading your '05-'09, then a look at the interior will seal the deal. Pop open the door and you'll be greeted by a new steering wheel and stylish one-piece instrument panel (IP) designed for improved ergonomics, as well as reduced squeaks and rattles.

"I wanted no fake materials and a 0.3 mm margin of flushness," states Randle. "Everything that looks like aluminum is aluminum. We've made the right decisions for the customer in performance and quality, and we reduced our TGW (things gone wrong). Our quality level is aggressive," he says with passion in his English tongue.

The sporty steering wheel retains its three-spoke design, but has a cleaner look and includes switchgear for SYNC and speed control. It has a soft radius where your thumbs rest, which we really liked as the outgoing model tended to pinch your thumbs. The IP is laid out with full 360-degree aluminum bezels surrounding smart-looking gauges. The center vents are now rectangular, which allows the center stack instruments to be raised for improved ergonomics.

We especially like the soft materials found where you normally come into contact with them, your arms and legs, and that includes the flush and lockable console lid. Previously, the center console lid had a pointy leading edge that sits in line with the driver's right elbow. This becomes quite uncomfortable whether when shifting or resting. The cup holder now has a lid, and ambient lighting has been added to the doors and rocker panels.

Enthusiasts can choose between the base interior, optional Premium cabin, or Color Accent packages. Premium includes a leather steering wheel with aluminum spokes, leather seats with a unique sew style, ribbed door trim inserts, a bright brushed aluminum IP, leather shift knob, and choice of Black, Stone, or Saddle accents. It also includes aluminum pedals, six-gauge cluster, My Color and ambient lighting, six-way power driver seat, Shaker 500, and SYNC.

The Color Accented interior features a unique sew style, stitched door trim with chrome badges, dark or brushed IP, satin aluminum shift knob (manual only), and a black interior with choice of Cashmere, Blue, or Red accents.

Ford's Next Generation Navigation is really exciting, too. It takes advantage of an 8-inch display screen with increased resolution, six-channel (5.1) DVD-Audio capability, and voice recognition destination entry. The system, called Sirius Travel Link, pronounces street names when route guidance is activated, and you can select between a male or female voice. It reads real-time traffic info and incoming text messages with SYNC as well. Additionally, there is a hard drive disk for expanded map database and music storage, real-time traffic and weather, and will display integration of local fuel prices.

Amazingly, with all these extras, the overall weight of the '10 Mustang is increased by just a few pounds. That keeps the GT variant well below the competition.

From the first time we laid eyes on the 2010 we loved it, and after getting to know it, we must say Randle and his team have kept true to the formula. With 315 hp and a 3.73 rear axle, we expect low 13-second-to-high 12-second quarter-mile times, and a lot more fun for those who will tackle the corners. While Randle remained tight-lipped about future engines, he did state that Ford brass has given the team everything they asked for. We asked Randle if he asked for more power in 2011, and he simply smiled.