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Tuesday, November 18, 2008

New 2010 Mustang

With Dodge having introduced its new Challenger last spring and Chevy’s new Camaro about to go on sale, Ford could hardly stand pat with its current Mustang, which is now four years old. That’s why Henry’s company introduced this new 2010 version of its venerable pony car at the Los Angeles auto show.

The keen observer will notice a close resemblance to the current model in size, profile, and overall shape. In fact, the 2010 Mustang is not an all-new model, but rather a heavily revised version of the current car, with changes concentrated in the areas that called for the most improvement.

The new version uses the roof and A-pillars from the old one. But the front and rear of the pony car are now slightly tapered, and the fender flares have been toned down. Three-segment taillights with sequential turn-signal operation look trick and recall Thunderbirds and Mercury Cougars of the Sixties. A more muscular appearance comes from a power dome on the hood, small haunches over the rear wheels, and more aggressive front and rear fascias. At the same time, the new model, though dimensionally unchanged, appears to be smaller than the current car—which is not a bad thing in today’s pricey fuel climate.

The interior is where Ford invested its greatest effort. A new dashboard made from one giant soft-plastic molding looks and feels much richer than the several hard pieces it replaces. The metallic trim is real aluminum and different in texture on the V-6 and V-8 models. In fact, the shift knob and everything else that looks like aluminum is indeed the genuine metal. A reconfigured console should be softer on your knees when bracing them during hard driving, the optional leather seats show off beautiful stitching, and a navigation system with an eight-inch screen, reverse camera, and Sync 2.0 is optional.

Mechanically, there are no major changes (at least not yet; more powerful engines are supposedly on their way for 2011), but the new GT is an evolution of the current generation’s Bullitt model, which it allegedly outperforms. Small changes to the GT’s powertrain include a cold air intake, a 250-rpm bump to the V-8’s redline, and 3.5-inch exhaust tips out back. The Bullitt connection means 315 horsepower from the 4.6-liter three-valve V-8, and reworked suspension calibrations optimized for standard 18-inch and optional 19-inch tires. A new stability control system has also been implemented; it includes an intermediate “Track” setting in addition to full on and off operation. Spread across two optional performance packages are high-grip summer tires, track-ready brake pads, GT500 anti-roll bars and rear lower control arms, and a shorter 3.73:1 axle ratio.

The V-6 model also gets an uprated suspension with tires that are an inch larger, though the V-6 output remains a flaccid 210 hp. The new bodywork reduced the drag coefficient on both versions by four to seven percent. Ford claims that improvements in window and door seals have reduced wind noise as well.

Both coupe and convertible models go on sale this spring, and prices should not rise much over those of the current models. That should help this upgraded Mustang compete with its all-new competitors.