It’s easy to have mixed feelings about the 2005-2009 Mustang GT. It’s handsome, for the money you paid you got pretty good V8 power and it was fast enough. Where the (suddenly) last-gen Mustang falls down is the lowest bidder interior, questionable handling and non-track day brakes. “Listen baby I had a great time, but don’t lose any sleep sitting by the phone.” But hey, Ford’s prepped a (kinda) all new steed for 2010 and you can bet Mullally’s golden ‘chute that Mustang engineers have been hard at work addressing the above issues. Well, except for the brakes.
If you have an internet connection and a passing interest in cars, you’ve already sick of seeing the redesigned ‘Stang. But in person, it’s much better looking than in 2D. The detail that struck me hardest were the three creases on the hood. It’s an intriguing, complex surface. The side mirrors are painted body color (yay!) and the antennae has been moved to the rear. And you know, I like the more geometric rear end with the three-bar taillights. I also like the resculpted face. Sure it has some Camaro cues (hooded lights, downhill curve) but they’re good cues and segment appropriate. The only body panel they didn’t change is the roof, but sitting on the fatter (er, more muscular) haunches it reminds me even more of the ’68 Fastback. Which is good. And you really got to see this baddie in Grabber Blue.
Ford got halfway to the promised land with the interior. Gone are many of the more egregious examples of IQ insulting penny pinching. For instance the bulk of the dash is now covered in actual aluminum. The gauges are not only crisper but Mustang exclusive. The leather seats sport oversized, contrast stitching and a stylish accent stripe. But there’s hardly any bolstering and after more than an hour, they hurt your back. Another example of almost but not quite: Ford placed soft leather inserts into the doors. Nice. But above ’em is the same lousy plastic as last year. Pity.
Put your foot into the throttle and you’ll bang your head (against the headrest). Power is up for 2010. Up to Bullitt levels. That’s 315 hp and 325 lb-ft of torque. And check this: should you choose to fill up with premium gas, the ECU makes the torque earlier between 1,000-3,000 rpm. Also like the Bullitt, engine noise is piped into the cabin. Literally. While the sound isn’t quite as sweet as the car McQueen inspired (blame thicker sound proofing), the grunt is better than before. 0-60 times are probably in the 5 second flat range, just like the Bullitt. In certain interior packages, you can even shift gears with the Bullitt’s knob. If you’ve guessed that Ford benchmarked the Bullitt when designing the new car, pat yourself. Why? The Bullitt was the best Mustang Ford ever built.
The Bullitt made great strides in addressing the standard car’s handling issues. The 2010 Mustang GT crosses the finish line. More bracing, tighter spring rates, more damping, thicker sway bars and greatly improved aerodynamics work together to create the first Mustang in memory that thrives in the twisty stuff. Stick your head between the mufflers and you’re still greeted by a thick live axle. Ready for the truth: so what? After seven hours of constant, aggressive driving I encountered exactly one patch of asphalt that upset the rear end. But it was so cruddy that an IRS car would’ve spazzed, too.
I took the GT up and over some of the most challenging, technical canyon roads Southern California has to offer. The new ‘Stang excelled. I could go hard into essentially every corner and confidently blast my way out (some of the uber tight, near-180 degree guys require a soft entry). Like wow, man — a Mustang that’s actually confidence inspiring on windy roads. The steering is a bit over-boosted and the 19” wheels could use souped up tires, but I’m splitting hairs. Finally we have a Mustang that handles the way every 14-year-old assumes it does. Except for those brakes…
Instead of being an also-ran, value proposition in need of lots-o-mods, the “evolution not revolution” 2010 Mustang is a good performance car right out of the box. For those requiring a bit more brawn, there’s the $1,400 Track Pack that gives you Pirelli P Zeros, stiffer shocks and sways — plus upgraded brakes. The real question though, is whether you should buy a Bullitt right now for several grand off sticker, or wait a month and grab the 2010 Mustang. Probably at full price ($27,000 or so). Tough choice. If forced, I’d say that the Bullitt sounds better whereas the new GT drives better. Meaning this is the best Mustang ever. For now at least.
[Jonny Lieberman attended a manufacturer’s press event. Ford paid for gas, insurance, food and one night of hotel accommodations]