Review: 2010 Ford Mustang

Jack Baruth
by Jack Baruth
review 2010 ford mustang

Many years ago, it became quite fashionable to refer to The Clash as “the only band that ever really mattered.” Chevrolet borrowed this evocative line for the introduction of the soft-top C5 Corvette, calling it “the only convertible that ever really mattered” in a two-page color-rag spread. Truth be told, though, those are both pretty tough cases to make. And you don’t have to be a Beatles-obsessed Boxster owner (as I am) to argue the contrary. It’s far easier to apply the phrase to the Mustang: the only ponycar that ever mattered. Consider the competition. Camaro, Challenger, Javelin . . . hell, Celica and 200SX. Some shone, some sucked, none have gone the forty-five-year distance. The Mustang was the first ponycar on the scene, the best ponycar available for much of its history, and the only one to not disappoint its fans with periodic disappearances. And now we have a new “new Mustang,” arriving just in time to spoil the Chevrolet Camaro’s tardy coming-out party.

The 2010 Ford Mustang’s exterior restyle visually trims the car. The design incorporates certain elements of the Giugiaro concept while retaining the previous roof stamping. The real news is inside. Ford’s been turning out some thoroughly decent interiors . . . lately. The Mustang is another hit in the parade, providing a tactile experience that feels a solid class above what’s found in the Challenger or Camaro. Even Infiniti and BMW “intenders” would be well-served to at least take a seat in the ‘Stang before making their final purchases. The Mustang’s tactility borders on the European.

The same is true, ironically, for the powertrain. The three-valve, 4.6-liter “mod motor” can’t match the Chevrolet or Dodge entries on displacement, torque, or power. But it has a rev-happy, broad-shouldered feel that’s immediately familiar to anyone who’s driven one of the smaller V-8s from Audi, BMW, or (whisper it) Porsche. Modern drivers raised on a diet of four-cylinder Hondas will find the light-flywheel Mustang far more to their liking than the strong but ultimately breathless HEMI or LS3 competition.

What a shame all that sweet-sounding power is fed through a crummy old cart axle, eh? There’s just one problem with that analysis: it’s very close to being completely wrong. Our Hocking Hills test loop revealed the big pony to be a competent broken-pavement runner. Yeah, it steps sideways on corner entrance under ABS and it steps way sideways when you apply the power under bumps. But the steering’s linear predictability makes catching the slide utterly trivial.

Here’s the drill: Get your braking done hard in a straight line. Let the tail wag its way home until it’s time to turn in, then use patience to dial the steering until you feel the outside sidewall start to slip. If you’re lined-up at this point, feed the power slowly past the clipping point. If you aren’t, boot the throttle as the clipping point appears level with the Mustang’s nose, and rotate past the midcorner for your exit.

You can trust this car. It will do what you ask it to, and nothing more. The mod-motor’s broad rev range is a massive help here, allowing you to hold gears to the exit without the upshift you’d need in an old “five-point-oh.”

Our test day featured temperatures well below freezing, with plenty of road salt to spoil the party. It was still possible to hustle the Mustang without reducing one’s life expectancy. Yes, you’d probably be faster in a Lancer Evolution. But it wouldn’t be nearly as much fun.

The revised Mustang is so good on side roads that one eager mainstream journalist who attended the media preview wrote an entire article praising the effectiveness of the limited-slip differential and “Track Pack” upgrades . . . on a car which didn’t have either. In fact, it was the same car we had as a tester, and I can tell you that although it didn’t have an LSD neither did it really need one.

I’d like to give this Mustang a five-star rating. It feels like a five-star car to me: solid, well-made, completely comfortable in its own skin. There’s just one problem, and it’s this: Ford’s built the ultimate ponycar around an engine which is seventy-five horsepower short of the competition. During the ninety-five percent of the car’s life in which the throttle isn’t flat to the floor, the Mustang satisfies in nearly any way one can imagine.

But late in a Saturday night stoplight-drag session, when the moon is full, the streets shine with neon reflection, and that sexy, slightly slutty girl in the halter top is watching, this cultured, tasteful, character-laden ponycar will have to yield to some Bowtie-mounted moron who actually refers to his car as “Bumblebee.” And that just ain’t right. Because this right here really is the only ponycar that has ever mattered.

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  • Dgran14 Dgran14 on Apr 12, 2009

    For a review on the Hyundai Genesis coupe with the RS3800 306 horsepower V6 vs the 2010 Mustang GT I beleive motortrend has a full comparison and the Mustang destroys it by outhandling it in every category and being at least a half a second in the quarter mile and 0-60. For 2grand more you can get the stang and roast the hyundai. yeah people will always modify, but when it comes to horsepower there's no replacement for displacement.

  • Auto insurance man Auto insurance man on Sep 17, 2009

    2010 Ford vs Chevy. I remember growing up in the 60'S people would fight over which was better. The tee shirt business made a bundle sell shirts bad mouthing the other brand. will the debate still be gong 10 years from now?

  • ToolGuy If I were Jeep, I would offer a version with better NVH and charge more for it.And then I would offer a version with worse NVH, and charge more for it. (There is an audience for both.)
  • Szi65724742 Not saying dude's not a douche, but Google Maps doesn't show a stop sign at any of the three Walmarts dumping onto 60 - there's a stop-line at best. And while you nerd-rage at a random dude in a truck, a similar thing happens ALL. THE. TIME here - get Prius'd and Tesla'd every single day. I got hit while stopped at a stoplight. 7:30am, sunny morning, clear, straight sightlines for a couple miles. Was a loaded down work van. I don't rage and yell to get those off the streets. Blame the drivers, not the vehicles.
  • AMcA This, from the same regulatory agency that mandates the two adjacent outboard and center rear seat buckles be incompatible, so that the impatient passenger who hits the wrong buckle the first time simply gives up. You oughta watch my husband in the back of a cab. Every time he tries to put the outboard belt into the center buckle. The belt and buckle are incompatible and won't latch. He says "godamn [insert vehicle brand]" and stays unbelted.
  • VoGhost Twenty comments, but none acknowledging that the 'Elon promised me a $35K car!' propaganda can end now. But then, accountability was never a strong suit of the anti-America crowd.
  • AMcA Old school VW HVAC controls were impossible. On Beetles and Type 2s, there were two little levers down on the floor next to the hand brake. No labels or anything, you had to know what they did. One got you more heat, one could direct it on the windshield or the floor or shut off the flow entirely. All operation was done by trial and error. Defrosting was almost impossible to get right in a hurry.