2010 Ford Mustang GT – Still King of the Hill

April 27, 2010

10musgt-s.jpgAh the Ford Mustang, what more can be said about this magnificent automobile? The Mustang back in 1964 created the “pony car” segment and it has been golden ever since.  Well almost – from about 1974 to 1981 there were some very lean years for Mustang performance. And when performance did come back in 1982 in the form of a 157 horsepower 2 bbl. 5.0 liter H.O. V8 powered Mustang GT, performance fans were jumping for joy. Hard to believe this today when a lot of 4-cylinder motors make more than 157 horsepower. Starting in 1982 with the reintroduction of the Mustang GT, the mojo returned and in recent years the GT has produced some mighty impressive horsepower and torque.

When the last of the Mustang GT’s competition (the Camaro Z28 and Pontiac Trans Am) bit the dust after the 2002 model year, Ford could have just coasted by with doing the very minimal to the Mustang GT and it would have sold well. After-all it was a good offering and the only game in town (with the exception of the 2004-2006 Pontiac GTO which was as popular as a skunk). However Ford instead went full steam ahead and released for 2005 an all-new Mustang with retro styling. This was the most attractive Mustang in 35 years and took the automotive world by storm.  Not to mention the GT version had more horsepower than its predecessor and was the best handling Mustang up to that time.

Now fast forward to 2010, Ford has updated the exterior design of the Mustang again. It was a big gamble for Ford since the 2005 redesign was such a big hit. The risk of messing up a well styled car is very great indeed. In other words usually lightning never strikes twice. However Ford beat the odds and managed to release an even more appealing Mustang for 2010 than its predecessor. The lines are familiar but the hood is lower. The front end is meaner in appearance (the big round front grill driving lights are still there) – overall the 2010 GT’s look is one that screams performance. The tail lights are revised and now have sequential turning signals (that light up in sequence when activated) which were first introduced on the 1965 Ford Thunderbird.

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In a world of mostly boring cars, the Mustang GT is an honest-to-goodness fun car. It’s the type of car that has all the modern conveniences and electronics to keep it contemporary but its allegiance is to a time forty plus years ago when performance cars were loved and enjoyed by their owners. Many of these cars were thrashed hard – put to the test in drag strip and stop light races. Owners did not think of their car’s future value they just drove the heck out of them, and had a blast doing so. The 2010 Mustang GT re-creates this fun; it has rear-wheel drive with a solid rear axle, a powerful V8 under the hood, and an exhaust note that’s meaner than a junkyard dog. The GT is the type of car you can drive into an empty parking lot and do those beloved burnouts (until you realize how much a new set of rear tires are going to cost). It’s also the type of car you turn off the radio and lower the side windows just to hear the rumble of the harmonious exhaust. The Mustang GT is as close to a timepiece back to the glory days of the muscle car era as you’ll find on a new car lot.

The heart of the GT is a 281 CID (4.6 liter) Single Overhead Cam (SOHC) V8. Ironically its displacement is close to the 289 CID (OHV) V8 that was a performance icon in the first generation Mustang. The fuel injected 4.6 liter SOHC V8 has 3 valves per cylinder (24 10musgt-3.jpgvalves total). It produces 15 more horsepower than the same motor in the 2009 Mustang GT due to the addition of a factory cold air induction system for 2010. Horsepower for the GT’s 4.6 SOHC V8 is a very healthy 315. And with a total of 325 lb-ft. torque on tap this engine pulls strong. This all equates to a 0-60 mph time of 4.9 seconds and a 1/4 mile of 13.6 seconds at 105 mph (July 2009, Car and Driver magazine). Now let’s put these numbers into perspective – not even the meanest of Mustangs during the golden era could touch the 2010 GT’s performance numbers. As a comparison the 1969 Boss 429 Mustang went 0-60 mph in 7.1 seconds and did the 1/4 mile in 14.09 seconds at 102.85 mph (July 1969, Car Life magazine) and the Cobra Jet 428 CID V8 powered 1969 Mustang Mach I ran the 1/4 mile in 13.9 seconds (March 1969, Car Life magazine). For the Mustang this was as good as it got back in the day, and the 2010 Mustang GT’s performance numbers show that the new Mustang gives a heck of a lot of punch for the money. As good as GT performance is for 2010 is, the 2011 will get a new 5.0 liter DOHC V8 rated at 412 horsepower and 390 lb-ft of torque (that’s right 65 lb-ft more or torque and a whopping 97 more horsepower). Stay tuned for coverage of this monster in the future.

At a base price of $28,395 for a Mustang GT (coupe), it does not get any better than that for traditional muscle car fans.  There’s also a Mustang GT Premium (that includes a lot of nice standard goodies) which starts at just $31,395. The GT Convertible has a base price at $33,395 ($36,395 for the GT Premium Convertible). 

There are two transmissions available on the GT: a standard 5-speed manual transmission and an optional 5-speed automatic (5th gear on both these transmissions is an overdrive gear). For 2010 there is no available paddle shifter option on the automatic transmission, it will be introduced on the 2011 Mustang GT as an option. And if it works as well as the paddle shifter in the new Taurus SHO, it should be a dynamite setup. However the fun ticket for 2010 is the 5-speed manual; the throws are short and smooth not to mention that the round shifter knob has old school flair. The downside is a 5-speed manual has been available on the Mustang GT since 1983, and a 6-speed manual has been long overdue, even GM gave its performance pony cars starting in 1993 (with the Camaro Z28 and Trans Am) a 6-speed manual option. Fortunately Ford has finally seen the light and the 2011 Mustang GT will have a new 6-speed manual option.

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Handling in recent years on the Mustang GT has improved by leaps and bounds (unlike the Fox body years where handling was decent but below par compared to the same year GM F-bodies). When the all-new 2005 Mustang GT arrived its handling was so superior to previous GT models that it made previous models (especially the Fox bodied GTs) seem like they had grocery cart handling. The 2010 Mustang GT is a world class handler, when driving the GT it’s hard to believe it has a rear axle and not an independent rear suspension. Ford has found the perfect compromise; the rear axle offers great traction 10musgt-5.jpgoff the line yet with the GT’s suspension setup it does not hamper handling and rough road traction. Ford decided to go with the solid rear axle route since an independent suspension would have increased the GT’s base price substantially.  Driving the new 2010 Mustang GT, quickly makes one a believer that Ford’s strategy was smart. And with Motor Trend magazine averaging a maximum .95 g on the skidpad, it’s quite apparent this is one great handling car. The front suspension is a strut design and the rear is a multi-link setup, both front and rear use coil springs. The suspension has a front and rear anti-roll bar. All this stuff sounds good but it’s the way Ford has tuned this suspension that makes this car such a blast to drive in the turns. The car feels much lighter and more nimble than the little less than 3,500 lb curb weight would have you believe. There’s also very little understeer in the turns and the steering is precise – the car goes where you point it without complaining. One of the most overlooked areas of a performance car is not overlooked here; there are four beefy disc brakes to bring the Mustang to a very prompt stop. 

Options on the Mustang GT are many but even with the Premium package the coupe with a smattering of goodies will not usually top the $34,000 mark. Options worth mention are the top notch SYNC navigation/entertainment system and the (non-removable) glass roof option which is a good alternative for those who want to brighten up the interior cabin but don’t want the convertible model.
 
Unlike the Dodge Challenger which has retro exterior queues and a modern interior, the Mustang GT’s interior is just as retro as the exterior. Though the interior is ultra retro, it is really classy. It’s the complete overall artwork of the interior that catches your eye. The 10musgt-2.jpgbeautiful steering wheel, the round gauges in retro pods, aluminum trim, a stunning (manual or automatic) shifter, and some of the best looking seats on the market (not to mention comfortable) make this interior stand out . Compare this interior to the interior of the beloved 1986 Mustang GT which was as appealing as the plastic benches in McDonalds – what a difference 24 years make.

Visibility out the windshield and other glass areas from the interior cabin is much better than its Challenger and Camaro competitors. The seating position is also not too low unlike the Camaro where you feel like you are sitting on the floor and looking out high windows. Headroom is also ample for taller drivers in the Mustang. And for a fastback car the blind spots are not as bad as you would expect since the fixed rear glass windows aid in visibility.

A few years back the Mustang was the king of the hill, it was the lone soldier standing. Now with serous competition from the Dodge Challenger R/T and Chevrolet Camaro SS nipping at its heels, the Mustang is in the middle of a red hot pony car war. However even with a horsepower deficit (which its lighter weight vs. its competitors, helps to lessen), the GT still manages to remain the king of the pony car segment that the Mustang created back in 1964. It’s the most well-rounded new pony car and still offers the best overall bang for the buck. Only downside to the new Mustang GT is that once you drive it you got to buy it, because giving the keys back after a test drive is like parting with a loved one.   

Written contents in this article – © 2010 Pete Dunton – All Rights Reserved

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