A Good Reason To Buy American
Affordable. Powerful. Rear-wheel drive.
It's what we all want: powerslides for a low monthly payment.
But with the new Hyundai Genesis coupe grabbing headlines like a publicly intoxicated Michelle Obama, Americans seem to have forgotten that it has been the Ford Mustang supplying them with that magic formula for fun for more than 40 years.
The Ford Mustang has defined affordable performance with two smoking rear tires since back when a hybrid was an Italian-bodied car powered by an American V8. You know, way back in the groovy 1960s. Even the laughable Ford Mustang II of the mid-1970s was fast for its day.
But Americans are not known for their long-term memory. Sometimes we need a little reminding. And this slate-gray 2010 Ford Mustang GT with the optional Track Pack is tire-shredding Ginko biloba.
Track Pack and the Big Bow Wow
But affordable isn't as affordable as it used to be. These days, blowing minds at the Big Bow Wow with your V8 muscle car will cost you north of $30 grand.
Base price on this 2010 Ford Mustang GT Premium is $30,995 and its MSRP with options will hit your wallet for $34,775. And it isn't even loaded (but it's close).
Performance options? Just one. The nicely named Track Pack. For $1,500 it adds a unique set of dampers, a front strut-tower brace, a shorter 3.73:1 axle ratio, a limited-slip differential, dual-piston front calipers with performance brake pads, recalibrated stability control, a set of cast-aluminum 19-inch wheels with 255/40ZR19 Pirelli P Zero summer performance tires, plus several pieces from the current Shelby GT500, including its front and rear antiroll bars, rear lower trailing links and front upper strut mounts.
As far as comfort stuff goes, this car has the Comfort Group, which includes heated front seats and six-way power adjustment for the passenger seat, a security package and the monster 10-speaker Shaker 1,000-watt audio system (which can cause bleeding). No navigation, no sunroof, although both are available. So are several different scoop and stripe options, which honestly might be worth a little extra scratch, as our very gray tester lacked a little eye candy.
Few at the Pizza City gave it a second glance, despite the fact that every body panel but the roof is new for 2010. And most of it is successful at keeping the Mustang retro instead of so last year. Positive comments we did get centered around the cool grille lights, which were a crowd favorite on the 2005-'09 model, and the new cowl-induction-style hood. The new taillights also drew some attention, but the comments weren't always flattering.
The new interior got mixed reviews as well. Only one guy thought the color-your-gauges-to-suit-your-mood isn't just dumb, but he had neon blue lights under his Evo. More than a few thought the new dash was a bit dull, and even when we told them it was ergonomically improved they didn't seem to care.
More Suspension Control, Please
Because we've driven the 2010 Mustang before, both on the street and around the racetrack at the Streets of Willow northeast of Los Angeles, we knew what to expect.
In that earlier report we complained about the new Mustang's over-boosted steering, its soft brake pedal and the way it flops around on its suspension. We wrote, "On winding canyon roads the 2010 Ford Mustang is still too big, too soft and too vague to really toss around with any measure of precision."
The Track Pack improved things, however, and we praised the additional athleticism. We wrote, "At speed on the road course at the Streets of Willow, the improvement from the Track Pack proved noticeable almost instantly. The retuned dampers do a better job of keeping the front end under control, so the initial turn toward the apex of the corner is more immediate. There's far less body roll, and the additional cornering grip allows you to push it a little harder at the limit."
But after two weeks behind the wheel of this 2010 Ford Mustang GT, we've decided that the Track Pack doesn't take things far enough. Oh, there's plenty of grip, and the Mustang has a real ability to change direction, but its suspension still dives, squats and leans far more than it needs to (Look at all that body roll in these powerslide photos. It looks like we disconnected the sway bars.), and it doesn't deal with crests or elevation changes as well as it could.
Basically the Mustang's suspension works. This car is easy to drive very quickly on a mountain road, we'd just like it to feel more precise than it does, more tied down to the road. And we still think the steering is over-boosted, although it feels better in the hills than it does in the city, and the brake pedal is still too soft.
Make It Less Friendly, Please
And then there's the Mustang's lack of attitude around town. In the city there just isn't enough edge to the drive. Everything about the 2010 Ford Mustang feels a bit sanitized for your protection. Like somebody at Ford told the engineers that the guy's wife might have to drive it, too, so make it feel...friendly.
"But it's a Mustang GT, sir, with the Track Pack," says the middle management engineer to the suit. "Shouldn't we dial it in for a real driver? The guy who knows that a steering wheel that can be turned with one finger is a bad thing?"
"You fool. Men don't buy cars anymore. Our focus groups and overpaid consultants have made it clear that we need to expand the Mustang brand's appeal deeper into the female consumer pool," retorts the suit through stale coffee breath. "Now get back to work. We've lost millions in just the time it has taken me to call you stupid."
The result is an unfulfilling experience on anything but a straight road. Pound the 2010 Ford Mustang GT into some curves and it dances, but it's up on its tippy toes and never settles down long enough for the driver to find a rhythm.
Even the powertrain, which makes plenty of thrust for those late nights at the Connecting Highway and Cross Bay Boulevard, isn't well suited for the twisties. Despite the short 3.73 gears, the soft bottom end of the 4.6-liter V8's power curve (it only starts making real power at 4,000 rpm) and the super-tall 2nd gear in the five-speed conspire to make tight corner exits unexciting unless you're attacking the road at race pace. If you're willing to commit, however, this Mustang will fly in and out of any bend. It just takes high entry speeds, aggressive turn-in and a heavy right foot to keep the revs up.
It does very well in long fast sweepers, where the suspension can take a set and lean on those sticky 19-inch Pirellis, but even on faster open roads, this Mustang will get left for dead by a more agile 2009 Nissan 370Z, although it can pull away from a larger 2009 Dodge Challenger R/T.
Regardless of its shortcomings, this car is fast. In fact, this is the quickest, best handling and best stopping normally aspirated Mustang we've ever tested. Plus, it lays two big patches of Italian rubber if you shift 2nd gear like you're trying to tear the shifter from the fancy new console. We like that.
Making that power is essentially the same engine package that powered the 2009 Ford Mustang Bullitt. To the same old 4.6-liter DOHC V8, Ford has added a cold-air intake plus a reprogrammed ECU that bumps the redline to 6,500 rpm. That same computer also has two different fuel programs: for regular and premium gas. Peak output is 315 horsepower at 6,000 rpm and 325 pound-feet of torque at 4,250 rpm, just like the Bullitt.
When we arrived at our test track with the tank filled with premium and the traction and stability control systems off, the Mustang hit 60 mph in 5.2 seconds (4.9 seconds with 1 foot of rollout like on a drag strip), and covered the quarter-mile in 13.5 seconds at 102.9 mph. That's impressive for a car that weighs 3,572 pounds. In the slalom, this Mustang with its Track Pack hardware recorded a speed of 68.4 mph, then circled the skid pad at an eyebrow-raising 0.91g. It also stopped from 60 mph in just 107 feet.
A Good Reason To Buy American
How do those numbers compare to the performance of the rivals of the 2010 Ford Mustang GT? They kick ass.
Of course we haven't tested a new 2010 Chevrolet Camaro SS yet, but the 2009 Dodge Challenger R/T isn't even close. The Mustang GT is quicker, faster and easily out-handles the Dodge. And that new Hyundai Genesis coupe everybody is swooning over? Well, the new Mustang GT out-performs it, too.
And so we've found that powerful rear-wheel-drive ride you crave. You know, the drift machine that can be bought on an hourly wage. And we've found it in red, white and blue.
The manufacturer provided Edmunds this vehicle for the purposes of evaluation.
Inside Line Executive Editor Michael Jordan says:
The Mustang GT is not the Shelby GT500KR. It does not have big, honkin' stripes down the middle of its hood. It does not have a supercharged 540-hp engine or tires 3 feet wide. It doesn't smoke the tires like a Pro Stock dragster, leap up in the air like KITT, or do stunt-driving tricks from some kind of lowbrow show on Speed TV. Neither does it hop, skitter, shudder, shake and otherwise perform like some kind of rabid dog. For me, this is a good thing.
Ever since the first Mustang was made out of the bits of a Ford Falcon economy car back in 1964, guys have been trying to stiffen up, snub down and pump up the hardware to create a road monster, usually with massive tires, antiroll bars as thick as your forearm and suspension with as little travel as possible. As we've learned through several generations of Mustang, the result is always more like a Falcon than a Mustang.
When you see the Mustang GT with Track Pack, don't be thinking Milan Dragway. Think Miller Motorsports Park and its spec-racer Mustang road racing series. This car has grip, it has manners thanks to a suspension calibration that's soft enough to let you know what's happening, and you can happily drive it to the store. The 4.6-liter Ford V8 likes to rev to make its power just like an old 289-cubic-inch Ford V8, the engine that Phil Remington, Carroll Shelby's ace fabricator, always said could have won the 24 Hours of Le Mans in 1965 with a plain old GT40 if only the Ford executives hadn't fallen in love with big-block NASCAR motors.
It's true that the Mustang GT does all things well rather than being particularly spectacular at any one thing, but that's what makes it the kind of car you can happily drive every day with no excuses. The Mustang GT is a package, not just a one-dimensional attitude.