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Click above for high-res image gallery of the 2010 Ford Mustang GT

It's a new day and we all know what that means! Yet another post about the Mustang. Most of us here at Autoblog are unabashed Mustang fans. So when the call comes from Dearborn to drive yet another new Mustang, we invariably set about rearranging schedules. Such was the case last week. No sooner had we returned to frost-bitten Detroit after the LA Auto Show than the call came to return to SoCal. It was time to take the 2010 Mustang off the LA Convention Center stand and out into what passes for the real world in these parts.

Before we hopped into the updated Mustangs, Ford wanted to give us a refresher on what was being left behind. We were supplied with 2009 models to drive from our hotel to the staging area in Malibu. Anyone who has ever spent time in a 2005-09 Mustang is immediately aware that the weak link is its interior. In a word, it looked and felt cheap. The order of the day for the new 2010 model is refinement. Find out after the jump if Ford has made a Mustang worthy of competing in the now crowded class of modern day muscle cars.

Photos Copyright ©2008 Drew Phillips / Weblogs, Inc.

When the S197 Mustang debuted as a 2005 model, it was actually the first Mustang ever to get its own purpose built platform that wasn't shared with any other Ford product. The Mustang has always been a solid selling car for Ford, which is why it's been produced uninterrupted for nearly 45 years. Nonetheless, the Mustang engineering team was working with a budget when that 2005 model was being developed. As a result, they put the focus on the mechanical bits at the expense of some of the touchy-feely stuff.

The result was easily the best driving Mustang ever, if not necessarily the best working environment for the driver. The 2010 model is clearly not an all new car. It is, however, a very significant refresh. The hard plastics that comprised the old dashboard are now gone, replaced with soft touch materials and real aluminum trim. The basic design concept remains but has evolved into something more grown up and functional, as well as more attractive.

When we revealed the new Mustang a few weeks ago, some of you complained that the exterior had hardly changed and wondered what all the fuss was about. Clearly the new version still looks like a Mustang, but when you put them side by side the differences become much more stark. The 2005 model was a huge leap forward and at the same time backward when it debuted. We still think it looks great and embodies what a Mustang should be with its long hood, short deck proportion, forward leaning grille and deeply set headlights.

Park it next to the new Mustang, though and the current model looks almost boxy by comparison. The DNA is there, but the even more aggressive nose, curved rear shoulders, more contoured flanks and chamfered rear corners take it to a whole new level. Call us fanboys if you must, for we surely are, but we definitely love this updated look. I say that having plunked down my own hard earned cash on a 2005 model soon after that car launched, which I still own.

After chief engineer Tom Barnes again reviewed the new Mustang's highlights, it was time to drive. Drew Phillips and I were handed the keys to a Kona Blue GT with the "Track Pack" and a 5-speed manual transmission. My own Mustang is one of the comparatively rare Sonic Blue versions and I've never been fond of the Vista Blue that replaced it in 2006. The Kona Blue is much more like Sonic but even darker, and if I were spending my cash again would opt for this color.

Ford had a Grabber Blue example for us when we went into the design studio to photograph the 2010 Mustang before LA Auto Show, and that's the same car Drew chose to shoot for this story. The Grabber Blue was less than enthralling under studio lighting with many details of the new body work getting lost. Out in the California sunshine, though, it was a whole different story. The rest of the new color pallet including the Gold and Dark Metallic Red are also stunners.

Enough about the crayon box, what is the 2010 Mustang like to drive? The key word is refinement. Refinement can be a double edged sword, though. Refining something too much can sap the life out of it. Wonder Bread is made from highly refined wheat and also flavorless. Give us a loaf of hand-made sourdough, rustic or paesano any day.

Just like a good loaf of bread, a car's character can be found in some of its rough edges. The sound and the feel of it. The heart of a car like the Mustang is its engine. You want to hear it rumble and sense the slight vibration as it turns over. Barnes' team has refined those elements of the Mustang that don't enhance its character in order to amplify those that do. Changes like reshaping the mirrors, moving the radio antenna from the front fender to the rear quarter and moving the windshield washer nozzles behind the trailing edge of the hood all cut wind noise inside the cabin. The result is that the sonic signature of the Mustang's 4.6L V8 has now been enhanced.

The new car has 3.5-inch tail pipes from which emanate a wonderful rumble when the engine is opened up. Once we turned off Pacific Coast Highway to head up through Topanga Canyon, we were still stuck behind some slow moving traffic. We backed off to fall away from the traffic, dropped the windows and a couple of gear ratios and floored it. The song that echoed off the canyon walls would make the heart of any performance car fan melt. A deep, throaty exhaust note emerged with no hint of drone. It's the kind of thing that makes you thankful for $1.50 gas, because you can keep stabbing the throttle to hear it again without wallet remorse.

After what seemed like an eternity behind slow poke SUVs wasting curves we would kill for in Michigan, we finally got some relatively open space to run. However, it wasn't until we saw the sign along Mulholland with the squiggly line and "Next 2 Miles" message that we could truly appreciate what the Mustang engineering team has wrought from this seemingly unsophisticated chassis.

We hear the constant nattering about the Mustang not having an independent rear suspension. Frankly, it's quite simple. It doesn't need it. Most of the people who race Mustangs do it on drag strips where a live axle is the best weapon. Elsewhere, Mustang FR500s have been winning consistently in the Grand Am series for the last several years.

Along Mulholland Drive, the 2010 Mustang GT proved to be very neutral with nary a hint of understeer. The brakes dissipated speed with a firm, easily modulated pedal and squeezing the throttle blasted the car away from apexes. Body roll was held to a minimum and the 'Stang had excellent mechanical grip. There was some pretty rough pavement along our drive route, but the chassis kept the tires firmly planted on the ground following whatever contours were there. There was none of the dreaded side-stepping typically associated with rear-drive live-axle cars.

The car we drove was equipped with the optional Track Pack that adds retuned springs, dampers, bushings and upgraded brake linings. The Track Pack also includes 19-inch summer tires in place of the usual all-season rubber. In spite of the more performance oriented tuning, the ride remained comfortable on even the roughest pavement we encountered.

Despite this being a driving report, we have to mention that the new interior is also a huge step forward for the Mustang. The new shape of the console and door arm-rests is a welcome change and the chamfered spokes on the steering wheel make it more comfortable to hold. One thing we'd like to see further improved is the seats. The front seats are comfortable and offer decent thigh support, but they could use more lateral support. An optional sport seat would also be a welcome addition.

No V6 models were available for us to drive, but that's just fine. The 2010 Mustang GT is every bit as good as our previous favorite Mustang, the 2008 Bullitt, but with a much improved interior. Now the 2010 model is the best production Mustang ever, and barring any big price increase, will remain the best performance car bargain on the road. Now where did I put that Wilson Pickett CD?

Photos Copyright ©2008 Drew Phillips / Weblogs, Inc.

Our travel and lodging for this media event was provided by the manufacturer.

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    • 1 Second Ago
      • 6 Years Ago
      I bought the 2007 GT then traded it for an '08 Shelby GT 500 this past summer. Besides the incremental horsepower, the best part of the switch was the difference in the rear suspension and the way the GT 500 handles corners and turns. Don't get me wrong, the Shelby doesn't handle like a BMW, but the regular GT was so bad, the whole car would jump when I hit a pot hole and I could feet the back end of the car "swinging out" when on a curve.

      I agree that the interior is cheap looking, especially for the price of the Shelby, but the interior trim package was a nice option on the '07 GT

      By the way, I love the Vista Blue color and get a lot of compliments on it.
      • 6 Years Ago
      I hate hearing the "It doesn't need IRS" argument. The defense is "These cars do fine in a straight line" or "Look at the FR500..." or my all time favorite "You'll never use it". I mean seriously, that's like saying why have a passenger seat, you can't drive from there. Retards. The truth of the matter is not all turns are flat. Not all roads are flat. There are bumps, potholes, dips in the road, and a live axle will NEVER corner like IRS. A live axle in a 2 door coupe is dangerous and seriously degrades handling. Its the 21st century. IRS was in the SN95 Cobra and it was a great step forward (of course it was built by for so it did need improvement). Ride quality cannot be achieved with this ancient suspension that ford insists is for "cost savings". Every car on the market that ford is competing against, put IRS in their car. Its expected, it is a no brainer. Stop defending mediocrity. I hope this recession puts such a hurt on the "big three" that they have no alternative but to offer cars with real innovation and 21st century enhancements, for the same price or lower than they are charging now. the cars they are putting out now should embarrass us as a nation. I say all this, owning an 04 GT, (working on doing an IRS swap on it). It should not be left to the after market to make the mustang the car it should have been out the door.
      • 6 Years Ago
      Great Review! Too bad it wasn't a GT with the new NAV unit, the screen on that thing is huge, 8". I'll just have to wait for the "In the Autoblog Garage" edition. Fantastic Photo Gallery too! But I think actual captions rather than Lorem Ipsum might have been a little bit more helpful for us readers. Lol. But hey, being up at midnight can to that to you.
      • 6 Years Ago
        • 6 Years Ago
        Someone went a little crazy with the color/saturation settings in Photoshop... I may be wrong but pretty sure the car doesn't have incandescent paint.
      • 6 Years Ago
      Mustang vs Camaro... go!
      • 6 Years Ago
      haha the geak has jokes XP
      • 6 Years Ago
      not a fan of the grabber blue, still made one of the pics my wall paper.
      • 6 Years Ago
      Don't want one but I could see myself staring at one as it rolled by. I really like the look of the Mustangs since 05. I'm not feeling it with the interior but if it's made of better stuff then that's a step in the right direction there.
      • 6 Years Ago
      Gorgeous. That sounds like an awesome combination of dynamics, beauty, sound and decent price, and with cheaper petrol, you won't need a bailout to drive it properly.
      • 6 Years Ago
      Hey! Where is my spoiler??
      • 6 Years Ago
      @David (from way above)

      Recaro seats in this Mustang would absolutely complete the interior. I already like this car, but that would definitely send me over the edge. Over the edge of putting one in my garage, I mean.
      • 6 Years Ago
      Pathetic, pathetic, how pathetic?
      It looks like the END of the 'big' three!
      You don't to put a 6.0L engine in a car to sell it.
      It is a car not a tractor! And you only cruise 75MPH on the freeway anyway.
      And how longer you want to go down the RETRO road????
      We have the year 2008 and not 1965, remember?
      BTW they drive 130MPH on the Autobahn over there with a little 2.0L engine.


      The car troll
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