We spent a few precious hours in the 2010 Ford Mustang GT toward the end of last year. More recently, we were able to get a Kona Blue model in the Autoblog Garage, and this time, we spent a full week exploring the car's metropolis manners in between long rounds in the saddle, throwing the car over hill and dale... and around the track. This Mustang promises much, and on our First Drive, it delivered as promised. Follow the jump to see if it could do the same for an entire week.
Photos copyright ©2009 Drew Phillips / Weblogs, Inc
This particular blogger and Autoblog photographer Drew Phillips have had a running tête-à-tête concerning the Mustang. Phillips has extolled the car's blank-slate possibilities and massive performance for a massive bargain. I, conversely, have never really paid much attention to the Mustang, even though where I grew up they were thought so important to a young man's upbringing as to be considered one of the four food groups. Full Disclosure: I haven't even driven one since 1996, and that car was at least five years old – a GT that broke loose so quickly under my youthful foot that it's a wonder the car never wound up with the kind of body modifications you can only get from a ditch.
But that's in another part of the country, where the Mustang, like a horse, provides warm comfort. In Los Angeles, however, the Mustang is a rental car. Oh, there are plenty of Mustangs in the greater LA area, but if you happen to see one in the trendy parts, it's a safe bet that there's a Hertz contract in the glovebox... or else it's owned by someone who just moved out from that other part of the country.
So part of our quest was to see if the car deserves attention in The Big Smoke. The Answer? Yes. Yes, it does.
And that affirmation starts with the way it looks: the lines on the new Mustang are, finally, properly sorted. It's been a few generations coming, but Ford's designers have figured out which influences to use from the iconic models of the past and how to blend them without unnecessary frills. There is no part of this car's design that snagged our attention in a way that made us wonder "Why did they put that there?" What remains is a suite of firm lines and broad curves accompanied by the occasional crease that glare back as if to ask, "You lookin' at me?" The only part of the car that we kept coming back to and going "Hmmm..." is the now more rounded rear end, which in profile juts out so much it makes us think of a cantilevered shelf hanging out over a canyon. Compared to the tightly-cropped front end, it's a lot of overhang. Still, the coupe is drawn very well – the way the rear glasshouse descends into the tail and the way the car broadens from C-pillar to shoulder to wheel arch means you don't notice it unless you're looking for it.
Inside, the well-drawn line continues, but the dissection is a little more complex. The first encounter gets a definite thumbs-up. The seats look great, the stitching is well done, the door panels have beautiful symmetry and the scalloped dash is a nice touch. The plastic surround in the center console is pedestrian, but the overall look is well done, and the layout and buttons are terrific. The steering wheel is pretty, although its buttons need a little learnin' to get a manage on.
And the cabin has some fantastic touches. The ambient lighting is nifty, and even though it's everywhere, it avoids being annoying or gimmicky (even though we must admit that the first time we looked down and saw our feet bathed in blue light, like something out of Close Encounters, it took a moment to digest). The word "Mustang" in the sill plates lights up in the same hue, and there are also blue light rings in the cupholders. It might sound hokey now, but if you're looking for a quarter in the cupholder late one night, all of a sudden it's genius, and the cupholder has a cover so you never even need to know things are aglow in there.
We especially need to single out the touchscreen, which is so good that it really should make some luxury cars blush, and it couldn't be easier to operate. The reversing camera image is spectacularly bright – even at night – and comes with hash marks for range. The stereo and climate control screens feature big, simple buttons. The map resolution is first-rate and has a lane view to tell you which lane you should be in, and the navigation voice doesn't drown you with commands. The power windows are one-touch up and down for driver and passenger, the cupholders hold two full-sized drinks at the same time, and the individual taillights flash in sequence in the direction you're turning when you use the signal.
Of course, there were a few niggles. The dome light can't be turned off if the door is open, so you can forget about doing a sneaky late night flyby at Sally's house unless she's going to hop in the car Dukes of Hazzard style. The 12-volt outlet is in the cubby behind the cupholders. If you want to charge your phone, you have to keep it in the cubby if you want to close the lid, because the lid won't close over the charger cable. But if you keep the phone in the cubby, it's hard to get to quickly. The chrome bezels on the gauges also reflect in the windshield at night, and in this author's opinion, Ford went a little too retro with the gauges. The hash marks are so close together on the speedometer, and the needle is, relatively, so big, that the best you can do is get your speed to within about +/- 3 mph unless it's a number that ends in zero.
But we can and would live with all of that. Happily. Because this car is big fun.
Speaking of big, as America's car, the Mustang is done in big American style. Get in, and compared to some of its ostensible competition it's as if you went to the sports car drive-through and asked them to Biggie Size your grub (which is still, thankfully, a few steps down from the Dodge Challenger-size meal). The cabin is big, the seats are big, the steering wheel is big, the shifter stands tall, the shifts are long... it's all just... big. Whip it around a track after having been in a few closer-fitting cars, and getting in the Mustang feels like getting in a FedEx truck. But that initial feeling is where any comparison to a lorry ends.
The sound made by the Mustang's 4.6-liter V8, now rated at 315 horsepower and 325 lb-ft of torque, is outstanding, a non-stop conversation that takes place between the exhaust and your ears. There is no language involved – you start the car and your auditory canal responds with, "Oh, hello!", knowing full well in your rumbling bones that this is how an American V8 is meant to sound and how you're meant to feel.
Throw the car in first and then, well, notice that there are only four gears after that. The idea of a five-speed transmission strikes us as archaic, but those five gears are arguably better used in the Mustang than some of the six-speed competition gets along with an extra cog. That doesn't mean it's faster, but it can be less work – on the track we shifted a lot more in other cars to stay in the power band, yet we didn't go any faster.
But it's plenty fast and a little loose – not sloppy, but yes, loose – even with the Track Pack. The additional goodies that come with the Track Pack option, like uprated brakes and dampers, a strut brace and limited-slip diff, do make a difference, but not a startling one. The regular car wallows a bit more, but the Track Pack still felt like it might be good for some extra cornering speed over non-equipped cars. Regardless, the brakes could still use some help – they won't quit on you, but they begin fading more quickly than expected when push came to shove. If you only have $1,500 to spend on making your Mustang faster, however, the Track Pack is probably worth it. If you have a little more, you're probably safe skipping it and getting your own parts – we'd start by firming up the suspension.
Don't get us wrong, though; the car is plenty fast – fast enough to acquit itself of some of its softer leanings. And while it might be a little cushy and the seats aren't exactly Recaros, the thing handles. Give us this car and $5,000 and we'll beat a bunch of people who spent a lot more. Give us this car and $10,000 and we'll spend part of that money painting pretty pictures on the Mustang's rear end because that's all most folks would ever see.
And it does have something that some of its faster-through-the-curves competition doesn't have: good highway manners due to a decided lack of frenzy. You can take a road trip in this car and emerge without that I-just-got-off-an-amusement-park-ride sensation where you bones are still jiggling hours after exiting the driver's seat. That means a lot.
All of which means that the basic Mustang template has only been expanded upon. It will still do the business at the drag strip and the Burger King on Friday night, and you can add a much wider ability to swallow town and (curved) track duty. And it's hot. And it's fast. And it's only $27,995 in base V8 GT guise. If you're looking for something not to like, best look elsewhere.
It's safe to assume that this car will have its home territories on lock. Will it actually get the attention it deserves in a place like LA? Well, that's for other people and their checkbooks to answer. But this blogger will admit to Mr. Drew Phillips, right here in public, "You're right about the Mustang. At least you're right about this one. I get it." We are pleased to report our week with the 2010 Mustang was spent astride one of the Four Horsemen, and his name was Conquest... well, maybe until the new Chevrolet Camaro comes along.
Photos copyright ©2009 Drew Phillips / Weblogs, Inc