- Powerful acceleration and great V8 soundtrack in GT trim
- Available Ford Sync system
- Good performance bang for the buck with the V8
- Weak and outdated V6
- Unimpressive fuel economy all around
From the driver's perspective, the 2010 Ford Mustang is a tale of two engines. The base Mustang with its aged V6 is a truck in sport-coupe clothing, a debatable 20-dollar upgrade at the Hertz counter. The Mustang V8, on the other hand, is a barrel-chested beast that lives to make stoplight mincemeat of similarly priced import sport coupes. But even the base Mustang V6 benefits from the numerous exterior and interior styling updates for 2010, and new optional features like Ford Sync are undeniably alluring. On this view, the 2010 Ford Mustang actually offers something for everyone: a rowdy V8-powered performance car for enthusiasts and a distinctively styled six-cylinder coupe for those whose tire-squealing days are behind them.
Let's start with the Mustang GT, a rambunctious purveyor of burbling exhaust pipes and smoking tires that can nonetheless tackle a twisting mountain road with admirable poise. Its non-independent rear suspension might not be the most technologically advanced design on the planet, but the GT makes up for it with a combination of a sweet 4.6-liter V8 and shrewd suspension tuning, both of which have benefited from a raid on the discontinued Mustang Bullitt's parts bin. The V8 gains 15 horsepower and 5 pound-feet of torque this year, thanks in large part to the Bullitt's cold-air induction system, and the springs and shocks have also been dialed up to Bullitt levels of stiffness. For those who aren't sufficiently impressed by the GT's improvements, the TrackPack option package tightens up the suspension even further.
The Mustang V6, on the other hand, is saddled with an ancient V6 that's intimately related to the venerable Ford Ranger pickup's optional 4.0-liter power plant. It continues to sell well because of its eye-catching retro styling and considerably lower cost, but in our opinion, there are simply better choices. The Mustang V6's base price makes us think of numerous other desirable sporty cars we'd rather spend that money on -- the Honda Civic Si and Hyundai Genesis Coupe 2.0T, to name a couple. However, we will confess that the Mustang V6 convertible would be our rental ragtop of choice, easily beating out the monumentally boring Chrysler Sebring.
Notwithstanding the Mustang V6's mediocrity, the V8-powered GT is certainly an enticing proposition. It's more nimble than the Dodge Challenger, and while the Chevrolet Camaro SS puts up competitive numbers, the smaller 'Stang GT is more maneuverable and fun to drive. One might also consider the Hyundai Genesis Coupe V6 and the Nissan 370Z, though neither can match the Mustang's melodious V8. All said, the Mustang V6 may be the dog of this show, but the GT is a thoroughbred pony that offers one of the best sub-$30,000 rides in the business.
WHAT'S NEW FOR 2010
The 2010 Ford Mustang puts a bounce in its gallop with rejuvenated styling inside and out. It also boasts larger wheels, standard stability control and more power for the V8-powered GT model. Handling has been improved across the board, and the GT benefits from suspension tuning from last year's discontinued Bullitt edition. An optional GT TrackPack further sharpens the Mustang GT's suspension for track duty. Additionally, Ford's voice-activated Sync multimedia integration system is now available for the Mustang.
TRIMS & EQUIPMENT
The 2010 Ford Mustang is available as a coupe or convertible in four trim levels: V6, V6 Premium, GT and GT Premium. The base V6 starts with 17-inch alloy wheels, keyless entry, cruise control, air-conditioning, full power accessories and a CD audio system with an auxiliary audio jack. The V6 Premium adds upgraded 17-inch wheels, leather upholstery, a power driver seat, Sync, color-adjustable gauges, a leather-wrapped steering wheel, upgraded interior trim and a Shaker 500 stereo system with a six-CD changer. The V8-powered GT comes with the base V6's features plus 18-inch alloys, dual exhaust tips, a limited-slip rear differential, a rear spoiler and foglamps. The GT Premium is essentially a GT with different 18-inch wheels and the V6 Premium's roster of features.
Options on the base Mustang V6 include an exterior appearance package and an anti-theft system. The V6 Premium unlocks a slew of packages and options in addition to those available on the base model, including the Pony Package (consisting of various exterior styling enhancements), the Comfort Package (power passenger seat, heated front seats, auto-dimming rearview mirror) and the Electronics Package (voice-activated navigation system with travel link, automatic climate control). Also available are remote start, xenon headlamps, a glass roof, a tonneau cover for convertible models and a back-up camera (which requires the Electronics Package). The GT can be outfitted with a 3.73 Rear Axle Package, which provides upgraded front brakes and a recalibrated stability control system in addition to a performance-biased 3.73:1 axle ratio. The GT Premium can be had with all the V6 Premium's and GT's options plus a 3.55 rear axle, an array of 18-inch and 19-inch wheels and the even more powerful Shaker 1000 sound system (not available with the Electronics Package). Finally, the TrackPack for GT models contributes 19-inch summer tires, the 3.73:1 axle package and numerous suspension tweaks designed to facilitate expanded handling abilities.
INTERIOR & SAFETY
The 2010 Mustang's cabin retains its characteristic retro design while adding significantly higher-quality materials to the mix. The result won't fool you into thinking you're driving a luxury coupe, but it's a notably nicer interior than we're used to seeing in a Mustang. Major controls are simple to operate and the seats are comfortable, though the base seats could use more lateral support (the GT's seats have more aggressive bolstering). The optional Sync system provides useful voice-integration technology for music and Bluetooth functions. Both the Mustang coupe and the convertible offer seating for four, and average-size adults can fit in back, but they'll be a bit cramped. Trunk capacity is decent, with 12.3 cubic feet in the coupe and 9.7 in the convertible.
Antilock four-wheel disc brakes, front-seat side airbags and stability control are standard on all Mustangs. Though crash tests for the 2010 Mustang hadn't been released at the time of this writing, last year's Mustang earned a perfect five stars for front-impact protection and side-impact protection of front passengers. The convertible got a five-star rating for rear side-impact protection, while the coupe got four stars. In Insurance Institute for Highway Safety testing, the '09 Mustang convertible, the only model tested, scored "Acceptable" (the second highest of four ratings) in frontal-offset tests and "Good" (the highest rating) for side-impact tests.
PERFORMANCE & HANDLING
The rear-wheel-drive 2010 Ford Mustang comes standard with a five-speed manual transmission, and a five-speed automatic is optional. The Mustang V6 is powered by a 4.0-liter V6 that produces 210 hp and 240 lb-ft of torque, while the Mustang GT boasts a 4.6-liter V8 with 315 hp and 325 lb-ft of torque (335 lb-ft on premium fuel, which is not required). Expect a 0-60-mph sprint in the low 5-second range for the GT model, with the V6 trailing its brawnier brother by a considerable margin. Despite the performance gap, the archaic V6 is barely better on gas than the thirsty GT -- last year's Mustang V6 was rated at 16 mpg city/24 mpg highway and 19 mpg combined (17/26/20 mpg with the manual transmission), while the GT came in at 15/22/18 (15/23/18 with the manual).
Acceleration is respectable from the industrial-sounding V6, but if at all possible, we recommend anteing up for the vastly more enjoyable (yet hardly less fuel-efficient) Mustang GT, which brings a snorting 315-hp V8 to the party. We can't think of another engine at this price point that sounds as good and pulls as hard as the GT's V8. In the handling department, the 2010 Ford Mustang infamously utilizes an old-school solid-axle rear suspension that helps keep costs down, yet Ford has managed to endow the Mustang with a fairly comfortable ride and responsive handling, particularly in GT trim. The TrackPack makes the Mustang even sharper, though you still won't confuse this American throwback with high-tech handlers like the 370Z, RX-8, 128i and Genesis Coupe.
The 2010 Ford Mustang is a dog and pony show -- the base V6 is crude and unpleasant, but the V8-powered GT is a muscular sports coupe to be reckoned with.