The 2010 Mustang delivers considerable improvement in fit, finish and interior build quality. By Shaun Bailey • Photos by Marc Urbano April 2009 We must give credit where credit is due. Ford is fully responsible for giving life back to the pony car. The 2005 retro recreation of a modern Mustang paved the way, much to Ford's chagrin, for the Dodge Challenger and Chevrolet Camaro. Were it not for these two, Ford easily could have sat on its laurels and done nothing to improve the 2010 model. But, competition is an American tradition — and Ford has stepped up to the plate to build the best Mustang yet. Four years ago, Mustang hit the proverbial nail on the head with its heritage-inspired style. The 2010 model doesn't move away from that, but rather enhances it. Every panel of the car, save the roof, has been reworked, but most won't spot it easily unless it's next to an old car or the taillights' new sequential turn signals catch their eye. Run your hands over the exterior and many detail differences can be found. The gas flap is flush to the body, the antenna is a stubby unit on the right-rear quarter panel and the hood has a brawny power bulge that no longer sports pimply windshield squirters. (Instead, these are mounted underhood.) The front bumper is slightly higher, resulting in a determined headlight look that seems to say "don't mess with me." The Mustang's exterior has been cleaned up, shaved off or honed like a hot-rodder would do, not the factory. But it wasn't just for looks. Some of that work has gone into aerodynamic improvements that help in a 7-percent efficiency gain over the previous GT, even though the drivetrain hasn't changed much. Our test car is a manual GT equipped with the Track Pack option. Not your average GT, but still a socially acceptable muscle car with 315 rumbly horsepower. It looks the part with 19-in. wheels, wide tires and dark chrome trim. Ford did research before messing with success, and found what topped customers' wish lists was a higher-quality interior. One that was as stylish as that in a '67, but built with modern soft-touch materials. They got it and many other improvements, such as the Microsoft Sync system that is a popular option in Fords these days. It offers voice recognition, Bluetooth connectivity, iPod controls and numerous other features that are best covered by the thick glovebox manual. I've spent nearly a week around 2010 Mustangs, and I really appreciate the new car's interior. Sure, it's not a luxury car, but the Premium package interior impresses. The optional interior lighting package includes illuminated doorsills that say Mustang; a classy touch. MyColor (which allows you to change the hue of the instruments and ambient lighting) is still an option, but works better than before, thanks to the revised gauge cluster. A lot of money has gone into the instrument panel. The easy way to see the quality is to look at the chrome rings that surround everything and inspect how tight a fit they have. Also feel the dash, and note that it's one big soft piece. There is a minimal amount of hard plastic, and that alone is a huge improvement. The Sterling Grey Metallic car in these photos is the GT that put down a 0–60 run of 5.3 seconds and, not surprisingly, had almost identical acceleration to the last Mustang GT we tested. The 3-valve 4.6-liter V-8 is mostly unchanged, having been brought up to spec with the last-generation Mustang Bullitt — peak rpm increases by 250 to 6500 with a resultant power jump to 315. It's not quite as quick as it could be, being hampered slightly by a rubbery shift feel. The basic suspension layout is unchanged. However, using what was learned from the KR and Bullitt development, the GT now has stiffer springs and stronger anti-roll bars. On our Track Pack-equipped car we also have performance brake pads front and rear, GT500-sourced anti-roll bars and rear lower control arms, stiffer dampers, a 3.73:1 final drive and a limited-slip differential, all put to best use with a recalibrated stability control system Ford calls AdvanceTrac. When the car isn't moving, you press and hold the button (its image is of a little Mustang fishtailing!) for five seconds to turn the annoying fun-limiter off. Note that you can't do this while rolling. Putting power to the pavement are sticky 220-treadwear Pirelli P Zero tires that really work some magic. As our test numbers show, the lateral grip and braking performance are greatly improved. The numbers are actually equal to or better than those of the KR we tested last October. That's right, it pulled the same lateral cornering force of 0.93g and shimmied through the slalom 2.5 mph quicker, at 69.3 mph — just a tick shy of the magic 70 number we attribute to serious performance cars. The steering could be criticized for being a little too light. Take one hand off the wheel and the other hand won't just rest on the wheel limply, but rather will pull the car in that direction, so it requires effort to go straight. With both hands on the wheel, though, the steering feels responsive (it's also the responsible way to drive). I've power-slid every Mustang I've tested, and this one did not escape my immature need to burn rubber. The ability of the 2010 GT to be balanced in a slide says a lot about how well it is set up. It shows the work the engineers went to making sure the car could be driven hard safely. This is easily the most balanced Mustang I've ever driven — more so than even the edgier KR. On the freeway, the GT is stable and predictable; the cabin is quiet and the throttle is pleasant to use. If I hadn't been shown the induction sound tube that pipes engine noise into the cabin I'd not have thought about it; it sounds so natural. Here's a secret: An engineer revealed that there is some sound-deadening material stuffed in the tube, which can be removed to enhance the noise if one chooses. Rolling around in 2010 Mustangs for a week has shown the new car to be a considerable improvement in fit, finish and interior build quality. In fact, it has the effect of making the entire car feel more cohesive. The previous-generation Mustang was enjoyable to drive, but I felt let down by its somewhat crude interior. No longer! Now if only Ford would devote some energy to an independent rear suspension, then maybe the Mustang might make the jump from pony car to sports car.