By Kevin Gordon
Have you ever struggled for too long over a purchase? Weighing the pros and cons, going to the store, looking at your desired item, and ultimately pushing off your decision? Then finally, you pull the trigger only to find out that a new version will be released in the next few weeks. If you could remove yourself from the situation, you would probably realize that you still purchased something great, but that new and improved version is always going to haunt you. That is the story with the 2010 Mustang GT. Right after spending a week with Ford’s mid-level muscle car offering, they announced that the 14 year-old 4.6 liter V8 that lives under the hood of GT Mustangs will be replaced with a completely new 5.0 liter motor. As Alex posted, this new engine will gain 97 horsepower next year while retaining its same EPA MPG numbers.
The current Mustang GT’s 315 HP is adequate, but the muscle car wars of the 2010s require a larger number. That notwithstanding, the current version of the 4.6 is a sweet little motor. It may need to be revved to make all of its power, but it sounds just wonderful in the process. Overall, the 2010 Ford Mustang GT Convertible delivers almost everything a pony car buyer could want. The question remains if it can live outside of the shadow of its soon-to-be born big brother.
The most immediately striking feature of the car is the way it sounds. A quick turn of the key and after a satisfying V8 shake, the engine settles into a throaty burble. A number of people who went for rides in the car commented that they couldn’t believe that the exhaust was stock. The way this car sounds is almost worth the price of entry and it is clear that here is where Ford focused some of its engineering prowess. Three pieces go into auditory experience: a well tuned exhaust, a cold air induction kit (that has found its way over from the now-retired Bullitt Mustang), and an induction sound tube that brings induction noise into the cabin. This extra sound tube may seem unnecessarily manufactured, but it is impossible to argue with the way this car sounds and what it accomplishes without any highway drone.
Ultimately, my impression of the Mustang’s power wasn’t that it required more HP and torque, but instead it needed a shorter rear-end gear ratio, better brakes, and 18” wheels. With the stock 3.55 gears it is geared too tall for tail-wagging fun. It is completely possible to get the tail to step out, but a shorter ratio would provide a much more enjoyable dancing partner. There are two reasons for the setup. The tall gear allows for improved fuel economy and it makes second gear reach 65 MPH+, allowing the most ham-fisted driver hit sixty without a second shift. The good news?
Changing rear ends in a Mustang is something a mid-level driveway mechanic could accomplish. Another check in the plus column is the transmission and clutch. While there may be some play in the shifter, it is a challenge to miss a gear and the clutch uptake is just right. This car included the cue ball shifter and it falls to hand in an ergonomic spot.
The brakes on Mustangs need to be improved. This has been a Mustang complaint for years, and it is something that Ford is addressing in 2011. There isn’t a lot of pedal feel, and what you find is a bit mushy. Even the upgraded brakes on the Shelby Mustang can be faded (and melted) badly as I found while abusing one on the Pocono Raceway road coarse. Finally, the larger diameter wheels found on this tester did help the visual aspects of the car, but do nothing for its dynamics. Those wheels do not dramatically change the ride, and just add more unsprung weight and less tire sidewall to absorb small road imperfections. Also, the larger wheels are a pricey addition that could be better spent on performance parts.
One thing that needs to be commended are the traction and stability control systems. Left in the default mode, both traction (spinning the tires in a straight line) and stability (sliding sideways) are kept in check. With one click of the stability button, traction control is removed (i.e. smoky burnouts are available) and some sideways slip is allowed. This allows lesser-skilled drivers to enjoy some tail-out antics without ending up parked backwards in their neighbor’s yard. A very long press-and-hold disables all traction and stability control. We should all be commending Ford for still allowing this mode and it is wonderful, especially in damp conditions. You can theoretically live out your drift fantasies in an empty parking lot without any electronic nannies. Brilliant.
It is inevitable that the Mustang GT is compared to the Chevy Camaro, and these days the Nissan 370z and Hyundai Genesis Coupe as well. The average person will be quick to point out that the Mustang is the only relic with a solid rear axle. Next, they will be quoting Jeremy Clarkson calling live axles parts from a Conestoga Wagon. In the ride and handling department, the Mustang does a fine job. It may not be the most refined ride, but it isn’t jarring, it doesn’t rattle, and even the convertible model seemed to limit any sort of body flex. The rear wheels do a great job of putting down power and you do not catch a hint of the wheel hop that can plague independent rear suspensions. It isn’t to say that diving into a rough surfaced corner at speed is the most confidence-inspiring exercise, but you are not automatically going to end up in a ditch. As this car is currently calibrated, it will push/understeer unless provoked by large amounts of throttle. It is a willing partner that is entertaining and that is ultimately what this enthusiast is trying to find.
Opening the large coupe door finds illuminated door sills and contrasting stitching on great-smelling hides. The seats are a bit wider and flatter than you would expect to find in a sports car, but they do a decent job of keeping you in place during spirited driving. The seat bottom is long enough to support this 6’1″ tester’s thighs, and still feels good after multiple hours in the proverbial saddle. The only major part that is missing is a telescoping steering wheel, the absence of which makes finding a perfect seating position difficult. You balance being the correct distance from the wheel or the pedals and end up settling for a bit too far from the wheel. Rear seat room is limited, as you’d expect, and only available for adults in emergency situations.
Overall the interior design and materials deserve to be commended. Materials are a major step forward from previous versions of the ‘Stang. It isn’t an Audi, but the entire design comes together to fit the expected image. One item of note are the metallic pieces on the steering wheel and shifter. They look great, and in mild temperatures, make you feel connected to the mechanical aspects of the car. I credit the designers for using real metal, not silver painted plastic. The issue with them is during extreme cold or hot weather they freeze or burn your hands. I’ve never been so certain that I needed to have a pair of driving gloves in a car before. With that said, it is something I would be happy to live with on a day-to-day basis.
All of us at Autosavant has applauded Ford’s recent efforts in tandem with Microsoft SYNC. This car is the first time I have experienced Sync without the navigation interface and it was excellent. Phone pairing is a simple process, my address book was downloaded from both a blackberry 8830 and HTC G1 without issue, and hands-free call quality is excellent with the top up. Almost amazingly, hands-free calling can be accomplished with the top down while traveling at less than highway speeds. I did not attempt to stream music over Bluetooth, but did plug my MP3 player into the USB port and, after a brief index, was able to orally request my desired music with accuracy. Ford’s exclusivity with Microsoft ends this year, and I anticipate variants of this technology finding its way to other brands soon, as it is leading the industry by a large margin.
One major disappointment was the stereo in this particular car. It did not have the normal crispness found in other Ford products. It is powerful and can easily be heard with the top down beyond highway speeds, but the speaker in the passenger side door buzzed and rattled. If you have ever heard an older import car with a large sub woofer box buzzing its trunk, you can imagine the effect. I’m sure it was something that could easily be handled by a warranty visit to the dealer, but it really did detract from the experience.
Let us not forget that this a convertible, and with two quick lever flips and a push of a button, 100 million miles of headroom is available. The top is well-lined and provides excellent insulation. So much insulation, in fact, that after a brief snow, warming the car did not melt the snow on the roof. This insulation also does a good job of quieting road noise and makes roof-up motoring quiet enough that you can forget that you are living with a drop top. Top operation is simple, but closing does require a little fiddling to help with alignment before the manual catches can be secured. The top does include a large heated glass rear window, but I was happy to find the back-up camera option on this car as rearward visibility is limited.
The 2010 Ford Mustang GT Premium Convertible starts at $35,995 and this one’s options pushed the price up to almost $40,000. Currently, there are some incentives from Ford and real selling prices put this car at about $37,000. This is an appealing price for a sporty, comfortable, and great-sounding convertible. I suppose the current V8 should be a decent comparison with the 2011 Mustang V6 which will have 305 HP and a lower sticker price. That new V6 should make the future base Mustang quite a car.
The question still remains: Will this car be able to live outside of the shadow of its soon-to-be-born brother?
The answer is yes. More power will make the GT Mustang faster, but the V8 soundtrack and the tail-wagging fun of the current version is all that most people will ever need. If you can pick one up on the cheap as the 2011s are announced, you can find yourself a great car. On second thought, maybe you should wait for the upgraded engine. Horsepower envy is a terrible thing to have.
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