LOS ANGELES--The 2010 Ford Mustang is better in almost all respects--and the venerable sports coupe will need every bit of that improvement to compete in a segment now bursting with revived contenders.
The re-engineered and restyled Mustang goes on sale this spring with an updated exterior and interior.
"We know this segment, we know this customer, and we know how to deliver," said Dave Pericak, Mustang chief engineer. "This whole vehicle has been wrapped a lot tighter."
With the resurrected Chevrolet Camaro about to go on sale and the Dodge Challenger redesigned less than a year ago, Ford drew on its 45-year track record in the muscle car market to develop the 2010 Mustang. Changes were more extensive than initially planned.
But the incoming competitors have some advantages that will put the revamped Mustang to the test.
The basics: Besides a new exterior and interior, the 2010 Mustang has improved ride and handling, less wind noise, greater fuel economy, and slightly higher horsepower.
Notable features: Ford packed a lot more technology into the 2010 model. The Mustang has optional voice-activated navigation; a reverse camera system; and Ford's upgraded Sync system, which allows for hands-free operation of music players and cell phones, plus traffic and information services.
Design: Even though all sheet metal is new except for the roof, Ford kept the exterior look similar to the outgoing model. The aim was a cleaner, more muscular appearance.
Ford revived a Mustang feature from the 1960s: taillamps that light up sequentially to indicate a turn--although today's version uses LED lights.
Compromises and shortcomings: Engine output is where the Mustang fails to stack up to the new competition. Engines are carried over from the old model. Ford tweaked the 4.6-liter V-8's output to 315 hp from 300. But the 2010 Camaro boasts two versions of a 6.2-liter V-8 with output beginning at 400 hp.
The Mustang continues to use an old 4.0-liter V-6, which produces 210 hp. The Camaro's 3.6-liter V-6 produces 304 hp. Ford is expected to replace the Mustang engines with a new V-8 and a version of its 3.5-liter V-6, but it hasn't announced timing.
The Mustang, with a top rating of 26 mpg on the highway for its V-6 model, also gives ground to the Camaro on fuel economy. The EPA has certified the base model V-6 Camaro at 29 mpg on the highway.
And the Mustang continues to stick with a solid rear axle, while the Camaro has independent rear suspension.
The market: The Camaro and the new Dodge Challenger are formidable competitors. Ford officials say the Mustang, with its starting price of $21,845 including shipping, offers the best value in the segment. The Camaro starts at $22,995, with shipping.
The skinny: The 2010 Mustang looks good, handles better and offers solid performance. But new competitors could pick off customers that Ford mostly had to itself in recent years.
(Source: Automotive News)