Friday, August 7, 2009

2010 Ford Mustang - 45 years in the making

Since its introduction in 1964 at the New York's World Fair, America has been in love with the Pony Car. After 5 generations of Mustangs, it is the second oldest model still in production for the Ford Motor Company. Only the F-series pick-up truck has been around longer. I recently had the pleasure to test driving the 2010 Mustang V6 premium package for a ten day road trip. The car won me over, and further impressed upon me virtues of the Ford Motor company.

Unfair to the test subject, I had a negative impression of Ford as a company and Mustang as a car even before I had a chance to lay eyes on it. Growing up in the 80's and 90's, the Ford name was not the inspirational motor company it is today. The many negative acronyms for the company, were often too true to be even funny: Found On Road Dead, Fix Or Repair Daily, Fucked Over Rebuilt Dodge... The first Mustang I experienced was my uncles early 80's base model Stang that did little to impress. It was only after I got into cars as a teenager that I realized the jalopy my uncle once drove was in fact a Mustang. Later on in college, a friend bought a late 60's /early 70's first generation Stang. This car was rebuilt from the ground up, with refreshed suspension and four wheel disk brakes. After a few months he finally offer to let me drive it. Though in a straight line it was fairly quick, the handling was so horrid that I feared I would not be able to keep the car on the road or stop when needed. Though the previous owner was to blame for the poor handling, the event had cemented in my mind the impression that the Ford Mustang: looked good, drove bad.

All that was about to change when I first saw the test subject. All polished up, the midnight blue Mustang gave me that "hey baby" kind of look. I immediately felt guilty. With my loyal Z back home, I was about to make an adulterous ten day trip to my very own Argentina. What first grabbed my attention was the retro styling. A throwback to the original 1960's fast back. The unmistakable Mustang body lines, both timeless and modern. The slant back grill, the narrow rear quarter window which meets the top of the rear fender. A quick walk around, revealed an attractive hood bulge in front and a small deck lid spoiler in the back, both nice accents yet unobtrusive.

Opening up the door, I was welcomed by an impressive interior, and that feeling of guilt once again, as word "nice" sneaked past my lips. This would be one of the most beautiful interiors I have had the pleasure of driving in. Perforated black leather seats, metallic silver trimmed dash, the cockpit was very driver oriented. Ford spent some time and money updating the interior, which in previous models was described as "cheap". Though some of the materials used could have been of higher grade, namely leather instead of rubber (though I prefer the later), the finish of the interior was top notch. The instruments cluster consisted of two equally sized circular analog gauges, with a quad of half moon gauges center between them. The center console housed the gear selector, a flip covered cup holder area, and a rear facing storage bin. When in used, the cup holders took the place of the center arm rest, and interfered with the manipulation of the gear selector. OK on an auto transmission car, but would have been very annoying on a manual. The rear facing storage bin was not large, but adequate and contained a 12 power source as well as the aux stereo inputs.

The most noticeable feature was the center control area. It was shared by the Shaker stereo system, the HVAC, and Microsoft Sync controllers. The stereo provided good sound for a stock system, though I am no audiophile. The Aux input, MP3 format CD player, and satellite radio are great additions, though these days it seems like pretty standard equipment. This all inclusive control center would make it nearly impossible to add an aftermarket stereo. Thus it is reccommend that you choose the upgraded stereo, cause you will be stuck with it. One unique feature of the stereo was an USB input slot. I assumed that one could plug in a thumb drive with your favorite tunes on it and the stereo would play it. I however did not test out this feature for I did not have such a device with me. The USB slot could also provide power to certain devices via a USB cable, and avoid the need for a "car" charger. The feature I enjoyed the most was the blue tooth phone link. The caller's voice on the opposite end came in clear, and they never once asked if I was driving a tank, a comment often heard when using a blue tooth earpiece.

The model I test drove, did not come equipped with the 8 inch navigation display. The two inch display was very busy, and crammed with many bits of information. It took a extra long glance to withdraw the needed data from it. A standard Ford trip computer was displayed on the lower section of one of the large circular gauges, and the controls located to the left of the steering wheel. Thumbing through the screen I discovered the ability to change the mood lighting. The gauge back light and interior trim lights could be set from an ambient purple to rocket ship red and everything thing inbetween, yielding a seemingly endless combination. This feature was cool for about 10 minutes, but a total waste of time and effort on Ford's part. In fact I turn off the trim lights, which I found annoying at night and selected a white back lite for the gauges; yes boring me.

The eight way power controlled seats, an almost standard feature in today's modern cars, provided good driver positioning. The push button lumbar support was unique and much appreciated on a long drive. However more effort could have been spent on the seat construction. I am in favor of the isolated seat cushion type construction, which uses separate side bolster pieces, and allow the seat cushion the ability to conform to your rump. The Mustang's seat cover was stretched across the entire seat creating a taught hammock like perch. Some slight annoyances in the interior included the chrome trim around the air vents, which would often catch the light and cause an irritating glare. My co-pilot complained of the small windshield and hood bulge allowing a very small frontal field of view.

After my run through and inspection of the vehicle, I finally inserted the key and fired the iron block 4.0 liter V6 to life. Though it belched out a throaty gurgle from the three inch exhaust, and power was sufficient for most driving situation, the power plant is a bit lacking for what you would think would be in a legendary Mustang. At a max hp of 210 hp, the motor is nothing more than something they simply yanked out of a Ford Ranger and stuck under the hood. It is painful to see that the GT version of this car getting all the love of the Mustang design team, while the V6 model gets feed scrapes like a neglected step child. The five speed automatic transmission shifted smoothly, until you mashed the gas pedal. It would then transform from a gentle lap dog to an unruly beast as the tranny clunked hard into a lower gear, often downshifting one gear then harshly another as it hunted for the optimal gear. Shifts between reverse and neutral, and drive to neutral were loud and noticeable, when these typically are smooth transitions.

The greatest criticism I have of the car however lie within the the suspension system. The general make up consist of a solid rear axle and McPherson strut front end. Talk about out of date. The solid rear axle is limited by two trailing arms, a third link over the pumpkin, a panhard rod, and sway bar. Shocks and coil springs are mounted on the axle independently of each other. The front strut system is attached via a single pivot lower control arm, with a built in compression link, not even a true dual pivot A-arm. The right and left front wheels are tied together with a relatively stout sway bar. The ride of the car was pleasant and not overly stiff, and handled highway curves with confidence. When pushed however, the car pitched and rolled like a ship at sea. I did not get the opportunity to test the limits of the suspension, since I was traveling on open roads with the family. But the occasional solo errand found high speed curves satisfying, the suspension though soft for my sports car taste, compressed predictable and did not overly pitch the front corner, granted you eased into the corner. At lower speed corners the vehicle under steered like one would expect from a production car. Even though the suspension is very basic, it gets the job done, and is more sporty than most sedans. But one aspect of the handling was not acceptable. When taking on highway speed curves and a bump, such as a expansion joint on a bridge, was encountered, the car would skip to the outside of teh curve what felt like an inch or two. I suspect the rebound damping could be tuned so that this would not happen. This feature was especially exciting when traffic was heavy and the lanes were narrow.

On the open road the V6 powered Pony, strutted its stuff as a grand touring car. Interior noise levels were keep to a minimum. Power was sufficient for average passing, and it rolled into triple digit speeds with ease. Handling at these speeds were excellent, allowing sleeping passengers to continue doing so, while they unknowingly rocketed across the barren desert. With a two adults, a dog, trunk full to gear, averaging 80 mph with the AC blasting and the outside temperature above 100 degrees F, the car was able to yield a 25.5 mpg average. Close to the EPA estimated 26 mpg highway. This number however seems to be in need of improvement. If I was to sacrifice power with the V6, at least allow for greater MPGs.

My overall impression of the Mustang was positive. Would I go out and buy one: most likely not. The GT version of the car might in fact be one, but I would never classify the V6 as a sports car. Under that badge it would have faultier greatly. I was most impressed with the cars stunning good looks, and ability to turn heads. The car handled better then most sedans of its price range, and though diminutive in power output, pair with proper gears and a five speed transmission, it got the job done. 2100 hundred test miles later, I was reluctant to give up my humble steed. That in itself says good things about the newest of the Mustangs.

1 comment:

  1. I am very excited for 2010 Ford Mustang. It is a very well designed car. This car is available in two body styles-coupe as well as convertible. People will be amazed by looking at the exteriors and interiors. The technical features are amazing. Engine is the main part of any car, and its nice to see that this car too has powerful engines. Sync system is the best feature. Performance-wise, this car is very good. For more details refer ford mustang