The latest generation Ford Mustang is by far the best car an enthusiast with a reasonable new car budget can buy. Okay, I’m a bit biased as this review is of the car I purchased for myself in June 2009 after exhaustive research prior to purchase. A future article will cover the search process; this one focuses on my ownership experience over the last twenty five months.
Purchased brand new from Schaumburg Ford (Schaumburg, IL) to date I’ve put on just over 16,000 miles—all of them with smiles on my face (alright, just a couple of frowns, but just two, really).
- 2010 Ford Mustang GT
- 300A rapid spec: 3.73 rear axle package
- MSRP $29,340 (includes $850 destination & delivery)
- $27,700 plus tax, title, license transaction price
So it’s a base car with one option; the axle package includes a stability control system alternate program that allows “more fun” (increased yaw rate) as the standard setting (vs. having to press the button to access this feature), upgrade brake pad specification (to Performance Friction Z-Rated pads) as well as the lower gear ratio and carbon fiber limited slip clutch plates.
I’ve had great fun with this car; turned the 500 mile mark on the odometer at our Great Lakes region Hooked On Driving event on Thursday, June 24, 2009, won ‘First In Class’ at the Kohler International Challenge street car Concours d’Elegance on July 18, 2009 at Elkhart Lake, WI, plus car shows like Supercar Saturdays… it’s a head turner.
AT THE DEALER
I will say that the purchase experience itself so far has been the worst part of ownership…. Allow me to qualify that statement; my salesman was knowledgeable and professional and I’ve referred folks to him, but the store practices old-school “let’s make a deal” negotiation and it’s frankly tiring. Knowing this may happen I opened negotiations by placing an absolute time limit of “out the door by 5pm” and just made it by about five minutes. It wasn’t until I looked at my watch (knowing paperwork and vehicle prep would take an easy hour) and said I had to go that I finally got down to speaking of actual numbers vs. playing the ‘he who speaks first looses’ game. Fortunately, according to Automotive News, the trend of fixed price no negotiation needed new car/ used car stores is increasing in adoption; frankly the educated buyer just doesn’t have the patience for old-school shenanigans.
Let me tell you what really sealed the deal during my test drive around the dealer’s block: chassis rigidity! Are you familiar with German cars and the way the suspension seems to “patter” down the road, feeling every road imperfection and pebble but without undue harshness, yes?—With me?—This chassis has that exact feel; it’s due to attention to detail on chassis rigidity and spending time, sweating details and cash spent on suspension bushing calibration. From a chassis perspective this platform definitely holds its own compared to virtually anything from the Continent.
Our focus on Separation of Controls will always be performance on the road and on the racetrack; the 2010 Mustang GT (base suspension, not Track Pack) excels in both arenas as a function of chassis structure—for a high-volume production car it’s very well balanced with safe but not intrusive understeer at the limit of the tire’s grip. Ride comfort on the highway is very acceptable (if not plush) for a sporting car and responds instantly to your thought of changing direction. Steering is somewhat over assisted though communicates what’s happening at the tire/ pavement interface well. On track the shortcoming is the dampers (shocks), too underdamped for ultimate track use, Ford engineers biased the base suspension to the mass market of drivers who’ll never see the race track except from spectator seats. I’ve driven the Mustang GT Premium with the Track Pack suspension; it’s absolutely perfect for anyone desiring balanced and well-damped on-track handling without sacrificing on-road comfort. The difference is the natural choice for a buyer as long as it doesn’t require additional cost “beauty” options like the glass sunroof, mega-watt audio, navigation and the like. At the time I was shopping the only way to order the Track Pack was to buy the GT Premium, sacrificing precious budget/ performance ratio scoring.
It’s the combination of such sublime suspension tuning coupled with rear-wheel drive and 315 hp that caused me to crumble and purchase the first all-new from-dealer car of my lifetime. Of course I was miffed at the 2011 model year press releases touting the 5.0 and one hundred horsepower advantage among other significant upgrades… but at a higher MSRP… C’est la vie. Bottom line is the only time I really want more power from the engine is when on the racetrack; on the public roads let’s face it, you’re using full throttle only when merging on the freeway or showing off to your lovely passenger (plural if you’re lucky) while risking points against your driver’s license… My advice: keep full throttle to three seconds of merging time and attend your local track days as often as your budget allows! This strategy helps fuel economy; combined street/ highway average is just over 22mpg—high of 25mpg freeway and 19mpg in strictly local driving.
As stated, with the 3.73 axle package is an upgrade in brake pad material (not upgrades to caliper and rotor as some pundits have stated online) to PFC Z Rated compound. This pad offers tremendous value to the sporting driver, exceptionally quiet, not too horrible at dusting (but every pad dusts, get over it and “polish ‘dem rims”) and will handle three consecutive ten-tenths laps of GingerMan Raceway. On lap four I experienced pad fade (different from fluid boiling) with a rock-solid brake pedal but substantially decreased deceleration rate (and subsequent use of pit entry lane for extra whoa room). For our drivers school I swap in Hawk HT-10 compound front pads (no change to the rear pads), with heat capacity beyond 1000°F it’s perfect for track days.
On the subject of brakes, note that beginning with the 2010 model year the Mustang now has stability control. I always recommend keeping your stability control system engaged on the track until you have perhaps dozens of days with instruction to learn car control. As an aide to cornering, stability control will assist as you create understeer or oversteer situations. Note that this system actuates individual brakes while you’re cornering to counter the front-tire or rear-tire skids; in this Mustang, while learning a new circuit, I destroyed the rear brake pads in twenty minutes as I kept overdriving corner entries—creating front-tire skids (understeer)—actuating stability control (rear brake actuation counters front-tire skids) and the rear pads were incredibly taper worn from inner to outer edges as the rear calipers flexed with so much actuation. Simple solution: with engine on, foot on brake, hold the stability/ traction control button more than ten seconds to disengage stability control completely. Now just don’t overdrive the car, right? I have a dozen days on-track with the same rear brake pads and don’t plan a change anytime soon. With the front pad change to high heat capacity compound the brakes easily handle twenty minute sessions with slight drop in performance if the session goes beyond twenty with one exception: Road America. Road America’s three long straights per lap do tax the system and I’ve found it’s best to do three hard laps (about nine minutes) followed by one lap at reduced pace to manage system temperatures. An upgrade to cooling ducts is in this car’s future.
Another on-track phenomenon you’ll experience is differential fluid spewing from the breather tube, located on top of the passenger side axle tube, sustained cornering causes fluid to burp. Ford has a solution with TSB 10-3-7, part number AR3Z-4A058-B.
As a base my ride has the 18.5×8.5 inch silver painted five spoke wheels with Pirelli P-Zero Nero all-season performance rubber. My hat’s off to the engineering team, in the never-ending battle of the cost-to-produce budget you’ve picked a great compromise tire for OE fitment. The P-Zero Nero is a decent all around tire, quite, grippy, wears well and actually generates just over 0.90 G indicated on my data acquisition system. Thanks to Roush Performance my on-track setup includes gorgeous 18×10 inch Roush Trac Pack five spoke forged wheels. So the OE P-Zero Nero is a bit sloppy on turn-in it’s small price to pay for an original equipment all-season compromise tire.
I always recommend buying the best tire your budget will allow and intend on installing a set of Pirelli P-Zero max performance tires soon. If this was a year-round ride for me an extra set of OE take-offs and dedicated winter tires would be the plan, I would not rely on all-seasons for a Michigan winter.
Interior ergonomics is excellent, controls fall to hand easily. I actually like the shifter actuation; short shifters for the Mustang place the gates so close that while on track I’ve found myself glancing at the shifter position and with the stock shifter I know position by feel alone. Two gripes: might be nice when spending nearly $30k to get some leather wrapped on the steering wheel and a little lumbar support; like the Corvette, Mustang suffers with inadequate seats and no options when it comes to fit, grip and bolster size.
Interior space is an area where Mustang excels compared to other sporting choices in this category and had slight effect on my decision; more practical with a usable back split folding seat and LATCH system for kids (applies to me).
Sounds: engine intake sound is plumbed direct to the interior (becoming more common that you may think in the industry) and this system works! The day I purchased this car I drove a 2009 to compare and decide if the ’10 was worth the additional cost; the “bark tube” was the most notable positive difference between the two cars after interior design. Yes, the audio system is great, but the audio system doesn’t really rank very high on my priority list anymore (it did years ago).
As a base car mine has the standard headlights vs. the optional HID package and it’s barely adequate; the day I purchased the car I drove over a semi-truck tire tread as it wasn’t illuminated until the last moment, so the car suffered damage on day-one of ownership (tiny under-fascia lip spoiler). Oh, and my brother drove it into a parking curb as I was yelling “stop!” and he was saying “what?” when going back to the dealer to retrieve my old hooptie.
I do like the 2010 exterior freshening especially the front and front three quarter views; the hind end is certainly distinctive if not entirely perfect and continues to grow on me.
Cost of ownership other than track day consumables (front brake pads and brake fluid) has been just engine oil and filter changes…. That’s it! I did switch to 5W-30 synthetic vs. the OE fill of 5W-20 which just gave a gut feeling of being too light for track duty (not a scientific evaluation).
To sum it up ‘yes’ I would buy this car again and again… in fact I’d consider the 2011 V6 as perhaps a better choice as it hits fuel economy high, just a few ponies shy of the 2010 4.6 V8 and less weight over the front axle for improved balance on track.
My recommendation: before looking at a 2011 or ’12, do a little searching for a ’10 and you’ll likely find some brand new ones or super low mileage examples that will put huge smiles on your every drive. All the domestic manufacturers have made huge improvements in quality even in just the last three years; drive this Mustang and prove it to yourself!