Mustang, last redone for the 2005 model year when Ford modernized its '60s fastback, has been tweaked and tinkered with and is now available for the 2010 model year in coupe, convertible or glass top version with V-6 or V-8 (GT) and a special high-performance Shelby GT500 coupe and convertible thrown in for good measure.
While the car pays homage to days of yore when speed dominated, the V-6 recognizes the fact that muscle costs more on the sticker and at the pump. So most folks settle for the performance look, yet not the action, with the V-6 rather than V-8.
The V-6 is where Mustang comes up short versus Camaro, whose 3.6 liter V-6 is rated at 304 h.p. while Mustang's 4 liter V-6 is rated at 210 h.p. Find a vacant stretch of country road and stand on the pedal and the pony's V-6 growls a little, but doesn't leap from the light like Camaro.
Camaro's 304 h.p. V-6 is only a few horses shy of the full team in the 315 h.p. developed by Mustang's 4.6 liter V-8. Without an upgrade from 300 h.p. in 2009, the Camaro V-6 would have beat Mustang's V-6 or V-8. Talk about embarrassing. Worse, Camaro's V-6 is rated at 18 m.p.g. city / 29 m.p.g. highway with automatic to 16 / 24 for Mustang's V-6. A track pack option gives Mustang added performance, but only on the V-8 GT with 5-speed manual.
Relief is on the way -- in 2013, when 90 percent of all Ford vehicles will offer an EcoBoost engine for V-8 pep and V-6 fuel economy. The 2010 Ford Flex and 2010 Lincoln MKS are the first beneficiaries of the new 3.5-liter, twin-turbo EcoBoost V-6 for a 355 h.p. jolt of power when needed. Hopefully, EcoBoost saddles up on Mustang soon.
On the plus side, Mustang offers stability control and all-speed traction control to optimize handling. But the suspension tends to be jittery and lets road harshness into the cabin when crossing uneven pavement or even over tar marks.
The 2010 retains the fastback look that tells you it's a Mustang at 5 feet or 5 blocks away. The trademark "spear" character lines remain in the doors, but now Mustang also sports a larger power-dome hood, new head/taillamps and fascia and grille, new wheel flares and a rather large, galloping chrome (black on the V-8) pony in the grille. Ford says it tinkered with the metal pony so it looks more as if racing into the wind. We'll take Ford's word for it.
You can opt for a power soft top for the thrill of open-air motoring or an all-glass roof ($1,995) to take in the scenery while keeping out harmful rays. But there's no better joy than to drop the top and take a lazy cruise. And if wind musses the hair and sun freckles the head, so be it. Buy brush and sunscreen.
But topless bliss takes a little manual unlatching of levers along the windshield to motor it down. So far so good, until it's time to relatch the top -- and the levers don't want to cooperate. And please, Ford, put a heat-resistant coating on those latches and the handle used to close the top because they heat up quickly and your skin won't be happy.
As is common with small convertibles, don't expect the back seat to hold anything larger than a couple very small kids with verrrry thin legs. The trunk is small, but manageable, since hauling in Mustang doesn't relate to suitcases.
The V-6 premium convertible tested starts at $28,995 with power seats/windows/mirrors/locks, air conditioning, leather seats, AM/FM stereo with single CD player, USB outlet and auxiliary plug and a 12-volt outlet in the dash between the air ducts, where it invites a power cord to get in the way.
Automatic adds $995. Except for heated seats in a $595 comfort group and a sporty GT spoiler in the $995 rapid spec group, most options are fashion frills you can do without.
Read Jim Mateja Sunday in Rides. Contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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