Ford's latest wild Pony ride
The original Pony car is fighting back with a restyled exterior and better quality interior.
4l V6, 4.6l V8
Despite a financial apocalypse promising to vent itself over Detroit and liquidate the American auto industry, Ford is keeping its chin up and consolidating with heartland models such as the Mustang.
Although GM and Chrysler are practically bankrupt, they do pose a significant challenge in the entry level muscle car market stateside with the Camaro and Challenger - at least untill the end of the year...
Ford’s current Mustang has been around since 2005, so the car shown this week at the Los Angeles auto show is not all new, but it’s hardly an immaterial facelift either.
The 2010 model Mustang only retains roof-panel compatibility and powertrain similarity with the outgoing, current model. Styling has been heavily revised, with a look which now manages to finally bring contemporary proportions, and crash safety styling requirements, in vogue with traditional late 60s, first generation Mustang styling cues.
Retro done right
Retro styling cues embellish the facelifted, fifth generation Mustang.
Look closely at the bonnet, which edges over the grille in late 60s fastback Mustang tradition.
Obviously a flush, modern design would be even more aerodynamic (though Ford claims the facelift is 4% more efficient at displacing its atmospheric environment) but a traditional bonnet finish would look hardly as fetching. Sequentially flickering LED embedded rear light clusters, which feature a classic three-lens vertical slat design, are undeniably Mustang.
Beyond the retro styling cues, the Mustang’s sheet metal surfaces have been cleaned up significantly. Washer-fluid nozzles are tucked under the cowling and the receptor antenna moving to the rear of the car.
New headlamps, which feature an integrated indicator design, sculptured fenders and a new grille are all topped off with the obligatory bonnet sculptured power dome.
Mustang acolytes should take note of the first change to the pony badge in 45 years too - it’s now significantly larger and more etched - similar to what Ford has done with the roundel on the Ranger bakkie locally...
A world of leather and aluminium inside
The exterior styling changes have dramatically neatened and sharpened up the styling of a car which always had a treasure trove of styling heritage to call upon. Interior design with the Mustang though, has always been haphazardly American, in both quality and execution.
Ford has recognised this, and attempted to inject the 2010 Mustang cabin with a sense of retro style and a dash of contemporary quality.
Although pony cars were notorious for interiors trimmed in conscience soothing cloth upholstery during the 80s, the latest Mustang offers a comprehensive high-grade leather upholstery package.
Aluminium finishes do their bit to lighten the ambience of the interior by supporting the steering wheel spokes, surrounding the dials, door panel-inserts and finishing off the gearshift top.
Infotainment will be comprehensive and an optional reversing camera is now available too.
The instrumentation and ambient lighting can be adjusted to the owners whim, within a 125 hue colour range within the onboard, 'my colour' setting system. Why Ford spends time and money on a feature such as this - when the Mustang is crying out for better rear-suspension - is a mystery of Atlantic proportions.
Mechanical changes for the 2010 Mustang are slight. Dynamics are still one area where engineers have held onto the Mustang design heritage too faithfully perhaps – it still lacks a sophisticated multi-link rear suspension, relying on a three-link set-up held in place by a Panhard bar.
The front struts though, now feature larger displacement pistons for more precise damping control, augmented by stiffened springs and revised anti-roll bars. Electronic chassis control is via a standard traction and stability control system, with range-topping GT models featuring an intermediate sport setting for low-skill/road-biased oversteer driving dynamics.
Wheel and tyre combinations have increased in size too, with 19-inchers optional. BFGoodrich supplies V6 models with 215/60R17 tyres as standard - 235/50R18 Pirellis on 18-inch mags are optional.
GTs come with those selfsame Pirellis and 18-inch wheels as standard equipment, while 245/45R19 Pirelli tires on 19-inch mags are optional.
Mustang’s familiar range of engines continue largely untouched, with the 4l V6 producing 154kW (shamefully comparable to the similar capacity/configuration Ford Ranger bakkie locally) and lagging well behind Camaro’s entry level 200kW V6.
Further up the range a ram-air induction kit has boosted the 4.6l V8 by 11kW to 231kW, whilst the redline has been dialled across to a 250r/min higher threshold at 6 250r/min.
If you’re patient and on friendly terms with your local Ford dealer stateside, there is a factory approved supercharger kit, available from Ford’s racing division, boosting power for the V8 beyond the magic 300kW mark.
Emissions and fuel-economy regulations could conspire, forcing Ford’s hand with a smaller capacity twin-turbo V6 which should be worth about 260kW in the near future too.
Despite Michigan being out of money, and the American big three auto makers crawling up to Capitol Hill with a begging bowl, Ford’s second best selling car of all time may be destined for Model T classic status.
It may be too little, too late though. With US domestic market demand under severe strain, and lacking credible suspension pedigree for export to Europe, this Mustang may be the last true blue (Ford owned and built) one we get to see.