Muscle cars are about sin, plain and simple. They are the automotive embodiment of envy, lust, pride, greed and gluttony - often in that order. And while rarely guilty of sloth, they have been known to be used as instruments of wrath, especially between stoplights.
For those who don't adhere to this belief system, but still want a ride that imparts an aura of casual evil onto them, no worries. In today's dreary world of carbon emissions and hybrid systems, a 2+2 coupe with little purpose or utility other than to carry around a gas-sucking black hole that propels the car to extra legal speeds as a matter of course meets the current societal definition of a bad actor.
Those responsible for the 2010 Ford Mustang GT are well aware of this and even appear to have traded an old vice for this new one. There's no ashtray in the car, a fact that gave them free reign to position the 12-volt electrical socket anywhere they wanted to. They put it as high on the dashboard as possible, up top between the air vents on the center console, making it convenient for powering portable navigation systems mounted on the window.
At least that's what the Deceiver would like you to believe, but we know the real reason for its placement, and it has to do with a certain type of detection that is illegal in Virginia and Washington, DC. Given the current state of affairs in Detroit, you'd think the only automaker not yet on the government dime would try harder to stay under the radar, rather than make such a blatant paean to the flaunting of authority by enabling drivers to seek it out, but there it is.
While insignificant on it's own, the socket is just one part of a bigger picture that illustrates how Ford, on the verge of losing its muscle car monopoly with the arrival of the Dodge Challenger and Chevrolet Camaro, took a good look at its little pony, determined what was wrong with it, and fixed (almost) everything.
The most obvious change, or not, is to the body. The old one was retro-futuristic, with a shape that paid homage to the 'Stangs of the 1960's, but with a slight soullessness that looked like it was brought to life on a computer, rather than a bar napkin. The new one takes the straight lines and flat planes from that canvas and turns them into bends and bulges, particularly in the arching rear fenders. Beauty may be subjective, and from a distance the cars can be hard to tell apart, but up close only the 2010 looks like it has real blood and tears built into it.
The opposite is true on the inside, where the split-cockpit style remains, but has been refinished in softer materials, with all of the rough edges smoothed over for a more modern appearance. Nostalgia is still evident in the fonts used on the gauges, but Ford's MyColor customizable backlighting let's you choose what hue they are illuminated in from all the colors of the rainbow. Whichever one you choose, when you run the 315 horsepower V8 to its 6,500 rpm redline, the tachometer flashes red, which is much more useful than actually trying to look at the instrument cluster when driving in anger.
Under the all the new glitz and gloss is additional sound deadening material that eliminates most of the hollowness found in the previous version. The seats look and feel great, but the side bolsters could use a little Viagra to hold you more firmly through the curves. Aside from the hard plastic that remains on the doors, the interior is a serious upgrade from the outgoing edition, and so quiet that Ford had to take countermeasures.
Up front where the motor resides, the engineers installed a tube between the engine and the firewall that amplifies the sound from the motor's cold air induction system. Press the throttle pedal past the halfway point and it peppers you with a muffled sound similar to distant machine gun fire. A P-51 Mustang fighter plane on a straffing run, perhaps?
With all of the talk about giving synthesized voices to hybrids and electric cars through the use of speakers, it's refreshing to see some good old fashioned mechanical engineering address a similar issue. Not that you need any help hearing the Mustang from outside the car.
With the engine at full bore, the blare from the exhaust could cause the Air National Guard to scramble, or at least stand up and salute if your local drag strip happens to be near a runway. There, the GT will run the quarter mile in the mid-13s, an overachievement aided by a 3,500 pound curb weight that makes it the welterweight of muscle cars, and a rear axle representing the "almost" part of the 2010 makeover.
From the moment the 2005 Mustang was introduced, customers and critics have questioned the decision to stick with a live axle design, rather than switch to an independent rear suspension (IRS). Since the Mustang was all alone in the marketplace back then, Ford didn't feel the competitive need to spend the extra money, and stuck to the company line that straight line racers preferred having the beam out back.
Fair enough, but with both the Camaro and Challenger sporting IRS, its absence from the new GT was a bit of a shock, pun intended. Conspiracy theorists claim it would've only cost $100 per car to add it in the redesign, but until someone comes forth with the accounting paperwork, we'll probably never know for sure.
Besides, a Ford insider told me that he heard it was actually triple that, a whopping $300! The base price of the GT is $27,995. I'm pretty sure not too many people would've noticed the extra bills, if the legend is true.
Still, Ford has made the most of what the Mustang has got. Like the engine, the suspension tuning for the GT was mostly cribbed from the 2009 Bullitt edition 'Stang, widely agreed upon as the best of the large stable of Mustangs available that year. It's stiff, but squats when you come on the power, and rolls as the weight transfers to the outside rear tire when you accelerate through turns.
The moves are more street fighter than track star, but the balance between handling and comfort is as good as you're going to get with a solid rear axle. The GT never transcends the roughness of the road its on, and the back end can turn into a Stairmaster on repetitive bumps and ruts, but it rarely punishes you outright. Only once, when I hit some railroad tracks midway through a 90 degree turn, and the tail skipped what felt like the last 45 degrees, did I pine for that IRS.
Well, maybe twice. Since I had the car over Fourth of July weekend, I made it a point to take my two boys, ages two years and two months, out for a cruise in this icon of American motoring. Much to my surprise, their kiddie seats actually fit in the back, even the rear-facing one. Unfortunately, mom and I had to eat the dashboard to make it happen. I never heard any complaints, but on some cruddy streets there was a lot of bouncing around going on back there, and I started to feel a little guilty about stuffing them in.
2010 Ford Mustang GT
Base Price: $27,995
Type: Front-engine, rear-drive, 4-passenger, 2-door coupe
Engine: 4.6L V8
Power: 315 hp, 325 lb-ft torque
Transmission: 5-speed manual
MPG: 16 city/24 hwy