When the 2010 Mustang gallops into Ford showrooms in the spring, it will face more competition than it has seen in decades. The Dodge Challenger, which arrived in SRT8 form last year, now has a three-model lineup, and the hotly anticipated new Chevrolet Camaro starts production in February.
Four years ago, the retro-look, 2005 model reignited Mustang fever. The careful 2010 face-lift sees changes to every piece of sheetmetal, save the roof panel. (The carryover roof means that the optional glass roof, which debuted in the 2009 Mustang, will be available on the '10 base and GT models.) Still, the overall appearance doesn't stray far from today's car, although it is seven percent slipperier in the wind tunnel.
Inside, soft-touch plastic abounds, and the cabin is much more refined. The restyled center stack houses an available eight-inch navigation monitor; a rearview camera and Sync are new options. It may not be as stylized as the Camaro's interior, but this is a pleasant place to be.
The chassis-still with a live axle out back, as opposed to the independent rear suspensions of the Challenger and the Camaro-gets minor tweaks. A rear antiroll bar has been added to V-6-powered Mustangs, and new spring rates are designed to improve steering feel and combat body roll. Nineteen-inch wheels are a new option for the GT.
There's little news under the hood. The V-6 continues with 210 hp against a 250-hp six in the Challenger and 300 hp from the Camaro's V-6. The Mustang GT's 4.6-liter V-8 gets a slight bump to 315 hp and 325 lb-ft of torque thanks to a cold-air intake, and a tube now pipes induction noise right into the cabin. The five-speed automatic and manual transmissions return. Weight gain is negligible, so performance and fuel economy should be little changed.
The V-8's 315 hp now looks pretty wimpy next to its rivals: 372 and 375 hp for the Challenger R/T, 425 hp for the SRT8; 400 hp and 422 hp for the Camaro V-8s. Of course, Ford plans to roll out more potent special editions-like today's GT500 and GT500KR-but they're not expected at launch.
Mustangs, By The Numbers:
The Mustang's current rank in popularity among droptops.
Original base price of the Mustang.
Total number of Mustangs sold.
Horsepower output of the standard four-cylinder in '78 and '79.
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The number of title characters who drove a Mustang II in TV's Charlie's Angels. (Kate Jackson's Sabrina drove a Pinto.)
Number of customer orders written for the Mustang on its first day on sale in 1964.
Estimated number of owners clubs, worldwide, devoted to the Mustang.
Horsepower output of the 2008 Shelby GT500KR.
Horsepower output of the 1969 Boss 429 V-8.
Advertised V-8 displacement, in liters, from 1978 to '79 and from '82 to '95.