2010 Ford Mustang GT

Decades of pony car dominance (in the showroom, if not always at the track) have endowed the Ford Mustang with the type of confidence that renders garish demonstrations of machismo unnecessary. The 2010 Mustang is like the sedate old dude in the back of the bar who's kicked so much ass that he has nothing left to prove. It's so comfortable in its success that it feels no need for outlandish spoilers, pathologically oversensitive throttle calibrations, or faux carbon-fiber trim to call attention to itself. In fact, the muscular GT is so docile and easy to drive, you could use it to teach a teenager how to drive a stick.

Ford really needn't worry much about the upcoming flurry of comparisons that will be made between its pony car and the 2010 Chevrolet Camaro, because the outcome of those comparisons is irrelevant to the Mustang buyer. That person won't care that the base V-6 Camaro produces almost as much horsepower as the Mustang GT's V-8. Or that the Camaro's drop-to-your-knees styling will turn as many heads as the Mustang doesn't. And the solid rear axle? Hell, that hasn't stopped more than nine million people from buying Mustangs so far, and it won't matter now, either.

No need to change anything, then - the 2010 Mustang receives nothing more than a comprehensive face-lift in preparation for archrival Camaro's appearance. The freshly restyled outer shell makes the new Mustang look more compact and taut than last year's car, but it's actually half an inch longer. The prancing pony on the grille has grown in size, too, and is more chiseled. To complete the sinister look, the chrome emblem is tinted on GT models, which are also distinguished by a more aggressive front fascia. New, squinty headlights are vaguely reminiscent of the 2006 Mustang Giugiaro concept, and the car has grown rounded rear haunches that remind us a little of the Dodge Charger. One thing the Charger doesn't have, however, is three-segment taillights, illuminated by LEDs, that light up sequentially when doing turn-signal duty. OK, so maybe the new Mustang does have at least one garish, let's-brawl feature.

The base Mustang uses the same old 4.0-liter V-6 that produces 210 hp and 240 lb-ft of torque. GT models get the V-8 from last year's Bullitt - a 4.6-liter, 24-valve V-8 that's rated at 315 hp and 325 lb-ft of torque and has a 6500-rpm redline. Both engines bolt to a five-speed manual transmission or an optional five-speed automatic, and each breathes through a half-inch-larger exhaust (three inches in diameter on the V-6, three-and-a-half inches on the V-8). Wheel sizes, previously sixteen to eighteen inches, now measure between seventeen and nineteen inches. GTs with the largest wheels also receive a strut-tower brace, but otherwise, the only substantial changes to the chassis are revisions to the dampening for better body control and a smoother ride.

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