Ford caught its competitors flat-footed with the introduction of the retro-styled 2005 Mustang, which was an immediate hit and reinvigorated the sagging "pony car" market. The Mustang's success didn't escape the attention of General Motors and Chrysler executives, who figured they had some retro pony cars in their portfolio, too. So we got a new-old Chevrolet Camaro and Dodge Challenger.
Hearing the rumble of those approaching hoofbeats, Ford countered by engineering the first major makeover of the current Mustang since it was introduced. Although at first glance it may not look that different, the 2010 Mustang's body shares only the roof with the 2009 model.
While the exterior was streamlined, the interior received a substantial update, too. Nothing dramatic inside, but it's comfortable, nicely done, and even on the base models, looks and feels upscale.
Under the hood, the two engine choices remain the 4.0-liter V-6, and the 4.6-liter V-8 for the GT model. The V-6 has 210 horsepower, and the V-8 received a modest bump to 315 horsepower. Both are offered with manual or automatic transmissions.
The test 2010 Mustang was a convertible GT Premium, with the optional ($995) five-speed automatic transmission. Though I like manual-transmission Mustangs, this automatic was an excellent match to the V-8. Ford has been using a version of this 4.6-liter V-8 in the Mustang GT since 1996 - it had just 215 horsepower then - but refinements have made it smoother, power delivery more linear. That V-8 exhaust sound is sweet, too, but never overpowering, even with the top down.
And as for that top: It was a conventional soft convertible top that is held to the windshield with two manual latches. Other than that, it lowers and raises at the touch of a button. I was a little disappointed to find more "cowl shake" than I expected - that's the tendency for the body to flex on rough roads or cross railroad tracks, due to the absence of a hard roof's structural contribution to the chassis' stiffness.
Otherwise, no complaints: Ride and handling are excellent, steering a little twitchy but acceptable, brake feel is just right. With the automatic transmission and optional 19-inch aluminum wheels ($1,095), plus shipping ($850), the list price was $38,935. EPA ratings was 17 mph city, 23 mpg highway.
If the price it too much for you, consider a base GT, which has cloth upholstery instead of leather, or the V-6 model - that convertible starts at under $27,000. And even the cheapest Mustangs have stability control, side air bags, and the new "capless" fuel filter, which has a little flap that closes off the fuel neck and doesn't require a removable cap.
There was nothing wrong with the 2009 Mustang, but Ford made it a little better, a little prettier, anyway. Nicely done.
Sentinel Automotive Editor Steven Cole Smithcan be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org, at 407-420-5699, or through his blog at Enginehead.com.
2010 Ford Mustang GT convertible
Base price: $35,995
Price as tested: $38,935
EPA rating: 17 mpg city driving, 23 mpg highway.
Details: Front-engine, rear-wheel-drive sports convertible with a 4.6-liter, 315-horsepower V-8 engine and a five-speed automatic transmission.