Friday, October 30, 2009

Latest Mustang retains old-school charms

Sacramento, California – I remember when the going word for putting a few new touches on an existing model was a called a “freshening.” From several sources, I read that the 2010 Ford Mustang was “reskinned.”

Wow, now I’m really feeling old.

But then again, that’s OK. The Mustang is no spring chicken either, rolling into public view for the first time in 1964. And since I earned my first driving license in a 1965 Mustang, well, let’s just say that I go way back with Ford’s pony car.

Emotional attachment? You bet.

Best news about the 2010 model year “reskinning” … There’s no doubt that there’s a Mustang under that skin. Ford calls the updated exterior a “modern evolution of Mustang heritage.” I’m good with that. I like the Mustang’s basic low-price-muscle look. Praise to Ford for not messing with a good thing … like it did with the Ford Thunderbird.

Alas, that’s a discussion for another day.

My tester was the 2010 Mustang convertible with a 4-liter V-6, 210 horses of fun wrapped in a paint job that bespoke autumn gold. Unfortunately, my first day in the car dovetailed with the arrival of a monster, tree-bending rainstorm. Even so, I felt secure in the Mustang cockpit.

The car cut nicely through the driving rain and was sure-footed on the slick pavement. That’s a nice bonus in a car made to drive top-down in the California sunshine. On that latter score, the tester was wonderful. Acceleration poured out smoothly, and it was easy to get away from freeway car groups and enjoy some quiet time in my ride.

Super steering and an only slightly-too-stiff suspension were evident in uphill runs. The V-6 ate up inclined pieces of road like a champ. Yet the power plant was not an annoying screamer. Gas mileage was pretty good too, coming in slightly better than the advertised 18 miles per gallon in the city and 26 mpg on the highway.

If anything, the revised interior on the latest Mustang is the most aggressive ever. The sporty feel on the tester was enhanced by black, stitched seating surfaces, a jet-fighter center stack of controls and a throwback three-spoke steering wheel. Analog gauges were also done in a welcoming, old-school style.

Not sure why Ford opted for the light-blue dash and cupholder lighting. On the Mustang, it comes off as kind of wimpy. Dark-red might have been more like it.

It says here that the Mustang seats four, but longtime pony car fans will know that those two back seats are pretty much for show and small baggage. This Mustang convertible remains a cruise-dream for two. No shame in that.

Of course, there’s significantly more high-tech in the modern-day Mustang. That includes the Ford SYNC audio system. Once mastered, it’s a hoot, providing hours of entertainment and impressing passengers who marvel at your ability to control things via your voice.

Bottom line: Ford continues to produce Mustangs that keep a handle on Mustang lore, while showing off the latest in modern amenities. The power curve keeps going up, and the tested convertible had an ample supply for a mere $26,000 or so.

It’s a nice buy, for a young married couple or an boomer-oldster like myself who wants a peppy second car to unwind on the weekends.

Memo to Ford: Keep on making them.

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