Using the '09 Bullitt and Mustang challenge race cars as reference points, the engineering team tightened up the rearend by making the rear springs 17 percent stiffer than the Bullitt springs (25 percent more than the '09 base GT). All new struts and shocks offer more control, which translates to a very flat-handling ride. Body roll seemed to be significantly reduced over the '09 model, and the optional 19-inch wheel package, with lower profile Pirelli tires, help stick the Mustang to the road, without providing a harsh ride. The base 18-inch Pirellis also offer a substantial improvement over the '09 model's BFGoodrich KDWS rubber.
We heard a few other journalists during our trip suggest that the steering was weighted well, but felt disconnected. We agree with the weighting and to some extent, the disconnected feeling. At low speeds and low lateral force, the steering was smooth and responsive. There isn't a lot of feedback, but in this mode of driving, we'd appreciate a bit of a buffer. When you push the car hard, you get the necessary feedback required to make precision adjustments, of which the steering makes with great accuracy. Turn-in is sharp, without being too aggressive, and that adds to the confidence-inspiring drive that one gets behind the wheel.
We didn't explore the limits of the Advance Trac stability control until we arrived at Willow Springs International Motorsports Park. Willow Springs is a road-racing Mecca located north of Los Angeles in Rosamond, California. Ford booked the smaller Streets of Willow circuit, but its 1.8-miles of twists and turns offered plenty of places to whip the Mustang around and attain speeds of 60-80 mph. It was also the safer of two courses for those who hadn't been on a road course before.
After lunch and a brief safety talk, we jumped in a base Mustang GT to get a general driving impression, and to explore the capability of the Advance Trac stability control. Advance Trac utilizes lateral and longitudinal accelerometers, along with steering angle, yaw, and individual wheel speed measurements to reel in the Mustang when certain parameters are exceeded. Being a performance car, the '10 Mustang also offers a Sport mode that allows a little more spirited driving style before it intervenes. You can also turn it completely off in case you want to do your favorite John Force, Steve McQueen, or Vaughn Gittin Jr. impersonation.
We were impressed with the new Pirelli all-season tires on the road, and they served well on the track too, however we didn't give the colt two corners before we put the hammer down. After a lap or two, we have to say that most people probably won't ever know the stability control is there unless they get into an emergency situation at speed or in inclement weather. From the factory it sticks very well and is very comfortable to drive. Once you do get out of shape, Advance Trac intervenes and adjusts to get you slowed down and straight again.
We then stopped in the pit lane to switch Advance Trac to Sport mode. For those who want to explore the limits of their Mustang, this is the setting, as you can slide the tail out ever so slightly without upsetting Advance Trac. We would say it is a great setting for novice or intermediate road racers who are looking to take up the corner-carving hobby. It'll let you get the car out of shape enough for you to know that it is, and beyond that, it's got your back.
Even with the Advance Trac completely off, the '10 Mustang GT is still very adept and you really have to push it quite hard to get it loose. Slight understeer is present, but the 4.6L powerplant offers plenty of power to steer with the throttle, especially when coupled with the optional 3.73 rear gear package.
The standard wheel and tire...
The standard wheel and tire package on the Mustang GT is this 18x8-inch wheel with a 235/50/18 Pirelli P Zero Nero all season tire.
At Willow Springs, we got...
At Willow Springs, we got to sample Ford's Track Pack, which includes this 19x8.5-inch wheel upgrade with a 255/40/19 P Zero high performance summer tire. Traction with these is exceptional.
After our drive through the...
After our drive through the mountains, it was time to get the colt to a closed circuit where we could take the Mustang to its limits and beyond. That circuit was the Streets of Willow, in Rosamond, California.