With the new 2010 Mustang, Ford has taught us all just how long you can stretch out a campaign, releasing a shadowy new image almost twice a week, each time revealing just another corner of the Mustang?s subtle new facelift (and websites falling over themselves to be the first to share it with their readers).
The wait is over. We can all stare at the gorgeous new ?Stang for a while, and dream about Ford Australia offering it to poor 'muscle-coupe-deprived' Aussies.
Continuing the history-bound styling loyal to the Mustangs of old, the 2010 Mustang?s lines are evolutionary rather than revolutionary.
"The best Mustangs have always been the ones that connect young America with the spirit of the times ? and the 2010 does exactly that," said J Mays, Ford's group vice president of Design. "The new Mustang is close to the magnetic center of the original, fully loaded with the swagger you'd expect, but with modern refinement and attention to detail like you've never seen in a muscle car."
The facelift begins with the grille, featuring a narrower, more aggressive opening, and tightly hugged headlights. In the centre of the grille sits the revised Mustang badge, with its sharper and more defined lines speaking volumes for the car itself. Huge fog lamps ? though smaller than those on the outgoing model and inspired by the 1967-68 Mustang ? sit proudly in the grille on the GT version, while the V6 wears them down in the lower fascia. The bonnet swoops up into a ?power hood?, adding visually to the car?s aggressive muscle-car status, while also allowing for enhanced engine cooling beneath.
The headlights and front indicators, now integrated into one unit, are modern interpretations based on those found on the 1970 Mustang. It seems the further we move into the future, the closer Ford brings the Mustang back to its heritage.
"We understand Mustang's heritage and iconic status it has in the world and as a symbol of Americana," said Peter Horbury, executive director of Design, The Americas. "We wanted to create a face that is more muscular but unquestionably, unequivocally Mustang and carry that spirit through to the entire car."
Virtually every length of the exterior sheet metal, except for the fast-back roofline, is all new for the 2010 model.
The front and rear fenders feature taut, sculptured wheel flares, with a classic spear-like character line tearing along the doors leading to what Ford describes as a modern interpretation of ?hip? rear fenders. "It helps give the car aggressive, forward direction, like it's ready to jump," said Doug Gaffka, Mustang chief designer.
Moving around to the rear, we see more aggressively angled corners, a sculptured deck lid, and a prominent rear badge, surrounded by a sleek new tail light design featuring three LED bulbs firing sequentially from the inside for turn indication. This sequential pattern was a distinct feature of the Mustang in the ?60s, and returns in 2010 for the first time since.
"More than 9 million customers have made Mustang one of the world's most beloved automotive and cultural icons," said Mark Fields, Ford's president of The Americas. "Making sure this modern legend lives up to their expectations has been a driving force for the team, which went to great lengths ? gathering customer input everywhere from race tracks to Main Streets in cities throughout the U.S. ? working to create the best Mustang ever."
For 2010, Ford believes the Mustang team delivered.
"The new Mustang marks new levels of both power and refinement," said Paul Randle, Mustang chief engineer. "We've designed and engineered this to be the next classic Mustang that everyone talks about for years and years."
The update isn?t all on the outside, of course. Ford?s intentions with the new model were to make Mustang a genuine performance and handling option for buyers seeking the best of both worlds.
"We adjusted the springs, stabilizer bars and shocks to better balance the ride, steering and handling for all models, which results in a more engaging driving experience," Mustang Vehicle Engineering manager Tom Barnes said. "The 2010 Mustangs feel more controlled for steering and handling, yet retain a good ride balance."
The wheels are now one inch bigger across the board, ranging from 17 to 19 inches, further improving braking and handling and ensuring each model in the range holds up the sports and muscle car reputation.
For performance, customers can choose from either a V6 or a V8 for the coupe, convertible, or glass-roofed model. The 4.6-litre V8 sees power increased to 235kW.
"It runs on regular gasoline, but if you put in premium it has adaptive calibration that will give you even better mid-range torque," Barnes said, adding that Easy Fuel?, Ford's innovative capless fuel system, is standard on all models.
"It's an upgrade to the most-robust, most-accessorized engine in the marketplace today," Randle added. "No one has the reliability, no one has the upgraded options. This is a fantastic engine, proven on the race track, the drag strip and on the highway."
AdvanceTrac? Electronic Stability Control (ESC) is now standard and complements Mustang's all-speed traction control and anti-lock braking system (ABS).
"It gives a driver a little more confidence that in any type of condition the car will maintain what they want it to do," Barnes said. "The 2010 Mustang improves ride quality and maintains world-class steering and handling."
The part-retro interior is a return to innovative styling and quality, once a feature of American auto manufacturing. The instrument panel and console flow as one shape, another strong connection to the Mustang heritage. The seats and arm rests have high-quality stitching.
The dash features a soft-touch skin, encompassing aluminium-finish panels, chrome-ringed gauges, and dual-vane air register vents precisely crafted and positioned.
"That's the difference between good enough and exceptional," said Gary Morales, Interior Design manager. "We wouldn't accept anything less than leadership design and world-class craftsmanship."
The new center stack design adds the latest version of Ford SYNC?, with new features 911 Assist and Vehicle Health Report. Drivers also can customize their ambient and instrument lighting through the My Color? system, which features 125 color options.
"The centerstack is quite progressive. The electronic finish panel containing the audio and climate control buttons and knobs are integrated into the finish panel," said Kim Zielinski, Mustang Instrument Panel engineer, 2010 Mustang. "I believe the customers will really like the new look."
Standard safety equipment includes dual stage front driver and passenger air bags and front seat-mounted side air bags.
With an almost-completely redone exterior echoing the classic Mustang designs of the past, and an interior featuring a welcome change in the American auto industry?s attitude towards quality and design, the 2010 Mustang looks set to become the car it should have been from the outset.
Better late than never at all.