Ford Mustang GT Ithaca NY

Four years ago, Mustang hit the proverbial nail on the head with its heritage-inspired style. The 2010 model doesn't move away from that, but rather enhances it.

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We must give credit where credit is due. Ford is fully responsible for giving life back to the pony car. The 2005 retro recreation of a modern Mustang paved the way, much to Ford's chagrin, for the Dodge Challenger and Chevrolet Camaro. Were it not for these two, Ford easily could have sat on its laurels and done nothing to improve the 2010 model. But, competition is an American tradition — and Ford has stepped up to the plate to build the best Mustang yet.

Four years ago, Mustang hit the proverbial nail on the head with its heritage-inspired style. The 2010 model doesn't move away from that, but rather enhances it. Every panel of the car, save the roof, has been reworked, but most won't spot it easily unless it's next to an old car or the taillights' new sequential turn signals catch their eye. Run your hands over the exterior and many detail differences can be found. The gas flap is flush to the body, the antenna is a stubby unit on the right-rear quarter panel and the hood has a brawny power bulge that no longer sports pimply windshield squirters. (Instead, these are mounted underhood.) The front bumper is slightly higher, resulting in a determined headlight look that seems to say "don't mess with me."

The Mustang's exterior has been cleaned up, shaved off or honed like a hot-rodder would do, not the factory. But it wasn't just for looks. Some of that work has gone into aerodynamic improvements that help in a 7-percent efficiency gain over the previous GT, even though the drivetrain hasn't changed much. Our test car is a manual GT equipped with the Track Pack option. Not your average GT, but still a socially acceptable muscle car with 315 rumbly horsepower. It looks the part with 19-in. wheels, wide tires and dark chrome trim.

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