2011 Ford Mustang – More Than Just Great New Powertrains1
The 2011 Ford Mustang has all new engines: a new 3.7L V6 and an all-new unique-to-Mustang 5.0L V8. Ford has been rolling out the powertrain news, and the media, buff books, and blogosphere dutifully reporting it for the past couple of months. But after being exposed to the 2011 iteration of the Mustang, we can tell you there is much more than meets the eye. We had the chance for some brief drivetime the 2011 Mustang in most every configuration. Short form: Yeah!
The 2011 Mustang looks like the 2010 but under the skin it is a very different animal. Ford’s strategy here is similar to that used for the 2008 – 2009 Escape. The 2008 Escape model got a major styling freshening and interior upgrade and the 2009 saw the major powertrain upgrades. While many scoffed that the 2010 Chevrolet Camaro had Mustang beat in the powertrain department, Ford engineers continued to develop and prepare these engines. Camaro put a bogey in place, to be sure, but neither engine is truly a response to Chevrolet’s terrific powertrain lineup.
Enthusiasts Will Tell the Engine Story The sum of the two upgrades to the 2005 S197 Mustang is an impressive vehicle. The new V6, priced at $22,995, has nearly the power output of the previous 4.6L V8 in the Mustang GT. It feels very powerful, offering sufficient torque at the low end, but is missing that lovely V8 growl. Great drivability. Great tip-in response. With 90HP more on tap compared to the old 4.0L Cologne V6, a 2011 V6 Mustang gets to 60mph 1.5 seconds faster. The all-new purpose-built 5.0L V8 has 412HP and 390 lb-ft of torque, ensuring V8 power gets a substantial bump (97HP). Punch the V8 and you are pushed back in the seat with the G-forces almost wiping the smile off your face.
Mustang V6 ONLY Car with 300HP or More to get 30mpg Both V6 and V8 are available with either a six-speed manual transmission or a six-speed automatic transmission. Ford claims the V6 is the ONLY car that gets 30mpg and has 300HP–specifically 305HP. That’s a pretty powerful claim, though in truth barely edges out the Chevrolet Camaro, which boasts 304HP and 29mpg highway. Mustang is about 300 pounds lighter, however, giving it a power-to-weight advantage. (That weight advantage may also help Mustang’s GT V8 against Camaro, where a 426HP V8 can be found, or Challenger SRT8 with 425HP.)
Finesse and Craftsmanship But while the car buffs will hype the powertrains, the main story is in the detail improvements between 2010 and 2011. The key descriptors are: finesse and craftsmanship. It is the sum of improvements made for both model years that adds up to a terrific car, not great engines that apologize for a lesser interior or ride.
The 2011 Mustang feels unlike any of its predecessors. It is more substantial and more solid. The seats are actually comfortable, being both soft and supportive. It is quieter. The ride is purposeful but not harsh. The interior materials have been upgraded (but there are still hard door panel uppers). The 2011 Mustang finally feels of a piece, perhaps even slightly grown up. Its roguish nature is no further than your right foot, but we expect a comfortable and livable beast when that foot practices restraint.
Ford has added their eight-inch navigation screen to the nav-equipped cars. Of course SYNC is available. Ambient lighting is standard.
Model Proliferation: A Mustang for Every Driver Ford has fallen into the model proliferation trap, however. There is a high-miler package that gets 31mpg on the highway by virtue of lower rolling resistance tires and other tweaks. There is a Mustang Club of America version. There is the Glass Roof, really available in standard or GT models. There is the always horrific California Special package. There is a performance package for the V6 that puts GT bits on the lower-powered car. There is a Brembo brake package that puts Brembos and other suspension upgrades on the car. Of course we can’t forget the Boss 302R – a resurrection of the Boss 302 name in a low production race-ready package. Of course, the range topper that “anyone” can buy and drive is the Shelby GT500 with its 5.4L 550HP V8. The GT500 represents about 11% of GT sales.
While it has been the ability to offer this variety that helps keep Mustang relevant with its varied audience, the 2011 list covers much territory. Mustang’s success is in part rooted to being able to satisfy buyers who want a Mustang for its looks, its power, its history, or its sporty image–but also by leaving some room for do-it-yourself tuners.
Mustang Wins Pony Car Battle Against American pony cars – Chevrolet Camaro and Dodge Challenger, the 2011 Mustang wins. Why? We touched on this. It is the attention to detail and finesse found in the 2011 model year that supports the huge leap forward the 2010 car made. Interestingly, Ford benchmarked the Audi A5, Infiniti G37 coupe and the Hyundai Genesis coupe in addition to the Camaro and Challenger. That A5 was its interior craftsmanship target is obvious. A5 finesse at a Mustang price.
Could 2011 Mustang Have Won COTY? The 2010 Mustang was in the Motor Trend Car of the Year running, but failed primarily because of its antiquated Cologne V6, while Ford’s 2010 Fusion won because Ford launched all upgrades at once. If the 2011 Mustang had been in that run-off, Ford may have had a one-two finish.