2011 Ford Mustang Review


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2011 Ford Mustang

SEE ALSO: Ford Buyers Guide
SEE ALSO: E-Carmony: Will the 2011 Ford Mustang Match Your Needs?

With new engines and suspension revisions for the 2011 Mustang, Ford has made a good car even better.

DRIVING DOWN THE ROAD
WITH CAREY RUSS

2011 Ford Mustang V6 Coupe Premium

You've got to love this arms race: classic Ford versus Chevrolet. Blue Oval versus Bow Tie. When the latest incarnation of Chevy's Camaro was announced, in 2009 for model year 2010, the V6 had 304 horsepower and the V8 had 400 -- or 426 with a stick. At the time, the Ford Mustang had a paltry 210 in V6 trim, and 315 max for the V8. Would Ford match Chevy?

Of course. Development times being what they are (shorter than ever!), it took until just about… now! So, after some evolutionary changes last year -- refreshed styling and, most noteworthy, a much-improved interior, the Mustang's engine compartment gets the bulk of attention for 2011. The old 4.0-liter sohc V6 has been replaced by a new version of Ford's 3.7-liter engine, in which dual overhead cams and continuously-variable cam phasing on all help to make more power -- now 305 hp -- and improve fuel economy and lower emissions. Similar technology allows the all-now 5.0-liter V8 to make 412 horsepower, something not seen out of the old and completely-unrelated pushrod 5.0 without serious tuning work. For both engines, transmissions are six-speed whether manual or automatic, further improving performance and economy.

Other changes to the 2011 Mustang are electric, instead of hydraulic, assist for the power steering, revisions to the suspension to further improve ride and handling, and some minor aerodynamic tweaks that, while originally designed to improve fuel economy, decrease left at speed for greater security and safety.

As in recent years, the 2011 Mustang is offered in V6 and V8 (GT) form in standard and Premium trim levels. I have yet to drive the new V8, but have spent the past week with a well-appointed V6 Premium coupe. Best. Mustang. Yet. At least for comfort and everyday use, with a degree of refinement not usually associated with the Mustang badge. And while the V8 gets the attention, it's usually the V6 that accounts for the bulk of sales -- it is, after all, less expensive to buy and insure. And feed, especially with the new engine. EPA ratings for the automatic, which my test car had, are 19 mpg city, 31 highway. Your mileage may vary… but at 21 for the week, it was the least thirsty Mustang I've ever known. Note, though, that if you value performance over economy, the manual will be the way to go, as the automatic is programmed for fuel economy and doesn't have a manual-shift mode, only manual selection of gears one through three. Given the priorities of automatic and manual buyers, no major problem.

You can buy a car with historic value, for a (usually large) price. You can buy a car with great performance, for a (usually large) price. Or you can buy a Mustang, one of the most significant automobiles in American history (think for a moment what the automotive scene would be like had there not been a 1964 1/2 Mustang). For a (not particularly large) price. Few cars have ever combined history, performance, and affordability as well as the Mustang, and Ford has significantly improved the performance for 2011.

APPEARANCE: There's no mistaking a Mustang for anything else, and Ford knows better than to mess with a Good Thing. The current version builds on the look of the 2005-09 version, but is not as self-consciously retro. Styling changes that are each relatively small create a look that, while completely new, pays tribute to most of the Mustang's past while showing the path to the future. At the front, a re-shaped grille is flanked by round headlights, and the galloping pony mascot is more stylized. A prominent angular power dome breaks up the otherwise flat expanse of the hood. To the sides, the wheel arches are less prominent and the top of the rear fenders is more reminiscent of the original Mustang. The fastback roofline is the same, and the GT 350-inspired quarter windows add both to looks and rear-quarter visibility. The beveled rear panel is the most apparent design change, and the triple-vertical taillights now are LED-lit with sequential turn signaling. Dual exhausts are new for the V6 this year.

COMFORT: Interior design and appointment are more upscale than any previous Mustang, and additional soundproofing decreases noise levels for a more civilized experience. The new instrument panel echos the past with its soft-touch twin-brow design, The Premium trim level adds brushed-aluminum trim to the dash, scuff plates, and pedals, perforated leather seating surfaces (and power adjustment to the seat cushions), the "Shaker 500" AM/FM/6CD/Sirius satellite radio/auxiliary input audio system, Ford's SYNC® electronic communication system, ambient lighting for the door pockets, sill plates, cupholders, and front and rear footwells, and MyColor™ programmable instrument lighting. The optional navigation system incorporates phone, audio, and climate controls into its intuitive hard and soft button interface; there are also dual analog controls. The front seats are the best yet in a standard Mustang, and the rear seat will hold two medium-sized adults in surprising comfort. The coupe's trunk is usefully-sized, if a bit small of opening. A space-saver spare tire lives under the trunk floor.

SAFETY: Ford has a surprisingly simple and effective new safety feature this year - small convex mirrors integrated into the external rear-view mirrors for a low-budget (as in standard, free) blind-spot monitoring system. My Mustang was so-equipped, and after a short time to get used to the view, the mirrors worked very well, although driver attention is required. Other active safety features of the 2011 Mustang are good handling, four-wheel antilock vented disc brakes, and AdvanceTrac® with electronic stability control (ESC). Dual-stage driver and front passenger front air bags, front seat side air bags, a tire pressure monitoring system, the SecuriLock® passive antitheft system, and the SOS post crash alert system are some key passive safety features.

RIDE AND HANDLING: As ever, the Mustang in its 2011 incarnation exemplifies "proven technology" in the chassis department. Front engine, rear-wheel drive, and a… solid rear axle?!? It works, and it works well, especially since the modifications once made by owners and the aftermarket, chiefly three-link location and a Panhard bar, became standard equipment in the 2005 major redesign. Front suspension is independent, by MacPherson struts. With the new, lighter, engines this year, spring and shock rates have been recalibrated, and new rear lower control arms and stiffer stabilizer bushings reduce body roll, and hence lateral weight transfer. In standard trim, like my test car, the suspension calibration is moderately firm but compliant, sporty rather than sport. V6 buyers with a need for more can specify the stiffer GT calibration. Electrically-assisted power steering reduces engine power loss - no pump - and provides appropriately light steering at parking speeds, with a heavier touch at speed.

PERFORMANCE: More power! Significantly more, with 305 horsepower (at 6500 rpm) and 280 lb-ft of torque at 4250 rpm. Compare that to the old engine's 210 hp (at 5300) and 240 lb-ft (at 3500). There's plenty right off the line, but the midrange and top are where the real action is. Which means that with the six-speed automatic in "D", you won't get too acquainted with all of those horses on a daily basis unless you're very heavy on the throttle, as it's programmed to shift early and conserve gas. Which will likely make the person who likes the style of the Mustang and also wants fuel economy happy. Like the power and want to use it as much as possible? Get the stick. And keep your favorite oil company happy, as 300 hp requires a certain amount of fuel and air mixture… Interestingly, my test car had the optional 3.31:1 rear axle ratio, which improves acceleration but decreases fuel economy, so I'd expect better than the 21-mpg overall I did get with the standard taller axle ratio. If it goes, it should stop, and so the 2011 Mustang gets larger vented brake discs all around. A limited-slip differential ensures optimum traction at all times.

CONCLUSIONS: With new engines and suspension revisions for the 2011 Mustang, Ford has made a good car even better.

2011 Ford Mustang V6 Coupe Premium

SPECIFICATIONS

Base Price $ 25,845
Price As Tested $ 32,580
Engine Type dual overhead cam 24-valve aluminum alloy V6 with variable cam phasing
Engine Size 3.7 liters / 227 cu. in.
Horsepower 305 @ 6500 rpm
Torque (lb-ft) 280 @ 4250 rpm
Transmission 6-speed automatic (opt)
Wheelbase / Length 107.1 in. / 188.1 in.
Curb Weight 3473 lbs.
Pounds Per Horsepower 11.4
Fuel Capacity 16 gal.
Fuel Requirement 87 octane unleaded regular gasoline
Tires P235/50 ZR18 Pirelli PZero Nero (opt)
Brakes, front/rear 4-wheel vented disc, ABS
Suspension, front/rear independent MacPherson strut/ solid axle with 3-link location and coil springs
Drivetrain front engine, rear-wheel drive

PERFORMANCE

EPA Fuel Economy - miles per gallon
city / highway / observed
19 / 31 / 21
0 to 60 mph est 6.5 sec

OPTIONS AND CHARGES

Rapid Spec 203-A Mustang Club of America Package - includes:
  Dark Stainless Steel (color) billet grille with Tri-Bar Pony badge, foglamps, side tape stripes, rear spoiler, 18" alloy wheels and tires, automatic headlamps, premium carpet floor mats	$ 995
6-speed automatic transmission			$ 995
3.31 rear axle ratio				$ 395
Security Package				$ 395
HID headlamps					$ 525
Rear video camera				$ 240
Electronics Package with Navigation -- includes:
  voice-activated navigation system with
  integrated SIRIUS® Travel Link™ and free
  6-month subscription*, HD radio, dual-zone
  automatic temperature control			$ 2,340
Destination and delivery			$ 850

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