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2011 Ford Mustang - 300HP 30 MPG - A Close Up Look

By Thom Cannell
Senior Editor
Detroit Bureau
The Auto Channel

Dearborn Michigan, November 30, 2009; There is no other American car with enduring cult status like the perennial pony car, Mustang. It is the eternal muscle car and a purely American aspirational vehicle. It is a car that makes people smile with you and for you, a car that cuts across gender, class, economics, and age. But can it endure? If the 2011 Mustang is an omen, Mustang has a strong future and again it is all about legendary power, this time from a V6. One line says everything: 305 horsepower�30 MPG. Oh, and six-speed transmissions in both flavors.

Most of us recall when 300 hp was an amazing figure and if you simply had to have 300 horses under the hood it meant buying a Mustang Cobra. For 2011, 300 horsepower is Mustang�s bottom line�not its top�in a package that delivers more quality, better handling, improved fuel economy and lower emissions, and greater value.

Yes, the exterior is changed for 2011, but very slightly. Mirrors have integrated blind spot wide angle spotters inset into both sides, aerodynamics are revised to improve air flow and help the car plant more firmly at higher speeds. It�s what you cannot see that changes Mustang most.

Ford has swapped hydraulic power assist for Electronic Power Assisted Steering. Independent analysis suggest the jury is undecided if EPAS truly bests the finest hydraulic steering. It surely comes close at mid and high speeds and is definitely an improvement at low speeds where it is nicely light. Electric steering is quieter and improves fuel efficiency. It can also compensate for highly crowned highways or even tune out an unbalanced wheel or warped brake rotor.

Another big change is making limited-slip differentials standard. You get better launch and more assured grip on slippery surfaces. Brakes at all four corners are larger, now 11.5� in front and 11.8� at the rear.

Inside you'll notice a new gauge cluster with 160 mph speedometer and a tachometer that goes to 8,000 rpm (the engine red lines at 7,000.) Other things you won�t see are those that make the car quieter (according to Ford, we haven�t driven one) like new door seals, extra soundproofing, and a liner in the rear wheel well that will isolate road noise.

Now for answers to how they got more power and better economy? By building a whole new 3.7-liter all aluminum engine with four valves per cylinder and independent intake and exhaust timing. Ford calls theirs Ti-VCT (Twin Independent variable cam timing) and their version uses engine oil pressure to adjust valve opening and closing, producing economy, low emissions, improved cold start, and 280 pound-feet of torque in this engine. Friction reduction played a big part in economy and engine efficiency, like the direct acting mechanical bucket valve train and roller finger followers. All the V-6s are built at the retooled Cleveland Engine Plant Number 1.

For 2011 suspension is retuned; both the damper and spring rates are biased to a smooth highway ride and the rear lower control arm is new. Stabilizer bar bushings are stiffer which improves cornering.

If you value clipping apexes over pure straight line speed, a performance version will debut soon after launch. It lowers the rear axle ratio to 3.31:1 from 2.73:1, includes GT suspension and 19� wheels with summer-only performance tires for more for improved handling. Because you�ll be tempted�and give in repeatedly�a strut tower brace will help keep front wheels pointed where you want them while a specific stability control program will permit your more-sideways kind of enthusiasm.

Ford has proved it understands that tech is critically important to its customers of all ages. As part of its technology suite like the wildly popular SYNC, Ford will include the MyKey system that allows parents or owners to limit things like top speed, audio volume, always-on traction control, speed alert chimes, and a persistent seat belt reminder. That�s along with formidable use of high strength steel for crash resistance, multiple air bags, and seat belt pre-tensioners.

That�s what Ford announced today. I�ll predict a version with big horsepower from Ford�s EcoBoost twin turbocharging technology will be announced in the next 18 months with a 400 horsepower V6 engine. However, don�t expect Ford to abandon V-8s. Chatting with the Mustang marketing team we established that the core Mustang buyer considers the number of cylinders as important as the number of horses or pound-feet. So V-8s are a core Mustang value, that is until Washington makes them impossible.