You can say what you want about the Ford Mustang, but the company has done its homework with its newest version of the famed Pony car. It�s doubtful any other automobile in North America has been on the receiving end of as much research, scrutiny, clinical study, and hand-wringing as the 2011 Mustang. Given the precarious state of the automotive industry these days, Ford has to get this one right, and company designers have clinicked this car to the nth degree, working closely with various enthusiast groups – the 11,000-member Mustang Club of America, among others. "We know what our customers want and expect," said Dave Paricek, chief engineer at the recent launch of the new Mustang in Los Angeles. He must be right; Ford has sold over nine million of them since its introduction, in 1964.
For 2011, the Mustang retains its familiar retro-themed body style and gets a performance shot in the arm, with three different drivetrains: a revised V6, 5.0 litre V8, and supercharged 550-horsepower V8.
Of the three, the V6 is arguably the most noteworthy. It�s also traditionally the best seller, accounting for about 60 per cent of total Mustang sales. For the 2011 model year, it goes down in size, but up in performance. Displacing 3.7 litres, it now develops 305 horsepower, compared to 210 for the 2010 version. "That�s about the same horsepower as the 1998 Mustang SVT," comments Paricek. Part of the reason for the power boost comes from a new variable valve system Ford is calling Ti-VCT, which reduces friction and modifies the valve train for optimal combustion and breathing. It�s also mated to a redesigned intake manifold and the V6 can be had with a six-speed transmission….manual or automatic. It�s interesting to note that the original 260 CID V8 engine that came with the first Mustang, back in �64, just had over half as much power as this new V6.
But, this being 2010, any V6 engine worth its salt has to deliver decent fuel economy, and Ford is claiming a three per cent increase in highway fuel economy with the new V6….6.4 L/100 km, compared to 7.6 L/100 km for the current model.
At the launch, we got the chance to put the V6 through a slalom course, and it behaved more like a tweaked V8 than a mass-production V6. With the traction control disabled (part of the performance package), the rear wheels can break traction like a 1950s hot rod, and you can hustle it through the cones like a sports car. It�s still a little on the loud side, and a bit of a handful during tight cornering, but in terms of power and performance, the V6 should satisfy all but the most rabid high-performance buffs.
And for those guys, the 5.0 litre V8 bangs out 412 horsepower, while providing an aural treat while it�s at it. If you�ve seen the movie classic, Bullitt, you may remember the noises made by Steve McQueen�s Mustang GT as he chased the bad guys� Dodge Charger through San Francisco at full throttle. Somehow, Ford has managed to replicate all that mechanical whining and growling, and, under throttle, the V8 sounds almost exactly the same as McQueen�s GT. You can get the V8 with either an automatic or manual transmission…..again, both six speeds. I found the manual gearbox to be a little on the crowded side, with kind of an ambiguous feeling in the linkage from third to sixth, but that�s something owners would probably acclimatize themselves to. What is really appealing about this drivetrain is the way it sustains power through the rpm range as you go through the gears. When you shift from second to third, for example, there is almost no momentum loss and the engine�s massive torque allows you to drive "lazy" and still get the performance pop of a muscle car. Ford also gave us the chance to run the five litre through an eighth-mile drag strip, and it reached a top speed of around 150 km/h on a fairly regular basis. Impressive.
There will be five basic versions of the new Mustang in Canada, and two of them will be convertibles. Both the soft-top and hardtop models can be had with the V6 or the 5.0 litre V8. As well as the usual standard equipment such as air conditioning, power windows, four-wheel disc brakes, full instrumentation, and so on, you can order things like leather interior ($1500), remote start (with the automatic only, $300), a slick glass roof ($2200), block heater ($80), cloth soft-top, DVD navigation system, and a thoughtful little extra known as MyKey. In a nutshell, this latter feature allows owners – read: parents – to program the car�s ignition key and limit the vehicle�s top speed and stereo volume, while activating a "persistent" seat belt reminder and various speed alert chimes.
AT A GLANCE
Engine: 3.7 litre V6 & 5.0 litre V8
Transmission: Six-speed manual / automatic
Horsepower: 305 horsepower at 6200 rpm & 412 horsepower at 7000 rpm
Torque: 280 foot-pounds at 5000 rpm & 390 foot-pounds at 4250 rpm
Price Range: $22,999 – $42,899
Fuel Economy: 10.7 litres per 100 kilometres city; 6.4 litres per 100 kilometres highway (V6 w. automatic trans.)
Recommended Fuel: Regular
Alternatives: Chev Camaro, Dodge Challenger, Hyundai Genesis Coupe, Nissan 370Z, Audi A6, Honda Accord Coupe.
Positives: Remarkable performance for the money, true to its Pony car roots.
Negatives: As politically incorrect as a kick in the pants.