2011 Ford Mustang: First Drive
Article from Jalopnik
2011 Ford Mustang: First Drive
For the last year, every Mustang review has essentially read, "an involving, exciting sports car, but it's slower than the Camaro." In the muscle market, it's power, not handling, which sells. Luckily, the 2011 Ford Mustang fixes that. Moar power!
Let's recap: The 2010 Ford Mustang hit dealers about a year ago with comprehensive upgrades to its styling, quality, suspension and brakes, but not its power trains, which have remained largely unaltered since 2005. There was a crappy, 4.0-liter 210 HP V6 no one but teenage girls and rental fleets bought and then there was the old-as-nails 4.6-liter V8 which made only 315 HP. That V8 was fun to use and sounded great, but as soon as the new 426 HP Camaro SS showed up last summer, Ford was left eating Chevy's dust. Making things worse, the Camaro also comes with a V6 which makes 304 HP, nearly as much as the old Mustang GT's V8. Sadly (for Ford at least) engine development didn't keep up with model development and last year's Mustang wasn't as fast as it needed to be.
For 2011, the Mustang is coming with a fitting tribute to its founder — Donald Frey — who died earlier this weekend — two new engines: a 3.7-liter V6 using variable inlet and exhaust valve timing to achieve both big power and torque figures - 305 HP and 280 Lb-Ft - but also impressive fuel economy - 31 MPG highway/19 MPG city with the 6-speed automatic transmission. The 5.0-liter Coyote V8 uses the same technology to make 412 HP and 390 Lb-Ft, but still manages a respectable 26 MPG highway/ 17 MPG city. The Coyote V8's headline power figure is still a bit shy of the Camaro LS3's 426 HP and 408 Lb-Ft number, but the Ford is a useful 255 Lbs lighter than the Chevy. That actually gives the Mustang GT a slightly superior power-to-weight ratio of .114 HP per pound to the Camaro SS's .110 HP per pound figure.
Rednecks of the world rejoice, the 2011 Ford Mustang GT is now faster in a straight line than the Chevy Camaro SS. Driving Ford legal department-mandated six-speed slushbox-equipped cars, I ran an 86.85 MPH 1/8th mile in the Mustang and an 80.15 MPH run in the Camaro. A lot of the Mustang's advantage is due to lower gearing, as indicated by its 2.165-second 60-foot time despite my laggardly .420-second reaction time. Compare it to the Camaro's 2.549-second 60-foot time despite a better .243-second reaction time. The Ford launches much harder than the Chevy, easily lighting up the rear tires if you switch the traction control off, something the auto-equipped Camaro really hates doing.
So that's it, right? The Mustang is now faster than the Camaro in a straight line and it was already arguably more fun to drive. The Mustang wins the Muscle Car Wars, story over. But Ford didn't stop there, it also comprehensively updated the 2011 Mustang's suspension, brakes and other running gear, not only to keep up with the new-found speed, but to improve the driving experience too.
Let's start with the V6, in fact, let's start with the bottom-of-the-range $22,145 V6 equipped with lilliputian 17-inch wheels and a six-speed manual transmission. In addition to the new engine, it's been upgraded with Electric Power Assist Steering (EPAS), firmer dampers and springs all round, new lower control arms for the live rear axle and thicker anti-sway bars with bushings now bolted to the bar to control its movement more effectively.
The 3.7-liter engine now makes this a genuinely quick car. Ford refuses to quote an official 0-60 MPH time, but indicates 5.5 seconds wouldn't be a bad guess. In action, the six-cylinder feels a lot like an asthmatic version of the old V8. Making its peak 305 HP at 6,500 RPM and its peak 280 Lb-Ft of torque at 4,250 RPM it's got plenty of flexibility for easy day-to-day progress, but you need to be bouncing off the 7,000 RPM limiter regularly to make real progress. Luckily the slick shifter and rev-happy engine makes that easy. It sounds good when you work it too, not quite up there with the V6 in the Nissan 370Z, but the intake noise - the only thing you'll hear - is a crisp wail and if you stand outside the car while it pulls way the exhaust noise is nice and deep too. Your little sister's classmates will be impressed and you won't be disappointed if you have to borrow her car, even in base form you can have fun driving the V6.
EPAS is fairly controversial on performance cars; it's often blamed for corrupting steering feel which isn't just something us spoiled journalists like to harp on about, but the communication you'll need if you really want to explore the limits of your car. Equipped with 17-inch wheels, the V6's steering is direct and linear, but lacks communication. While it's a capable, friendly handler, it also floats over bumps, meaning it's imprecise and difficult to fully get the most out of.
5.0 is sort of a magic number for Ford. It's the Mustang's connection to popular culture and the pinnacle of ‘Stang as affordable performance for the masses. Last time around it was all about white kids rapping and getting to the end of a 1/4 mile in the shortest possible time. Now, it's responsible for transforming the Mustang from a fun muscle car into one hell of a performance car.
Full article with pics at: