Two new engines and various other engineering improvements make the 2011 Ford Mustang a better performer and more enjoyable to drive. As we also mentioned in our drive of the V-6, these new Mustangs completely recalibrate your performance and value expectations in a muscle car or sports coupe.
The base V-6 engine in the Mustang had been a weak link for a long time, but this year that changes with a new 305-hp, 3.7-liter V-6. Now, there’s good throttle response and plentiful low-end torque. Thanks to Ford's TI-VCT variable valve timing, the V-6 builds steam all the way through its range in a way the old V-8 didn't. And it’s rated up to 19 mpg city, 31 highway with the six-speed automatic. If you drive lightly, it’ll return numbers well into the 20s.
This V-8's 412 horsepower easily slams the 390 hp that the Shelby Cobra produced a few years back, and in some real-world driving it can put out a level of thrust that's awfully close to what you'd get from the GT500. It feels happy pounding out the torque as low as 1,500 rpm yet roars up to 7,000 rpm. There's no recognizable torque plateau; power simply builds all the way. There's so much torque on command, even just above idle, that you have to roll into the throttle carefully out of tight turns. An abrupt change in pavement surface during a full-throttle pass didn't provide the shock that we anticipated, but overall this is definitely a car that begs to be driven hard, yet rewards the driver for some level of finesse and restraint.
The GT also sounds great—a deep authoritative bellow that turns heads more than the resonated sound from the bigger V-8 in the Camaro SS. It has the capability to pin you back in your seat with almost supercar thrust, no matter what the gear, or commit seemingly unlimited acts involving smoky burnouts. With 0-60 times expected in the low four-second range, the GT now delivers the straight-line acceleration of exotics just a few years ago.
Even though it kept the old solid-axle rear setup, the Mustang's suspension was also extensively redone. We noted it took a plant more easily into corners and dealt much better with choppy pavement and mixed surfaces. The 2011 Ford Mustang GT really doesn’t feel differently sprung than the V-6, and it steers and handles just as well—provided you're careful with the power. Ford adds that damper tuning and spring rates were again revised for the new setup, while new rear lower control arms and stiffer stabilizer bar bushings help cornering stability. Notably, brakes have also been upgraded on V-6 Mustangs. In both cars, the new EPAS electric power steering system tracked well, while the suspension held on through rough sections of pavement better than we would have ever hoped for a design that still relies on a solid axle in back.
Enthusiasts will definitely want to opt for the Coupe, as we noticed a decrease in stiffness in convertibles. Our favorite is the Coupe with the available glass roof, which lets the light in like a Convertible but maintains the Coupe's stiffness. The six-speed manual is the way to go, as the clutch in the V-8 takes up just as easily as in the V-6, and the six-speed automatic doesn't offer any true manumatic control.