First Drive: 2011 Ford Mustang V-6 Page 2

March 28, 2010
Just last year Ford introduced a set of major improvements on the Mustang and extensively redesigned its exterior, giving it a more aggressive look while at the same time making the exterior proportions a little tidier and leaner. Even though it kept the old solid-axle rear setup, the Mustang's suspension was also extensively redone and we noted that it took a plant more easily into corners, and dealt much better with choppy pavement and mixed surfaces.

The new look and the improvements are carried over mostly untouched for 2011, but a number of new features alter—for the better, as we experienced—the way in which the Mustang responds and feels to the driver. The first of those is the incorporation of Ford’s EPAS electric power steering system

Electric power steering, stronger brakes

In the Mustang, EPAS doesn’t have that uneasy, twitchy feeling on center that so many units do. You can track straight ahead in a relaxed way without making small adjustments all the time, and the system even corrects for the crown of the road or crosswinds. 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. And notably, brakes have been upgraded on V-6 Mustangs.

There are a few packaging and equipment issues though. There's no telescopic steering-wheel adjustment, Sync, surprisingly, still isn’t available at all on base-model Mustangs. The voice-activated navigation feature isn’t optional on the base model either. And we find pedal placement on automatic-transmission models odd, with the brake pedal several inches higher than the gas.

Though the Mustang Convertible remains nice, casual fun in V-6 form for those who want to take in the summer breeze, enthusiasts who are looking at the V-6 should definitely opt for the Coupe. Although we didn't note any pronounced cowl shake in the Convertible (the feeling that seat and windshield are shaking at different rates), we noted a difference in the way the Coupe and Convertible handled, especially over jiggly surfaces, and a nearly identical center-console creak over some of the roughest surfaces, present in both convertibles we drove.

Stick with the stick, unless you're cruising

Those who enjoy driving fast on curvy roads will also want to steer away from the automatic transmission. In the automatic model in top gear, the tach is well below 2,000 rpm, additionally, the transmission is programmed to lug up to the highest possible gear a few moments after you ease off the gas at any speed. That can create a little bit of hesitation as you reaccelerate from a sharp right turn, but again the plentiful torque saves the day. That's okay, but what really bugged us is that there's no way of downshifting to a particular gear; in what sounded like a cost concession after talking to a few Ford officials, the Mustang has no paddle shifters and no manumatic shift gate.

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