First Drive: 2011 Ford Mustang V-6 Page 3

March 28, 2010
Instead, the selector for this six-speed reads "PRND321"—which left us wondering what happens when you're in one of the upper gears and want a downshift. A Ford powertrain official explained that going from D to 3 will command a downshift to one gear lower than what you're currently in, but throttle input can have a role as well. Otherwise, the transmission includes a "grade assist" hill mode that helps hold lower gears longer and downshifts more readily for accelerator and brake inputs, but we would have rather had a way of manual selecting the gears.

The point this leads to is something that couldn't have been said before: that the V-6 now makes sense as an exciting enthusiast package on a budget.

A new performance bargain benchmark?

Ford was so confident in this that at a launch event attended by it made available a Camaro LT V-6 and let us compare it with the Mustang on an autocross course. The Camaro’s turn-in felt squishier overall, with more excess body motion than the Mustang, with the most significant difference felt in quick transitions.

In all fairness, the Mustangs Ford brought to that had the new V-6 Performance Package, which adds the 3.31 performance axle ratio, Pirelli summer performance tires on unique 19-inch wheels, plus Mustang GT suspension and braking upgrades. The whole package will be available beginning late summer.

The new Mustang V-6 is very satisfying to drive in every way but one: sound. Though it's clear Ford has labored to give it a good exhaust note when revved (from the outside especially), it still sounds like a typical V-6 when you're inside the car, with more airy intake sounds than you might expect.

Sound aside, this reviewer would be hard-pressed to tell you outright which would be faster: the new V-6 or a V-8-powered GT of about a decade ago. The throttle response, the plentiful low-end torque, it’s all there. And 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.

Speaking of V-8s, you'll also want to read our First Drive of the 2011 Ford Mustang GT to hear about what an extra 107 horsepower can do.

Especially when you size up the fuel economy figures, and consider that both of the Coupes we drove bottom-lined in the $30k vicinity or less, the Mustang V-6 quite simply exceeds expectations.

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