2011 Ford Mustang

8.4
2011 Ford Mustang

The Basics:

To bring you the most complete review possible on the new 2011 Ford Mustang V-6 and Mustang GT models, TheCarConnection.com has driven both models firsthand, then supplemented this information with quoted highlights from other review sources.

Two all-new engines—a V-6 and a V-8—promise to make the Mustang lineup a lot more exciting for 2011. Although the 2011 Ford Mustang isn't fully redesigned, it's extensively refreshed, with a new line of powertrains, new power steering, and suspension changes that altogether guarantee that it's going to be faster, more fuel-efficient and, likely, more fun to drive.

The 2011 Ford Mustang lives up to all those juvenile, tire-smoking pony-car expectations; at the same time, it’s an unexpectedly capable, sophisticated coupe.

While the 2011 Mustang has changed little on the outside, this year marks the return of the '5.0' badge, which alone is likely to bring back waves of nostalgia for anyone aged 30 to 60. By the mid-to-late '80s, the Mustang GT, with its stout 225-horse 5.0, was arguably the king of the pony cars and faster than many sports cars costing much more. In addition to those prominent fender badges declaring it's a '5.0,' the new GT gets a higher 160-mph speedometer and three new colors: Yellow Blaze Tri-Coat, Race Red, and Ingot Silver. Inside, the changes include some additional soundproofing and new door seals, plus an upgraded instrument cluster, including a 160-mph speedometer and 8,000-rpm tach. Ford's MyKey system will be offered on the Mustang for the first time for 2011, along with a garage-door opener, message center, and new blind-spot aids for the mirrors.

The Mustang received a complete refresh last year, for 2010, which most notably included completely reshaped sheetmetal on the outside, giving Mustang models a leaner yet more aggressive look. On the inside, the Mustang's look has evolved somewhat but remains very retro, with deep-dish gauges, contrasting with a thoroughly modern center stack and updated audio controls.

Base Mustangs get a new all-aluminum 3.7-liter DOHC V-6, producing an impressive 305 horsepower and 280 pound-feet. The new 3.7-liter engine in the 2011 Mustang, part of Ford's Duratec family, uses Twin Independent Variable Camshaft Timing (Ti-VCT) and a Direct Acting Mechanical Bucket (DAMB) valvetrain to vary valve control through the rev range (up to 7,000 rpm) and achieve a three percent improvement in fuel efficiency and ten percent more power versus the same engine without this technology. Highway ratings with the new engine will be as high as 30 mpg, and it uses regular, not premium, gasoline. The 2010 Mustang GT packs a new 5.0-liter V-8 good for 412 horsepower, and rumbles to life with the sound of an old big-block muscle car yet revs happily to its redline. Almost as significant to budget-minded buyers today is that the new Mustang GT achieves a projected 25 mpg on the highway. Also contributing to the fuel-economy improvements are a new electric power-steering system, which manages feel responsive yet track well, and a host of small aerodynamic enhancements. Two new six-speed transmissions (versus five-speeds for 2010) come with either engine, and a limited-slip differential and new suspension settings will help take advantage of the boost in power. To help handle the added power, the 2011 Mustang V-6 gets revised damper tuning and spring rates, plus a new rear lower control arm and stiffened stabilizer-bar bushings; Ford also adjusted the car's front/rear aerodynamic balance to help the Mustang feel more "planted." It also gets larger brake rotors—11.5 inches in front and 11.8 in back.

Seating in the 2011 Mustang is quite low and snug, though both convertibles and coupes have plenty of trunk space. Convertibles have a tight-fitting soft top that is power-actuated but requires two manual release levers. Ford has made various improvements both to overall noise and vibration control in both GT and V-6 models, and the convertible has received improvements for a stiffer body structure, with improved bracing, but we still recommend the coupe for enthusiasts.

To match the higher output of the engine, the new Mustang GT will get larger brakes, plus stiffer rear suspension settings. The 2011 Mustang GT also gets the Electric Power Steering System (EPAS), which Ford is in the process of phasing in through its entire lineup. Although Ford hasn't yet detailed feature changes, the 2010 Ford Mustang GT will offer a wide range of features, including integrated blind spot mirrors, a universal garage-door opener, and Ford's MyKey programmable vehicle key system. Beginning in August, a Performance Package will be offered on the V-6, bringing the lower axle ratio plus 19-inch wheels, a strut tower brace, summer performance tires, a sport mode for the stability control, and the firmer suspension from the Mustang GT. We strongly recommend this package, but for an even bigger bang for the buck the Brembo brake package costs just $1,695 and incorporates the larger rotors (14-inch discs in front) and calipers used in the Shelby GT500 Mustang, plus 19-inch matte-gray 'horseshoe' alloys and summer performance tires.

Buying Tips:

If you like the handling of the 2011 Ford Mustang GT but don't need that much power, you'll probably want to consider the Performance Package on the V-6 models.

Other Choices:

  • 2010 Chevrolet Camaro
  • 2010 Dodge Challenger
  • 2010 Nissan 370Z

Reason Why:

With the 3.6-liter V-6 engine in the 2010 Chevrolet Camaro producing 305 horsepower and getting EPA ratings of up to 18 mpg city, 29 highway, the lighter 2011 Mustang should be considerably quicker than the base Camaro while also more fuel-efficient. That's our kind of muscle car. And while the Mustang GT's power output doesn't quite approach that of the Camaro SS, it's significantly lighter. In comparison, the Camaro's interior feels more gimmicky than the Mustang's, and the Camaro's delicate front end make it slightly less day-to-day usable. The Dodge's interior is larger, and its base V-8 still offers more horsepower than the Mustang's only V-8, but it's more portly and drives as such. While not a direct competitor, the rear-wheel-drive Nissan 370Z is one of the best-tuned pure sports cars on the market but lacks even small rear seats and a proper trunk.

The Bottom Line:

With all-new engines, the 2011 Ford Mustang models offer more bang for the buck than ever before, without skimping on practicality or fuel-efficiency.

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