2011 Ford Mustang GT: First Drive

For 2011 the Mustang GT returns with a 5.0-liter V8 worthy of the badge

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2011 Ford Mustang GT: First Drive
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There’s something about a well-tuned V8 roar that’s intoxicating. The growl, the gargling overrun, the throb of loping cams. It’s American performance with no filters. But the V8 is under serious pressure now from increasingly stringent federally imposed fuel efficiency targets, and potentially expensive gas prices. Combined, they could potentially put the bent-eight to bed forever.

FAST FACTS

1. The return of the 5.0L for 2011 brings with it 412-hp at 6500 rpm and 390 ft-lbs of torque at 4250 rpm. That’s almost 100-hp more than the current 4.6L.

2. A 6-speed manual is now standard with an optional 6-speed auto.

3. Even fuel economy is improved, up from 15/22 mpg (city/hwy) with the auto and 15/23 manual to 18/25 and 17/26 respectively.

4. Despite all the upgrades, pricing has only jumped by a few hundred dollars, starting from $29,645.

So we might as well enjoy them while they’re here. That’s surely what Ford must be thinking by introducing an all-new V8 engine into the evergreen Mustang. But not just any V8 – a modern 5.0-liter Ti-VCT-equipped monster that revs to 7000 rpm while delivering 412-hp and 390 ft-lbs of torque. That’s almost 100 more than the venerable 4.6 that’s now on its way out. And it’s twice the overall output of the original Five Point Oh – the 205-hp pushrod beauty of the ‘80s.

INCREDIBLE POWER TO WEIGHT RATIO DELIVERS SERIOUS SPEED

Putting over 400 horses into something that weighs only 3,600 lbs. means you’re in for a quick ride. That’s a similar power-to-weight ratio as a BMW M3, but obviously near half the cost. The V8 hooks up to either a six-speed manual or six-speed automatic transmission, and power travels to a live-axle at the rear with a standard limited-slip differential. The standard 235-width Pirellis smoke readily with the traction control off, no matter which transmission you choose.

While performance numbers have not been released, expect this Mustang to really haul – like mid-4 second 0-60 mph times, and 12-second ¼-miles. All while returning excellent fuel economy: 18/25 mpg for the auto, 17/26 for the manual. That’s some black-magic stuff, there.

A SOLID REAR AXLE FOR THE DRIVING ENTHUSIAST? YOU BET!

And, just because this is an all-new motor, don’t worry that Ford has somehow neutered its singing voice. Standard dual exhaust means it’s always ready to roar, something it did with gusto in the short tunnels found around the Southern California test route. 

Thankfully, the brakes are up to the task too, with large 13.2-in discs with twin-piston calipers squeeze the fronts, while 11.8-in discs with single-piston units are in the rear. Those looking for extra bite can opt for the upgraded Brembo brake package, which also includes 19-in wheels with summer-only performance tires.

Get onto your favorite twisty road, and the Mustang is your best friend, with meaty, direct steering, supportive seats, and plenty of feedback from the nose. Rough pavement does make the rear skip around a little, but you have to be trying very hard to get it unstuck in the dry. With all the driving aids on, this isn’t a car that intimidates – it works with you to tackle all manner of road in any style you see fit. That can be sideways, if you choose – but that’s not the Mustang’s strong suit.

The Ford loves doing the cruise thing too. Putting the top down in the convertible models brings some cowl shake, but it’s not extreme. The bonus of getting unfiltered access to that V8 soundtrack is worth the penalty in weight and rigidity.

STANDARD TECHNOLOGY, COOL OPTIONS, PLENTY OF VALUE

Ford has stayed aggressive in its pricing, which starts at $29,645 for the GT, while the GT Premium starts at $32,845. That’s almost $1,500 less than a comparable Chevrolet Camaro SS, which is much larger, heavier and slower. Convertibles start at $34,645 and $37,845 respectively. Some interesting options include the full-glass roof ($1,995) and the Shaker 1000 10-speaker audio system ($1,295).

Meanwhile, Ford’s exclusive technologies, like SYNC, MyKey and the customizable MyColor gauges give the Mustang the leg up over its competitors. Also, favorite packages like the California Special and others give plenty of visual aggression to the revised body. And the number of combinations possible from the order list is very impressive. You’d be hard-pressed to find one with an identical build.

THE VERDICT

When it comes to comparing apples against apples, the Mustang GT doesn’t let much slip past it when stacked up against the Camaro SS and Charger SRT8. It’s pretty much a drubbing for the blue-oval boys. Looking beyond to the aforementioned BMW M3s and base Corvettes of the world, you can start to see a real David vs. Goliath theme taking shape. The Mustang isn’t on par with those legendary sports cars, but it delivers performance that’s so close, and grins to match, for nearly half the price that a GT can’t be overlooked by anyone with a performance-oriented heartbeat.

LOVE IT
  • V8 power, noise
  • Sporty tuning
  • Performance bargain
LEAVE IT
  • Some cheap plastics
  • Live axle
  • 5.0 badges bring back bad memories of Vanilla Ice

RELATED READING

2010 Ford Mustang GT Review
2010 Chevrolet Camaro SS Review
2009 Dodge Challenger SRT8
2011 Ford Mustang: First Drive

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