Evaluating a new car on a road course or a predetermined press route is one thing. Getting to spend a week or more with the car-driving to work through red light hell, parking in tight spots at the grocery store, taking the grandson to school-is a totally different experience. Living with a car for several days certainly provides a better idea of whether or not you can live with a car.
After two weeks with two of Ford's newest '11 Mustangs, I can live with either one of them. In fact, it's going to be hard to live without them. Over a two-week period, Ford provided us with the bookends of the '11 Mustang spectrum-a new V-6 Premium loaded with convenience options and a base GT packed with only the performance goodies.
Brembo Brake Package option...
Brembo Brake Package option adds nearly $1,700 to the GT's sticker price, but with it you get better braking and 19-inch wheels. Worth it if you plan to open-track the car.
The '11 V-6 Mustang is arguably the best Mustang I have ever driven. Not the fastest, or the loudest, or the most fun. But overall, it's a comfortable and great all-around commuter with its new 305hp V-6 engine. During our eight days with a white Premium package coupe with six-speed manual transmission, we averaged around 25 mpg (both city and highway driving). That's right in the middle of Ford's 19 City/29 Highway ratings.
While the new 3.7-liter V-6 is rated at 305 hp, same as the legendary DOHC 4.6 in the '96 Cobra, there's no comparison when it comes to acceleration. Although plenty peppy, the V-6 lacks the torque of a V-8. However, it's smooth and quiet, unlike previous six-cylinder Mustangs. The dual exhaust is throaty from outside the car, but there's not a hint of noise from the inside. Mustangs have been equipped with six-cylinder engines for all 46 years of production, and this one is no doubt the best one ever made.
When in Reverse, the optional...
When in Reverse, the optional rear video camera provides this view in the rearview mirror.
It didn't hurt that our test driver came with the good stuff, including the 202A Pony Package (18-inch wheels, fog lights, tape stripe, rear spoiler, chrome exhaust tips, etc.), Shaker 500 audio with Sirius satellite radio and SYNC (part of the Premium package), and optional rear video camera. It was odd seeing the little screen pop up in the corner of the rearview mirror but it didn't take long to become reliant on the rearview when backing up.
I was sad to see our white V-6 go, but the depressed feeling didn't last long when Ford swapped it out with an '11 GT in Sterling Gray Metallic. Although looking like a luxury coupe on the outside, the GT was actually a base model with manual six-speed, cloth seats, standard stereo system, deleted rear spoiler, and no toys like MyColor or rear video camera. Other than the Security Package, the only options were 3.73 gears and the $1,600 Brembo Brake Package, which also includes 19-inch wheels.
From the start of the engine, the GT is a different animal from the V-6. Even at idle, the 5.0-liter V-8 rumbles. Ford did its homework on the sound which, after all, is a big part of the muscle car experience. Unlike the V-6, the '11 GT has gobs of torque; just touch the throttle and you can feel the car pushing forward. Full throttle blasts are just that-a blast-as the GT rockets ahead with acceleration that has never been available from a factory-built Mustang, especially one that is not a special edition.
Like the V-6, we were impressed with the fit and finish, ride quality (even with 19-inch wheels), and obviously the braking with the Brembo package. But with more power under the hood than any other factory Mustang in history, the obvious talking point is the new 5.0-liter powerplant with 412 horsepower. More so than any other Mustang since 1971, it feels like a big-block, with plenty of torque down low and lots of power up top. Our friends down the hall at Muscle Mustangs & Fast Fords magazine took a GT/CS version to the dragstrip and ran a 12.69 at 112.81 mph in the quarter-mile on the factory tires. Then, after switching to drag radials, editor Evan Smith launched the GT to a 12.34 at 110.77. We old guys can talk about our Super Cobra Jets and Boss 429s, but no vintage Mustang muscle car could run 12s in showroom condition-even on drag slicks.
So all the way around, whether V-6 or V-8, the '11 Mustang is an impressive automobile. Team Mustang got it right.
If it wasn't related to performance,...
If it wasn't related to performance, our GT didn't have it. No leather or special trim. Build and Price feature on Ford's website priced out our GT at $32,980.
Our test Mustang V-6 Premium...
Our test Mustang V-6 Premium came with everything except the kitchen sink. Ford no longer provides pricing information on the window sticker copies for press cars so we used the "Build and Price" feature on www.ford.com to price out our test car at $28,865.
Remember when only Cobras...
Remember when only Cobras and other special-edition Mustangs came with over 300 hp? The '11 GT's new 5.0-liter (not to be confused with the pushrod 5.0 from '82-'95) boasts 412 hp-and it feels like it on the street. It looks impressive with the hood open too.
Although not impressive looking...
Although not impressive looking under the hood, the Mustang's new 3.7-liter V-6 is rated at 305 hp.