2011 Ford Mustang: The 5.0 is back!

Strong points
  • New high-performance engines
  • Improved fuel economy
  • Manual gearbox is pleasant
  • Competitive price
Weak points
  • No telescopic steering
  • Limited space in rear
  • Sober interior
Full report

Forty-five years later and with nine million units sold, the Ford Mustang is one of the most recognized cars on the market. But for a little more than a year, sales have been slipping. The reason? Some very serious competition has edged into this segment with the Chevrolet Camaro, the Dodge Challenger and even the Hyundai Genesis Coupe, some of which offer more power than the Mustang. That’s right, despite current trends, the number of horses is still taken very seriously. Add to that the fact that the 2010 model didn’t have much new to offer (aside from a few aesthetic details), and you can see why interest among buyers started to dwindle.

To remedy this situation and turn the spotlight back on the Mustang, Ford introduced two new more powerful engine options for 2011, pumping up the car’s numbers. While this type of response is pretty common, Ford is seizing the opportunity and pushing the issue even further with a new 5.0-litre V8. This revives the old Mustang badge that was used for a good number of years. The Mustang 5.0 is back! The new V8 engine, which is much more technologically advanced, not only makes the Mustang GT more competitive, but it gives Ford the chance to make a link with the past.

Featuring 32 valves, this V8 boasts some very impressive digits. It delivers no less than 412 HP, 390 lbs-ft of torque and reaches a maximum of 7,000 rpm. That’s a significant departure from the old V8 and its 315 HP. And in case you’re about to decry this power boost in the name of the environment, know that the new Mustang GT consumes less fuel than its predecessor, thanks to the Ti-VCT (twin variable camshift timing) and the use of lighter materials in the engine. You can rest assured that cars of the future will not be boring, even if they do save on fuel!

A more interesting V6 version

Obviously, the 2011 Mustang is available in many incarnations, including a coupe and a cabriolet. While the GT is getting most of the attention because of its new engine, we should not forget that the V6 versions account for the majority of sales – and that’s not likely to change given the added might of the new V6. Indeed, this new engine ensures that the V6 version will not be outdone in 2011. This 3.7 litre engine generates 305 HP and 280 lbs-ft of torque. $22,999 for a sport coupe with 305 HP, what more could you want? That’s almost as much power as the old Mustang GT. Add to that an average of 6.4 litres on the highway (with an egg under your right foot), and that’s quite a car!

To support these new engines, Ford is also introducing two new transmissions: one automatic and one manual, both with six speeds. These more modern gearboxes do a terrific job completing the new drive train.

Few changes inside and out

As for the rest, the 2011 Mustang generally kept the style introduced in 2010. Admittedly, the front end is nicer, with its new plunging hood and the classic Mustang grille. However, there are different grilles available, depending on what version or package you get. New wheels are also available to pimp the vehicle, and a large 5.0 insignia on the sides of the GT indicates the new cavalry. The rear of the Mustang has been easily recognizable for the past two years with its angled lights that wrap around the sides. Even though we’re getting used to this style, Ford could have underscored the mechanical changes with more noticeable aesthetic modifications.

The same can be said for the interior, though there were a few changes over last year. The fit and finish is better than it was a few years back, but overall it looks rather sober. In fact, if there’s anything missing from inside the Mustang, it’s some attention to detail. Other than that, the instrumentation has been slightly modified to correspond to the information from the new engines, and there’s a definite improvement in terms of soundproofing, especially in the cabriolet. As for disappointments, it doesn’t have a telescopic steering column, and yes, once again, a sports mode or manual controls on the steering wheel with  the AT. Don’t get me wrong, I’m not crazy about manumatic mode, but in a car like the Mustang it could have been handy.

Energy to spare

Given its increased power, the Mustang V6 is more attractive than ever. With 305 ponies, not only does it have energy to spare, but the engineers have created an engine that produces a rich and robust sound. We were, however, worried that this Mustang would offer more oomph but be stuck without the appropriate suspension and steering to handle this kind of power. Fortunately, that is not the case. The engineers completely revamped the suspension and improved the rigidity of the structure. The Mustang V6 is well balanced and quite capable of controlling all that power. However, the rigid rear axle means the car is more sensitive to bumps and holes; it’s the sort of thing you’ll notice on turns. You get the feeling the car is going to lift right off the road.

As for the Mustang V8, you can expect top-notch performances from it. We loved the engine’s power and torque, and the manual gearbox did a great job making use of the available power. Few vehicles can give you goose bumps like this one will when you put the pedal to the metal. This new version also gets a revamped suspension, which improves the handling. The brakes are sharp, but this car is better off with the Brembo brake package.

Of the three "pony cars," the Mustang offers the best visibility. This can be an important factor, especially for shorter drivers.

With its two new engines, Mustang will have no problem looking its competition straight in the eye. In fact, you can bet that the changes made to it will allow the Mustang to maintain its lead. And the frosting on the cake? These more technologically advanced engines will save fuel. Pretty sweet.

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