The galloping horse logo, hood overhang and tri-bar tail lights signal Ford
's iconic Pony car is trotting nearby. Debuting in 1964, the well-recognized Mustang
is one of the longest-running, continuous nameplates in automotive history. Its 50th anniversary is just a few short strides away. No mid-life crises here, as Mustang
notably gets better with age. It already hit bottom during troubled teen years in the mid 1970s when Ford
's forgettable Pinto hormones temporarily overtook Mustang
's DNA platform.
For those with distant memories of Mustang
s with low, unflattering seat positions combining with a choppy rides, this 2011 is an eye-opener with comfy, supportive front buckets (and available power height-adjusting driver's seat) and smile-inducing glide thanks to newly enhanced sporty suspension allowing drivers to stay in contact with the road, but with dignity. Best of all, the V-8's jaw-dropping forward movement continues thanks in part to standard rear-wheel drive.
In 2011, the two-door Mustang
receives early mid-cycle tweaks with improved engine performance, fuel economy and handling. In 2010, Mustang
's exterior and interior were completely reworked. Two volume trims each sporting their own finely tuned engine return in 2011; a base V-6 and V-8-powered GT. A Premium option group and convertible top is available with both engines. A limited production Shelby GT500 with 550 horses is also available.
The all-new, 412 horsepower, 5.0-liter V-8 replaces an outgoing 315 horsepower, 4.6-liter V-8. The base V-6 also benefits from an all-new 3.7-liter V-6 now with 305 horsepower output. Also new in 2011 are a specially tuned electric power assisted steering (EPAS) and new, fuel-saving transmissions. Why all the full? Why did Ford
pump up Mustang
's power volume so soon after a major redesign? Two words: Chevrolet Camaro. General Motors' Bow Tie division reintroduced Camaro in 2010 and was steeling Mustang
's thunder, not to mention dealership traffic.
Our V-8 tester's engine note played a strong, but not overbearing tune when floored. Conversations can be held. Merging into traffic is not a problem. With manual transmission, this engine boasts a best-in-class 17 miles per gallon city and 26 mpg highway (18/25 with new six-speed automatic). The V-6 engine breaks the 30 mpg barrier and ranks as the most fuel-efficient Mustang
ever. A deep sump oil pan in both new-for-2011 engines extends motor oil change intervals to every 10,000 miles rather than the conventional 3,000.
Another welcome addition in 2011 is blind spot convex glass tucked in the corners of the side view mirrors allowing a quick visual of close by side traffic. Static housing doesn't fold, so be cautions when maneuvering through the Portillo's drive-thru. The new electronic power steering (replacing hydraulic technology) helps maneuver low-speed turns with less effort or when tackling that same drive thru. Inside, the adjustable power knob is high on the door adjacent to the driver-side mirror. Air vents nearby help unfog the region.
Our GT Premium coupe tester with the new six-speed manual started at $32,845. Sans the Premium package, GT coupe starts at $29,645. An optional rear camera with a color projection inside the rear-view mirror left corner ($385) is highly recommended. Large Brembo brakes added $1,695 to help bring the bottom line to $36,170 including an $850 destination charge. Prices are up about $1,100 from 2010 justifiable by engine and transmission upgrades. The GT convertible checks in at $34,645 while a GT Premium flip top lists at $37,845. The lowest priced V-6 coupe sets a budget back $22,145. An in-dash electronics/ navigation package is a $2,340 option. The new six-speed automatic adds $995.
For all intents and purposes, Mustang
remains a two seater as the two-person rear is best left for pre-teens or Duchess the Schnauzer. Seatbacks (50/50 split) fold semi-flat onto cushions with the pull of an inside side tab. Arrowhead-shaped side static windows don't roll or power down. Front leather buckets in GT sport white stitching. Soft-touch materials incorporate into parts of the dash and side arm rests. The black interior contrasted nicely with two different tones of brushed aluminum plates and accents (available in Premium models). Head and leg room are respectable in front.
The inline beverage holder between the large bucket seats sports illuminated color rings for ease of use in the dark. Illuminated color selections are part of Ford
's "MyColor" (standard in Premium) adding color to door skid plates and arm rests. The premium package also includes Sync, Ford
's communication enhanced software allowing cell phones and personal devices to operate through the car sound device in a hands-free, voice-activated manner.
To the cup holder rear is a curved flip cover opening to reveal input jacks accessible from the front and those who dare to venture in back. Speaking of color, the graphically enhanced red-and-blue backlight instrument panel puts on an artful show when the sun sets with two, newly designed, circular, independent gauges flanking four small gauges. The bottom half of the larger gauges incorporate digital messages.
The large, leather-wrapped, tri-spoke steering wheel includes cruise control and secondary audio functions on the spokes. Headlights activate from a dial at the far left of the dash. During the ritualistic seat belt buckling, both front riders must stretch mightily to hunt down the shoulder and belt straps on the side. Mustang
lacks small storage nooks found in other mid-size, non-Pony competitors.
A long hood with short rear deck lid and slightly flared fenders return. Round headlights nestle between a narrow grill and overhang. In back, the three-bar tail light housing incorporates a slight 10-degree angle rather than situating straight across. Mustang
's one of the most recognizable cars on the road. Premium GT coupes include a rear spoiler standard. Dual tubular exhausts are featured on all Mustang
s. Coupe doors are heavier than those found in sedans, and take an extra oomph to close. The medium-sized, 13.4 cubic-foot trunk utilizes strut-type hinges outside the small-mouth cargo area. A six-foot collapsible table fit completely inside with the rear seats folded during the testing. Instead of a conventional spare under the cargo floor, our GT Mustang
included an air compressor/sealant helping a disabled tire travel up to 120 miles.
As with most new Blue-oval vehicles, a cap-less fuel lead negates the need for a twist-off plastic cap. When fueling, just encourage the nozzle past the "Easy Fuel" barrier. Self-sealing occurs as the nozzle retreats. Premium 91 octane fuel is recommended for the V-8 for optimal performance, although 87 regular may be used. The new six-speed manual transmission incorporates a tight gate when changing gears but an easy-push, smooth foot clutch is delightful.
Pony cars, as with pickup trucks, boast a loyal following. Mustang
owners don't often trade for Chevrolet Camaros or visa versa. Mustang
purists should welcome these latest changes. Camaro enthusiasts most likely won't be persuaded. This 2011 is greatly refined from Mustang
s a decade past and is kick-butt fun to drive (good for those approaching their own mid-life crisis).
After 40 years of production in Dearborn, Michigan bordering Detroit's western boundary, Ford
recently switched Mustang
assembly to Flat Rock, a south Detroit suburb. The powertrain warranty is good for five years or 60,000 miles.
No gas-electric Mustang
hybrid is offered; don't expect one any time soon. Mustang
will, however, bridge the generation gap. Dads (and Moms) remember it as an aspirational mode of transport from their youth. Their offspring seem to share the same exuberance. Case in point; a group of tweens stopped in their tracks, heads turning in unison to envy this driver and his pet Mustang
when tooling through the streets of Glen Ellyn.