V-6 Performance Package
After driving multiple engine, transmission and body style combinations at the 2011 model's national introduction, I walked away plenty impressed overall, but what truly stuck out was the V-6 with the optional Performance Package, which will be offered late this summer. It adds a 3.31 rear axle ratio in place of the standard 2.73, along with the suspension and brakes from the V-8-powered GT and 19-inch wheels shod with Pirelli P Zero summer tires. This car is a blast.
More than ever, engines are proving that size isn't everything. The 305-hp, all-aluminum V-6 is a 3.7-liter, lower in size and weight than the previous generation's 210-hp, iron-block 4.0-liter. Ford engineers say numerous technologies came together to boost both power and efficiency in the new engines, but it's the dual independent variable valve timing that makes the biggest difference, improving torque at low rpm and efficiency across the board.
Many manufacturers are turning to direct fuel injection to achieve similar goals, and Ford uses it in EcoBoost turbocharged applications, but Mustang engineers said the prospect of direct-injecting these engines didn't pass the cost-benefit test. Its absence means one very important thing: They can add it later and get even more out of these power plants. Both engines now have four valves per cylinder where the old V-6 had two and the V-8 three.
Mustang in the market
One of the things I admired about the 2010 GT in our test is how well all its systems and attributes worked together -- a unified whole. We all thought the Mustang was simply fun to drive. Now it has the speed, too, and the immunity idol of relatively high gas mileage will defend it from being voted off Tree-Hugger Island.
The 2011 is much more than just a quicker Mustang. Its power is matched by the various other upgrades, and once again it's a very balanced, unified package. From one perspective, its greater refinement is also a downside: I deemed the 2010 consistently and appropriately unrefined -- just rough enough to make it what a muscle car should be. If the 2011 isn't a sports car, it's certainly closer than ever. I guess you can't stop progress.
2011 Ford Mustang snapshot
Starting MSRP $22,145 -- $37,845
305-hp, 3.7-liter V-6 (regular gas)
412-hp, 5.0-liter V-8 (premium)
6-speed automatic w/OD
6-speed manual w/OD
New or Notable
* More powerful engines for 2011
* Rear-wheel drive
* Manual or automatic transmission
* Coupe or convertible
* Available navigation system, backup camera
What We Like
* Interior quality
* Affordable pricing
* Standard stability system
* Many available luxury features
What We Don't
* Relative ride quality
* Front-seat comfort
* Too much body roll with normal suspension
* Not as eye-catching as competition
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