Despite last year’s overhaul, the 2011 Ford Mustang is generating quite a bit of buzz. Why? Because this year the Mustang is getting an upgrade where it counts – under the hood. And what an upgrade it is. In all honesty, the previous Mustang V-6 fell a bit short in the performance department. It was a bit of an archaic engine, measuring out at 4.0-liters but producing a paltry 210 horsepower and delivering 0-60 performance that wouldn’t make most hot hatches think twice. Not anymore, however. The new all-aluminum V-6 is a thoroughly modern powerplant, with twin independent variable camshaft timing that allows the engine to breathe more freely at all revs. The end result is 305 horsepower and, when combined with the all-new six-speed automatic transmission, an impressive 31 mpg highway. Not to mention, quite a burly V-6 howl. Suddenly, the proposition of a Mustang rental car is much, much more interesting.
What's to Like
Finally, a V-6 Mustang that doesn’t make you spend every waking moment cursing the decision to not spring for a GT . The base price is quite low, technology options are very impressive and consumers have a choice between two rear-axle ratios depending on whether they prefer high fuel economy or quicker acceleration.
What's Not to Like
You can’t write about a Mustang without mentioning the car’s stubborn and persistent use of a solid rear axle. As adept as Ford’s execution of this nearly ancient rear-end setup may be, it’s hard to call it anything but an obsolete performance engineering application. Some interior plastics are still a bit on the hard side, but at this price, it’s tough to complain.
DriverSide Driving Impressions
Take all the old stigmas associated with purchasing a V-6 Mustang and throw them in the nearest dumpster – the new 3.7-liter V-6 engine is a hard-hitter that likes to be driven in anger. Torque comes on strong above 3,500 rpm even with the standard car’s huge 2.73 final drive ratio, though those who like to get off the line quickly will be happy to hear that a shorter 3.31 final drive is available. There’s a proper mechanical howl that comes along with the 3.7-liter, especially in the mid-range, and the engine really coaxes you to rev it to 7,000 rpm. The springs are a bit soft for hard driving, and this condition manifests itself most on harsh, bumpy roads, where the suspension can have trouble keeping up with the constant changes in the road’s surface. The upside is a cushy, quiet ride on the highway, and those who want to hustle their Mustang will be glad to hear that the stiffer suspension of the GT can be ordered. Oh, and...