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2011 Ford Mustang


More horsepower per kilogram, fewer oats per kilometre

By Malcolm Gunn

2011 Ford MustangNow, that's a relief.

For a while it appeared as though both the Chevrolet Camaro and Dodge Challenger - with their more potent engines - were going to dine on the carcass of the Ford Mustang. But seemingly from out of nowhere, Ford's pony will strut its stuff with punchier and more fuel efficient powerplants that should keep this war horse as spirited and relevant as ever.

In this herd, it's muscle that matters and those who have it tend to lord it over those who don't. The Mustang's 210 horsepower 4.0-litre V6 was, on paper at least, simply no match for the 250-horsepower Challenger SE's V6 or the 304-horsepower Camaro V6.

Similarly, the Mustang GT's 315-horsepower 4.6-litre V8 sounded potent, but had no hope of fending off the Camaro SS's punchy Corvette-based 6.2-litre V8 with up to 426 ground-pounding horsepower. The Challenger R/T and SRT8 also came to play with 376 and 425 horsepower, respectively.

2011 Ford MustangNow it's a whole new ball game.

This spring, the blue-oval automaker replaces its underperforming powertrains with some fresh hardware. The new base engine will be a 305-horsepower 3.7-litre DOHC V6 with 280 pound-feet of torque, which, if you're paying attention,  produces peak horsepower numbers that are within striking distance of the 4.6-litre V6.

The new V6 delivers its peak power at 6,500 r.p.m. and can be pushed to 7,000 r.p.m., a level that goes beyond most non-racing engines. To quote a Ford powertrain engineer, the 3.7 "loves to be pushed hard."

An accompanying dual-exhaust system that sings a sportier song is totally in keeping with the car's character and significantly increased output.

But what about fuel economy compared to the previous V6? Nearly 100 more horsepower and highway fuel economy that improves by about 15 per cent.

Further V6-model adjustments include changes to the speedometer and tachometer to reflect the revised power and rev limits. There's also a standard limited-slip differential that transfers engine torque to the rear wheel with the most grip when conditions becomes slippery. In addition the front fascia has been altered for improved aerodynamics, the front and rear suspension settings have been adjusted to help the Mustang handle in a more precise manner, and larger front and rear disc brakes have been installed.

2011 Ford MustangAn optional V6 Performance Package adds a performance-rear-axle ratio, 19-inch wheels (18s are standard), firmer Mustang GT suspension and a sport mode setting for the stability control that allows the car's rear end to slide out a bit when accelerating or while turning quickly.

The soon-to-arrive 2011 Mustang GT is being treated to a new 5.0-litre (302-cubic-inch) double-overhead-cam V8. This is big news for Mustang fanatics, who will likely recall that this particular engine displacement began with 1968-model-year stallions (with the camshaft in the block, of course) and remained until 1996 when it was replaced by a 4.6-litre SOHC unit.

The new 5.0 revs to 7,000 r.p.m. and cranks out 412 horsepower and 390 pound feet of torque. Compare that with 315 horsepower and 325 pound-feet of torque from the 2010 GT's 4.6-litre V8. Highway fuel economy increases by nine per cent, even with a gain of nearly 100 horsepower.

Both new engines are now fitted with six-speed manual transmissions, or optional six-speed automatics.

Additional improvements for 2011 feature added structural rigidity and sound insulation on all models and an optional Brembo-brand brake package for the GT that originates from the Mustang-based Shelby GT500.

The sheer power of the new Mustang engines might only match those of the Camaro, but the Mustang is smaller and weighs a bit less. Even still, the base weight of the V6 climbs by about 160 kilorgrams to 1,700. Interestingly, Ford also reports that the GT coupe weighs about 70 kilograms less than the V6 coupe, although there's no explanation as to why.

Regardless, the upcoming Mustang's significantly improved power supply ushers in a new era of one-upmanship reminiscent of the 1960s and early 1970s when performance was all the rage and on- and off-track competition was at its peak.

The Mustang and its competitors might not be the same, but some things just never change.

What you should know: 2011 Ford Mustang

Type: Two-door sport coupe and convertible
Engines (hp): 3.7-litre DOHC V6 (305); 5.0-litre DOHC V8 (412)
Transmissions: Six-speed manual; six-speed automatic (opt.)
Market position: Although not bar-raising, the Mustang's performance increase certainly places it on a more even footing with its chief adversaries and, in particular, should help it blunt the Chevrolet Camaro's sales momentum.
Points: Both engine upgrades critical for keeping up with competition; New V6 could influence more buyers previously considering V8 purchase; Still lighter than the more-powerful Camaro; Both engines more fuel-efficient than the previous versions; GT's added horsepower bridges the performance gap to the supercharged GT500.
Safety: Front airbags; side-impact airbags; side-curtain airbags, anti-lock brakes; traction control; stability control.
L/100 km(city/hwy): 7.5/6.6 (V6, MT, est.)
Base price (incl. destination): $26,500 (est.)

By comparison     

Dodge Challenger
Base price: $22,500
Retro looks, with 21st century poise, comfort. SRT8 version a blast; V6 is slow.

Chevrolet Camaro
Base price: $23,000
Neat styling with potent V6 and V8 performance. Currently selling fast.

Hyundai Genesis Coupe
Base price: $22,800
Rear-wheel-drive model displays plenty of flash, but lacks sedan's V8.

Malcolm Gunn is an automotive writer based in Moncton, NB, and a regular contributor to CarTest!

Posted March 4, 2010. © CarTest.ca TM


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