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The 2011 Mustang GT 5.0-liter V8. Looks good. Drives just as well.

Can an engine provide 31 mpg highway and still permit the tires to scream? This 305-hp V6 for the Mustang does.

Mustang Still Matters

Does a vehicle that has been in the market for 45+ years—a car that came to create the “pony car” category—have relevance in an age where not only is technology driving changes faster than reality show cast members meltdown and American Idol contestants are ridiculed?

Does a vehicle that has been in the market for 45+ years—a car that came to create the “pony car” category—have relevance in an age where not only is technology driving changes faster than reality show cast members meltdown and American Idol contestants are ridiculed?

Yes.

But it is clearly evident that this is the case with the 2011 Ford Mustang because not only did they start with a striking platform that goes back to the model year 2005 car, but as Scott Tobin, Ford Vehicle Line Executive for Cars and Crossovers, explains, because they have committed to continuously improving the car in ways that have not been characteristic of most car companies. Sure, there have always been refreshes in the business, but those have traditionally been the stuff of trim and possibly fascias. So David Pericak, Mustang chief nameplate engineer, points out that the 2011 Mustang (and know that the ’10 model underwent some significant mods), has new interior trim—the hard-plastic IP is now a soft-touch TPO plastic and the trim pieces that appear to be metal (e.g., ball on the shift knob, steering wheel spokes) are aluminum. And, yes, in keeping with the tradition of automotive refreshes, there are new front and rear fascias. In addition there is a powerdome hood, a spear character line across the doors, and angled corners in the back. “The modern design provides Mustang with aggressive, forward direction, like it’s ready to jump,” in the words of Darrell Behmer, Mustang chief designer. And there is also a bit of throwback to the design touches: the tail lamps have three LED bulbs that indicate turn direction by firing sequentially from the inside out, as was the case of Mustangs of the 1960s.

But one difference between back then and now is that you can’t fill up your Mustang for about $5, which brings us back to the question about relevance. Yes, the car has tech like the Ford SYNC system, electronic stability control, ABS, and an available rear-view camera. But nowadays the issue for some people—even those who are pony car partisans but who are also cognizant of fuel costs—is what might be found under that powerdome hood. And here Ford gets the job done.

The car is available with a new all-aluminum double-overhead cam (DOHC), 3.7-liter Duratec 24-valve engine that produces 305 hp, and when mated to a six-speed automatic transmission 31 mpg on the highway. The engine, which is manufactured at Ford Cleveland Engine Plant No. 1, features twin independent variable camshaft timing (Ti-VCT) that allows microsecond adjustment of the valves. This is supplemented by specially tuned composite upper and lower intake manifolds. The aluminum engine construction (the deep-sump oil pan is even diecast aluminum) as well as the composite manifolds contribute to reduced mass, which helps in achieving better fuel economy. The use of an electric power steering system, which eliminates the losses caused by hydraulic power steering pumps, also helps boost fuel efficiency. (And there are some exterior aero mods, like tire spats on the rear wheels and underbody shields.)
But there is another powertrain, as well, the 5.0-liter DOHC V8, which produces 412 hp and 390 lb-ft of torque. This all-aluminum engine, built at the Ford Essex Engine Plant in Windsor, Ontario, also features Ti-VCT, but whereas the V6 system uses electronic solenoid valves to direct high-pressure oil to control vanes in each of the camshaft sprocket housings, the V8’s system is actuated by camshaft torque, with assistance from pressurized oil. This allows precise camshaft event timing based on driver input, providing maximum torque or maximum fuel economy. With a six-speed automatic, the V8 delivers 18 city/25 highway mpg, which is a 1- and 2- mpg improvement, respectively, over the 2010 model.

There have been some nine million Mustang owners over the years. The 2011 should add more.—GSV