For years, the conventional wisdom was that the entry-level model of Ford’s Mustang was the choice of secretaries (excuse me, “administrative assistants”), college girls and rental car fleets. Oh, and let’s not forget old geezers who favored the V6 Mustang convertible for top-down slow cruising on the boulevards of Florida. Any red-blooded American male worth the Alpha honorific who desired a Mustang opted for a GT model with the requisite V8 engine. Things have changed. Time to push the conventional Ford pony car wisdom out the garage door along with your father’s Oldsmobile. We have the latest technology and the Ford’s gearhead engineers to thank for it.
Let me admit my pro-Ford bias up front. I’ve always been a Ford guy, and the blue oval company’s decision to go it alone, rather than run to Uncle Sam for bailout money a couple of years back like GM and Chrysler did, only served to confirm my bias. I also like pony cars (i.e., Mustang, Camaro and Challenger) because they represent the antithesis of the left’s attitude regarding personal transportation. They’re against it and would much prefer that you board a bullet train to nowhere rather than pilot your own vehicle from Point A to Point B. The only way the left will tolerate personal transportation is if you go all Prius or don’t actually do the driving yourself, which should explain liberals’ fascination with autonomous vehicles, which are the “cars of the future” some talked about back in the 1950s – autos which drive themselves. Unlike our leftist friends, some of us actually enjoy driving, and we prefer cars which reward their drivers by making it a more entertaining experience.
Which brings us back to the basic Mustang. Beginning with the 2011 model, Ford endowed its pony car with a new base V6 engine. Displacing 3.7 liters (227 cubic inches), the new six is 40 pounds lighter than the lump it replaced, which was a long-in-the-tooth 4.0 liter truck motor cast in iron. The new mill does much more than save precious weight, however. It produces no less than 305 horsepower and 280 foot-pounds of torque, eclipsing the older version’s 210 hp and 254 lb·ft. To appreciate the difference, consider that the 2009 Mustang GT was powered by a 4.6 liter V8 which cranked out five fewer horsepower than the newer V6. Compared to the previous Mustang V6, the newer one is very much high-tech. It is a DOHC (Dual Overhead Cam) design, employing twin-independent variable cam timing, a feature which is largely responsible for the significant improvement in power output. The forged crankshaft is held in place by six-bolt main bearings, four down and two at right angles on the sides of the block, just like one would expect from a proper race engine. The intake manifold is manufactured from 100 percent composite materials, which reduces cost, weight, and noise. Finally, the V6 Mustang has a true dual exhaust system, just like its V8-powered big brother, the GT.
Although the base Mustang offers the popular option of an automatic transmission, those drivers who would rather shift for themselves will be happy with the standard-equipment Getrag/Ford MT82 6-speed manual transmission. It’s a slick-shifting gearbox and a great improvement over the Tremec 5-speed manual found on Mustangs prior to the 2011 model year. An option worth having, however, is Ford’s $1,995 Performance Package, which includes sticky Pirelli P Zero—size 255/40ZR-19 tires mounted on nice-looking alloy wheels, the same upgraded shocks, springs, and anti-roll bars which come on the GT, a 3.31:1 rear axle ration (2.73:1 is standard), the GT’s brake calipers with upgraded pads, a front strut-tower brace, and a revised stability-control system with a more sporty sport mode. So equipped, the entry-level Mustang rewards its driver so much so that Car & Driver magazine called it “an astonishingly good car.”
Out on real-world roads, the base Mustang handles much better than a car with a sold rear axle has a right to. Many who have driven both the V6 and the GT models have remarked that the entry-level Mustang is actually better balanced because it carries less weight over the front wheels. The numbers are impressive for a sub-$30,000 automobile, with 60 mph coming up from zero in just 5.4 seconds and the standing quarter mile traversed in less than 14 seconds. For those who like to compete in the daily “Stoplight Gran Prix,” the humble base Mustang will embarrass snobs piloting much more costly and pretentious automobiles. On the skidpad, the no-frills ‘Stang pulls a more-than-respectable .95g and hauls itself down from 70 mph in 150 ft. This translates into considerable enjoyment behind the wheel when you’re negotiating some twisty two-land blacktop. Perhaps the best numbers of all turned in by the Mustang V6 are its fuel economy figures. According to the federal government EPA nannies, the car burns a gallon every 19 miles in the city and one every 29 miles out on the highway. If that doesn’t seem like much of a big deal to you, remember that this is a 305-horsepower sport coupe, not some crappy little econobox.
Clearly, the company that Alan Mulally saved is much more in tune with what drivers want from their cars than the FoMoCo of old. For the enthusiast, it all adds up to better driving through technology. This car won’t be everyone’s cup of tea, but the American pony car has come of age, and it is better than its predecessors in almost every way. This is especially true for the Mustang V6. It’s not just for secretaries anymore.