The new 2011 Mustang GT with the 5.0-liter engine is nothing short of amazing. I really feel bad for 2010 Mustang GT owners, and if I were one, I’d want my money back. The upgraded power is ridiculous with 412 ponies now stuffed under the hood and a short-throw six-speed manual gearbox.
Also for 2011, Ford addressed one of the biggest issues with the 2010 car: brakes. The Brembo brake package on this 2011 model is awesome, and well worth the $1695 premium. Not only do the huge calipers look good behind the wheels, but it’s now possible to wring this ‘Stang out on a road course for more than two or three laps at a time.
Many people will knock the Mustang for its prehistoric live rear axle, but it’s really amazing that Ford can get such great performance using one. It’s no secret that rough pavement will send the rear end searching for traction, but chances are good that this car will put a smile on your face.
Mike Ofiara, Road Test Coordinator
Finally, the Mustang we’ve all been waiting for. It has the power to embarrass Camaros and Challengers (despite still having a slight horsepower disadvantage) and the 5.0 badge now matches the engine’s actual displacement. Oh, don’t forget the new six-speed manual transmission that finally comes standard in all Mustangs and also helps the 412-hp 5.0 give up only 1 mpg to a V-6 Fusion on the EPA fuel economy cycles for city, highway, and combined mileage.
While a Camaro SS feels a bit heavy and slow, the Mustang GT is incredibly fast and feels much, much lighter behind the wheel. Ford managed to make the Mustang GT 244 pounds lighter than the Camaro without major sacrifices. Some detractors will point out the inherent complications of a live axle, but those disadvantages are largely irrelevant thanks to years of chassis and suspension tuning on this platform. If you want a true sports car, take your $36k to a Nissan dealer and buy a 370Z. For the muscle-car fan, the 2011 Mustang GT is about as good as it gets.
I can’t wait until people start putting more aggressive exhausts on the new GT. Although the factory exhaust system is a good compromise between muscle and relaxed cruising sounds, a pair of Flowmasters would really let the 5.0 sing.
Phil Floraday, Senior Web Editor
Contrary to what you’ve heard about the live rear axle setup, this is perhaps one of the best muscle cars money can buy. Good luck selling people on that, though — it seems that most shoppers in this segment make their decision primarily on styling, brand loyalty, or a fading memory of a car owned decades ago.
If they’re not Ford folks, they’re missing out on a car that offers an attractive (and comfortable) cabin, decent visibility (compared with the Chevy Camaro’s blind spots), and the ability to dance, despite its antiquated rear suspension design. I drove a Mustang GT with the track pack around a road course back-to-back with a Camaro SS last year. The Mustang’s posterior did like to jump around a little more than the Chevy’s, but it was always happy to let you point its nose in the right direction, while the Camaro wanted to plow.
My only hesitation then was with the powertrain — the 4.6-liter V-8 was lacking power, and the five-speed transmissions were so five years ago. But the new 5.0 and the six-speeds in both the manual and automatic gearboxes go a long way toward making this pony a veritable thoroughbred.
Evan McCausland, Web Producer
Competition is a wonderful thing. Their longstanding rivalry has made the Chevy Camaro and the Ford Mustang viable alternatives to expensive imports. I am especially impressed by the Mustang GT’s snappy shifter and overall character considering the relative simplicity of its underpinnings. While a live axle was once a serious liability, it lives a low-profile, barely noticeable existence here. The extra power that comes with Ford’s new 5.0-liter V-8 definitely gives the Camaro SS a run for the money. I’d say that the Mustang is edging closer to perfection for its ilk with very few serious warts.
That said, allow me to pick three nits. The driver’s left-foot/dead-pedal area is neither flat nor at an appropriate angle. The headrests are angled annoyingly close to front-seat occupants’ heads. And the area where a driver would otherwise be inclined to rest a right elbow is fraught with pain-inducing edges and hard surfaces. I can hardly wait to drive a Camaro rising to this Mustang GT’s challenge.
Don Sherman, Technical Editor
Traditionally I have not been a fan of the Mustang, but this latest generation is winning me over. The V-6 model recently at Automobile Magazine’s editorial office impressed with its power and composure but lacked a good soundtrack. This GT makes all the difference, as it delivers the sound and the fury that muscle-car aficionados crave, in spades. Love the tight little six-speed manual shifter. Clutch, brake, and gas pedals work well for heel-and-toeing. When you’re bounding down a country road in third gear, the power output is little short of astounding. I would still consider the live rear axle to be more annoying than endearing, but, hey, if you’re getting that axle to shudder and judder over Michigan’s rough pavement, chances are you’re having a ball while you’re doing it.
Joe DeMatio, Deputy Editor
Your move, Chevy. One year after the return of its old nemesis, the Mustang has struck back with amazing fury. Those who read our Rivalry featrue from last year may recall that the ‘Stang’s two major shortcomings were its brakes and (relative) lack of power. Ford seems to have solved the first issue with some beefy Brembo brakes up front. They were easy to modulate and fade free on the street. If only they were standard, as in the Camaro SS. The power shortage, well, that’s been handled with all the subtlety of a sledgehammer. The new 5.0-liter V-8 provides brutal acceleration at any speed — I caught rubber in second and third gears. I still prefer the meatier sound and feel of the Camaro’s small-block, but there’s no doubt the Mustang now has the upper hand overall. For now.
David Zenlea, Assistant Editor
Joe DeMatio is right. THIS is how a pony car should sound. The V-6 Mustang that we recently drove was nice, but it just didn’t offer the sound of a true pony car. This new 5.0-liter V-8, besides its loads of awesome power, provides the burbly soundtrack that a Mustang deserves. And like David Zenlea, I thoroughly enjoyed grabbing rubber in second and third with that fun-to-shift gearbox. Exhilarating!
I didn’t find the live rear axle to be so enjoyable, however. I drove the Mustang 5.0 more than 200 miles around suburban Detroit, and on some of the rougher highway stretches, the rear end began to bounce very annoyingly, causing me to involuntarily headbang even though I was listening to the broadcast of a Detroit Tigers’ baseball game and not Pantera. Also, the air-conditioning was at its limit (max fan speed and coolest temp setting for more than an hour) when I ran errands on a sunny 95-degree day. I wonder how the Stang would fare in hotter climates…
There’s no doubt that the car itself is plenty hot, though.
Rusty Blackwell, Copy Editor
2011 Ford Mustang GT Premium
Base price (with destination): $33,695
Price as tested: $36,170
5.0-liter V-8 engine
6-speed manual transmission
Leather-trimmed sport seats
Leather-wrapped tilt steering wheel
Shaker 500-watt audio system
Sirius satellite radio
Split folding rear seats
Advancetrac with electronic stability control
Tire pressure monitoring system
Integrated spotter mirrors
Options on this vehicle:
Brembo brake package— $1695
3.73 ratio limited slip differential — $395
Rear-view camera — $385
Key options not on vehicle: None
17 / 26 / 20 mpg
Size: 5.0L V-8
Horsepower: 412 hp @ 6500 rpm
Torque: 390 lb-ft @ 4250 rpm
Curb weight: 3605 lb
19 x 8.5-inch aluminum wheels
255/40R19 Pirelli PZero summer tires