Rollin' in the 5.0
At 412 hp, the 5.0-liter falls short of the 426 hp in a Camaro SS but the Mustang GT also has a 244-pound advantage over the Chevy. Once we are behind the wheel, though, we aren't really inspired to draw comparisons with the Camaro. Rather, we're content to revel in the new mill's flexibility. As a distant relative of the 315-hp 4.6-liter, the 5.0-liter V-8 feels smooth and unrestricted at low rpm and willingly nips the 7000-rpm redline when it's pressed. And pressing it is exactly what you'll want to do, whether you're trying to get somewhere quickly or just destroy your rear tires with smoky burnouts. Tight canyon roads outside Los Angeles highlight the V-8's wide torque band; we leave the stick in second gear while we run from 2000 to 6000 rpm and back repeatedly. Inside the cabin, the exhaust note is a bit soft but the low wub-wub-wub warble has been piped into the cabin with an induction tube and sounds spot on. A sport exhaust, though, would complete the package.
While the 5.0 is the big news, the base Mustang actually receives a greater number of significant updates. In addition to the new 3.7-liter engine, the V-6 car now includes a limited-slip differential, a cold-air intake, and dual exhaust as standard equipment. There's also a new performance package, which Ford hopes will appease young enthusiasts who can't afford insurance on a GT. Upgrades include a numerically higher 3.31:1 rear axle, the Mustang GT suspension, a strut-tower brace, nineteen-inch wheels, Pirelli summer tires, and a stability control sport mode. Our V-6 tester didn't have the performance package, but it was equipped with the 3.31:1 final drive as a stand-alone option to deliver more eager acceleration. Yet within a few miles of driving the V-6, we were underwhelmed by the power delivery. The engine is slow to rev and acceleration feels more anemic than you'd expect from 305 hp and 280 lb-ft of torque. Still, it's a much better feel than the crass truck-engine character of the old 4.0-liter. The new engine is better described as a passionless, mainstream wheel-turner. Perhaps that's a function of the 3.7-liter's other duties in the Ford Edge crossover and Lincoln MKS and MKT. Whereas the Camaro led many to say that a V-6 needn't play second fiddle to a V-8, our recommendation for the Mustang is quite the opposite: find a way to get into the V-8.
The switch from hydraulic steering assist to an electromechanical setup also improves fuel economy. Ford uses five different steering calibrations for the Mustang, depending on whether the car is a coupe or convertible, V-6 or V-8, or if it's a GT with the Brembo brake package. We weren't able to sample all five flavors, but we did detect a noticeable difference between a Brembo-equipped GT and the V-6 coupe. In our GT, the steering was so good - so even, precise, and communicative - that it drummed up thoughts of BMWs. The Brembo-package calibration isn't as heavy as the Bavarians would require, but it's just as consistent. The V-6 coupe's steering is also quite good, but it feels marginally overboosted and just slightly vague off center around 30 mph.
The Mustang received a significant face-lift for the 2010 model year, so the few subtle changes for 2011 (a brighter pony emblem on the GT, for example) are trivial and difficult to spot. Ambitiously - and somewhat oddly - Ford displayed an Audi A5 as the company's chief benchmark for interior quality. The GT features a wide span of genuine aluminum on the dash and attractive leather seating options. However, the Audi bogey is still a bit of a stretch for Ford's utilitarian radio and climate controls and dash plastics. Seat time in the Mustang did reconfirm, though, that the Mustang is the most comfortable and natural of the muscle car trio, with unparalleled visibility and a sporty feeling of compactness.
The 2011 Mustang delivers quicker acceleration, sharper handling, and a better driving character, yet its best quality may be that it's an agitator. By taking such a direct shot at the Camaro, Ford has forced Chevrolet to return fire. A mild power increase that will put V-6 Camaro output ahead of the Mustang should come soon, and you can bet that's not all Chevy is working on. The war is on, and it's shaping up to be a good one.
|As Tested:||$35,390 (GT)|
|Engine:||32-valve DOHC V-8 (GT)|
|Displacement:||5.0 liters (302 cu in)|
|Horsepower:||412 hp @ 6500 rpm|
|Torque:||390 lb-ft @ 4250 rpm|
|Engine:||24-valve DOHC V-6 (base)|
|Displacement:||3.7 liters (228 cu in)|
|Horsepower:||305 hp @ 6500 rpm|
|Torque:||280 lb-ft @ 4250 rpm|
|Transmission Type:||6-speed manual|
|Suspension, front:||Strut-type, coil springs|
|Suspension, rear:||Live axle, coil springs|
|Brakes:||Vented discs, ABS|
|(Brembo brake package coupe)|
|L x W x H:||188.1 x 73.9 x 55.8 in|
|Track F/R:||62.3/62.9 in (coupe)|
|Cargo capacity:||13.4 cu ft (coupe)|
|Curb weight:||3463–3621 lb|
|Weight dist. F/R:||53.9/46.1%, 55.0/45.0%|
|EPA Mileage:||17–19/25–31 mpg|
|0–60 mph (sec)||5.3||4.6|
|0–100 mph (sec)||13.1||10.4|
|1/4–mile (sec @ mph)||13.8 @ 103||12.9 @ 112|
|30–70 mph passing (sec)||6.9||4.6|
|70–0 mph (ft)||156||164|
|Cornering L/R (g)||0.94/0.91||0.98/0.99|
After a year on the market, the third-generation Mustang, commonly known as the Fox body, drops the vintage 302-cubic-inch (5.0-liter) V-8 in favor of a 119-hp, 4.2-liter V-8.
Ford replaces the 4.2-liter with an updated "5.0." Although the actual displacement was only 4942 cubic centimeters, Ford liberally rounds up.
At the request of the California Highway Patrol, Ford produces the Special Service Package with more durable hardware and the 5.0 under the hood. The SSP becomes a popular alternative to slow, heavy cruisers, particularly with state police agencies. Some 15,000 units are sold through 1993.
Rapper Vanilla Ice celebrates his own V-8 'Stang (a white convertible) in "Ice Ice Baby," rhyming, "I'm on a roll/It's time to go solo/Rollin' in my five-point-oh/With my ragtop down so my hair can blow."
Vanilla Ice shows his creative range when he releases a single called "Rollin' in my 5.0" that is complemented by a music video full of spinning tires and bad green-screen effects. Ice's claim of "Zero to sixty/Four seconds/No play" was pure creative license.
The fourth-generation Mustang arrives, featuring a contemporary, softer shape.
Ford kills the pushrod 5.0 and replaces it with a single-overhead-cam 4.6-liter V-8.
Ford reintroduces the 5.0-liter V-8 in the 2011 Mustang GT at the Detroit auto show with the help of Grammy Award-winner and hip-hop star Nelly.