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2011 Ford Mustang V-6 Coupe

With all the hoopla surrounding the launch of 300-plus-hp pony cars (Camaro, Genesis, Mustang) that have recently hit the market, you'd think there was no reason to opt for a V-8 other than bragging rights. I don't want to be seen as the codger bemoaning the loss of carburetors and bias-ply tires, but it's worth buying a V-8 Mustang or Camaro for the engine's sound alone. Yes, a six-cylinder engine CAN be engineered to sound great, but so far neither Ford nor GM nor Dodge is willing to provide a stock exhaust system on their V-6 pony cars that sounds more menacing than a vacuum cleaner. It's a pity. These spectacularly powerful, yet surprisingly fuel efficient, sporty cars will be parked at sorority houses until they sound more like performance cars.

It's incredible that the V-6 Mustang now has as much power as the V-8 car from 2009 and much, much better fuel economy as well. As much as I admire the Mustang's horsepower, though, I can't forget that this 3.7-liter engine is also found in the likes of the Edge Sport crossover. At least with a manual transmission, the engine isn't very responsive to quick changes in the throttle's position -- I noticed the engine would hang near redline after I had lifted my foot completely off the gas pedal for a shift. Once it even held the revs long enough to gain speed after I had released the clutch without getting back on the gas pedal. This sort of tuning generally isn't acceptable in an econobox, let alone a car that's supposed to be sporty.

If you're in the market for a coupe that looks good, cruises well, and probably does well with an automatic transmission, the V-6 Mustang will likely make you happy. If you've got the faintest idea of how heel-and-toe shifting works, however, this car isn't for you. There's still nothing in the V-6 car that makes me want to give up the sound or responsiveness of a V-8. Especially now that Ford has cracked the 400-hp club with the new 5.0.

Phil Floraday
, Senior Web Producer

The new, more powerful V-6 Mustang is a very solid performer for sure. Still, I have to wholeheartedly agree with Phil: I'd happily fork over the extra $7500 (plus the extra fuel costs over the life of the car) for the V-8 engine just for the better noises it makes. Perhaps I'm old school, but to me, an American pony car should make strong burbly V-8 sounds.

The V-6 car handles a bit softer than the GT, too, but it still can be fun to power it through country-road corners. The ride remains fairly rough, though, with noticeable head toss over rough pavement. I found the V-6 Mustang's steering to be too light although very direct. As Phil also notes, this Ford's hanging throttle is annoying. A six-speed stick is the way I'd order any Mustang, but I'd add a Roush or Hurst shifter to make the gearbox feel more precise.

As the dad of a toddler, though, I'd be tempted to avoid the Mustang altogether ... I won't bore anyone with the specifics, but let's just say that I had a MUCH easier time installing both kid seat and baby in the back seats of new Chevy Camaros and Dodge Challengers recently. The Mustang is no better than a Nissan GT-R in this regard -- and worse than an Audi TT coupe.

Rusty Blackwell,Copy Editor

Ford's got a sweet machine on its hands with the 2011 Ford Mustang, both with the V-6 and V-8 engines. I first drove the 2011 Ford Mustang V-6 at the car's launch in Los Angeles and, like Phil, came away underwhelmed by the engine. The heavy breathing, scruffy top-end, and hesitance to rev give this 3.7-liter the feel of a truck engine. Of course, that could be because it IS a truck engine, as it's borrowed from the Ford Edge and Lincoln MKX. However, that early disappointment gave way to forgiveness and eventually excitement as I spent the weekend with a six-cylinder Mustang. If you're willing to always accelerate at 70 percent throttle or above, the Mustang's quickness dupes you into ignoring its unrefined traits. The tight, heavy shifter begs you to flick it from gear to gear as fast as you can. Handling is far better than what you get with a Camaro.

Still, Ford has missed a few details before they can claim the Mustang as a world-class car. Here's what needs fixing:

-No telescoping steering wheel: Tall guys are cursed to enjoy the Mustang from a full arm's length away as the steering wheel only tilts. If you want the typical bend in your arms for comfort and the best driving position, you'll have to deal with your right knee pressed to the dash. It would also be nice if the seat could be lowered further.

-Poor trim fits: Ford claims that it's shooting to build interiors that can compete with the Audi A5. They're not too far off with the ergonomics and materials, but the interior trim has several uneven gaps that you wouldn't have found in an Audi ten years ago, let alone today's A5. If you're gonna make such a bold claim (this is a car that starts at $23,000, after all), you'd better be able to back it up.

-Bizarre trunk lid: Something's not right about the vertical surface of the trunk lid. Ford has given it a concave curve that makes the gap between sheet metal and the taillights look extremely cheap and unfinished. It's clear that this is a result of the stylistic shape rather than poor tolerances, but it makes you wonder if Ford knew they'd be unable to produce a properly fitting panel.

-Steering assist: Ford is relatively good at tuning electric power steering, but the V-6 Mustang isn't perfect and the Mustang GT's steering offers slightly better feel than that in the V-6. It would be nice for the weight to build as the wheel was turned, rather than the constant resistance of the current tune. Also, the feedback is absent as you unwind the wheel.

-Engine refinement: No complaints in the power department, but the 3.7-liter V-6 feels like it was merely plucked from the parts bin without the necessary tweaks and massaging needed before you can bolt it into a sports car. A good, smooth-running V-6 is happiest at the top of the tach, but that's not the case here. Lighten up the flywheel and put the NVH team back to work, Ford.

It's important to note that Ford did get several details right. For starters, I really appreciate the flip-down headrests on the rear seats, which make rearward visibility significantly better. Ford also has some unique offerings with the customizable ambient lighting, blind-spot mirrors, and Sync. If the Blue Oval can complete the package and clean up the forgotten details, they'll have a hero. Despite these complaints, Ford still has the best pony car on the market, without question. I wouldn't hesitate to recommend this car to anyone, but that doesn't mean Ford can rest. Fortunately, the Mustang team has a recent history of make incremental changes every year. Here's to hoping that, for the 2012 model year, they put the final polish on the Mustang.

Eric Tingwall, Associate Editor

The Mustang looks very cool with this bright cobalt blue paint over black leather. I also like the interior: the seats are comfortable and handsome in a slightly retro way. The blind spot mirrors that Eric mentions consist of little inset mirrors in the side view mirrors; they were a surprising and welcome feature. I also appreciate the rearview camera image in the inside rearview mirror; it works well and it negates the need for a big screen in the center stack.

My colleagues have covered the Mustang V-6's dynamic strengths and shortcomings at length. All I can say is, yeah, this V-6 makes great power but just doesn't sound right. As for the manual transmission, despite what Phil says, I found heel and toe action to be very good, and the clutch pedal take-up is fine. The shifter itself, though, is a bit too notchy. As Rusty says, give me a Hurst shifter for a more genuine pony-car feel.

I had to pick up my nephew at the Windsor, Ontario, Canada, train station. We took the tunnel back to Detroit and the border-patrol guy was giving us a pretty thorough interrogation. These situations are always nerve-wracking because you never know what might trip you up or doom you to the special-inspection lane. It didn't help that my nephew is Canadian, while I'm a U.S. citizen. But, finally, the guy in the booth asked how I liked the Mustang and commented that he heard that the V-6 has more than 300 hp, and I immediately knew that we were home free.

Joe DeMatio, Deputy Editor

Base price (with destination): $26,695
Price as tested: $31,455

Standard Equipment:
3.7-liter V-6 engine
6-speed manual transmission
Air conditioning
Leather-wrapped trimmed sport seats
Leather-wrapped steering wheel
Cruise control
Shaker 500-watt sound system
AM/FM/single CD/MP3
Sync system
Sirius satellite radio
Spilt fold rear seat
Power windows/locks/mirrors
Remote keyless entry
Tire pressure monitoring system
Options on this vehicle:
V-6 performance package -- $1995
Mustang Club of America package -- $995
Comfort package -- $595
3.31 ratio axle -- $395
Security package -- $395
Rear video camera -- $385
Key options not on vehicle:

Fuel economy:
19 / 29 / 24 mpg

Size: 3.7L V-6
Horsepower: 305 hp @ 6500 rpm
Torque: 280 lb-ft @ 4250 rpm


6-speed manual

Curb weight: 3453 lbs

19x 8.5-inch black painted aluminum wheels
255/40ZR19 Pirelli PZero performance tires

Competitors: Chevy Camaro V-6, Hyundai Genesis V-6 coupe