The Ford Mustang is 46 years and 9 million copies into a legacy that has spanned (in musical generations) the psychedelic Summer of Love, Disco, Glam Rock, New Wave, Hair Metal, Boy Bands, Hip-Hop and Rap. Consider how different those listeners are and yet they all managed to find common threads in their love of the original pony car.
Now for 2011, Mustang takes a deep draught of its own primordial soup and offers up vintage horsepower and driving fun; two traits that have been present since day one, but sometimes missed in previous versions.
However, in this century the body, power (and spirit) has reunited and you won’t have to suffer with drum brakes or sloppy suspension – fuel economy is better than ever too. Both the 5.0L (Yes, its back!) and an all new aluminum V6 power several versions of Mustang including the wonderful convertible I had a chance to drop the top on in California.
Driving down Pacific Coast Highway into Santa Monica several people yelled over at lights – wanting to hear the engine rev (something that happened while I drove the V6 and V8). Obliging I noted that both engines elicited grins when gunned and for the budget-minded, that’s a sweet sound; particularly when you learn that you can get into a base V6 Mustang for just $22,999.
Absent from the Mustang line-up since 1995, the mighty 5.0 V8 engine will once again grace Ford engine bays for 2011. But this is an all-new aluminum high-compression 5L that makes 412 hp and also delivers 11.8L per 100/km city and 7.8L per 100/km highway. That’s impressive. The 5.0 will be available in several models starting with the GT at $38,499, running up to the loaded convertible at $42,899.
But what is perhaps even more impressive is the new V6 that grunts out 305 hp and yet still gets 6.4 L /100 km on the highway with the six-speed automatic transmission and 10.7L per 100/km in the city. In fact, this performance is at once a marvel and a saviour for those afflicted with a performance itch but less than $25,000 available to scratch it. And let’s not forget the other cost of fun - insurance. You know this motor will be easier on premiums than the V8.
Every version of the Mustang is a 2+2 coupe where the backseat is for really little kids, dogs and empty coffee cups... the convertible version is even smaller. But up front Mustang embraces the driver with well bolstered seats, classic gauges, soft-touch materials and excellent fit and finish. Visibility is good and headroom (always an issue for me) is fine.
There are also two new six-speed transmissions – manual and automatic – which are combined with newly standard limited-slip differentials (important in our climate as you don’t want to put this car away for the winter) and revised suspensions that carved the hillsides above Malibu effortlessly. The automatic works well, while the manual certainly adds to the fun – but there is a flaw; a very narrow gate between third and fifth that I found myself missing.
While I know there will be sceptics, and sure there were some dull four-cylinder Mustangs in the eighties and doggy V6’s last decade; that really is history. Ford has also cleaned up all the "tells" those earlier cars had. Now all V6’s come with dual exhaust (no more single pipe tip-off at the lights) and they have tuned mufflers that sound sweet from idle to red-line. The 2011 Mustang - fun at a reasonable price, straight-up.