While most of the attention in the pony car arena focuses on the big-dogs powered by V8 engines, there's plenty of life in the V6 sandbox. The 2011 Ford Mustang has pushed beyond the 300 hp barrier with its new V6. There are more thrills to be had in the most basic Mustang than you could even buy in a full-boat GT just a few short years ago. Don't let the retro styling cues fool you, either – the golden age of high-performance is right now, and the 2011 Mustang brings it.
The new 305-hp V6 isn't the only news at the Mustang corral, either. Fuel economy of 31 mpg (a 30 percent improvement over 2010) is another breakthrough number for sports coupes. Here is a case of having your cake and eating it, too. You get newfound power from the engine bay – the new, all-aluminum, DOHC 3.7-liter Duratec V6 features Twin independent Variable Camshaft Timing (Ti-VCT) in its first rear-wheel drive application – and yet, you'll only sip fuel on the highway. No other car with 300 hp can claim 31 mpg highway.
Transmissions are all-new with both manual and automatic gearboxes using six speeds to boost both performance and efficiency. Electric Power Assist Steering (EPAS) takes some additional load off the engine, too. Ford's way is obsessively optimizing its cars, and even though this version of the Mustang is merely a year old, the bodywork hasn't been left out of the improvement game. Aerodynamic adjustments have been made with a new front fascia and a smoothed underbody, as well as numerous other small tweaks. Never a slouch out on the road, the airflow adjustments make the Mustang even more secure and planted-feeling on the road, especially on the highway.
The standard details are enticing enough: EPAS enables new technologies that can cancel out the effects of crosswinds (Drift-Pull Compensation) and out-of-balance wheels (Active Nibble Control), a limited-slip differential is standard equipment, as are new rear lower control arms and stiffened stabilizer bar bushings, and the four-wheel antilock disc brakes are enlarged for 2011. Buyers seeking more can make the most of the high-revving 3.7-liter engine with the available Performance Package. An affordable way to peg the fun meter, the Mustang V6 Performance Package adds a 3.31 rear axle in place of the standard 2.73:1 ratio, for quicker acceleration, as well as lifting stabilizers, springs and shocks, and brake calipers from the Mustang GT. There's even a rear control arm cribbed from the Shelby GT500. Unique to the V6 Performance Package are 19-inch wheels wearing sporty Pirelli tires, a strut-tower brace and a recalibrated stability control system that includes a sport mode. The V6 Mustang makes a compelling argument for itself, and with the V6 Performance Package, it's a true sportscar with a nimble chassis and a throaty roar from the retuned exhaust.
The Mustang is a well-rounded car, too. While it serves up plenty of thrills, the interior is smartly designed and serene. New soundproofing is lightweight and cancels out undesirable noises while the tuned intake and exhaust help the engine make all the right sounds. New door seals also keep the racket to a minimum, and the stylish dashboard is made from high-quality soft-touch materials.
A new speedometer that indicates all the way to 160 mph is nestled next to an 8,000 rpm tachometer in a gauge cluster that's new for 2011. The Mustang's body structure is strong with high-strength and ultra-high-strength steel used at key places throughout. Ford's Personal Safety System is standard and equips the Mustang with dual-stage airbags and seatbelt pretensioners.
The latest version of Ford's award-winning SYNC is available to enhance both convenience and safety. Traffic, directions, 911 Assist and Vehicle Health Report are part of the electronic safety arsenal. AdvanceTrac stability control also keeps the wheels on the ground, where they belong, and MyKey™ is also available for the first time in the 2011 Mustang. MyKey encourages safer driving by allowing owners to program the vehicle to limit top speed, audio volume and other measures to make the Mustang more foolproof for less-experienced drivers.
Despite its starting point position on the Mustang model ladder, the V6 is all the Mustang most people will need. Never before has it been possible to pair the lightweight, efficient V6 with the high-performance underpinnings of the Mustang GT. There's a strong sportscar flavor offered up by the Mustang V6 and its ability to dance deftly. Don't be fooled by the $22,145 MSRP; the 2011 Ford Mustang V6 will give a hard time to a lot of very pricey iron. It's good enough to be a "desert island" car, capable of doing it all from grocery running to canyon carving and fulfilling each role competently. The only problem with that is that desert islands don't have roads.
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