2011 5.0-liter Mustang GT

The Ford Mustang and horsepower go together like whipped cream and hot chocolate. The 2011 5.0-liter Mustang GT, with 412 horsepower, may be sweeter.

Last year’s GT had a 4.6-liter engine with 315 horsepower, but for 2011 Ford rolled out an all-new aluminum V-8 with four valves per cylinder, a tuned intake system, tubular exhaust headers and variable intake and exhaust valve timing. Twist the key and the high-energy V-8 bursts to life with a lovely voice. It cranks out way more horsepower than the old engine, so it’s ready to rumble with the likes of the Chevrolet Camaro and Dodge Challenger. Ah, the pony car wars are alive and well once again.

The new GT is able to squeeze power and efficiency from the V-8 by using technology wherever possible. The variable valve timing, for example, lets engineers control the engine’s valve overlap for optimum performance and economy. This engine revs to 7,000 rpm, yet it returns 18 miles per gallon in the city and 25 on the highway when equipped with an automatic transmission. The six-speed manual yields 17 in the city and 26 on the highway.

The test car from Ford’s press fleet was a convertible with a six-speed manual transmission. The clutch is light and engages smoothly. The gearshift linkage is direct and smooth. The large aluminum shift knob feels just right, and the throws between gears are so short that you can shift just by rocking your wrist back and forth.

On a 100-mile road trip, I consistently averaged 24 mpg while cruising at 70 mph, according to the car’s trip computer. In town, it dropped to 17 mpg.

If I were to buy a Mustang for myself I would probably choose an automatic because it is more comfortable in city driving. Then again, folks who buy the Mustang GT are interested in extracting the most performance possible from the car, and the six-speed is clearly the best way to do that.

Next spring, Ford will offer a special Boss 302 version that has 440 horsepower and a track-tuned suspension. The Boss will be a limited-edition model, so get your bids in now if you want one.

In 2010, Ford gave the Mustang a new suit of clothes, and while it still carries strong hints of the original, the design is contemporary and attractive. The exterior is sleeker, and the rear fenders have a more pronounced kick-up over the rear wheels. Even the emblem is new. There is no mistaking this for anything but a Mustang.

The interior has been updated with higher-quality materials and better seats. This is not a luxury car, but it is nicely appointed. The test car lacked heated seats that are almost a must in a convertible if you are to enjoy the open top in any kind of cool weather.

The back seat has limited legroom, but it will accommodate a couple of adults for a short ride. Trunk space in the convertible is reasonable.

Speaking of the top, it retracts fairly quickly and tucks nicely behind the rear seat. One wonders if a pop-up roll bar might not be a welcome addition.

An optional backup camera projects a small image in the rearview mirror, and I found that to be tremendously useful.

The GT’s suspension is tuned to deliver sporty handling without a jarring ride. Even though the Mustang still has a live rear axle, it takes turns with a minimum of body roll, and traction is good on all but the bumpiest of roads. Twisty roads make the car feel as if it were trying out for Dancing With the Stars. The optional Brembo brakes erase speed nicely.

The new Mustang GT recaptures the essence of the car from the 1970s, but it wraps that essence in contemporary comfort and convenience.


The base price of the test car was $37,845. Options included the yellow blaze metallic paint, anti-theft system, rearview camera, Brembo brake package and high-intensity headlights. The sticker price was $42,585.


Three years or 36,000 miles with a five-year, 60,000-mile powertrain warranty.