The Ford Mustang has been with us for almost five decades now and between the infinity of lines that make up its life story, we can find certain models that are more special than others.
The 2011 Mustang GT is definitely one of them, as this is the model that brings the "5.0" badge, along with the adjacent hardware, back after 16 years of pause. The new car offers even more than that, as it comes with a V8 which actually uses 5, not 4.9 liters of displacement for the first time in the model's history
The Blue Oval has made impressive efforts to upgrade the technical side of the car. This means that not only do you get an output boost about the size of what a basic 1.6-liter four-cylinder engine can deliver, but also new transmissions and an overall optimization of the vehicle.
Before we can start baking some donuts in the Mustang GT, let's spend some time to find out how it grew up to become such a bad boy. The Mustang story started back in 1964, when Ford wanted to offer a sports car that would mix assets like compact size, affordability and driving fun. The Mustang was the vehicle that basically created the pony car class, which is defined by the aforementioned values.
It's not actually all that easy to establish which US carmaker started this sporty madness. Yes, the Mustang was the first, with its fiercest rival, the Chevrolet Camaro, coming to the market after it. However, the Mustang was preceded by a concept car called Ford Mustang I and this was actually Ford's response to the success of the GM Corvair Monza sportscar.
To keep the price down, Ford used many chassis, suspension, drivetrain and interior components from existing models, such as the Falcon and Fairlane. However, the car had a unique personality, which made both sales and reputation jump sky-high.
By the time the first generation reached the end of its life in 1973, the Mustang had been a bit diluted, with Ford unsuccessfully trying to adapt the car to the market, which wanted larger and more luxurious vehicles.
From the launch of the second generation (1974) onwards, things went from bad to worse, as the US oil crisis made customers forget all about emotions and choose more rational car models.
The early 1980s brought such a desperate situation that Ford wanted to replace the Mustang of the time, the 3rd generation, with a model that would be based on the Mazda MX-6. Fans immediately reacted, writing to the company in order to complain about such a proposal. Luckily, the idea, which would've brought Japanese origins, front-wheel drive and the lack of a V8 even as an option, was dropped. The executives understood that the Mustang was far too important to be messed around with, so the fourth-generation Mustang that followed was fresher than ever.
All the efforts made to keep the Mustang alive over the years finally paid out in 2005, when the fifth generation was launched. Ford once again reinvented the wheel, marking the debut of the retro-styled new-age pony cars. The Mustang was the only car of its kind to have been on the market without any pause ever since the genre was born in the mid 60s.
By the time Chrysler brought back the Challenger and GM revived the Camaro in 2008 and 2009, respectively, Ford was launching a redesigned version of the "New Mustang". However, the model was still using less-than-advanced powertrains, which brings us back to the subject of our test drive.
Ford brought new engines and transmissions for the 2011 model year and we recently drove the model that sits in the middle of the range, the Mustang GT 5.0.
There are many cars nowadays that try to recreate the visual excitement of their spiritual predecessors from many decades ago and the Mustang is definitely one of the best. The new-age Mustang reminds us of the original fast-back.
It's no wonder that the car has looks to kill for - the styling of the 5th generation comes from a man named Sid Ramnarace, who tried to work for Ford or GM long before he could study design, at the age of 12.
The 2010 model year facelift has introduced a cleaner look, with the Mustang being brought closer to the original model. With the exception of the roofline, the exterior metal work is all-new and "masculine" is the word to use here.
The V6 and the V8 models have dedicated front grilles, so when you see a Mustang with the fog lights in the upper grille, you should know this is a V8. In between the fog lights of our test car, which are smaller than those on the pre-revamp model, sits the first new Mustang emblem
since the car was introduced in 1964.
There might be new headlights, a new front fascia and a redesigned grille, but the front of the car is clearly dominated by the power dome hood
. This is an element that serves an engine cooling purpose and is also clearly visible from inside the car.
Like we said, Ford wanted cleaner lines so that the car would be even easier to recognize, so, for example, the antenna was moved to the rear, while the windscreen washer nozzles were hidden.
On the sides, the first thing you notice is the Big Mac-sized "5.0" badge, but we also get bolder wheel arches, which hold rims one-inch larger across the range, and a more muscular character line.
The rear end is also better defined. It all starts from the spoiler, which is now integrated into the boot lid and can accommodate a generously-sized optional rear view camera
. The taillights are more striking and fire sequentially from the inside for the turn signals, just like on the 60s' Mustangs. The "GT" badge is larger, while the overall lines of the rear end are more angular.
The Mustang manages to back up its iconic exterior with a cabin that uses styling cues which are is just as attractive and manly. From the first moment you climb aboard, you notice that the dashboard has a symmetric layout. Thus, if you ignore the steering wheel and the instrument panel, the driver and the passenger receive remarkably look-alike areas.
The space up front is excellent and the standard seats allow you to easily find a comfortable driving position. These use electric control for the vertical and longitudinal adjustment, while the backrest position can be changed using a manual control.
However, space in the back
is limited by the headroom: only children can properly use the rear seats, which would otherwise be suitable for adults of all sizes. You can figure this out by simply looking in the rear-view mirror and noticing that the headrests comes incredibly close to the rear window.
The retro styling can be found in multiple parts of the cabin, with the dials
and the gear shifter being the most important areas from this point of view. These are backed by the Mustang logos on the door fascias, while the metallic trimming on the dashboard is pleasant to touch and look at. It's interesting to see how the passenger's front airbag is concealed behind two pieces of metal.
The saddle on this pony is also an ergonomic one. All the controls are within your reach and we have, for example, an engine brake mode button placed on the side of the gearshift lever, where your thumb can easily find it.
Colored lights draw attention whether you're 15 or 50 and because Ford is well aware of this, the Mustang offers an interesting interior lighting setup. You can adjust the background color of the rev counter and speedometer, as well as their ambient colors and the effect can also be seen on the ambient lighting for the cup holders and footwell areas up front and in the back. You can even use a RGB (Red Green Blue) setup to create two custom colors
As far as the stowage compartments are concerned, there are two cup holders in the center console and a pretty generous compartment inside the center armrest, but there's no glovebox and the compartments in the doors are small.
For the less-than-pleasant side of this chapter we'll also mention the fit and finish. For example, the buttons on the steering wheel remind us of a second-hand 80s' stereo, while if you look through the air conditioning nozzles, you get the impression you're in a motel room. However, the materials used seem to be extremely capable of resisting to wear and tear. In the end, the lack of quality feel problem only applies to certain parts of the cabin, so the interior is not as bad as you may think.
Moving to the luggage compartment, we find 380 liters (13.4 cu. ft.) of space that make the Mustang GT a true Grand Tourer.
The Mustang GT comes with several assets that not only sound good during a conversation at the bar, but also allow it to offer a pleasant city driving experience.
It all starts at the core of the car, as the new Coyote V8 engine features cam-torque-actuated variable camshaft timing, which allows it to be extremely flexible. Together with the smoothness of the new six-speed automatic transmission, this makes the Mustang GT suitable for all kind of urban driving situations. For example, if you'll use the throttle with caution, you'll find that the car can offer sub-2,000 rpm almost-seamless shifts.
The steering offers three modes, with the first two being suitable for the city, so you won't struggle to when it comes to parking. Our test car came with an optional rear view camera, but we didn't understand why such a big unit used such a small display included in the central rear view mirror. As for the parking sensors, you can get this option on the 2013 model.
The suspension, together with the rather generous (for a sportscar) sidewalls of the tires, manage to face most poor road situations in a pleasing way. And if you add the generous ride height, you end up with a vehicle that can cater to our daily urban transportation needs without having to make efforts.
The aforementioned mechanical assets join forces with the good overall visibility and the easy access into and out of the cabin and you end up with a pleasant driving experience on city roads.
The Mustang GT was built for the open
road. If you keep this rule in mind, you'll be able to enjoy the car in many, many ways.
From the first moment you bring the 5 liters of the engine to life, you'll be accompanied by a nice sound that's rather metallic than deep. We would've liked a louder voice, but we have to keep in mind that the car uses a classic setup, with no valves and it offers one of the best compromises for this type of exhaust. The best part is that, as you're standing in the car, the sound is coming rather from the front, not the rear of the car. That's because there's a plastic pipe that brings the engine sound from the intake manifold straight into the cabin.
The Twin Independent Variable Cam Timing (Ti-VCT) 4,951cc V8 engine delivers 412 hp (418 PS) and 530 Nm (390 lb-ft) of torque and shows a great flexibility. The unit joins forces with a six-speed automatic which works well in both cruising and full-throttle modes. While most of you are familiar to the setup, others may be surprised to find that the gearbox offers you the possibility to manually place it in 1st, 2nd or 3rd gear.
You can enjoy the vast interior space, comfortable seats and suspension, as well as the muscle of the engine and use the Mustang as a Grand Tourer. Whenever you find yourself at the beginning of a straight line, you can indulge yourself in throttle pedal pleasures and the car will reward you for doing so. The Mustang GT is that kind of car that would make a good argument against teleporting - It's pleasant to cover long distances behind its retro-styled steering wheel.
We enjoyed quite a lot of moments in the car, which asked for 13.5 l/100 km (17.4 mpg) in return during our test drive.
But you're in a Coyote V8 Mustang, you can also think about some tire-shredding maneuvers. The GT Mustang handles burnouts and donuts with a nonchalant attitude. The low-end torque and the solid mechanical parts mean that the car doesn't even feel it's being abused. All you need to do is adjust the throttle depending on how much tire smoke you want to generate. And a fresh set of tires, of course.
And once you've brought the tires to the right temperature, you can try a quarter mile session. The result will be placed somewhere in the high 12-second area. As for the 0 to 60 mph (96 km/h) sprint, this will be dealt with in 4.5 seconds.
Unfortunately, not all roads are simply open, some of them also include various types of bends and here is where the live rear axle of the Mustang quickly shows its limits.
The AdvanceTrac traction and stability control leaves the car to follow its natural movements for a few brief moments, so you get a good indication of what's going on and then brings things back on track. And boy does it have a lot of work to do.
The live rear axle, coupled with the suspension setup, which is a bit on the soft side, means that the handling at the limit is anything but inspiring. When you drive the Mustang hard on a twisty road, you'll always find yourself waiting rather than pushing the car hard. To be more specific, the aforementioned problem keeps you from putting the pedal to the metal. When you finally do, the accelerator pedal map, which is surprisingly soft, almost like a "winter" one, will bring a delay.
The Nexteer-sourced electronic power assisted steering, which replaces the hydraulic one used up to the 2010 model year, may be good for cruising, but the fact that it offers 3 levels of assistance can't hide its relative lack of feedback.
When it comes to stopping power, you simply have to choose the optional Brembo package. Despite the serious pitch induced by the aforementioned suspension setup, the Brembo brakes give you plenty of confidence on the road.