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Best Mustang yet?

By: 17 April 2011 One Comment

Not long ago — up until just last year, in fact — getting a Ford Mustang with a V-6 typically meant giving up on performance.

Some people liked the Mustang’s styling but didn’t want to shell out the extra bucks for a V8. Some people were after economy and felt the V6 delivered on that front.

Regardless of the reason, a Mustang with a V6 typically meant you weren’t going to get spirited  performance out of your Ford. Sure, it might look great, but there’s a reason those V6-powered pony cars were mocked by folks who opted for V8s.

Ah, but what if you could get great gas mileage and performance? That’s exactly what Ford has delivered with the V6 in the Mustang this year. Dig it — 305 horsepower out of that new V6 and 29 miles-per-gallon on the highway. Read that again and believe it — my wife has had her Mustang for over two months now and the gas mileage is downright unbelievable. Yes, Ford tells us this engine gets 31 MPG on the highway, and that might be true for those who don’t have a heavy foot. This car is dangerously quick and is easy on gas, to boot.

The performance is pretty impressive, too. The 2011 V6 churns out just a little less horsepower than the V8 in the GT from last year and will thump most factory V8s that have powered Mustangs since the car was introduced way on back in 1964. Mate that hyperactive V6 to either a smooth-shifting, six-speed automatic transmission or a precise manual gearbox and you’ve got a car that’s an absolute joy to drive.

The thing handles well, too. The suspension is stiff and the electronically-assisted steering is surprisingly responsive. Go ahead and throw it through some curves if you want. The nimble Mustang can handle it. The thing sticks to the road like, well, a sports car should. The transmission and traction control do a great job of keeping that power on the road, too. The tires tend to grip rather than spin, and burning rubber at stoplights is a challenge even when the traction control is deactivated.

Ah, but is it comfortable? After you get over feeling like you’re sitting on the ground, the Mustang is quite comfortable. The bucket seats that come standard provide plenty of support as you’re tossing the car around corners and is comfortable for even trips that last a couple of hundred miles between stops. There’s plenty of legroom and headroom in the front seat for the driver (my wife is 5’9″ and I’m 6′ tall), but woe be to the passengers in the back seat. Our 10-year-old daughter is perfectly happy back there, but our 14-year-old son is more than a bit cramped in that seat. Really, though, is that a surprise? If you want a family car, Ford makes plenty of those. The Mustang isn’t one of them.

Still, there’s not a bad amount of space in the Mustang. The glove compartment is annoyingly small, but the trunk is large enough for a suitcase or two and the rear seats fold down for more storage. Think of the Mustang as a commuter car with performance to spare and a little bit of room for hauling stuff, and you’ll be fine.

A couple of features well worth mentioning are the turn signals and side mirrors. The side mirrors each feature a small, inset mirror that allows the driver excellent visibility directly behind the vehicle. Those are a bit annoying at first, but come in very handy when the driver gets used to them — rather like having a couple of backup cameras. The turn signals are novel in that the taillights are made up of a series of LEDs that light in succession to indicate a turn. Yes, the signals effectively “point” in the way the car is turning and the effect is reminiscent of one that was achieved on those Mercury Cougars in the 1960s.

A lot about this car reminds one of great vehicles from the 1960s, in fact. The thing was obviously styled with the original Mustangs in mind and is every bit as appealing. That snarl that comes out of the car’s dual exhausts and infiltrates the cabin nicely puts the driver back in time a few decades, as well. The flat-out, grin-inspiring acceleration will remind the driver of a 60s-era muscle car, too, as will the low price — these things start at a paltry $22,145, and you can add a performance package, Ford’s Sync technology, satellite radio and some other bells and whistles for just a little bit more. And if the V6 just doesn’t cut it for you, don’t fear — you can still get a V8 that’s new for 2011, too, and is also more powerful and easier on fuel than you might expect.

Are there any problems with the car? There are a couple. For one thing, this vehicle is worthless on snow and ice. Traction control helps, but you’ve got a light vehicle with rear wheel drive. Common sense dictates the Mustang should be parked if there’s ice on the ground and, as usual, going with your gut instincts in that regard is the right call. Also, the tight suspension offers a great ride for a sports car, but you’ll still feel more vibrations and such than you would in, say, a Grand Marquis (but that should come as no surprise).

All in all, this is a car that is great to see these days. Here’s an American car that marries fuel economy and performance and utilizes technology that is ahead of the foreign competition in a lot of ways. It’s nice to see American car companies innovating rather than playing catchup, after all.

Of course, the Chevrolet fans will tout their Camaros that offer similar performance and economy. They’ve got a point. It all boils down to this — do you prefer the appearance of the Mustang or Camaro? Whichever vehicle you choose, you won’t be disappointed.

Want to find out more about the 2011 Mustang? Just go here.

About: Ethan C. Nobles:
Benton resident. Rogue journalist. Recovering attorney. Email = Ethan@FirstArkansasNews.net.

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