A Journey Not By Number - 2011 Ford Mustang Long-Term Road Test

2011 Ford Mustang Long-Term Road Test

2011 Ford Mustang: A Journey Not By Number

January 03, 2012

Ford Mustang at Eagle Castle 2.jpg

It just seemed like something I had to do. I had the time, I had the girl and most importantly (sorry girl) I definitely had the car. Spending another two days loafing about the house just seemed so wrong.

So on Thursday, we threw a pair of overnight bags into the 2011 Ford Mustang GT and set course up the coast for someplace called Atascadero. It's just a wee bit south of Paso Robles wine country, the hotel I got a screaming deal on looked lovely and it was the right distance away for an overnight trip. Besides, one of my favorite past times is just dropping myself someplace random and exploring.

Ford Mustang at Eagle Castle 1.jpg

Truth be told, this was the first time I'd really driven the Mustang anywhere, which is a pity since it'll be hitting the 20,000 goodbye mark in about 450 miles. A car like this just makes every journey just that much more special. Our Volvo S60 would've been more comfortable, it would've been a lot quieter and I wouldn't have needed to bring a map along, but with all due respect to the Swede I oh-so-nearly selected for the Chrismas/NewYear Super-Long Weekend, it's just not an event car.

The Mustang quite simply has character. The epic thrust of the V8, the way that little metal cue ball shifter fits perfectly in my hand, the wonderfully sorted steering (EPS does NOT have to suck), the gauges that glow in whatever manner I choose, the blue stripes down the seats, the little Mustang logos on the doors ... oh, and it looks awesome. It just makes me happy every time I walk up and reaffirm that's what I'm driving. It's not exactly a unique car, either, and yet I notice men enviously eyeing it in parking lots. Hell, my mother anxiously asked me if she could sit in it.

After two or three hours on the road, some of that character wears off in favor of old fashioned practicality, though. Are the seats and driving position good enough? Yes, but it could be perfect if the wheel telescoped just a bit. Is the ride too rough for comfort? No, but that rear axle definitely produces more jiggles than a certain Dodge competitor. Does last-legs tires, rear drive, 5.0 V8 and aforementioned rear axle make things rather, um, interesting on rutted, winding, uphill dirt winery road? Sure does Captain. Can Ford Sync understand the voice command "Play Artist ZZ Top?"No, apparently it can't.

Ford Mustang at the Carlton in Atascadero 2.jpg

How's the fuel economy and range? Well, let's pause this travelogue for a little eco geekdom. On my second tank I tried to use skip shift, cruise control and sixth gear as much as possible with the result being a best-ever (JR FTW!!!) tank average of 22.7 mpg. The overall trip average was 22.1 mpg, which compares to the EPA estimate of 26 mpg highway. Of course, that doesn't really apply to our Mustang with the 3.55 axle ratio. The range could definitely be better (the farthest someone has gone is only 276), although the trip computer fuel warning and DTE gauge are very conservative. Both times I filled up with about 40 listed on the DTE, but with only about 12 gallons put into a 16 gallon tank ... well, you do the math.

Math, oh god, I actually used that word. See, a trip like this is specifically why I hate how cars get boiled down so easily into numbers. "This car is better than that car because this spreadsheet of track data and dimensions tells me it to be so."It's similar to my hatred of fantasy sports. Numbers just suck all the joy, nuance, passion and interaction out of it. They cannot quantify those various aspects of the Mustang's character that makes me happy, just as they can't quantify why Reed Johnson was my favorite baseball player of the last 10 years.

This could've simply been a story of my wife and I traveling to a little town in central California and staying at the beautiful Carlton Hotel oddly surrounded by absolutely nothing to do. It could've been a description of us going to Firestone-Walker Brewery (we took a tour!) or the Eagle Castle Winery (she did a tasting!). Instead, this was one of those "it's about the journey"journeys. It made me rethink the car I would buy if I were to be in the market. As much as I love the Mercedes-Benz C-Class and the Volkswagen GTI, they just wouldn't make such random place adventures as memorable. Practical yes, character not so much.

Recently, I tried out the Edmunds My Car Match tool and was informed by the enhanced algorithm of whatever that the two cars best-suited for me were the Ford Mustang and the Dodge Challenger. Hmm, who am I to argue with numbers?

James Riswick, Automotive Editor @ 19,555 miles

Ford Mustang at Firestone Walker.jpg

Ford Mustang at Eagle Castle 3.jpg

Ford Mustang with other old Fords 2.jpg

Ford Mustang with other old Fords.jpg

Ford Mustang at the Carlton in Atascadero 1.jpg

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