"Mike, wait just a second. Sit down." The meeting with a key executive was going well until this. "One more question." Uh oh. Those are words you never want to hear. "We've got some budget to burn. What should we get: a 2011 Ford Mustang GT 5.0, or a [generic family hauler *redacted*]?"
The generic family hauler would certainly sell more units than the 412-horsepower V8-powered Mustang GT, and so the reply was carefully calculated. "I want the Mustang, but the GFH sure does have a lot going for it. It'll sell well and is crucial for that brand. But that new 5.0-liter engine is cool. And we did just give up our 2010 Chevy Camaro. And we don't have a muscle car right now...."
"And we haven't had a Mustang since 2005. That was before the blog," he replied.
A few days later, the search was on for a 2011 Ford Mustang GT for a 12-month/20,000-mile road test.
What We Bought
The 2011 Ford Mustang GT Premium starts out at $32,845. And for that you get some serious performance by way of a 412-hp DOHC V8 connected to a slick-shifting six-speed manual transmission. And with a curb weight some 200 pounds lighter than a Chevy Camaro, 412 hp is more than sufficient. A six-speed automatic is optional, but really, no thanks.
Apart from a manual trans and a V8 we had three more rules for our long-term Mustang: 1) It couldn't be a stupid color; 2) 3.73 rear end; 3) keep the price as low as possible. This is a Mustang; it's supposed to be cheap fun.
We managed two out of three.
Early in the shopping process we realized that a GT would be harder to find than a GT Premium. The Premium gets you Bluetooth, iPod integration, satellite radio, leather seats, a power driver seat, leather-wrapped steering wheel and color-adjustable gauges. It also adds $3,200 to the price. Rule 3 was already looking difficult.
The first Mustang we found was yellow and the second was Kona Blue. See Rule 1 for why those wouldn't work. And then came a spate of fully loaded navigation-equipped cars with dealer-installed wheels. No, no and no.
So when a black 6MT showed up with the requisite 3.73 gearing ($395), and the Brembo brake package ($1,695), we jumped on it despite some extras.
We could certainly do without the $1,295 1,000-watt Shaker audio system that has two trunk-mounted subwoofers. The rear video camera ($385) is nice, but unnecessary. HIDs are $525 and the Rapid Spec 401A package is $395 and gets us contrasting leather and a cool ball shifter, which the aforementioned executive really digs.
Altogether, our 2011 Ford Mustang rocks the register to the tune of $38,780. That price, however, was before the negotiation began. We were offered the Ford Executive Plan, which got us the car for just about $200 over invoice. There were also $1,500 in incentives on the hood so our price was $34,717.61, or, $38,850.94 out the door including all tax/title/license fees.
It's a lot of car for $34,717.61.
Why We Bought It
Life with a 2010 Chevy Camaro SS didn't end the way we expected. The limited visibility and Martian ergonomics meant that unless you had a need for speed, you passed on the Camaro. Despite 426 horses, it was often the last car out of the garage at night. In comparison, another muscle car, the 2009 Dodge Challenger R/T came in as a lame duck — low on power, big on flashy looks — but won us over in the end with its real-world livability and addictive soundtrack.
The Mustang seems to split the difference. It looks just wild enough to be cool and has just enough power to make you grin. The test remains, though, whether this "just right" blending of style and function works in the real world, 365 days in a row for 20,000 miles.
There is accommodation to be found in the middle ground, but rarely greatness. The Chevy Camaro outsold the Ford Mustang in 2010 without a convertible and without owners being able to see out of it. Still, our long-term Camaro lost us somewhere during the test, and the Challenger won us over. Will the Mustang cruise along in mediocrity, rise to the top choice in the fleet or simply fade away and make us wish we'd chosen that generic family hauler?
Twelve months and 20,000 miles will help us decide. Follow along on our long-term road test blog for a year of living with a brand-new 2011 Ford Mustang GT 5.0.
Current Odometer: 1,573
Best Fuel Economy: 21.5 mpg
Worst Fuel Economy: 13.0 mpg
Average Fuel Economy (over the life of the vehicle): 17.2 mpg
Edmunds purchased this vehicle for the purpose of evaluation.