2011 Ford Mustang GT 5.0 Road Test

2011 Ford Mustang GT 5.0 Road Test

  • Full Review
  • Pricing & Specs
  • Road Tests (7)
  • Comparison (1)
  • Long-Term

2011 Ford Mustang Coupe

(5.0L V8 6-speed Manual)

Yes, It's Quicker Than a Camaro SS

Ford's 5.0-liter V8 engine is special.

Only a handful of engines in automotive history have become really famous, even iconic. Chrysler's Hemi is one. It's now a brand unto itself. The Chevy 409 is another, with the Beach Boys writing a hit song about it. Ford's 302 small-block V8 — the 5.0-liter in modern parlance — is right up there with them, having spawned an entire subspecies within the publishing industry with myriad books, magazines and Web sites about the engine — most about how to extract more power from it. Google "5.0 Mustang" and there are 1,902,000 possible results to explore.

Ford engineers must have done a lot of reading in the past 14 years because there's a new version of the 5.0 under the hood of the 2011 Mustang GT and it comes to you packing ratings of 412 horsepower at 6,500 rpm and 390 pound-feet of torque at 4,250 rpm right off the showroom floor. Its mission? Simple. To do battle with the big bad 6.2-liter Chevy Camaro SS and 5.7-liter Dodge Challenger R/T. And the war begins right here, right now.

A New Ford Small-Block
Obviously the 2011 Ford Mustang GT is still down on displacement compared to its rivals, but it makes up for it in curb weight. Or the lack thereof. Ford says the 2011 Mustang GT has a curb weight of just 3,605 pounds, (our scales say 3,620 pounds). Although that is 48 pounds more than a 2010 Mustang GT, the Ford still has a 200-plus-pound advantage over the Camaro and a 400-plus-pound advantage over the Challenger. It also gives the Mustang an incredible weight-to-power ratio of just 8.75 pounds per horsepower. Anything below 10 pounds per hp is what racecar fabricators strive for.

We've already given you a complete engineering analysis of the new 5.0 engine. Suffice it to say here that the new 5.0 is an evolution of the modern Modular Family of Ford V8s (4.6, 5.0, 5.4). So if you're looking for any vestige of the old '68 Ford 302 under the hood, fuggedaboudit except for the displacement.

The new engine is all-new, all-aluminum with double overhead cams, four valves per cylinder, twin independent variable camshaft timing and every other trick in the book including an 11.0:1 compression ratio. You can't even put a set of tubular headers on it. It's already got 'em. And get this: The redline is a screaming 7,000 rpm. The sound itself, as you wind it out and blast shifts, is worth the price of the car.

Last week Inside Line exclusively put this 2011 Ford Mustang GT 5.0 on a chassis dyno to see if Ford's power ratings for the new 5.0-liter are believable. They're not. This thing makes way more than Ford is admitting to. On our chassis dyno it recorded 395 hp at 6,600 rpm and 365 lb-ft of torque at 4,350 rpm. AT THE WHEELS!!!!!!

Powertrain Upgrades
Backing up this sweet dish is either a six-speed Getrag manual or six-speed automatic transmission. We didn't test an automatic, but Ford engineers claim there is no performance loss at all with the automatic. In fact, they claim the best quarter-mile times they've turned were with an automatic GT, leaving the stability control system on.

There is a difference, however, in fuel-economy numbers depending on the transmission. The manual is rated 26 mpg highway and 17 city — numbers claimed to be class-leading and, we can tell you, the Ford guys are very proud of them. With the automatic, the numbers fall off slightly — to 25 highway and 18 city. For an engine developing more than 82 hp/liter, it is remarkable.

Now here's a really cool thing: Ford still offers you choices in rear axle gearing when you spec out your new 2011 Ford Mustang GT 5.0. Standard with the auto is 3.15 final gearing, 3.31 with the manual. But you can check off a box on the order form for 3.55 or 3.73 gears if you don't mind giving up a little fuel economy for even better acceleration. A limited-slip diff is standard on all GTs.

Outstanding Acceleration and Braking
Our Kona Blue Metallic test car had the ultimate performance package: a six-speed manual with the 3.73 gear. Out at Auto Club Speedway in Fontana, California, on a very windy afternoon, our 2011 Mustang GT ripped off constant 0-60 runs in just 4.8 seconds (4.5 seconds with 1 foot of rollout as on a drag strip) and screamed through the quarter-mile in a best of 13.0 seconds at 110.6 mph, which is a half-second quicker than a 4.6-liter 2010 Mustang GT.

In fact, that quarter-mile time and trap speed would have been easy NHRA Super Stock Eliminator racecar performance back in '68 when the first 302 showed up. And it's quicker to 60 mph than the last 2010 Chevy Camaro SS six-speed we tested (they run the same quarter-mile), while a new Challenger R/T has no chance of keeping up.

Making the acceleration testing a joy was the six-speed's factory shifter, with tight, short throws and very precise feel. No need for a Hurst shifter conversion here. The Mustang GT's shifter is as good as it gets. And if you're any good at all, you'll be burning rubber in the top four gears, as we did.

Fun? Oh yeah!

With all this power and speed, you're going to need outstanding braking performance. Again, the new Mustang GT delivers. Standard is a four-wheel power disc brake package with four sensors and a four-channel antilock system, but our test car had the optional upgrade Brembo Brake package, which stuffs massive 14-inch rotors inside 19-inch wheels and Pirelli P Zero tires. Standard wheels are 17 inches, with 18s optional.

At the track, the Brembos deliver. Sixty-to-zero came in a scant 109 feet, and fade is not an issue.

Handling Improvements
Ford engineers didn't build a start-and-stop machine. They also dug deep to improve handling and over-the-road performance. The new Mustang's body structure is torsionally 15 percent stiffer than its 2010 counterpart, and everybody knows the more rigid the structure, the better the handling.

The 2011 Mustang GT also packs a completely revised and recalibrated suspension, although the basic layout is carryover — at the front, reverse-L MacPherson struts and a 34.6mm tubular antiroll stabilizer bar; at the rear, solid axle and coil springs located by three links, a Panhard rod and 24mm solid antiroll stabilizer bar. Both stabilizer bars and spring rates are 4 percent stiffer than on 2010 GTs.

Again, the upgrades showed up in the performance numbers. The Mustang handled our 600-foot slalom in 67.3 mph with the electronic stability control off and 66.2 mph with it on. What's more, this GT recorded an astounding 0.91g on the skid pad.

All this tech translates into a very tied-down ride motion at normal speeds and over rough roads. You know you're driving a high-performance muscle car, but it's not uncomfortable. Canyon carving through the mountains is a pleasure with a neutral feel, not the understeer you usually expect in a car like a Mustang. And of course, oversteer is just a downshift or even just an accelerator tip-in away. But everything feels very controlled and manageable, with immediate response.

At one point storming through the mountains north of Los Angeles, we went in too hot and then the corner tightened up unexpectedly — along with our sphincter muscle. No time to downshift. We had to just steer, throttle and brake through it. And thank heaven for the Brembos. No harm done.

A First-Class Cabin
A word about interior appointments. You'll enjoy your minutes inside a 2011 Mustang GT, especially if you order the accent leather interior option. The materials are all first-class and the Ford guys made a point of telling us that the stuff is all genuine — if it looks like metal, it is metal.

The Sync infotainment system is pretty cool if you take the time to figure it out, and the nav system is one of the best we've seen. We can't even complain about the seats. They're shaped right for every body and every road.

Plus, the Mustang remains the best packaged of the three Detroit-born modern muscle cars. It's smaller, lighter and easier to see out of than the Camaro and Challenger. Easier to park, too.

The Price Tag
All of these niceties are either the bargain of the century or way too expensive, depending on where you're coming from. A Mustang GT coupe lists for $30,495. Our test car, loaded with options (including rear spoiler delete), listed out at $40,035. Forty grand is a lot for a Mustang. But for the performance level you get for the money, you have to give it real consideration.

Ford got this one right. The 2011 Mustang GT 5.0 is a terrific overall package of performance, looks, technology and fuel economy. It's so good, someone should write a hit song about the 5.0 V8.

Rear wheels turnin', rubber's burnin'.
Five-Point-Oh, Five-Point-Oh.

Ford's got a pony car, the Five-Point-Oh.
Just a little Mustang, it's a Five-Point-Oh.
Vee-eight engine and a six-speed trans,
With a little tunin', it'll take Le Mans.
Rear wheels turnin', rubber's burnin'.
Five-Point-Oh, Five-Point-Oh.

Five-Point-Oh, Five-Point-Oh,
When you floor the throttle,
It can really go.
Five-Point-Oh, Five-Point-Oh,
Blow the doors off
Any Ca-ma-ro.
Rear wheels turnin', rubber's burnin'.
Five-Point-Oh, my Five-Point-Oh.

Thirteen seconds in the quarter-mile,
Burnin' so much rubber, it'll make you smile.
Fat tires rollin' with four disc brakes,
Big bad Brembos, they've got what it takes.
Rear wheels turnin', rubber's burnin'.
Five-Point-Oh, my Five-Point-Oh.

The manufacturer provided Edmunds this vehicle for the purposes of this evaluation.

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