The 2011 Mustang GT. The 5.0 Is Back – Finally!

1993 was the last time we saw the 5.0 badge on the side of a Mustang.  Now, finally, in 2011 Ford has brought the iconic 5.0 badge back to where it belongs – on the front fender of the Mustang GT.

The 2010 Mustang GT had 314 horsepower produced by a 4.6 liter V8. 314 horsepower may seem like a lot of power, but to put it into perspective, the 2010 Chevrolet Camaro had 426 hp, the 2010 Dodge Challenger SRT8 had 425 hp, even Japanese cars with V6’s were making 300 hp in 2010.

For 2011, Ford scrapped the 4.6 liter and replaced it with an all new 5.0 liter V8 that they claim produces 412 horsepower.  You do not need to spend much time at wide open throttle to begin to question Ford’s claim of 412 horsepower.  We have driven the 426 horsepower Camaro SS and the 425 horsepower Challenger SRT8 and this 412 horsepower Mustang sure did not feel like it had 12 fewer ponies, in fact it felt like it had many more than either of those.  Granted, at 3,875 pounds, the Mustang is about 300 pounds lighter than the Camaro and the Challenger, but we could tell the extra performance was not entirely due to hauling around less weight.

We took the alleged 412 horsepower Mustang to our local performance shop where we could have the actual horsepower tested on a dyno.  Typically, with a manual transmission car, there is about 15% less horsepower being transferred to the tires than what the engine actually produces. The fewer horses transferred to the ground is a result of drivetrain loss which, in simple terms, is the amount of power that is required to get the power from the engine to the tires through the transmission, drive shaft, rear end and axle. Seeing as Ford claims 412 horsepower, calculating a 15% drivetain loss, we would be expecting to see about 352 horsepower at the wheels, however, the dyno showed 381 horsepower at the wheels.  The 381 is after a 15% drivetrain loss which means the 2011 5.0 is actually producing around 450 horsepower (that is more than a 2011 Corvette).

For 2011, Ford not only added additional power to the Mustang GT, they also added an extra gear to the gearbox by offering a 6-speed manual or automatic, rather than the old 5-speed.  Our test car was equipped with the 6-speed manual transmission, which was easy to manage during city cruising and just as easy to quickly and precisely shift during performance driving.   Additionally, the clutch was stiff, as a sports car should be, yet not unbearable in traffic.

We found that an aggressive launch with traction control switched off would sometimes result in pretty significant wheel hop that could easily be cured by easing your right foot off the pedal.  However, if you get the launch right, the 2011 Mustang GT will go 0-60 mph in the 4.3 second range and cover a quarter mile in about 12.7 seconds.  In addition to the straight line performance, the Mustang handled the curves of our favorite back roads better than anticipated from a car not typically known for its handling on twisty roads.

The exhaust note produced by the 5.0 is absolutely intoxicating and will undoubtedly cause you to mash the throttle anytime the opportunity arises.  The sound that fills the cabin and comes out the tail pipes combined with the “412” horsepower that pulls all the way to the 7,000 rpm redline will make stopping for a traffic light enjoyable, because it just gives you another excuse to do it all over again.  When it did come time to stop our 2011 GT, the optional Brembo brake package made short work of the job and we experienced very minimal fade even after extended periods of abuse.

The interior of the new Mustang is not what you would expect to see in a pony car. Yes it has two front seats with plenty of leg room and little to no leg room for your rear seat passengers, as is the case with most two-door four seaters, but it is the appearance and quality of the interior that sets the 2011 Mustang apart from its Chevy and Dodge rivals.  Seats, buttons, fit and finish of the dash, illuminated door sills, optional touch screen navigation system, rear view camera and g-wiz technology of Ford’s SYNC system set the 2011 Mustang in a class above its domestic competitors. SYNC is Ford’s hands free entertainment system, developed by Microsoft, that allows the driver to make phone calls, request turn-by-turn directions, search the navigation database, make music selections, receive vehicle maintenance reports and much more.

Each body style Mustang has been an icon for the generation of car geeks who grew up with it (except the sn95 body – you’ll be hard pressed to find anyone who would consider than an icon of the mid 90’s) and the 2010+ body is no exception – it will go down as an icon. Nearly everyone who saw the car agreed that the combination of body styling, interior quality and potent 5 liter under the hood, makes the 2011 Mustang GT the best value, best in class and the American pony car to own in the mid to upper $30,000 dollar range.

Ford estimates that the 6-speed manual can achieve 17 MPG for city driving and 26 MPG on the highway.  It may come as no surprise that we did not average 17 MPG for the city portion of our drive, largely in part to our need to repeatedly test the acceleration capabilities of the 5.0, however, utilizing cruise control and 6th gear on the highway, we averaged over 26 MPG.

The 2011 Mustang GT certainly deserves the praise thus far given, however, there are a few minor shortcomings, including the wheel-hop referenced earlier and suspension that some enthusiasts may find slightly more bouncy than desired on rough stretches of road.  In addition to the minor suspension issues, the power outlet (aka cigarette lighter) is awkwardly placed high on the center console, between the center air vents and is hot even when the ignition is off, making it necessary to manually switch off a radar detector or any other electronic device, when the car is off, to avoid draining the battery.  Additionally, one of our passengers expressed disappointment that the front passenger seat had no power adjustments, to which I replied “sit in the back then” to which he replied “manual adjustments will be fine”.  These minor inconveniences should in no way detract from the fun/performance to value ratio that should put this car toward the top of your 2011 want list.

For those desiring a 2011 Mustang, but with more reasonable demands from a car, Ford does offer a 305 horsepower 3.7 liter V6 version.  And for those who think more power is always better (as we do), you will want to check out the 2011 GT500, because it has a supercharged V8 that cranks out 550 horsepower and costs about $20,000 less than a 505 horsepower Z06.


2 Responses to “The 2011 Mustang GT. The 5.0 Is Back – Finally!”

  1. mustang_gt Says:

    Lots of great information here. May have to go test drive one now!

  2. thanks for this post. I was wondering about the performance of the new mustangs.

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