As someone who was personally...
As someone who was personally offended that the '86 Mustang gained EFI and was only distinguished from the carbed '85 by a third brake light, I have somehow come to grips with Ford extending its marketing mileage by changing the car, then changing the engine. Distinguishing the '11 from the '10 is the brighter Pony badge, new wheel options, and most importantly, the 5.0 badge. If you get a Cal Special, you get a unique billet grille, stripes, carbon-fiber-style seat inserts, and no 5.0 badge!
It's hard to imagine, but driving the 2011 was almost anti-climactic. I've been reading, writing, and dreaming about this fabled automobile for so long that it's been real in my head. When living up to a legend, it's key to exceed expectations. This is especially true when it's a legend that, as most do, has grown bigger and bolder than its reality over the years. Yes, the original 5.0s in Fox Mustangs were cool, but cool because they were so easy to modify and make faster. They made hay because their 225 hp was housed in a light, flexible chassis with barely adequate brakes.
Ignore the awkward SN-95 5.0 phase-fast-forward 17 years, and there is little in common between the '11 Mustang GT and a '93 5.0 Mustang save the name Mustang, the rear-wheel drive/solid-axle platform, and the 5.0 badge. Today's 5.0 Mustang is an ultra-modern automobile with a solid platform, great brakes, and a highly optimized, dual-overhead-cam V-8. Moreover, the '11 Mustang GT picks up where the stellar '10 GT left off and takes it into the stratosphere with numerous details improvements, headlined by the now-famous Coyote 5.0.
After spending a day getting to know the V-6 Mustang (which in some ways is just a remarkable as the V-8 car, but more on that elsewhere) my anticipation had become a sort of nervous energy. I had been waiting for this day for so long, I began to wonder if-much like a Star Wars prequel or a new Apple gadget-the real thing could live up to the hype.
We got all the slick goodness...
We got all the slick goodness of the revised interior last year, so there's nothing in here to let you know you're driving a 5.0 Mustang. However, when you start shifting, you'll notice the new trans. Besides all the new quality in the Mustang interiors, the available toys-nav, Sync, Sirius, rear camera, and so on-make your drive more enjoyable. Moreover, most of these aren't available on competitive cars like the Camaro and Challenger.
As the big morning arrived, I walked to breakfast. I rounded the corner and a smile beamed across my face as I saw a line of 15 or so '11 5.0 Mustangs rumbling in a row. They eagerly awaited the abuse from the jaded press with a robust symphony of burbling dual exhaust.
OK, despite my concerns, I knew it was going to be love at first drive. The exhaust note was just the first note of the love song. To ensure a great first date, I rolled down the line and found my ideal car in a magazine-friendly Grabber Blue. This GT featured the SVT Performance Pack, Glass Roof, Navigation, 3.73s and more. Other than the color choice, it was my ideal '11. Such luxury does come at a price, as this car clocked in at just over $41,000 MSRP with all the toys. That's not too far off what my '08 GT500 cost, but don't fret-a base GT is around $30,000, and according to Ford, these cars have $1,200 in upgraded content at no additional cost to you.
Finally behind the wheel, I turned the key. That one-touch start is pretty sweet. Just turn the key and the Coyote gives a growl. That burbling is more subdued inside, but the exhaust does present itself in the way Mustang fans appreciate. It won't be loud enough for most of the 5.0&SF nation, but the engineers did push the dBs right up to the legal limit, backing up those storied Tri-Ys with its highest-flow cats, 2.75-inch pipes, resonators, and large-volume mufflers to give the Coyote a respectable howl.
What trans does your 'Stang...
What trans does your 'Stang have? You can no longer answer that question with "six-speed" and convey that yours is a manual. Both Mustang transmissions are six-speeds-the MT82 manual or 6R80 automatic. Both boxes function well, but the automatic is likely more impressive as it does a better job delivering a performance experience than most factory automatics we've come across.
Pulling away, the car was obviously familiar, yet polished. As I pulled out and immediately hammered on the car, banging through the gears was effortless. The new six-speed manual is buttery smooth, the clutch engagement is light, and-boy, oh, boy-that powerband.
Sure, the 3.73s had to help, but the Ti-VCT gets up on the pipe early and doesn't leave the party until the Copperhead cops turn out the lights at 7,000 rpm. This sort of torquey elasticity is intoxicating. It's not quite the rush of a positive-displacement blower, but a sinewy, always-there power that is too tempting to unleash.
The path Ford set us on for a test ride was a mixture of city streets, mountain twists, and rural open roads. The only thing holding me back was a fear of losing my license and the occasional traffic backup. With the SVT Performance Pack (like last year's Track Pack but with big Brembo brakes), the '11 GT ate up the turns like a big fella at a buffet. The car tracked flat, and I wasn't driving her hard enough on the street to bring on understeer. It's there, but you have to push a lot harder than you did in the bad old days of plush Mustang suspensions.