The new 2011 Ford Mustang is putting the Camaro on notice with two new transmissions and a new all-aluminum 3.7-liter Duratec V6 making 305 HP and returning 30 MPG. Are you ready for the Pony Car Wars?
Here's the thing about V6 pony car variants, until very recently they were the "other" car to the V8 model. V6 Mustangs have long been reserved for high school cheerleaders and overweight middle managers. They were bark with no bite, style with no substance. The Camaro was the first car to buck that trend, offering a very well received 300 HP V6 returning 29 MPG. Of course, at Ford, this kind of challenge was not taken sitting down.
Meet the 3.7 liter Duratec V6, it makes 305 HP and 30 MPG. See, even in the V6 segment the pony car wars are still going. The 3.7 is the first rear-wheel-drive application for this engine family, in simple terms it's a punched-out 3.5 liter, except this one's got some considerable upgrades. While it's still a port injected engine, it's a cast aluminum 60 degree V-engine (replacing the 90 degree outgoing engine) with four-valves-per-cylinder, variable valve timing on both the intake and exhaust with cam's capable of up to 60 degrees of phasing on the intake and 50% on the exhaust. The system operates on oil pressure and the actuators and pressure cavities are integrated with the camshaft bearing endcaps. Keeping parts integrated keeps the engine compact, it's actually smaller and lighter than the outgoing engine while making more power. If you don't care for changing the oil, the new V6 goes 10,000 miles between changes, so that's pretty interesting.
In addition to the new V6, there's a pair of new transmissions. Ford's ditching the iffy Tremec in favor of a manual 6-speed Getrag co-developed with Ford called the MT82. Its claim to durability and smoothness fame is that all gears on all shafts ride on needle bearings. There's also a new auto, an all-Ford 6-speed automatic transmission called the 6R80. It's the same box that goes into the 6.2-liter equipped Ford SVT Raptor with different guts. It's capable of paddle shifters but not so equipped in this application. It also jives with engine controls to do what Ford calls "tip in control" which eliminates gear shift "thunk" by adjusting torque output as the trans shifts.
Finally, just because the powertrain is the big story with the 2011 Mustang V6 doesn't mean there's aren't significant upgrades elsewhere in the car. Standard now are GT disc brakes all around, optional 19 inch wheels, stiffer bushings, bigger stabilizer bar, dual exhaust standard, low rolling resistance tires, and 7% better aerodynamics because fascia tuning, an underbody tray and wheel spats. Anyone who's been in the convertible knew cowl shake was a problem, and as such Ford's stiffened things quite a bit, the 2011 is over 1000% stiffer than the 2010. That's not a typo. The improvements come in underbody and cowl cross-bracing and structural foam injected into the door pillars. 1000%, pretty impressive.
The inside also gets some tweaks, but nothing big, fold down rear headrests to comply with new head restraint requirements while allowing for the option of unsucky rear visibility. The gauge cluster graphics also get revised and there's also a trinkety accessory clip for the passenger sunvisor which allows you to clip in stuff like sunglasses holders or tissue holders or what-have-you. Things we're not interested in.
What we are interested in is the rather off-hand comment from one of the engineers regarding the track pack. Optional on the V6, the track pack turns things up a notch and makes it a track-day special. Said unnamed engineer mentioned there's a distinct possibility the track-pack equipped V6 will not only stick with the V8 track-pack 'Stang, it might even outrun it. Well, we would certainly be happy to test that theory out.
Never been a mustang guy (just not sexy to me), but + respect to Ford for their continued strong comeback. Everything they put out seems hit out of the park. Looking forward to seeing the performance numbers.