2011 Ford Mustang GT Premium: Introduction
The granddaddy of American pony cars, and the car from which the genre’s moniker was derived, Ford’s Mustang is the oldest and longest continually running nameplate in its class. Where Camaro and Challenger — today literally caricatures of themselves — have come and gone and come again over the years, the Mustang has galloped on like Hidalgo across the Arabian Desert. Overcoming unheard of adversities, like that four-legged equine legend, the 2011 Ford Mustang continually defies conventional wisdom to chalk up win after win after win.
Surviving the emasculating emissions regulations of the seventies, a potential loss of focus in the eighties (when Ford briefly flirted with making the front-wheel drive Ford Probe a Mustang) the car grew and thrived through the nineties, despite its reliance upon live rear axles when the rest of the world went to an independent rear suspension configuration. Today, the storied Ford is once again one of the most powerful performance cars on the road. To say the Mustang has endured much would be an extreme example of understatement.
2011 Ford Mustang GT Premium: Pricing and Trim Levels
Assembled in Flat Rock, Mich., 2011 Ford Mustang GT slots into the Mustang line-up just above the 305-horsepower Mustang V-6 and slightly below the 444-horsepower Boss 302.
Our test Mustang GT Premium’s base price was $32,845. Its as-tested price came in at $36,675, thanks to the optional Brembo brake package ($1,695), which brought with it 19-inch tires and wheels; a 3.73 limited slip rear axle ($395); Yellow Blaze metallic tri-coat paint ($495); Rapid Spec 401A premier trim with color accent for the interior ($395); and $895 in destination charges.
While the thought of a $37,000 Mustang may cause a wince or two in some camps, another way to look at it is a 400+ horsepower grand touring car with leather, Bluetooth, Satellite radio, an iPod input and voice-activated telematics for under $40,000.
2011 Ford Mustang GT Premium: Competition
There have been a few instances during its lifetime when the Mustang faced no direct competition at all. These days, cross town rivals Chevrolet and Dodge have re-fielded strong rivals in the Camaro and Challenger. Interestingly though, both of those cars feel larger and heavier than the Mustang, because in fact, they are.
Camaro SS comes in some 250 pounds heavier than the 2011 Ford Mustang GT, while the Challenger SRT8 is almost 600 pounds heavier. So, while the Mustang GT has a smaller engine and slightly less power than its rivals, it weighs less which, of course, translates to better handling and acceleration. Where Camaro and Challenger are carrying upwards of nine pounds per horsepower (9.1 and 9.8 respectively), the Mustang motivates a mere 8.8. This enables the Ford to handily best both Camaro and Challenger in quarter mile times, 0-60 sprints and on the skidpad.
2011 Ford Mustang GT Premium: Exterior
Easily one of the more handsome iterations of the Mustang to come down the pike, the 2011 Ford Mustang GT benefits handily from a relatively fresh redesign that went into effect for the 2010 model year. Its look largely an amalgam of all Mustangs before it, the current styling language most closely resembles the fastback designs of the late 1960s.
Key elements of the 2010 redesign include a revised look for the headlamps, lower fascias, fenders and grille. The new hood’s power dome hints at the newfound power it hides, while simultaneously enabling enhanced airflow to the engine.
The "5.0" badges on the front fenders are revived from the mid-eighties Mustangs, while the three-lens tail lamps recall the original Mustang. Another distinctive feature resurrected from the Mustang’s archives is the sequential turn signal function of the LED taillamps.
2011 Ford Mustang GT Premium: Interior
While the interior treatments of base Mustang models have been criticized for looking, shall we say, inexpensive—opt for a Premium version of the 2011 Ford Mustang and those concerns will be somewhat alleviated with nicer upholstery and additional trim.
Regardless of the Mustang GT package you choose though, seated behind the meaty, leather-wrapped steering wheel the driver faces a brace of chrome ringed gauges, whose shape are mirrored artistically by the air vents. The 160-mph speedometer hints at the performance potential of the Mustang GT, as does the 7,000 rpm redline on the tachometer.
In our test car, the six-speed manual transmission used a cue ball type shift knob, in yet another node to Mustangs past. Ford’s designers are clearly in tough with the heritage of the car they’ve been entrusted with and unashamedly invoke whenever it makes sense. Meanwhile, the one-piece dash cap, with its dual brow design recall the dash treatment of early Mustangs, while bringing the look forward in a wholly contemporary fashion.
2011 Ford Mustang GT Premium: Packages And Options
As we mentioned before, our test car was the 2011 Ford Mustang GT Premium model. With the Premium models of the Mustang, Ford has incorporated interior enhancements to make the car feel a bit more upscale. Long story short, the Premium models put the "Grand" in the GT’s Grand Touring.
The Premium package gets you pretty much a loaded Mustang as the only exterior option is Ford’s Equipment Group 402A - also known as the California Special Package featuring a black billet grille with a body-color surround and a tri-bar Pony badge. The California package’s lower fascia incorporates fog lamps, side scoops, a rear pedestal decklid spoiler and a faux gas cap with the California Special name on it.
For the rear end, the package uses a SVT-style rear lower fascia insert, a custom decklid tape appliqué between the taillamps and 19-inch argent-painted machined aluminum wheels.
The interior features an aluminum-trimmed instrument panel with a carbon-style finish, carbon-style door panel inserts, leather-trimmed seats with carbon inserts and contrast stitching, and carpeted front floor mats with an embroidered California Special logo.
If that’s too much, you can opt for Ford’s Equipment Group 401A. The Charcoal Black interior environment is enhanced with soft leather color-accented seats, unique door trim with silver Pony badges and a dark aluminum instrument panel.
The Brembo Brake Package gets you 14-inch Brembo vented rotors with Brembo four-piston calipers for the front wheels and 11.8-inch vented rotors for the rear wheels. The stability control system is calibrated to allow the driver a bit more control before the system kicks in to arrest a slide. Additionally, the suspension system is recalibrated to endow the car with a bit more handling prowess. Capping it off is a set of 19 X 9.0-inch dark stainless painted aluminum wheels wearing 255/40R19 summer-only tires.
You can find a complete listing of the optional equipment available for the 2011 Ford GT Premium Mustang here.
2011 Ford Mustang GT Premium: Powertrain and Fuel Economy
It’s been said "it’s what’s up front that counts," and in the 2011 Ford Mustang GT, what’s up front is the freest-winding V-8 engine we’ve seen that wasn’t installed in an Italian car. Boasting a 7000-rpm redline, the engine’s output is quoted at 412 horsepower at 6500 rpm and 390 ft-lbs of torque at 4250 rpm.
Wind this engine to that redline in the lower gears and you’ll be treated to one of the sweetest sounds in the entire automotive universe. Ford claims zero to 60 mph acceleration in under five seconds and the quarter mile in around 13 seconds. Our decidedly unscientific, impromptu runs against a stopwatch returned evidence sufficient to make the company’s claims more than plausible.
Our test car was also fitted with the six-speed manual transmission. Boasting short, positive throws, we found it to be very user friendly and highly conducive to making a lot of speed. Clutch effort was minimal and the engine’s generous supply of torque made setting off from rest a very simple matter.
The EPA says the Mustang GT 5.0 will return 17 mpg city and 26 mpg on the highway. Of course, that’s driven conservatively. In the real world, with our frequent dashes to redline, we averaged around 17 mpg combined.
2011 Ford Mustang GT Premium: Driving Impressions
Around town, when used gently, the 2011 Ford Mustang GT is a very willing errand runner. The V-8 engine is perfectly happy short shifting and doesn’t goad you into smoky burnouts on Broadway on your way home from the grocery store.
Get it out on your favorite open road, though, and you’ll see right away where the money was spent. The car just flat loves to run. The transmission always finds the right gear, exhibiting no balkiness whatsoever. The Brembo package (fitted to our test car) erased speed the way reformatting a memory card in your digital camera makes pictures disappear. The braking system pulls the car down repeatedly from really high speeds with no evidence of fade whatsoever.
While the electric steering system could return better steering feel, it is very accurate and you very quickly come to trust it will communicate your intentions to the front wheels. Turn-in is nice and gradual, after dancing around on its suspension a bit (the way all Mustangs do), the car takes a set and charges toward the apex on your chosen line.
While it takes a bit of getting used to before you fully trust the Mustang because of this tendency, you eventually come to realize that’s just the way the car is and soon you’re galloping into corners with a full head of steam. Yes, the ride quality is stiffer than a Taurus, but given the overall capabilities of the car, it’s a trade off we freely accept.
One thing we do have a significant beef about is the placement of the cupholders behind the shifter. Strategically positioned where they can be the most encumbering when occupied, they really impede intuitive usage of the transmission.
2011 Ford Mustang GT Premium: Safety Equipment
The 2011 Ford Mustang’s suite of safety gear includes high-strength steel in its body structure and ultra-high-strength steel in the door intrusion beams for maximizing side-impact protection.
The front structure's crush zones absorb crash energy and help dissipate it before it reaches the passenger compartment. The octagonal shape of the Mustang's front rails also help spread crash forces evenly to protect the vehicle’s occupants.
Additional standard safety equipment includes the Ford Personal Safety System, which features dual-stage driver and front passenger air bags, seat belt pretensioners and Ford’s Belt-Minder.
2011 Ford Mustang GT Premium: Summary
There have been a number of extraordinary cars wearing the galloping pony logo over the years. With this latest update, and the development of this exceptionally smooth and free-winding V-8 engine, Ford’s engineering team has demonstrated it is fully capable of developments equal to that of any other manufacturer.
Our 2011 Ford Mustang GT Premium package test car, while admittedly costly at just under $37,000 as tested, is very close to being a world-class performance car. It’s fast, comfortable and well appointed. This Mustang offers remarkable comfort and convenience features in the form of the Ford/Microsoft Sync telematics system, which enables voice actuation of everything from the navigation system to calling up a track of music on your iPod.
Dynamically entertaining, albeit a bit less than completely buttoned down in the handling department, the Ford Mustang GT more than holds its own against the Chevrolet Camaro and the Dodge Challenger. One day in the very near future we’re going to look back at these cars and realize we were living in a golden era of performance cars.
Ford provided the vehicle and images for this review
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