Wanna see a Ford guy wince? Call the Mustang V-6 a “secretary’s car.” This used to be a reliably fun way to annoy our hosts (or get a beer poured down our backs) at Mustang events, primarily because it was true: with its wheezy, old 4.0-liter V-6 putting out a wimpy-for-a-muscle-car 210 hp and 240 lb-ft of torque, the base ‘Stang couldn’t outrun a Honda Accord V-6. But it seems that our last jab has been made, now that Ford has announced that its 2011 Mustang V-6 will have its power juiced up by some 45 percent to 305 hp, with torque rising 40 lb-ft to 280.
All-New V-6: More Power, Higher MPG
The new, all-aluminum six-pot displaces 3.7 liters, with its signature feature being Ti-VCT (Twin Independent Variable Camshaft Timing), which Ford says allows for extremely precise overlap times during which both intake and exhaust valves are open. Simply stated, this allows the engine to operate optimally for hard-charging acceleration—a handy trait for pony cars—but then become more focused on fuel economy during low-load situations. Redline is now a nice, high 7000 rpm. Also helping in both performance and fuel-economy respects are newly fitted manual and automatic transmissions, both with six forward speeds.
Thanks to a frugal 2.73:1 rear axle ratio and tall top gears in both transmissions, fuel economy soars to an impressive 19 mpg in the city and a whopping 30 on the highway for the automatic—besting the segment’s current mileage braggart, the 304-hp Chevrolet Camaro V-6 and its still-impressive 29 highway mpg; fuel economy drops by one mpg to 18/29 for the manual-equipped Mustang V-6. Ford says that it has kept curb weight under 3500 pounds for the coupe, with the engine being 40 pounds lighter than the 4.0-liter it replaces, although the dual-exhaust system adds a few pounds back in (the current Mustang V-6 manual weighs in at 3421 pounds). Also noteworthy are larger brake discs, which have been upgraded to 11.5 inches in front and 11.8 in back, as well as retuned spring and damper rates. The steering components have been replaced by a new electrically assisted system, which offers gains in terms of efficiency but often results in a loss of road feel. Ford claims that the electric system will offer great feel and include tricks like road-crown correction. But we’ll have to see how all these “enhancements” change the overall character of the car.
More Competitive, Especially With New V-6 Performance Package
One thing is for sure: The old model left a lot of room for improvement. Ford made no mention of how much it figures acceleration times will improve, but as a point of reference, the last Mustang V-6 we tested, equipped with a five-speed manual transmission, hit 60 mph in a ho-hum (for a sporting car, anyway) 6.6 seconds. The comparatively porky 3807-pound Camaro V-6 can hit 60 in 5.9 seconds, while the 3492-pound Hyundai Genesis V-6 coupe is capable of doing the same trick in an even more impressive 5.5 ticks of the stopwatch. We would fire ourselves if we couldn’t get 0–60 times down into the mid-fives.
Indeed, we may be looking at a real class-beater if the Mustang V-6 in question is equipped with the newly available Performance Package, which comes with 19-inch wheels and Pirelli tires, a strut-tower brace, Mustang GT-sourced suspension and brake components, and a more responsive 3.31:1 rear axle ratio. On Mustangs thus equipped, the stability control features a “Sport” setting in which thresholds are upped for more tail-out shenanigans before shutting the party slide down.
Of course, the elephant in the room is the fact that with 305 hp, the new Mustang V-6 is within just 10 hp of the 4.6-liter V-8 that powers the current Mustang GT. How on earth will that play out, you ask? Well, those two engines may actually never be sold side by side, since we expect a commensurately enhanced 2011 Mustang GT to enter the scene around the same time as the new V-6 hits the market late next summer, rumored to be powered by Ford’s new “Coyote” V-8 displacing a nice round 5.0 liters and producing somewhere north of 400 hp. That should help maintain some distance between the two models.
Carryover Styling, Carryover Pricing?
Alas, come late summer, how will you be able to tell which Mustang V-6 is equipped with the new muscle mill and which one you can take down with your Acura TSX V-6? Look for a mildly refreshed front fascia (with darkened grille trim), tire “spats” on the rear wheels, and a new rear decklid seal. Otherwise, it’s identical. Good luck.
We don’t yet know how much Ford will ask for the 2011 Mustang, but what seems clear is that for the next Secretary Special, we’ll have to wait until Ford drops an EcoBoost four-banger into the Mustang’s long nose, which we expect to happen relatively soon after the V-6 goes on sale late next summer. Then again, if that engine turns out to be half as good as Ford’s EcoBoost V-6, we may just have to go back to making fun of Ford U.S. boss Mark Fields’s mullet.