2011 Ford Mustang V-6 ConvertiblePosted on September 11th, 2010
Ford gets its newest drop top right in every way
By Nina RussinIt’s no exaggeration to call Ford’s new Mustang convertible a stunning piece of work. This writer has never been a fan of V-6 engines, until now. Ford’s 3.7-liter Duratec V-6 is the best I’ve experienced in twenty years of writing about cars.
From an engineering stance, V-6 powerplants are inherently imbalanced. Applying the correct cylinder bank angle corrects the balance problem; producing power with good fuel economy isn‘t so simple.
Most V-6 engines rev between 2000 and 3000 rpm during normal driving: gas mileage and driving range suffer from the high engine speeds.
The 3.7-liter Duratec engine can cruise at 80 miles-per-hour without breaking 2000 rpm. Variable valve timing on the camshafts enables the engine to accelerate moderately hard at the same engine speeds. Fuel economy savings are huge.
Driving the Mustang between Phoenix, Arizona and San Diego, California, I averaged 26 miles-per-gallon. The trip included time in stop-and-go traffic on both ends. That’s pretty impressive for a 305-horsepower engine of any sort.
Leading-edge technology, affordably pricedThe new engine is one of the Mustang‘s many high-tech features. The 2011 model is one of the safest ever produced, with standard electronic stability and traction control, integrated blind spot mirrors and standard Ford sync: a downloadable hard drive with voice activated controls, real-time traffic information and 911 assist.
While the Mustang doesn’t meet our sub-$30,000 best value criterium, it’s a lot of car for the money. Base price for the convertible is $30,845, not including the $850 delivery charge. Chevrolet’s V-6 Camaro is less expensive, but it’s not a convertible.
A premium package on the test car adds a rear spoiler, sport stripes and floor mats ($995). The six-speed automatic transmission costs $995, and a high-performance rear axle adds $395. A security package and high-intensity discharge headlamps are $395 and $525 respectively, bringing the price as tested to $35,000.
Exceptional handling and steering response
The weekend in San Diego tested the Mustang’s ability to weave through dense traffic along the coast. A day trip between the seaside town of Carlsbad and Julian to the east put the Mustang’s electric power steering system and suspension to the test on a series of winding, two-lane roads through the canyons.
Electric power steering systems save weight over hydraulic set-ups, and reduce the number of mechanical parts under the hood. Mechanical parts wear out over time, costing the owner money for repairs.
Some electric power systems have good response while others do not: it’s all in the tuning. The engineers who tuned the Mustang steering system got it spot on, combining ample low-end assist with extremely positive on-center response at speed. A 33.8-foot turning radius is adequate for doing U-turns on wider suburban roads.
The suspension is a combination of an independent MacPherson setup on the front axle and a three-link solid rear end with a limited-slip differential and stabilizer bar. The suspension is magic in the corners, so responsive that the driver literally floats through sharp turns with very little steering wheel effort.
The car’s low center of gravity enhances its high-speed performance, but also limits is use to paved roads.
Optional 18-inch wheels on the test car come with low-profile Pirelli tires to maximize the car’s footprint. The tires are great performers on dry pavement. Drivers in four-season climates should consider buying a separate set of rims and winter tires for snow and ice.
Large ventilated disc brakes on all four wheels with four-channel antilock braking stop the Mustang on a dime.
Convertibles are notorious for large blind spots when the top is in place, simply because the back glass is smaller than for a hardtop. While this is true for the Mustang, the use of wide-angle insets in the side mirrors does a lot to mitigate the problem. The mirrors are positioned so that they don’t interfere with the driver’s view when cornering to the left or right.
The Mustang has a high cowl, which impacts forward visibility. Fortunately, power seat adjustments let the driver raise the seat up to improve the view.
Over-the-shoulder visibility is good to either side, making it easy to monitor traffic in adjacent lanes.
The car isn’t particularly quiet inside: noise intrusion is also common for cars with soft tops. In this case, I didn’t find it annoying: the interior was quiet enough to comfortably converse on the highway and listen to the radio. The convertible’s dual exhaust pipes emit a pleasant belch during hard acceleration.
The top is easy to deploy, with latches on either side of the windshield and a power button on the overhead console. The button also lowers the windows and stows the soft top in a boot. The boot protects the top without sacrificing trunk space.
Ford’s capless fuel filler system automatically seals the filler neck. It eliminates the possibility of setting off a trouble light by replacing the cap incorrectly.
The Mustang’s interior speaks to its muscle car heritage, with a large, leather-wrapped steering wheel and console-mounted shift lever. While I’m not a fan of wide-diameter steering wheels, they make sense in this type of design. The bucket seats have adequate lumbar support, though an adjustment would have made the longer drives more comfortable.
Redundant audio, Bluetooth and cruise control functions on the steering wheel minimize driver distraction. Rotary knobs on the center console are easy to reach from either front seating position and intuitive to operate.
A digital display in the center stack shows audio settings. Cupholders in the center console are large enough for twenty-ounce water bottles.
Access and egress to the second row is not particularly good, due to the Mustang’s large wheel wells. The rear seats have very little legroom. Small children might be comfortable, but adults will not. However the seats do add some additional storage space inside the car.
The Mustang’s trunk is good-size for a convertible, with enough room for a weekend’s worth of luggage or the weekly groceries. Cyclists will need to add a hitch-mounted rack to carry their bikes.
All models come with front and side airbags, four-channel antilock brakes, stability and traction control. Ford’s MyKey system allows parents to limit the maximum speed their kids can drive. The Mustang convertible received a five-star federal crash test rating for rollover collisions.
Ford builds the Mustang convertible at its Flat Rock, Michigan assembly plant.
Likes: A modern-day muscle car with exceptional handling and performance. Ford’s 3.7-liter Duratec V-6 engine combines outstanding power with excellent fuel economy.
Dislike: Bucket seats could use an adjustable lumbar support.
Model: Mustang V-6 convertible
Base price: $30,845
As tested: $35,000
Horsepower: 305 Hp @ 6500 rpm
Torque: 280 lbs.-ft. @ 4250 rpm
Antilock brakes: Standard
Side curtain airbags: N/A
First aid kit: N/A
Bicycle friendly: No
Fuel economy: 19/30 mpg city/highway*
Comments: Manufacterer’s fuel economy estimates. EPA figures not available.
21 responses to “2011 Ford Mustang V-6 Convertible”
Sotocrates November 6th, 2011 at 13:20
You mention nothing of rear gear ratios and 0-60 performance. I am also suspicious of the country of origin of the 6 spd manual transmission. I suspect the high MPG comes from smaller tires and a very high differential gear like maybe 2.81 and combined with higher max torque rpm would make this a slow car. Instal the 3.21 or 3.55 and you are back to 25 mpg hwy. Wider tires? 23 mpg HWY. I love the motor though, 6 bolt mains. alum. block and heads, very low weight. This would work well in a Miata, don’t you think? I think this motor might be good for 200 HP per litre. I also want to know who’s manual transmission is in the 3.7. If it’s another Getrag from China like the V8’s, you can forget it. So what is it?
I have to confess that it’s been so long since I wrote this story that I can’t remember what the gearbox was. But I can tell you that one of the reasons the engine does so well for fuel economy is because it can cruise at very low engine speeds: below 2000 rpm. I’m seeing more and more new cars idling below 1000 (750 or so) and cruising at these very low engine speeds. Part of it is gearing, I’m sure, but part is also computer controls. Back in the carburetor days (and I know this dates me), it would be hard to get a car to idle well at such low engine speeds. Fuel delivery simply wasn’t accurate enough.
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