The Ford Mustang is an American icon, recognizable in pop culture as the car of choice for both Steve McQueen in Bullitt and the irrepressible Sally in the Wilson Pickett song. But in recent years, despite a well-received redesign that captured the original Mustang's spirit, something was lacking under the hood. Well, not anymore.
Appearance: For 2011, the Stang gets some appearance tweaks that include a more muscular look with a step-up shoulder and signature grille overhang. The creased hood is domed and, in a nod to the '60s, the rear turn-signal indicators are sequential.
Performance: Ford has tuned up this classic, modernizing its two engine choices — including the 3.7-liter V-6 version that we drove — to replace the 2010 Mustang's seriously outdated mills. (Alas, the Mustang still clings to a solid rear axle.) The V-6 produces 305 horsepower and gets up to 31 mpg on the highway. Entry level? Hardly. We were really impressed, so much so that we couldn't imagine needing the new 5.0-liter V-8, which cranks out 412 horsepower. Peter was ready to make the car his daily driver, liking the subtle rumble from the dual stainless-steel exhaust as well as the car's smooth-shifting 6-speed gear box. Lyra liked the manual, but felt the automatic would be a better fit for commuters — plus, it gets 2 mpg more. Lyra found the clutch to be on the light side for her taste, but it's much better than its predecessors'. The Advance Trac electronic stability control kept the car planted, although you get the rear end loose under hard acceleration. The handling is agile and the steering responsive.
Interior: Ford has refreshed the cockpit as well. The slightly retro look includes deep-set gauges, soft-touch leather dash and lots of bright accent trim. Overall, there's a little more hard plastic than we would like, but we can accept that as a concession to keeping costs down. That said, we think a telescoping steering wheel is necessary. The nicely contoured bucket seats are comfortable, but they could use more bolstering. We also liked the MyColor ambient lighting, which gives you seven colors to choose from. The cabin also is impressively quiet. And because this is a pony car, don't expect much room in the back, which can seat — snugly — two short adults.
Our 3 favorites
Look here: The side mirrors have built-in blind-spot lenses, which come in handy with a sleek roofline.
Shifting: The 6-speed manual has smooth throws.
V-6 power: It made me change my opinion of "muscle."
Best of both worlds: Up to 31 mpg for a muscle car?
Convenience at the pump: Capless fuel filler.
MyKey: Hey, parents, you can program speed restrictions and other functions when your kids drive.
The bottom line: The Mustang has its mojo back. Do you really need a V-8? This is a lot of car and performance for the money, and it can work nicely as your daily ride. Good gas mileage is icing on the cake.