Review and photos by
Greg Wilson, CanadianDriver.com
Restyled only last year (as 2010 models), the Ford Mustang Coupe and Convertible models have been given further upgrades for 2011, most of them under the hood. While the new lightweight aluminum supercharged 5.4-litre V8 in the Shelby GT500 and the new 5.0-litre V8 in the Mustang GT have been getting most of the media’s attention, the new 3.7-litre V6 in the base Mustang is equally newsworthy. Replacing the previous 4.0-litre V6, the smaller 3.7-litre V6 has 45 per cent more horsepower and approximately seven per cent better fuel economy. It features dual overhead cams and four valves per cylinder instead of the 4.0 litre’s single overhead cams and two valves per cylinder, and a new variable valve timing system. The sportier 3.7-litre V6 makes 305 horsepower at 6,500 r.p.m. compared to 210 hp at 5,300 r.p.m. for the 4.0-litre V6. In addition, the new V6 engine has about 17 per cent more torque (from 240 lb.-ft. to 280 lb.-ft.)
As well, last year’s five-speed manual transmission has been replaced by a new six-speed manual, and the optional five-speed automatic has been replaced by a six-speed automatic.
New electric power-assisted steering replaces the previous hydraulic power steering, helping to improve fuel economy by eliminating the drag of the belt-driven power steering pump. The Mustang’s new electric power steering also includes “Pull-Drift Compensation” which automatically adjusts the steering during crosswinds and on high crowned roads to pull the car back into line; and (rather humorously) new “Active Nibble Control” that helps eliminate the shimmy when a wheel is slightly out of balance.
All of these mechanical improvements have helped fuel consumption improve by about seven per cent, from 11.7/7.6 city/hwy to 11.1/6.9 city/hwy (according to Natural Resources Canada Energuide (L/100 km) figures).
As it was given a styling makeover for 2010, the 2011 Mustang coupe and convertible haven’t changed much, but to improve aerodynamics and fuel economy, there’s a new underbody shield, a new front fascia and bigger front air dam, wind deflectors near the rear wheels, and new rear trunk seal.
Ford has also been doing some work on the Mustang’s body structure. The company says the 2011 Coupe’s unit body is 31 per cent stiffer and the Convertible’s is more than twice as stiff as the 2010 model’s. Crashworthiness has been improved, they say, and the company expects the 2011 Mustang to be given the same NHTSA five-star crash rating as the 2010 Mustang.
Other changes for 2011 include a new limited slip differential to help improve traction when cornering and accelerating on slippery surfaces, and larger standard four-wheel disc brake rotors: 11.5 in. front and 11.8 inch rear. 2011 Mustang GTs get bigger 14-inch front brakes from the Shelby GT500.
Inside, there is a new message/information display with info such as average fuel economy and distance to empty, and Ford’s MyKey system which allows the vehicle owner to program the ignition key to limit top vehicle speed and audio volume, prevent traction control deactivation, and program speed-limit chimes. To reduce noise in the cabin, there are new door seals and new rear wheel arch insulation. And the side mirrors now have small convex mirrors integrated into them to check your blind spots.
2011 pricing and standard equipment
According to the manufacturer’s price sticker on our test car, the base price of the 2011 Ford Mustang V6 convertible is $31,399 (a $1,200 increase from its 2010 MSRP of $30,199.) However, a quick look at Ford of Canada’s web site this week reveals the base price of the 2011 Mustang V6 Convertible to be $28,965. As well, there is currently a $3,039 “Employee pricing discount” plus a $2,000 “Delivery Allowance”.
It’s probably not an exaggeration to say that Canadian vehicle prices are in a state of flux right now. With so much competition in the marketplace, many vehicle manufacturers have lowered their prices significantly, and prices are changing constantly depending on rebates and incentives. For the time being, it’s a buyer’s market.
Standard equipment on the 2011 Mustang V6 convertible includes the 305-hp 3.7-litre V6 engine, six-speed manual transmission, power convertible top with glass rear window and defroster, four-wheel disc brakes with ABS, electronic stability control, all-speed traction control, P235/50R-18-inch all-season tires and alloy wheels, rear spoiler, dual exhausts, front fog lights, “Easy Fuel Fill” capless filler, air conditioning, power windows and door locks, keyless entry, cruise control, power driver’s seat, variable intermittent wipers, USB, auxiliary and 12-volt outlets.
Our test car had $4,630 worth of options: black cloth convertible roof upgrade package $300; red candy metallic paint and tinted glass $300; leather seats $1,500 minus $500 leather discount; Interior Upgrade Package: Sync entertainment system with hands-free Bluetooth phone and audio functions, 911 Assist, USB capability, and steering wheel controls; Shaker 500 audio system with single CD/MP3 player and eight speakers, Sirius Satellite radio with six-month subscription, six-gauge instrument package, colour adjustable gauges, electrochromic rear-view mirror, compass, six-way power passenger seat, pleated seat inserts and door panels, heated seats, leather wrapped steering wheel, sport shift knob, metal pedals, message centre, black floor mats $1,500; engine block heater $80; Security Package: anti-theft system with interior motion sensor, incline sensor, intrusion sensor, and wheel locks $350; HID headlights $600; convertible boot cover $200; and rear video camera $300.
Including a $1,350 Freight charge and $100 air conditioning levy, the price as tested on the Ford sticker came to $37,479. However, if we use the Ford web site’s base price of $28,965 plus $4,630 in options, $1,350 Freight, $100 a/c tax minus the $3,039 “Employee pricing discount” and the $2,000 “Delivery Allowance”, the as-tested price would come to $30,006 – a $7,473 difference!
Our test car had the optional black cloth convertible top, which for an extra $300, replaces the standard vinyl top. The cloth top looks and feels better to the touch, and seems to be a better quality material. Inside, it has a soft inner liner which helps insulate from cold and outside noise, and the top includes a glass rear window with electric defroster.
To lower the top, two swivelling latches at the top of the windshield are released manually, and a button near the centre of the windshield header activates the power top. The side windows, front and rear, lower automatically, as the top folds back and down into a cavity ahead of the trunk. The lowered cloth top sits almost flush with the rear deck, and an optional boot cover can be used to give it a more finished look and keep the dust and dirt from getting inside the top. However, the boot cover is a bit fiddly to put into place and must be stored in the small trunk when not in use. As well, the boot cover was made an extra cost option ($200) last year.
The cloth convertible top lowers and raises in just 12 seconds. Unlike hardtop convertibles, which because of their elaborate and complicated folding steel panels take about 20 seconds to raise and lower, the cloth top is much simpler and quicker. And to many eyes, a cloth top looks better. Even the Rolls-Royce Phantom Drophead convertible has a cloth top.
My only complaint with the Mustang’s convertible top is that, while the four side windows lower automatically when the top is lowered, they don’t ascend automatically when the top is raised. The driver must activate the power window buttons to raise the front and rear side windows after the top is up.
The Mustang’s interior was revised for 2010 with a new one-piece instrument panel with softer materials, new centre stack and floor console, ice blue instrument lighting, more seat bolstering, and covered cupholders. For 2011, Ford has added a new “message centre” with useful information such as average fuel economy, instant fuel economy, distance to empty and a trip timer. Also new is Ford’s MyKey programmable vehicle key which can limit the car’s top speed, issue audible speed warnings, and prevent the traction control from being disabled – handy when lending your Mustang to excitable teenagers and valets. The 2011 Mustang interior also includes a new garage door opener and integrated blind spot mirrors in the side mirrors.
The four-passenger cabin includes two rear bucket seats with a raised centre divider and sufficient headroom (with the top up) but very little legroom unless the front seats are moved well forwards. The two rear head restraints can be lowered manually to improve the driver’s rear vision when there are no rear passengers.
The seats and the instrument panel have a retro styling flair that harks back to classic Mustangs of the 60s and 70s, notably the twin dashtop design, the large speedo and tachometer with elongated numerals, and the ribbed seat inserts. I liked the look of the well bolstered front seats and sturdy (optional) leather upholstery with perforated seat inserts and prominent white stitching, the textured dash plastic, the silver dash trim and the titanium-coloured centre console, chrome rings around gauges, and the four small gauges for fuel, coolant, battery and oil. The background colour of the gauges can be changed – the ice blue colour is easiest on the eyes and makes the thin numerals easier to read.
The driver’s seat has a manual recliner, power height, fore-aft, lumbar, and tilting seat cushion. The steering wheel tilts up and down but does not pull in and out; still, I found the seat comfortable and the driving position good enough to see and reach all the controls, including the stubby gearshift lever. The optional seat heaters will make these leather chairs easier to sit down on a cold winter’s morning.
The centre stack includes a small blue-on-black LCD screen with info on audio, outside temperature and compass, but in rather small letters. Our car’s audio system was the optional Shaker 500 with in-dash six-CD/MP3 player, and Sirius satellite radio (first six-months free) and eight speakers. A strong stereo in a Ford Mustang seems like a necessity rather than an option – it kinda goes with the sporty exhaust note from the dual exhaust tips! Ford’s optional Sync communications and entertainment system allows the driver to operate their cell phone and music players hands-free by voice-activation, including activation of a removeable USB music storage device. Sync also includes a 911 Assist call feature and “SOS” automatic crash notification if the airbags deploy in a collision.
The Mustang’s thick, leather-wrapped, three double-spoke steering wheel includes controls for cruise control, phone and audio, and three buttons near the steering wheel labelled “Info”, “Setup”, and “Reset” which can be used to access vehicle information and features such as lighting preferences and warning chime preferences.
Interior storage in the Mustang is rather limited: there is a lockable storage bin behind the centre cupholders which includes USB, auxiliary and 12-volt outlets, a small glovebox on the passenger side, and small door pockets, but that’s about it. The Mustang convertible’s trunk volume of 272 litres (9.6 cu. ft.) compares to the Mustang Coupe’s 379 litres (13.4 cu. ft.) and it has a narrow opening through which large suitcases probably won’t fit. The rear seatbacks do not fold down and there is no folding pass-through in the centre rear armrest. That said, convertible always compromise trunk space in order to make room for the lowered convertible top, and the Mustang is no exception.
Standard safety features include two front dual-stage airbags and two side airbags in the front seats, as well as side-intrusion door beams, four three-point safety belts, tire pressure monitoring system, lower anchors and tethers for two rear child seats, and Ford’s SOS post-crash alert system.
As mentioned, the 2011 Mustang’s new 3.7-litre DOHC 24-valve V6 has more horsepower and torque than last year’s 4.0-litre V6, but actually gets better fuel economy. There are a number of reasons for this, principally efficiency gains as a result of its new lightweight die-cast aluminum cylinder block, new four-valve per cylinder design for improved engine breathing, and “Twin Independent Variable Camshaft Timing” (Ti-VCT) that automatically adjusts the valvetrain at all engine speeds to improve fuel economy and performance.
Also contributing to improved efficiency are new lightweight composite (plastic) upper and lower intake manifolds with improved air delivery, and new dual exhausts for freer exhaling. As well, the retuned air intake system was also designed to make sportier noises when accelerating. Lastly, the 2011 Mustang’s new Getrag MT82 six-speed manual and Ford 6R60 automatic transmissions have higher top gear ratios to allow lower engine speeds at highway speeds.
Though Ford advertises that the new V6 can achieve up to 6.9 L/100 km on the highway, I think this would only be achieved at a steady cruising speed under 100 km/h in top gear where the engine revs at less than 2,000 r.p.m. I drove my Mustang Convertible around town most of the week and my onboard fuel consumption gauge registered 14 L/100 km, quite a bit higher than the 11.7 L/100 km published by Energuide or the 12.4 L/100 km figure recorded by the U.S. EPA. Of course, this included a series of gas-gulping acceleration tests.
Enthusiast magazines and blogs have pegged the new Mustang V6’s zero to 100 km/h time in the five second range, which is very fast for a mid-size V6 convertible. But in terms of the driving experience, I found first gear geared a bit too low – the driver needs to shift into second quickly, and the engine seems to protest at being revved above 5,000 r.p.m. Still, the exhaust note is an aggressive snarl, though not overly loud, that sounds great, and acceleration is very quick on dry asphalt. I would reserve judgement for its performance on wet or snow covered roads where the Mustang’s rear-wheel drive layout, despite its standard traction and stability control, will offer less grip than front-wheel or all-wheel drive designs, particularly when starting off on an uphill slope. However, its new limited slip differential is likely to improve rear grip when cornering by sending torque to the rear wheel with the most traction when needed.
The Mustang’s new Getrag six-speed manual transmission has surprisingly short, notchy shifts which are pleasure to operate, and the medium-weight clutch pedal effort is only spoiled by a take-up point that seems a bit too far back.
With a new rear lower control arm and stiffer rear stabilizer bar and the new limited slip rear differential, the 2011 Mustang provides slightly quicker cornering response and improved handling, particularly as it’s shod with grippy Pirelli P Zero Nero P235/50ZR-18-inch performance all-season tires. The Mustang’s suspension remains independent in front with a solid rear axle and coil springs, which can contribute to some wheel hop when cornering on rough surfaces. But thanks to some new shock tuning and coil spring rates, the Mustang’s highway ride is very smooth and comfortable, and it absorbs uneven pavement well.
The new electric power steering offers quick turn-in response at speed but feels a bit firm at slower speeds, in my opinion.
With the top up, there is a blind spot at the right-rear, but the 2011 Mustang’s standard “blind-spot” mirrors help when changing lanes. As well, there is an optional rear-view camera which appears in the rear-view mirror when the transmission is put into Reverse gear, very handy for reversing into a tight parking space.
With the top down and the side windows up, wind buffeting is well contained in the front seats and two people can carry on a conversation at 100 km/h.
For the price, the V6 Mustang convertible seems a good value. I’d argue that with 305 horsepower, most people won’t need to spend extra money for the V8 version. The V6 has all the power you need and better fuel economy.
Competitors for the Mustang convertible are few until a new Camaro convertible or Challenger convertible comes along. Even then, it will be hard to beat the Mustang’s combination of classic styling, performance and low price-tag.
A stylish, four-passenger convertible, the 2011 Mustang V6 Convertible offers a big increase in horsepower and an improvement in fuel economy when driven economically. Aggressive pricing discounts mean the price is lower than last year.
Pricing: 2011 Ford Mustang V6 convertible
Greg Wilson is a Vancouver-based automotive journalist and editor of CanadianDriver. He is a member of the Automobile Journalists Association of Canada (AJAC).
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