2011 Ford Mustang 5.0 GT: Nostalgia Never Looked so Good

 
 
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11Must_SKV_5631.jpgBy Mike Blake, Carlisle Events


When Robert S. McNamara conceptualized the T-5 Project for Ford and turned it over to Lee Iacocca, they never dreamed that 40 years later, the car would endure as the greatest-selling Pony Car of all-time.

The name Mustang was an after-thought. Chevy had some rights to the moniker and the names Cheetah, Puma, Cougar, Colt, Special Falcon and Torino were considered.
On April 17, 1964, the $2360 Mustang was unveiled as a 1964½ car though it carried a 1965 VIN and over the course of the next five decades, the car that originated the term "Pony Car" has seen many transfigurations and has housed many engines, Arguably the most popular Mustang power plants were the small-block 289 V-8, Boss 302, 351 Cleveland and Boss 351, and the 429, but the 1985 5.0-liter push-rod 302 EFI V-8 that stampeded out 205 hp is often credited with rekindling spirit and demand for the Mustang, and the five-oh remained a popular producer until 1995.

New for 2011, and being marketed now, the 5.0 is back as the 2011 Mustang 5.0 GT, with 5.0 badges welded on the exterior. The centerpiece is the engine that measures 4.951 liters or 302 cubic inches, runs with 32 valves, twin independent variable camshaft timing and thunders out 412 horses and 390 lbs-ft. of torque, more than double that of its 1985 namesake.

The aluminum block and heads save weight, cold-air induction cooling jets keep the pistons operating at low temperatures and electronic power-assisted steering provides the driver with control and responsiveness, while solid handling is assured with standard limited-slip differential.

11Mustang_50L_13.jpgBuilt for speed as well as fuel economy, the 5.0 is EPA rated at 16mpg in the city and 24mpg on the highway on Premium fuel. A short, four-day test in mixed driving got me an average of 18.8mpg, but I wasn't concentrating on fuel economy; I was having too much fun driving.

Reconfigured strut and shock tuning allow the GT to take on the ovals and esses and also smooth out public road irregularities. Handling and stiffness come from an enhanced rear lower control arm and rear stabilizer bar, tuned with spring rates and dampers for improved dynamics.

On the track, the Mustang 5.0 GT explodes as its 6-speed manual transmission kicks in smoothly and I was able to ease my 3607-lb. test pony from zero to 60mph in 4.8 seconds without any special tuning or atmospheric nuances, and the quarter-mile was blazed in 12.97 seconds.

On the road and in slalom-course action, Mustang hugs the road, sticks to the corners, accelerates like a champion when you pull the trigger and responds as a sports car icon is expected to ... with athleticism, grace, power and panache. Mustang GT also oozes into parking spaces and in and out of tight traffic situations with classic style.

Speaking of style, the look is vintage Mustang, with a swept-back rear, dual stainless steel tailpipes, automatic headlamps, front fog lamps, LED sequential tail lamps, rear decklid spoiler, rear window defroster, blackened Pony grille and wide stance. Built in Windsor, Ontario, the 2011 5.0 GT is sporty nostalgia that measures 188.1 inches in length, 73.9 inches in width and 55.8 inches in height on a 107.1-inch wheelbase.

My test ride, bathed in Red Candy Metallic paint earned and summoned oohs, aahs, stares and nods whether I was gliding and passing cars on the interstate or casually cruising on streets and country roads.

Interiors have come a long way since 1964 - even since 1995 - and Mustang 5.0 GT has mixed a nostalgic look with 2011 styling and technology.

Form its Pony-badged steering wheel of black leather and aluminum, to its grained black leather dash, circular gauges, rich leather sports seating, ambient lighting and lots of electronics and ergonomics.

Wirth seating for four, Mustang GT measures a cozy 38.5 inches of front headroom with 38.8 inches in row two, 42.4 inches of legroom in all four seats, shoulder room of 55.3 in front and back and hip room of 53.4 inches.

11Mustang_50L_15-interior.jpgIntegrated blind spot mirrors provide improved sight capabilities and the 2011 5.0 cabin is outfitted with a Shaker 500 audio system, SYNC voice activated system, voice-activated Navigation with Sirius Satellite radio, air conditioning, power windows, locks, mirrors, remote keyless entry, center console with arm rest and cruise control/tilt wheel.

Safety is attended to deftly with 4-wheel disc brakes with ABS and traction control, Advance Trac with ESC, driver and passenger air bag system --side air bags and SOS post-crash alert system, Illuminated entry, LATCH safety system, anti theft lock and tire pressure monitor.

Final pricing was not set at the time this review was written (and the car was tested), but prices are reported to be starting at $32,395. Test ride additions should add the following: Red Candy Metallic with tinted clearcoat -- $300; 18-inch chrome aluminum wheels with five double spokes and Pirelli tires -- $1845; 1000-watt Shaker audio system -- $1295; rear video camera -- $385; illuminated door sills -- $207 and destination charges of $850 for an expected drive-off price of $37,277 plus tax and license.

The 2011 Mustang GT 5.0 is five-oooh.

Visit www.CarlisleEvents.com for more on the automotive hobby.

Mike Blake, former editor of KIT CAR magazine, joined Carlisle Events as senior automotive journalist in 2004. He's been a "car guy" since the 1960s and has been writing professionally for about 30 years.

 
 
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