Test Drive: 2011 Ford Mustang V6

If you bought a current generation Mustang GT in 2009, you got a nifty 4.6-liter modular V8 engine that delivered 300 horsepower. That?s respectable for a pony car, and if you march backwards, the 1999 Mustang GT offered 260 horsepower, and the 1996 Mustang GT had just 215 ponies from the first of the 4.6 liter V8s.

But for 2011, the base model Mustang V6 now offers 305 horsepower. The GT gives you an amazing 412 horsepower 5.0-liter engine, but look at that V6 again ? more power than the V8 GT of just two years ago, and 280 pound-feet of all-important torque. You can get this car with a 6-speed manual transmission, nice interior, and great current generation Mustang styling for a base price of just $22,310. With the destination charge that you can?t avoid, it?s still just $23,105 out the door.

For that price, you get air conditioning, AM/FM/CD/AUX stereo, 4 wheel disc brakes, cruise, limited slip rear axle, remote keyless entry, and 17-inch wheels. Oh yeah, you also get 31 MPG on the highway and about 20 in the city.

I could stop right there ? this car is an amazing performance value as a pony car. In a week of driving the Mustang, I was never disappointed in the performance. The engine has plenty of power ? you?ll quickly forget it?s a V6. The 6-speed manual transmission is smooth, as is the clutch actuation. The old clutch and shifter that felt like it was borrowed from a Ford truck is long gone ? this is a smooth and tight drivetrain worthy of a sports car.

Handling on the street is excellent ? the Mustang drives solid and flat with the base suspension. And it?s not any kind of beast ? I took this car through downtown Portland on a couple of occasions without ever worrying about where my fenders ended or being able to park with grace and dignity.

The interior amenities are laid out well ? it?s a nice basic black interior with comfortable seats. The test car had the leather option, which was nice, thick, and tough. But I?ve seen the base cloth seats and they?re just fine ? and cooler in the summer. The stereo, cruise, and climate controls all work well and require no special training. Of course, you can also get your Mustang outfitted with all the technology of the modern age for a little extra money.

The bottom line on the 2011 Ford Mustang V6 is simple ? who needs a V8? If you like a performance pony car, you need to check out the base model. At the price, this car is an amazing deal.

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