By on September 3, 2010

After driving the Chevrolet Camaro SS for a couple of days, and enjoying the experience much less than I expected to, I began to question my expectations. Perhaps having the Lexus IS-F for a week had unfairly put the Chevrolet in a bad light? After all, the IS-F was twice the price and a Lexus, so of course the Detroit Oshawa, Ontario iron seemed coarse in comparison. The obvious test: a 2011 Mustang GT 5.0.

Back in the early 1980s, when my pre-license self lusted after both cars, the Mustang wasn’t as sexy as the Camaro. And it still isn’t. The Ford has never been as low to the ground or as sleek, and even after the 2010 nip-tuck excessive rear overhang mucks up the car’s proportions. But even if the car isn’t beautiful, it’s handsome, and it’s clearly a Mustang. Which cuts both ways. As with a Harley-Davidson, you either want one or you don’t.

The 2010 refresh did take the Mustang’s interior up a notch or two. Though still not “premium” (despite the trim level), there are enough soft-touch bits assembled with sufficient precision to not seem far beneath the mid-thirties price tag. Perhaps to enforce one of Baruth’s rules, the steering wheel’s thick plastic spokes continue all the way to the outer edge of the rim. You won’t be resting a thumb. But neither will you be comfortably gripping the wheel at 9 and 3.

Another consistent difference since at least the early 1980s: you sit much higher relative to the instrument panel in the Mustang. Perhaps even a little too high—I’m far from tall, but would never use the power height adjustment in this car. This driving position detracts from the car’s perceived sportiness, but greatly aids forward visibility and shrinks the car’s perceived size. In the past the Mustang has sometimes had a more usable rear seat than the Camaro. This time around they’re about equally useless. The Ford’s trunk is a little larger, though, and its opening isn’t constricted.

For at least the last quarter-century the Mustang has always been about its engine, with the rest of the car just along for the ride. The big news for 2011 is of course the return of the 5.0-liter V8. Which is actually 5.0 liters (and not 4.942) this time around. I remember the first 5.0. I actually came close to buying that 5.0 in the mid-80s (but couldn’t have lived with the handling). This is not that 5.0—it’s so much better. I remember salivating when Ford extracted 200 horsepower from the old engine; I even had my father buy a Lincoln Mark VII LSC with one under the hood. The new 5.0 is good for 412.

I frankly don’t care which car is quickest in the quarter. I care about how the powertrain sounds and feels when driven as aggressively as public roads permit. Because that’s where I drive. I cringed when taking the Camaro near the redline. In contrast, runs to 7,000 rpm in the 2011 Mustang GT are pure joy. Though the engine retains some of the traditional American V8 rumble and roar—for the consituency—it’s a thoroughly up-to-date DOHC design, and when opened up it sounds and feels like one. As Baruth attested, big buck German V8s have little or nothing on this powerplant. It’s thrillingly powerful, surprisingly smooth, and the noise you hear you want to hear. And when you don’t want to hear it, it’s quieter.

Ford designed the variable intake and valvetrain for a broad powerband. Compared to the Camaro, the rush starts lower and runs higher—there are nearly another 1,000 rpm between the torque peak and the power peak. The dyno charts might suggest otherwise, but the Ford V8 feels punchier at low rpm. The Mustang’s lower curb weight—3,605 vs. 3,860 lbs.—contributes.

Though still not among the best, the Mustang’s shifter (finally attached to a six-speed manual) is considerably slicker than that in the Camaro. Smooth shifts occur by default. Instead, the drivetrain’s weak link is at the far end. In a severe challenge to logic, Ford has installed a first-rate variable-everything DOHC V8 into a car with a live rear axle. Ford claims they ditched the independent rear suspension with which the platform was originally endowed (in Lincoln LS form) for cost reasons. But this is a $35,000+ car. Mustang buyers are apparently willing and able to spend $495 for shiny wheels. They wouldn’t spend a similar amount for a rear suspension capable of keeping cool under duress? Perhaps $500 would be a deal killer for those buying the base V6 with nothing else. But Ford has offered IRS as an alternative in the past, and on a platform not originally designed for one.

There are no shortage of apologists for the live rear axle. I don’t doubt that it comports itself just fine on the track. But, as I said, I don’t do my driving on a track. I drive on Michigan roads. I can dodge the potholes, but the lumpiness is all over. Lay the power down on wavy pavement, and the rear end wants to go every direction but straight and level. The sensation is not unlike that in an overpowered front-wheel-drive car, just with the drunken dancing happening at the other end. The untoward motions aren’t hard to control, but confidence is not inspired. In contrast, the Camaro’s far more balanced and composed chassis feels like it could handle another few hundred horsepower without breaking a sweat.

One caveat: I drove a Mustang with the base, 18-inch wheels (and yet also with the optional 3.73 rear end). Order the 19s and Ford throws in a front strut tower brace. The two together no doubt improve the handling and steering feel, but likely do little or nothing to chill out the rear end. The standard brakes are sufficient for off-track driving in the flatlands. For the track or the hills, or just to know it’s there, get the Baruth-inspired (but not Baruth-approved) Brembo Package.

Even with the live axle, the Mustang does have some clear advantages over the Camaro in the handling department. Its steering is a little more communicative and feels much more responsive and agile. It’s a slightly smaller car, and between the driving position and this steering feels like a much smaller car. It’s more lively—in good ways as well as bad. To put things in the simplest terms—and I flat out forgot this word when writing my Camaro review—the Mustang is more fun.

The Mustang doesn’t ride as smoothly as the Camaro, but it’s still far from punishing. Detroit has figured out how to improve handling without killing the ride. Now it’s the turn of some Asian manufacturers.

Delving a bit further into my past, my friends and I watched Gilligan’s Island nearly every day after school. I’ve never seen the appeal of Ginger. It’s always been Mary Ann for me. If you lean the same way, then you’ll prefer the Mustang over the Camaro. It doesn’t have the flashy concept car looks, but it comes across as a much better fit for real life, while still being attractive. It’s also more fun. Remember Ginger smiling? I don’t either. Bonus: aside from the rear suspension, the Mustang is also much more refined. For once the usual trade-off between refinement and driving enjoyment doesn’t apply.

Yes, Sajeev advised people to wait until Ford adds direct injection, which should add 20-30 horsepower, bump the EPA ratings a digit or two, and quicken responses. But compared to the differences between last year’s 4.6-liter V8 and the new 5.0, these are hardly worth mentioning, much less waiting for. An independent rear suspension would be a different story, but none is even rumored. The time to tell people to wait was last year.

Frank Cianciolo, an excellent salesperson at Avis Ford in Southfield, MI, provided the car for this review. Frank can be reached at 248-226-2555.

Michael Karesh owns and operates TrueDelta, an online source of automotive pricing and reliability data.


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94 Comments on “Review: 2011 Ford Mustang GT 5.0 Take Two...”


  • avatar
    Educator(of teachers)Dan

    Sweet.  Back when I was a kid (the 80s) I too lusted after the top of the line engines in the Camaro (and the shape), but had a sneaking suspicion that a Mustang was easier to live with day-to-day.  That feeling is still with me today concerning the modern equivelents.
     
    Give me Mary Ann anyday too.

  • avatar
    skor

    You really gotta have an IRS?  What every happened to the old American DIY spirit?  Here you go: http://mustangirs.com/catalog/product_info.php?products_id=29

    • 0 avatar

      So the guy recreated an IRS Ford engineered for the ’65 Mustang, and found that it bolts right into the 2005+ as well.
      In how many ways does this indicate the shortcomings of the current rear suspension?
      I’m pretty sure an IRS engineered by Ford in the mid-60s isn’t remotely state-of-the-art.

    • 0 avatar
      skor

      Some interesting factoids about that mid-1960′s Ford IRS:  That unit was designed by German born/trained Ford engineer, Klaus Arning. Klaus used a new tool to design his IRS, a computer, something not every car manufacturer had back in 1964.  When Ford decided against producing that unit for the First Gen Mustang, Ford allowed Arning to retain the patent rights for himself.  While Ford was not so impressed with IRS, Mercedes was and they cribbed Arning’s design.  The Mercedes unit was so close to the Ford/Arning design, Mercedes had to pay a licensing fee to Arning until they had a computer with which to do the math for their own home-grown IRS design.

      ETA: I can understand the business reasons for abandoning the IRS in 1965, but today it’s inexcusable not to offer IRS in the Mustang, as an option at the very least.

  • avatar
    galaxygreymx5

    I really, really want one of these and it’s really not my typical subject of lust.  The interior is finally competitive and that engine sounds sweet.  Now I just need to find thirty five grand under the sofa.

  • avatar
    Robert.Walter

    “Ford claims they ditched the independent rear suspension with which the platform was originally endowed (in Lincoln LS form) for cost reasons.”

    Good grief!  That was the so-called DEW-lite stage of the, then new, 2005 S197-version of the Mustang.  The decision to revert to a live axle was made nearly 10 years ago, and in the meantime, they’ve done a pretty significant refreshening with the new car…

    I agree with you Michael, if one is going to shell-out that kind of jack for a Mustang ride, an optional IRS should be available in the order-catalogue.

    I don’t know what Product Planning and Marketing are thinking about an IRS for the future, but given some of the other things (performance ride & handling wise) I’ve heard about being considered for the current vehicle, then one has to wonder if all the technology and performance up front might eventually be matched by an IRS out back… (this all being related to moving the brand upward in reputation, desirability and increased marginal profit.) 

  • avatar
    carguy

    Despite the lack of IRS, I still consider the new 5.0 the automotive bargain of our time. Long live the muscle car wars.

    • 0 avatar

      It is an amazing engine. The only thing that would come close is if Hyundai reversed itself and found a way to shoehorn the Tau 5.0 in the Genesis Coupe. And the Hyundai V8 lacks this one’s visceral qualities, at least in the Genesis sedan.
      It’s too soon to say how reliable the new engine will be, but engines are rarely a problem area these days–especially without DI. The rest of the car was about average in 2010 form, better than average for earlier years. Once they get any initial bugs out of the current iteration–and probably have already–it should be a very solid car.
      To assist with TrueDelta’s Car Reliability Survey:
      http://www.truedelta.com/reliability.php

    • 0 avatar
      view2share

      How about the Hyundai V6 Genesis Coupe?  I know, the sound is not V8 like, but I think the steering is still hydraulic, is it not.  The car feels really solid and you have your IRS.
      Not sure how good the dealerships are, or the numbers coast to coast.
      If I bought a Stang, in modern dress, it would be pre-2011 without the EPS.
      I think I like the 2010 style, but the rear still is a question mark.
      The Hyundai Coupe in red color is sexy though…

  • avatar
    cackalacka

    Mary Ann + 1.
     
    What does that make the other government-cheese powered muscle car (Challenger), the millionaire’s wife?

    • 0 avatar
      Educator(of teachers)Dan

      +1 lol.  Ginger, expensive (still being dealer markedup in most places) and hard to live with day to day.  Mary Ann, stop fooling around and marry her!  Mrs. Eunice “Lovey” Howell, not bad looking for her age, but I don’t really think you want to go for a ride or look under the hood… Oh, wait…

      Crap got the cars and the women mixed up again.

    • 0 avatar

      The Challenger just doesn’t compute for me, so I’ve never driven one.

  • avatar
    Russycle

    Another Ms fan here (Mustangs and MaryAnn).  But I married a redhead, go figure.
     
    Even with the overhang, I think the Mustang is a great looking car.  The Camaro reminds me  of those cartoony cars Chevron used to use in their marketing.  Obviously a lot of people like them and I’m glad they can enjoy them, it’s just not for me.

    • 0 avatar
      tankinbeans

      So I’m not the only one who thinks the Camaro looks okay in a Hot Wheels (for 3 years and younger) kind of way? That is to say I don’t like them, but I don’t dislike them.

      I much prefer the Mustang (I’ve always had a soft spot for them – not knowing much about cars, but I don’t like the ones from the early 90s. Rolling shoeboxes do nothing for me. Then again I’ve grown up with jellybeans.

    • 0 avatar
      NulloModo

      One reason for the rear overhang is that the Mustang was designed to be a coupe as well as a convertible from day one.  Even in the drop-top models you still have usable trunk space in a Mustang.
      It will be interesting to compare how Chevy manages to leave some luggage space in the upcoming open air version of the Camaro.

    • 0 avatar
      rpn453

      “One reason for the rear overhang is that the Mustang was designed to be a coupe as well as a convertible from day one.”
       
      Are you sure?  I spent a few hours driving a 2006 convertible and it felt like they just hacked the roof off a car designed to be a coupe.  Very flimsy!

  • avatar
    ajla

    Hmmmm, Zeta Platform and extroverted looks versus a reasonable interior and a world class engine.
     
    I actually think the Mustang wins this one for me. 

    Low option 3.73 cars seem fairly difficult to find though. I have a feeling that the cars equipped with the standard final drive are considerably less impressive.

    • 0 avatar
      Educator(of teachers)Dan

      So order your Mustang and wait.  I’ve honestly come to the conclusion after years of making compromises to find the right used car (cause that’s all I could afford) that if and when I buy a new one I will order it with what I want, pay what it costs, and wait 6 months for delivery if that’s what it takes.  If the dealer doesn’t want to work with me on that, I can always find another.

    • 0 avatar

      I ordered my 11 GT on January 30th, I took it home on June 25th.  I was excited about both the Challenger and Camaro.  There were things about the Camaro I just didn’t like.  It didn’t even stack up to my modified 2006 Mustang GT.  I love the Challenger, but couldn’t find a dealer to work with me and it’s a bit overpriced in my book.  I’d go ahead and get a GT500 for the money.  I’m glad I waited.  I’ve driven a lot of cars, and for the money, this is hands down the most awesome car I’ve ever driven.  It makes power everywhere.  I drove the car up a steep hill in 6th at 1400 RPM and it didn’t even flinch when I gave it more juice.  I went with everything except the electronics package (glass roof, Brembo package, 3.73….).  The sticker was just shy of 40 and I paid just shy of 37.  As for IRS, that would be fine if it was an option.  I wouldn’t want it personally.  The engine puts out more than 412, it’s been measured at 395 at the rear wheels by several outfits.  Using 11% loss (the IRS loss is more like 15-18%), it makes 430+.  With a few cheap bolt ons and a tune, you’ll easily see well over 400 HP at the rear wheels.  I’ve never received more comments about my car, not that it matters, I bought it for me, not my peers.  It gets an 28 MPG and highway using cruise control.

    • 0 avatar
      NulloModo

      We have 5.0s with 3.73 gears ranging from $31K (base GT coupe, only other option is the security system) to $38K (premium coupe with leather and the works).   Dealers try to stock the cars that sell, and the marginal difference between invoice to MSRP of a base car vs a loaded car doesn’t make a huge difference in the bottom line, in fact, sometimes it’s easier to make bigger profits on cheaper cars.
      It could be your area, but we are stocking a lot of 2011 GTs with manuals, upgraded rear gears, and the brembo package because we have a lot of people buying them that way.  I’ve already sold more manual transmission 2011 GTs than I did 2007 – 2010 manual models combined.

    • 0 avatar
      ajla

      Nope, I’ll never find the Mustang GT I want and don’t try to convince me otherwise!
       
      I have my heart set on buying an Alfa-Romeo as soon as they are available, so I don’t need to be spending $33K on a new 5.0 this year. Thinking I can only find automatics or fully-loaded $40K 3.73s is my best resistance right now.

  • avatar
    cRacK hEaD aLLeY

    Living in BC @ forty-three with a son, mortgage, an organic wife and a commute to the suburbs I need to get this engine & transmission into a Honda Insight. Now.
    Or find an old E39 M5 and wait another decade.

  • avatar
    Z71_Silvy

    Ford claims they ditched the independent rear suspension with which the platform was originally endowed (in Lincoln LS form) for cost reasons
     
    Ford is full of it…they just want to short change the customers.
    Ford already has an IRS system that is very well respected, costs NO MORE than the solid log they have now, it weighs just slightly more than the solid log they use now, and ride can be tuned INDEPENDENTLY of handling.
     
    It’s called Control Blade…read more here —> http://www.themustangnews.com/tech_06/st-0706_ozirs.htm
     
    As for the Mustang…Ford needs to make it exciting.  It’s looks are neutered compared to Chrysler and GM, the interior is more boring than watching paint dry (and not really up to snuff), and the engines are noting to write home about.
     
    The Camaro is still the better car…but needs to lose some pounds…that’s the biggest thing.  Otherwise, just some simple (and cheap) tweaks to the suspension and engine will propel the car FAR ahead of the geriatric Mustang.

    • 0 avatar
      golden2husky

      While I like the Camaro more than most here, the extra weight is not the biggest problem.  All modern cars are too damn heavy.  Both of these cars could use some time with that exercising hottie, Jillian Michaels.  No, the biggest beef is the interior…it is cheap as hell.  Chevy got the mechanicals right (I like the sound of these engines; a byproduct of growing up in the pushrod era, I guess), the exterior looks to be well assembled, it handles well for its size, and for the correct audience, it is appealing.  But you spend all your time inside the car and the design and choice of materials is just sub-par.  Every time you use and it feels like crap, it reminds you of how sh!tty it is.  Not that GM is alone with this problem; my mother’s 2007 MKZ’s console shifter sounds like a Playskool toy.  I understand the retro part having an effect on design.  The console gauges are as hard to read today as they were in 1969.  That is fine.  But the acre of cheap plastic over the passenger dash is horrid, as is most of the stuff you see and touch inside.  That is a total deal killer.  Had GM spent an extra $400 bucks inside, critics would have only weight and visibility to bitch about, and that could be said for many a car.

  • avatar
    Wagen

    Dear Ford,

    Please put this drivetrain plus an independent rear suspension in a sedan/wagon so I can enjoy it without drawing the attention of police.  Then you might just gain a customer who swore many years ago that he’d never buy any car whose parent company wasn’t headquartered in Germany.

    Thanks.

  • avatar
    bodayguy

    I have a 2011 5.0. This review is spot on.
    I have the bigger wheels but the standard rear end. It’s plenty fast, a rocket in fact.
    Michael is right though: the floaty rear suspension is not confidence inspiring. According to the track testers, it’s good on the skidpad, etc., but man, I tend to slow er down in the corners. But my previous was a 350z and that was a totally different ride.

  • avatar
    Higheriq

    Who did TTAC have to bribe to get a Mustang GT without a hood scoop or a rear spoiler?  Just try finding one on a dealer’s lot.

  • avatar

    OMG!

    You guys just don’t know how lucky you are just to have a choice of cars such as these. And you consider them everyday rides!

    Here in Brazil they can be had via independent importers and can be yours for over US$80k. Needless to say, when one does swing by you on the street you can almost hear people’s necks snapping. Yes, they are put alongside such exotica as Ferrari, Posche and Maserati down here.

    My personal taste is a coin toss between Mustang and Challenger. Don’t care at all for Camaro, sorry.

  • avatar
    DenverMike

    Leave the poor Camaro alone. MotorTrend put the Mustang GT head to head with the BMW M3. The results were shockingly in the Mustang’s favor. Ready for the World?

    • 0 avatar
      dusterdude

      +1 Agree.  Generally , people who would like the Mustang won’t like the Camaro,   and visa – versa.
      On the durability/reliability front, I predict that the Camaro will will  in that arena.

  • avatar
    meefer

    Ok so should I ditch my dreams of SLK55 ownership for a 5.0?  I know used vs. new is a crap comparison but that AMG V8 sounds godly.  Haven’t had a chance at a 5.0 yet.

  • avatar

    Funny, I was in a Mustangy mood on my way home from work today and stopped at the dealer to look at a Kona Blue 5.0. Very timely article, and spot on.
     
    I am looking forward to getting my old buddy back on the road this weekend after 7 years of it being a project car….91 LX 5.0 notchback with a 4 bolt 331, twin turbos, T56, Griggs suspension, Mark VII LSC seats, and much more…..

  • avatar
    Boff

    Jeez you mentioned Baruth so much in this review he should get a cut of your pay for it. Or maybe he should pay you!

  • avatar
    DearS

    Both Mary Ann and Ginger had charm. The thing that interests me the most perhaps is to hear how the IS-F offers something more. I love having refinement, with my performance. Mustang sounds like a very good car, and I like that. I’m aiming for an M3 but I’d be grateful with this Mustang. That being said, I rather have better driving skill, wisdom, knowledge, and appreciation than any particular car. Given my sensibilities. I wonder how the Mustang fits my agenda. Sounds like its worth a look.

    • 0 avatar

      They’ve taken many of the edges off the Mustang, but the IS-F is still considerably more refined and luxurioius. And not nearly as much fun.
      I also found the BMW M3 less fun in typical driving than the Mustang. The BMW’s limits are very high. When you’re not near them the car seems bored with the whole ordeal. This isn’t uncommon with BMWs–to really enjoy them you need either a very challenging road or a track. At 5/10th a 335i is more enjoyable than the M3.
      In contrast, the Mustang is intentionally a more raw car, and driving it is a more visceral experience–though I’d still like more steering feel. You don’t have to be driving twice the speed limit to enjoy it. They’ve refined away things that would annoy, but haven’t tried to make it into a luxury car.

  • avatar
    KitaIkki

    It’s the only two-door rear-wheel-drive car in the world with a live axle.  It’s one-of-a-kind.   Like the rear engine of a Porsche 911, a live rear axle is part of what makes a Mustang.

    • 0 avatar

      There is a parallel, in that Porsche has similarly spent decades minimizing the bad behaviors caused by having the engine mounted behind the rear axle.

      If the bean counters at Ford read this comment, the car will never get an IRS…

    • 0 avatar
      KitaIkki

      Live-axle rear drive cars are an endangered species.  As far as I know, the only survivors are:
      1) Toyota Crown Comfort and Nissan Cedric.  Both are JDM taxis
      2) Ford “Panther” platform (Crown Vic, Mercury Marquis, Lincoln Town Car)  Soon to be discontinued
      3) Hindustan Ambassador (A 1958 design, with leaf springs no less)
      All of the above have 4 doors.
      Ford Mustang is the only 2-door, and the only one whose current generation started production in this century.

    • 0 avatar
      KitaIkki

      Ford stylists tried hard in 2010 to disguise the too-long rear overhang.  They shaved the rear corners (to improve the front 3/4 view) and made the rear bumper nearly flush with the body, so much so that the exhaust pipes now appear to extend past the bumper cover.

  • avatar
    DearS

    I’ve driven cars that wanted to be pushed a little faster than I was comfortable, felt safe, or felt was worthwhile to. The E46 for example. The E90 328 struck a good balance between civility, safety, and everyday all round pleasantry (a good reason to slow down),  still I felt it lacked feedback to push it beyond 5/10ths while feeling anxious. Hence another reason become a better driver is most sensible. My sound minded E34 seems to be telling me to become a better driver by practicing with it, though we need to work on our communication. A Mustang sounds like fun.  I just want to remember why its so valuable to learn to drive a slow car fast.  I have not being as honest with myself as I’d like to be concerning my grandiose fantasies of driving to infinity and beyond the limit (with V8 sound effects), yet, still, again. I’m a work in progress, a work in process.

  • avatar
    TrailerTrash

    Just a question that has bothered me for a long time…why do Mustangs have rear seats?

    I mean, every time I begin to wish I had one, I see one.
    Is it really for briefcases?
    Not for people, really.

    I had two growing up, a 1967 and another when they lost all direction and sold the Grande in 1970, 71.
    I can’t really remember the rear seating space on these, but they did seem more useful.
    Am I remembering as a child sized memory, or were they more useful then?

    • 0 avatar
      nrd515

      They seemed to be! I had a 79 Trans Am, and used the back seats all the time, but I doubt I used them in my 86 Iroc more than a couple of times and that was just to take the dog to the vet because the other car was down or being used. My ’08 Charger’s back seat is dogs only, no person has ever sat in it in the almost three years I’ve had it. It’s just big enough both of them can sleep pretty comfortably back there. My one friend has a Challenger and his 8 year old grandson and the dog are the only two who have had the pleasure(??) of riding back there. When we went somewhere recently, the grandson wasn’t too thrilled with his lack of a view as we rode along at all.

  • avatar
    ravenchris

    35,000 dollar automobiles with major flaws?

  • avatar
    cardeveloper

    {sigh}
    .
    Original Chief Engineer of S197 (2005 Mustang} lost his job because he was fighting to save the IRS.  Funny thing, the bean counters and a clueless executive made the decision to do the solid axle on cost basis alone… but they forgot to add a few parts, so the analysis was flawed.  One of the worst mistakes they could have made on the car.  That one decision alone was of epic levels.

  • avatar
    AlmightyPants

    I’ve been doing the rounds at the dealerships this past week as my girlfriend’s about to get her first car.  I’ve had the opportunity to sit in the Mustang, Challenger and Camaro for the first time as a result.  Far and away, the most pleasant one is the Mustang.
    The Challenger is like being in a coffin, only all the surfaces are made of the worst plastics imaginable.  The Camaro has better materials but both cars are plagued by awful visibility.  When I raised the question of the Camaro’s atrocious visibility, especially rearwards, to the dealers they laughed and said that I’d be driving so far I wouldn’t have to worry what was behind me.  Apparently they live in a magical world where trying to change lanes on the jammed highway isn’t an issue.  I’d love to see the accident rates of the Challenger and Camaro compared to the Mustang.
    The Mustang has excellent visibility.  The materials are mostly high grade, certainly everything you touch is.  It’s comfortable and modern.  There are LED lights in all the right places to give the car a very premium feel.
    I didn’t have time to drive any of them, and I do have my doubts about the live axle on the Mustang.  But on first impression it’s far more refined than the competition.  I’m just staggered that I’m actually considering an American made car when it’s time to get a new one.

    • 0 avatar
      DenverMike

      If you have any fears about your girlfriend driving a car with a live rear axle, keep in mind all the cars and mini trucks that came with live rears over the years. Dangerous or a wivestale?
      The typical girls first car used to be VW Beetles. They were far more dangerous with their tendency to spinout on curves upon lifting of the throttle. Even then, the actual danger was minimal.

    • 0 avatar
      th009

      I vaguely recall that those Beetles might have had a bit less power than the Mustang — maybe even under 400 hp! — making it somewhat more difficult to get into serious trouble.

    • 0 avatar
      NulloModo

      But to be fair, the Mustang’s live axle setup is a lot more refined and advanced than the original Beetle.  Just as there are IRS setups of different quality and refinement, so are there live axle setups that are better than others.  The live axle in the Mustang is likely the most easily driveable and most well planted on the market.
      It isn’t in any way dangerous unless your girlfriend is planning on bombing down dark debris and pothole laden curvy backroads towards the upper limits of the car.

    • 0 avatar
      nrd515

      That awful looking steering wheel in the Mustang is a huge turnoff for me. Being a Charger owner, I don’t mind the “coffin” at all, and definitely prefer it over the Camaro, which has an almost as ugly steering wheel as the Mustang, and a hideous dash to go along with it. For the first time though, if I won a Mustang, I don’t think I would be looking to sell it as fast as I could to buy the Camaro or Mopar I really wanted instead.

    • 0 avatar
      DC Bruce

      Having owned a ’87 GT for 5 years (a car considerably more hairy than this one, although slower), I would say this live axle business is a bit exaggerated.  The ’87 was a fundamentally understeering car, as I bet this one is.  If you lose your nerve, just get off the throttle and nothing bad will happen to you (unlike in, say, vintage 911s and VW Beetles).  Sure, if you’re exuberant with the throttle in the middle of a curve and you hit a bump or a bit of a wave in the road, your rears may brake adhesion and the rear end may start to come around.  But back off on the throttle and the rear end will settle right down.
      The scariest part about my ’87 was the abysmal brakes (disc/drums!), which simply slowed the car down at speeds over 80 mph, but showed no ability to bring it to a quick stop.

  • avatar
    Jseis

    I’ve always been a Stang fan having owned several of the 5.0 variety and more recently, the wife and I drive an ’06 GT. That car is just a kick in the pants to drive. We drive on some pretty bad roads and I tolerate the LRA. I recently drove a ’10 5.0….whoa..nellie.
    The Camaro reminds me of the big smiling high school jock who was a drunk and is still a drunk, stumbling and drooling all over himself, even after the hairpiece, teeth whitening, and manuscape. He done knocked up the cheerleader, now he’s got a son and things aren’t looking to good.

  • avatar
    rudiger

    Seems like I once read an article that said Ford’s research indicated that Mustang buyers don’t want an IRS. As ludicrous as that may sound, I think it’s accurate. Having a Mustang where the rear-end is more planted in corners isn’t really in keeping with the whole ‘fun’, ‘tossable’ feel that spirited Mustang driving brings to the party.

    Yeah, having a live-axle rear-end bounce around through a corner isn’t going to get through the curve faster, but the Mustang’s handling isn’t dangerous (like, say, an early, non-sway-bar Corvair) and it sure is fun, and that’s what the Mustang experience is all about, particular considering that Ford has done a reasonably credible job of engineering-out most of the live-axle’s bad habits through the years.

    • 0 avatar
      mcs

      It depends on where you live. I think a live-axle would be acceptable and safe on flat grid pattern Midwestern roads, but on the New England country roads that I drive, it just doesn’t work. Narrow colonial roads that are a blast to drive in a BMW were a chore in Mustangs I’ve driven. There’s not a lot of margin for error. Narrow roads lined with boulders and stone walls lose their fun factor fast when that back end starts skipping.
       
       

  • avatar
    KitaIkki

    Ford made several compromises to maximize parts commonality between Mustang convertibles and coupe versions:
    1) No side curtain airbag for the coupe
    2) No true fastback for the coupe (the deck lid is common between coupe and convertible)
    3) Mast antenna on the coupe (instead of one embedded in the rear window)
    Ford should re-introduce the original body style: Notchback hardtop coupe.  It will be lighter (lighter rear window), as well as having better rear headroom.  Most of the body panels can be shared with the convertible, so tooling cost should be minimal.  Using convertible parts, it can be a true pillarless hardtop with roll down rear quarter windows, unlike the Camaro or Challenger.
     

  • avatar
    Buckshot

    That must be Ford Mustang review take 93.
    Why don´t you review every VW Golf/Jetta variant atleast three times?
    That would be boring, but more interesting than this ****.
    Talk about flogging a dead horse.
     

    • 0 avatar
      rpn453

      I like seeing multiple reviews of the same car by different TTAC writers.  Let’s get as many informed opinions of a car as we can.
       
      Great comparison review, Michael.

    • 0 avatar
      Monty

      @Buckshot –

      Personally, I enjoy the differing viewpoints of the reviews. It’s always a pleasure to read a Baruth scribed assessment versus one penned by Mr. Karesh. Each reviewer brings a different perspective; Baruth with a more emotional racing outlook and Karesh with the more reasoned analysis.

      Each writer focuses on the flaws and highlights that are important to his way of looking at cars – it’s a refreshing take on what can be a dry and boring subject (I’m looking at you, C & D!), and if one discounts the cheerleading for various marques (Porsche, BMW and Ford) I believe that multiple reviews tend to offer an honest appraisal of the various cars.

      Or, you can just not bother reading them!

      Just my 2¢ worth.

    • 0 avatar
      rudiger

      Multiple reviews of popular vehicles is a good idea, particularly if there’s a big difference of opinion on the initial review. A case in point was the overwhelmingly negative review on the 2010 Prius. That needed a second opinion, and it was done.

      OTOH, multiple reviews of vehicles that aren’t so popular, or where there’s universal agreement, not quite as necessary or interesting.

  • avatar
    william442

    I would like to invite all of you who think I.R.S.is a panacea for poor handling, to drive my S 2000 on a rough road.

  • avatar

    If you are 100% convinced you have to have IRS, then don’t buy a Mustang.  But don’t bash it because it doesn’t.  I agree that Ford should probably offer IRS as an option, but by no means should Ford get rid of the live axle.  Mustangs and racing go hand in hand.  From the track to the drag strip.  You’ll find naturally aspirated Mustangs running sub 10 second quarter mile times on youtube.  On the track, the Mustang has won 3 out of the last 5 years in Grand AM racing against the M3 (porsche 997s always take 3rd) and won the first two years of the European GT4 series.  These are cars with little drivetrain modifications and no IRS.  The Mustang is NOT suppose to be a Corvette or a luxury car.  If thats what you want, you should buy one.  But don’t be foolish and start something when you come across one on the road, there is a very good chance you’ll get embarrassed.  I don’t care what you drive.

  • avatar
    Toyondai92

    This would make a mean Lincoln Mark, what would it be IX? Throw an IRS in it, give it a good interior and actually change the sheet metal. 5.0 included please!
    Thanks for the second look Michael, here’s hoping this does well on TrueDelta.

    • 0 avatar
      Educator(of teachers)Dan

      Now that would show Ford’s seriousness about saving Lincoln.  Lincoln Mark IX.  Upgrade the interior even more (perhaps REAL wood accents?) give it IRS, standard alloy wheels with optional true wire wheels that have a beautiful Lincoln emblem on the center cap.  But please give it a subdued version of the current Lincoln “baleen whale” grill. 

  • avatar
    rudiger

    “Perhaps to enforce one of Baruth’s rules, the steering wheel’s thick plastic spokes continue all the way to the outer edge of the rim. You won’t be resting a thumb. But neither will you be comfortably gripping the wheel at 9 and 3.”What rule is that? All I know is that while it might be more aesthetically pleasing to have thick steering wheel spokes where multiple buttons can be placed (mainly for the nominally standard cruise control), it’s a whole lot more functional and comfortable to have the cruise control on a separate stalk, a la Dodge or Toyota, because it frees up the interior designers to make the steering wheel spokes much narrower and easier to rest one’s thumbs.

    • 0 avatar
      skor

      The auto steering wheel was perfected in the 1960′s.  Behold God’s own steering wheel.  I actually like mine with a bit a padding and a leather cover, but I’ll take the wood just as well.
       
      http://www.fivestarwebdesign.com/ebay/EFFPI/A2.JPG

    • 0 avatar
      rudiger

      If I’m not mistaken, Steve McQueen had a custom, one-off, leather-wrapped version of that same steering wheel installed in the Mustang he drove in Bullitt.

  • avatar
    KitaIkki

    Perhaps Ford could try De Dion axle next …

  • avatar

    Anyone know why you can’t get a 5.0 auto with the 3.73 rear end from the factory?

  • avatar
    jimmyy

    How exciting.  An overpowered car with an old fashioned cheap rear axle design that can lead to an accident when driven hard in corners with rough pavement.  This dangerous machine has no side curtain air bags.  And, the convertible has no roll over protection.  All of this is being done so Ford can save some money.  You see, Ford needs money so it can pay it’s unions.

    Do you want your family in such a car?   How about your young kid.  This vehicle is not exhilarating.  It is  terrifying. 

    • 0 avatar
      DenverMike

      If you drive a 426HP Camaro hard into a corner, rough or smooth, you’d better be ready for oversteer. Lots of it. If you are not ready, or it terrifies you…
      Camrys are good cars.

    • 0 avatar
      Educator(of teachers)Dan

      @jimmyy, all performance cars are inherently dangerous in inexperienced hands.  Were I to buy a Mustang or Camaro or heck even a V6 Altima coupe I would not hand the keys over to my 16 year old child.  My soon to be wife however can handle it.  Her only caveat is that if I buy a Mustang GT (ect) is that she get the opportunity to drive it every once in a while. 

    • 0 avatar
      ravenchris

      Big Auto will kill you if the price is right.

    • 0 avatar
      NulloModo

      Any car can be dangerous if driven past its limits.
      The Mustang has 5 star crash ratings in every category, coupe and convertible, including rollover.
      As far as I know the Volvo C70 is the only mainstream convertible to come with roll bars, so it’s not like the Mustang is unique in not including them.  If you are going to track your convertible, by all means, invest in a roll setup, otherwise, the low center of gravity and sportier suspensions on most convertibles precludes the need.

    • 0 avatar

      Interesting comments to say the least.  Funny how the Mustang (without IRS) has won Grand AM 3 of the last 5 years and the first two years of the Euro GT4 series.  These cars are not far from stock.  Even more interesting is how it runs the same track times as a BMW M3 and stops quicker than same.  It must not handle very well.  I do agree, supporting the unions isn’t much fun and, if we quit buying foreign cars we might find ourselves with no place to borrow money from.  There are people walking around who like to chime in on subjects they have no clue about.  Now that’s dangerous.  I’ll heed your advice though and consider some other 400+ HP power car for my family and/or young child.    I thought I was doing the right thing when I compared the carbon emissions and gas mileage of the Mustang against a BMW that costs 28k more.  My bad.

    • 0 avatar
      raph

      Oh I know you, you were the same guy that told me driving for to long in a live axle car would ultimately lead to irreversible spinal injury (I kid about knowing, but not about that “advice”). Anyways hey, I’ve ignored you again, in 2006 I bought a GT and couldn’t splatter myself in barrel roll through a deep ditch on my favorite bumpy and curvy road (built on top of a swamp no less), so I upgraded the suspension to fly through there faster, still didn’t do the trick (although I was entered when the right front wheel went airborne as I skipped over about a 4 inch lowspot on the side of the road). So last summer I bought a GT500 with that big lump of iron hanging out front with over  third more power and nearly as much torque and a f/r weight distribution that would make a pickup laugh its ass off. The cool part, instead of coming off the esse onto the stright and only hitting about 110, I can hit 120. So got any more age automotive adive for me?

  • avatar
    FJ20ET

    Live axles do just fine(AE86, Lotus 7, anyone?). Regardless, any Mustang is a better driving car than any Camaro, IRS or not.

    I’m really impressed by this car. It’s awesome.

  • avatar
    VanillaDude

    The Challenger is an old man’s car, the Mustang is a man’s car, and the Camaro is a boy’s car.

    The Challenger helps old men forget their gray hair. The Mustang helps men to forget to shave. The Camaro helps boys to look like they have chest hair.

    The Challenger is Viagra. The Mustang is Paternity. The Camaro is de-sensitizing cream.

    The Challenger is bald. The Mustang is receding forehead. The Camaro is shaved head.

    The Challenger is a gray mustache. The Mustang is a full beard. The Camaro is WTF is that #@#$ growing on your face?

    The Challenger is white briefs. The Mustang is silk boxers. The Camaro is a red jock strap.

    The Challenger is “Rocky and Bullwinkle”. The Mustang is “South Park”. The Camaro is “Family Guy”.

    The Challenger is 501′s with white athletic shoes. The Mustang is boot cut with Chucks. The Camaro is sagging jean culots with Sketchers.

    The Challenger is Fleetwood Mac. The Mustang is Nirvana. The Camaro is Gorillaz.

    That’s my take.

    • 0 avatar
      dewfish

      Good analogies. But Gorillaz are too good a group to be lumped in with the Camaro image. Limp Bizkit (or whatever the frat boys are listening to nowadays) would be more appropriate.

    • 0 avatar
      view2share

      Fleetwood Mac is perhaps one of the best bands of all time, and Stevie Nick is hot.  Now returning to cars: 1) Challenger is not bad looking and would be a nice cruising car. The limitations begin with having to build it off the same platform as the Chrysler 300. When they got the width correct, it is rather wide, could use a diet, and sits high in the saddle. The all too common monster wheels, too tall door window sills on those monster, rather flat doors makes for a look a tad off from the good ol’ days. Slick nearly a foot off the bottom, front to back, and lower the car and it would look as nice as it once was.  Loose that foot actuated parking brake and the exaggerated pricing on the V8 and it would help make for a pretty good car.  Well that is, if smaller and lighter.
      2) The Mustang is very good, could be a tad smaller, but still OK.  The new EPS for steering is a step backwards.  The tail-end lights are cool, but the new styling less so. Pricing for the V8 is getting to be a bit much.  These are still rather basic autos, solid axle and all. Age is not a factor, as it is loved by all ages.  I am old enough to have viewed the Stang when it first was available for sale.  Women love the car, which is not a bad thing.  There are quite a good number on the road, which makes your car very common, but hey, it is a good deal so…  The Hyundai Genesis coupe looks to me like great competition and appears to be very solid.  I test drove one some time back and was impressed — and it was just the i4 turbo.
      3) The Camaro is similar to Challenger, too…. just too much.  Hard to see out of it. The A pillars are fat, the windows small, and good grief my Miata feels more open with the top up!  The Camaro looks like a wonderful custom car for show.  The too tall doors with 12″ height glass is OK for show…. I guess.  Personally, I can do without all the supersized stuff, like 20″ wheels… what’s up with that?  Give me 16″ or at the most 18″ as optional wheels.  The un-sprung weight must be awful.
      The Beatles forever!  What is Gorillaz ?
      P.S. Low Rider may be a great choice in songs to play in that Camaro.  Luv the song!

    • 0 avatar
      tursus

      I have a 2011 5.0 and you are right, I don’t know or care about complaints about this or that, I love the car and wouldn’t have it any other way. I always leave the drivers door open when I start to hear the sound of the V8 and the car is a joy to drive, Chevys, Dodges and whatevers get out of my way!

  • avatar
    Nick

    Glad to see that there are others who think that, contrary to what that Friends episode about Princess Leia would have you believe, a lot of guys first had there imaginations fuelled (I am being polite here) by Ginger or Mary Ann.

    Anyway, car sounds like a blast…and headroom to boot!

  • avatar
    John R

    Aside from making the Mustang more modern wouldn’t an IRS ultimately be best for Ford as a whole?

    Nissan puts the Z’s platform under anything with an Infiniti badge, saved for the QX (I think). And the Camaro and the CTS share a common ancestor.

    If Ford really wants Lincoln to be relevant, shouldn’t the Mustang be IRS?

    • 0 avatar

      Ford should never dump the live axle, to satisfy those who want IRS (or think they do), they should consider it as an option.  IRS has 15-18% HP loss while the fixed axle is closer to 10%, creating a 9 sec quarter mile car is easy with the fixed axle, the fixed axle is A LOT more fun to drive, the fixed axle can run on the track with IRS (Mustang won first 2 years of Euro GT4 series and 3 out of 5 in Grand AM against the Porsche and M3, the Nissan Z never fairs well and usually only runs the first few races).  Motortrend just took the GT on the track against the M3, it was virtually a dead heat.  Put the handling pack from Ford Racing (I’ve got it on my 06 but not my 11 yet) on the 11 and the stock M3 gets beat easily.  There are advantages to the IRS whe it comes to ride, don’t get me wrong.  I didn’t buy a new Camaro for a couple of reason and one was I wanted the fixed axle.  I’m not picking on IRS, I’m just saying it has become some buzz word and people just assume it’s better in all aspects.   Well, it’s not.  It just depends on what you want out of the car. 

  • avatar
    John R

    I think you may he missed the point of my question and the author’s point in general.

    He wasn’t on about the Mustang’s track potential. He was on about it’s comfort and composure on the street. It’s in this area the he finds the live-axle lacking.

    What I’m on about is that this also possibly informs the reason why all other RWD vehicles with athletic pretensions use IRS and why Ford isn’t using the Mustang’s platform to compete against the 3-series and Infiniti Gs of the world.

    • 0 avatar
      DenverMike

      Ford only needs to IRS the Mustang to satisfy the critics which aren’t in the Mustang’s demographics anyways. I’m not sure you are either. The SVT Mustangs in 2003&4 had IRS. Where were you?
      Top Gear’s Jeremy Clarkson is one of those critics speaking out against the Mustang’s LRA. He has also spoken out against the Porsche 911′s “Flawed” rear engine layout. You and Jeremy plus Ralph Nader need to join forces.
      Even if it is a bad idea to drive the Mustang GT all-out on rough/uneven public roadways, it’s a bad idea altogether, in any car.
      Life is full of trade-offs and speaking of “track potential” you should look at the 2012 Boss 302 Mustang. It’s an absolute M3 killer. Gauranteed. Well that’s unless the 2012 M3 comes out with a live rear axle option.

  • avatar
    seanm5005

    I have driven a 2011 V6 Challenger, and a 2011 V6 Camaro for more than two weeks at a time each. Here is my take if you are going to compare AMERICAN muscle cars to each other. I love the look of the challenger. The interior was cumbersome, and I was scared to death I was going to hit someone as the blind spots were horrible. Putting a backpack in the backseat was a chore, as I could not figure out how to release the seat back to access the back seat? The car had no power, a dog to say the least. Gas mileage was decent.

    The 2011 Camaro. I have not been a big fan of the looks of this car, until I had one and drove many long hours through northern califiornia. It grew on me, and I liked the car. It has power, a paddle shifter for the auto trans, and a fun car. It also did well with gas mileage.

    The Mustang. I have owned a 73 Grande with 351 C 4V auto. 86 4cyl convertable, my teenage kids own a 95 V6 auto, and a 96 V6 auto. Both of the kids cars were purchased with 200,000 miles on them. Good dependable cars for the kids. I own an 83 GT that I race. I like Mustangs, and muscle cars. So if you are going to compare a car how can you compare a BMW, Lexus or whatever has been used to compare an american made car with a much lower price tag?

    The 2011 Mustang V6 has nothing but great reviews. If someone is doing spirted driving they need to know the limitations of a car, before getting themselves and others into trouble. It was said earlier. If the backend is feeling light, if you ease off the throttle the car will settle down.

    One last thing. At least when purchasing a Ford product, they did not have to be bailed out.

    Drag racing enthusiasts should know that Ford came out with a Cobra Jet, and Mopar came out with a Challenger. GM has yet to participate in the new Drag race wars.

  • avatar
    Brett Woods

    I’m currently driving a 2011 base Mustang and the steering is far, far too light at highway speed. 3 finger parallel parking is nice, but at higher speed it feels dangerous and gives no sense of the road under the car or any feeling of the front wheels at all. Completely remote steering.

    Consider, with automatic, the engine spins 1900 rpm at 80 mph the beginning of the power band. That’s when the car starts to get fast. The 3.7L Mustang is very rapid at Autobahn speeds of 80mph to 120+ mph. Imagine flying a jet plane using the little toggle on a Radio controller box and you have the feel of the over boosted steering. However, I did read that Ford made this electric steering rack adjustable.

    When you described the GT steering as “communicative” I almost choked. Is it really? Please elaborate.

  • avatar
    Brett Woods

    I should add that although the gearing is so tall that in top gear the power band only begins at 80mph with plenty of promise for 140, I didn’t dare go much over 100mph.

    With no feel of how much front end float or grip I had, and my hands moving like I was ballancing a dinner plate on each one, I decided the steering of the car was not capable of it. Honda Prelude steering much better. Such a thing never entered my mind.

    • 0 avatar
      raph

      Can’t comment on the V6 car but I’d say the standard V6 is built with your average driver in mind with comfort taking the list. My old 07 GT had a suspension comparable to the Brembo equipped 2011+ GT and it was pretty stable at high speed. My 09 GT500 will run right into 152 mph in 4th and it feels solid at that speed. Even ran over a minor pothole in the road at 130mph with no ill effect.

  • avatar
    svtsnake03

    The 2011 Mustang is definitely a car to respect. Take a look over at http://www.modularfords.com/f259/ and see what some of those guys are running with just a handful of bolt ons!


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