The Truth About Cars » Pony Car The Truth About Cars is dedicated to providing candid, unbiased automobile reviews and the latest in auto industry news. Mon, 28 Jul 2014 21:27:46 +0000 en-US hourly 1 The Truth About Cars is dedicated to providing candid, unbiased automobile reviews and the latest in auto industry news. The Truth About Cars no The Truth About Cars (The Truth About Cars) 2006-2009 The Truth About Cars The Truth About Cars is dedicated to providing candid, unbiased automobile reviews and the latest in auto industry news. The Truth About Cars » Pony Car 2016 Ford Mustang GT350 Will Get Even More Hardcore Track Model Tue, 22 Jul 2014 11:30:06 +0000 450x298xMustang-SVT--450x298.jpg.pagespeed.ic.TcgSm69vlE

With recent spyshots of the Ford Mustang GT350 hitting the web, we contacted our Ford sources for more info, and got a few more tidbits about the car.

Our sources tell us that a magnetic shock absorber system is under development, along with an even more hardcore, track-focused model. Details on this were scant, but better brake cooling and “cooling pump ports” for the transmission. If so, this would echo the last-generation Boss 302 and the Laguna Seca model, which went even further in its performance-focused mission by doing away with the back seats and adding additional bracing.

One notable absence on the new GT350: an engine cover. Ford has apparently decided to show off the all-new 5.2L Ti-VCT naturally aspirated motor, without any plastic adorning the engine bay. What a relief.

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Capsule Review: Dodge Challenger R/T Hemi Shaker Thu, 26 Jun 2014 14:00:04 +0000 ExteriorFront1


Among the TTAC staff, the consensus is clear: the Ford Mustang is the top choice in the pony car segment. For cheap thrills, the Mustang V6 with the Performance Package is the most comprehensive “performance per dollar” option on the market. The 5.0, Boss 302 and Shelby GT500 represent increasing levels of performance that rival the best of the sports car world, at prices accessible to the common (or, slightly better off) consumer. The Camaro is not as highly regarded, but of course, what would this site be without a dissenting voice.

So what about the Dodge Challenger?


Within days of picking up the model you see above (a Challenger R/T “Shaker”, a special edition with some extra Mopar goodies, the “Shaker” hood, a 5.7L Hemi and a 6-speed manual transmission), TTAC was invited to test out the heavily revised 2015 Challenger, including the highly anticipated Hellcat model. The Shaker fell under my jurisdiction, but with the Hellcat being introduced at a race track, those duties were assigned to our EIC pro tem. Frankly, that opportunity would be wasted on anybody else.


So what of the soon-to-be-obsolete 2014 Challenger? My only experience has been with an SRT8 model, equipped with the venerable 5-speed automatic. The 2015 model will get, among other upgrades, the wonderful new ZF 8-speed, as well as chassi tweaks and an all-new UConnect system. Chrysler PR cautioned not to get my hopes up for the Shaker, suggested it was less “track-focused” than the SRT model. I held out hope that it would be, at the very least, a loud, obnoxious, attention-getting special edition.


I was in for a disappointment. The “Competition Orange” (not Dodge’s name for the color, but one that’s been ingrained due to repeated viewings of Boogie Nights) Challenger is visually loud, with its orange paint, black hood scoop and alloy wheels. But the 5.7L Hemi could emit little more than a muted bellow. Having heard countless uncorked 5.7L engines in all manner of Rams, 300c’s and Charger R/Ts, I know that the standard Chrysler V8 has aural merit, even if it’s not as glorious as the big 6.1L and 6.4L SRT V8s. If you opt for one of these, make sure you get a Mopar exhaust system baked into the financing deal. It deserves no less.


On the other hand, the Tremec 6-speed was a pleasant surprise, with tight gates, short throws and a crisp action. The clutch was easy to modulate, and the V8′s torque made it nearly impossible to stall, even with the laziest applications of both clutch and throttle. Nevertheless, I can’t help but think that the transmission is not the ideal choice for the Challenger.


No doubt, this is heresy for most readers, but hear me out. The Challenger is a big car. So are the Mustang and the Camaro, but the Mustang manages to disguise its bulk with a modern, high hood and a tall beltline, while the Camaro lets you forget it because you are too busy cursing how dreadful the overall package is.


The Challenger is a different beast. The hood is low and long, the beltline is low, the doors are large and forward visibility is excellent. You feel like you’re sitting in a car from a different era, a sensation that is congruent with the car’s styling, which is utterly faithful to the 1970′s version. When piloting something with such immense stature, I tend to prefer a more relaxed driving experience. The 6-speed manual, as nice as it is, feels out of place in a car like this. Rowing gears and pushing clutch pedals doesn’t quite fit with the “one hand on the wheel, one hand resting on the door sill” nature of this car, but that’s just me. Plenty of people have bought large cars with manual gearboxes, otherwise BMW wouldn’t have offered the E38 740iL with a manual, right?


The generous proportions carry over to the interior too. The  cabin feels large and airy, with lots of room for two up front to lean back, stretch their legs and enjoy the effortless torque of the V8. The long wheelbase and long travel suspension allow for serene highway cruising while the Hemi spins at less than 2,000 RPM in 6th gear, even at 75 mph. Handling is not its strongest suit. You can take corners in aggressive manner, but the Challenger R/T is clearly happier in a straight line, letting you enjoy the view out front, while epoch appropriate music belts out of the stereo (Live at Filmore East is absolutely glorious on this stereo).


The 2015 model will get the updated UConnect system with the 8.4 inch touch screen, but even the “old” system is pretty damn good, even if the UI is a bit dated. The trunk is enormous for a two door car .A weekend roadtrip for two allowed for one full-size suitcase and one overnight bag with plenty of room to spare. Small wonder that they are so popular with rental fleets.


Aesthetically, the Challenger isn’t a pastiche of retro cues like the other two cars. But it’s not a pony car like the old Challenger. With a 116 inch wheelbase, it’s a full six inches longer than the original Challenger, and nearly 10 inches longer than the Mustang. Even though it looks like a very faithful modern iteration of an old pony car, I’d argue that it’s more of a modern version of the personal luxury coupe.


Rather than emphasize outright performance, the Challenger emphasizes style, comfort and cross-country pace rather than road course times or skipad numbers like the hotter Mustangs and Camaros do in their marketing messages. Even the Hellcat’s press photos show emphasize drag strip runs and smoky burnouts over images of Laguna Seca and the Nurburgring.


And for me, that’s just fine. Not every American car needs to bring the fight to the Europeans. Globalization and changing tastes are forcing American cars to become globalized to the point where body-on-frame trucks are the last truly American vehicles. It’s very likely that the next Camaro will follow the Mustang in adapting for European tastes. Chrysler took the other route, using old Mercedes bones to create something truly American: a big, no-excuses coupe with big V6 and V8 powertrains and the kind of styling that has no hope of meeting European safety and fuel economy standards.

Bring on the Hellcat.

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2015 Ford Mustang Coupe And Convertible Live Shots Thu, 05 Dec 2013 21:10:26 +0000 2015-ford-mustang-convertible01-1


In case you haven’t had your fill, live shots, as well as shots in of the ragtop below. Ford was coy with powertrain details, but the 2.3L Ecoboost will make “more than 305 horsepower”, helping it exceed the 3.7L V6′s output. The 5.0L V8 is said to top the current car’s 420 horsepower. The convertble top will apparently raise and lower in just 5 seconds, while bigger brakes, paddle shifters and MyFord Touch all make an appearance. Despite adding a 4-cylinder engine and independent rear-suspension for world markets, Ford expects them to make up just 10 percent of sales.

2015-Ford-Mustang-Fender-Badge 2015-Ford-Mustang-Front-Three-Quarter 2015-Ford-Mustang-Headlight 2015-Ford-Mustang-Low-Angle-2 2015-Ford-Mustang-Main 2015-Ford-Mustang-Rear 2015-Ford-Mustang-Three-Quarter 2015-Ford-Mustang-Wheel 2015-Ford-Mustang-Headlight 2015-ford-mustang-convertible 2015-ford-mustang-convertible-3 2015-ford-mustang-convertible-2 2015-ford-mustang-convertible01-1 ]]> 57
Review: 2013 Dodge Challenger SRT8 392 (Video) Tue, 12 Feb 2013 16:28:20 +0000

Last time we had a Challenger SRT8 to review, well, we didn’t review it so much as we burnt the rubber off the rear wheels. Sorry Dodge, we couldn’t help it. After a few Facebook requests, we put Dodge’s 470HP retro coupé back on our wish list and someone at Chrysler decided to trust me with their retro cruiser. If you couldn’t afford that Challenger in the poster on your wall when you were in college, click through the jump to find out what Dodge’s 470HP two-door is like to live with for a week before you throw down 45-large on this retro bruiser.

Click here to view the embedded video.


Designing “retro” sounds easy to me. You pull out a picture of ye olde Challenger from 1972, put it next to a picture of your largest sedan and make the shapes fit. Next you round things off a bit, tack on some 5MPH inspired bumpers, spray it with metallic paint and hey-presto, you have a modern Challenger. You also have one enormous coupé. Sure, Chrysler says the “LC” platform Challenger is shorter than their “LX” platform sedans, but you’d be hard pressed to say where inches were excised. The result is a heavyweight muscle car with a wheelbase 9-inches longer and a body that’s 10-inches longer than Ford’s pony car.

Parked next to the Camaro and Mustang, the Challenger dwarfs them both like the Jolly Green Giant next to Little Pea. This means comparisons between the three muscle cars is difficult. It doesn’t make rational sense either because I have a hard time believing anyone will seriously cross-shop a Mustang Boss 302 and a Challenger SRT8. Why? They’re just not the same kind of car. While the Challenger’s portly dimensions are likely to turn off some shoppers, I was strangely intrigued. But then again, I have a soft spot for big Chryslers having owned both a Chrysler LHS and an Eagle Vision. The size (visual and on paper) of this beast brought another vehicle to mind: the BMW 650i. Blasphemy? Perhaps, but they’re about the same size.



2008 is an important year to keep in mind as it was post-Mercedes but pre-Fiat. It was in that Cerberus window that the Challenger was born. As a result, the cabin’s plastics aren’t as awful as the first generation 300/Charger, but neither are they as good as the 2011 revisions of the same. Still, the Camaro and Mustang don’t exactly come covered in the best plastics that money can buy, so while the Challenger feels a little rubbery and low-rent, the American competition isn’t much better.

On the bright side, the SRT8 392 version of the Challenger is brought up-market by standard leather upholstery with Alcantara seat and door inserts, high levels of standard equipment and one of the best OEM steering wheels available. The new SRT wheel is chunky, deeply cushioned, covered in soft leather, heated, thoroughly addictive and enough for me to forgive the rubbery dash and oddly positioned door handles. Of course, only a few days before the “publish” button was pressed on this review, Chrysler announced a “core” version of the SRT8 Challenger that drops the price by removing the leather and other options. Full details on the low-cost model have yet to be released at this time.

Front seat comfort proved excellent for long trips, although the seat design suffers from the same problem as the Chrysler 200: the bottom cushion is shaped like a “dome” making it feel as if you’re sitting “on” the seat and not “in” the seat. To hold you “on” the leather clad gumdrop during the inevitable shenanigans 470HP will invite, Dodge severely bolstered the seats. Thankfully (and unlike the Mercedes C63), Chrysler was kind enough to make the seats wide enough for normal Americans. Back in 2011 when the 392 debuted, an ivory/blue leather interior was offered, but for 2013 your only options are black on black or the red and black interior our tester wore.

Thanks to the proportions and long wheelbase, rear accommodations are large, comfortable and “normally” shaped. What do I mean by that? Sit in a Mustang, Camaro, or most other two-door four-seat coupés and you’ll notice the seat backs are set at an odd angle to “improve” the headroom and legroom numbers in an otherwise small rear compartment. Despite having (on paper) only three inches more legroom and two more inches of headroom than the Mustang or Camaro, the rear cabin feels cavernous. It’s even possible to squeeze a third adult in the rear of the Challenger, something you can’t do in the four-seat Camaro or Mustang. Chrysler also designed the optional $995 sunroof so that it doesn’t cut into rear headroom.

When it comes to cargo schlepping, Dodge went retro with a trunk lid rather than a modern trunk “hatch.” The result is a high lift-over making it difficult to lift heavy suitcases into the trunk without scuffing the rear bumper. On the bright side, the cargo hold is a cavernous 16.2 cubic feet, a whopping 44% larger than the Camaro. While the Challenger lost points in our exclusive Trunk Comfort Index (see the video segment) for having cheap trunk fabric, it gained more for having trunk hinges that don’t cut down on usable trunk space.


Dodge’s snazzy new engine didn’t bring Chrysler’s new uConnect system with it leaving shoppers to choose from three retro radio and navigation options. We start off with a base 6-speaker Dodge-branded audio system and a 6.5-inch touchscreen head unit with a standard CD/DVD player, Bluetooth phone interface aND USB/iPod interface port. $595 buys you the 6.5-inch touchscreen Garmin-based navigation system and Sirius Satellite radio. The system is as easy to use as after-market Garmin systems but doesn’t have the ability to enter a destination address via voice commands. Chrysler’s “730N’” navigation head unit adds the ability to voice command your navigation wishes but the cost is dear at $2,190 because it must be ordered with the optional Harmon Kardon amplifier/speaker package.

The $1,995 Harmon system used their Logic 7 surround processing engine (as seen in the BMW 6-Series), 18 speakers and Green Edge amplifiers. The system can be added to any of the infotainment options on the Challenger. (No, the irony of power efficient “green” amplifiers on a vehicle that wears a gas guzzler tax was not lost on me.) In terms of sound quality, the base system is barely average while the Logic 7 system wouldn’t be out of place on a $60,000 luxury vehicle. Before you check any of the option boxes however, you should know this generation of uConnect system doesn’t exactly love USB/iDevices and browsing your tunes is a drag. Compared to Chevy’s MyLink system or the older SYNC system in the Mustang, the Challenger’s interface is ancient and a distant third place.


HEMI. 392. Almost, but not quite. Chrysler (like everyone else) designs their engines with metric measurements and the chief engineer at Dodge claims the displacement translation to English units was done after the fact. That’s why this 392 is really a 391, but that’s close enough for the marketing department. If we’re splitting hairs, the heads are only partially hemispherical. Does any of that matter? Nope.

Any complaints about the rubbery interior evaporate you look at the engine’s numbers. Chrysler didn’t just bore out the 6.1 to get more displacement. Instead, the 6.4L shares its tech with Chrysler’s revised 5.7L V8. Unlike the competition, you won’t find any overhead cams, no special direct injection sauce and only 2 valves per cylinder. Despite that, the 6.4L engine is far from retro. This pushrod V8 gets variable valve timing thanks to a trick camshaft, a variable length intake manifold and cylinder deactivation (with the automatic transmission only). The changes vs the old 6.1L SRT engine are transformative. Power is up 45HP to 470 while torque takes a 90ft-lb leap to a horsepower matching 470. More important is the significant improvement in torque from 2,000-4,000RPM. The old 6.1L engine had some odd power peaks and felt out of breath at the top end. The 6.4 on the other hand feels eager at almost any RPM.

Dodge made the Tremec TR6060 6-speed manual transmission (borrowed from the old Viper) standard, a surprising twist in a portfolio that’s automatic heavy. The manual’s shifts are short, the engagement is near perfection and the clutch pedal is linear with predictable engagement and low effort. Should you be a left-leg amputee, a Mercedes 5-speed automatic is available. Don’t do it. While the automatic transmission enables Chrysler’s Multi Displacement System to function, the 6-speed manual is better in every way including fuel economy. Speaking of economy, the Challenger wears a $1,000 gas guzzler tax because of its 14/23/17 MPG numbers (City/Highway/Combined). However, thanks to an extremely tall 6th gear we averaged 19.5MPG over our week with the Challenger and averaged an impressive 25MPG on a long road trip. Real world economy numbers with the automatic appeared to be 1-2MPG lower based on a short drive with a dealer provided vehicle.


At 4,200lbs and 198-inches long, the Challenger is a GT car at heart, much like BMW’s 4,368lb 193-inch 6-Series. That means (if you haven’t figured it out by now) that being behind the wheel of the Challenger SRT8 is more like being behind the wheel of BMW’s two-door luxury barge than Ford’s pony car. Is that a bad thing? Not in my book. Sure the Challenger cuts a circle 5-feet bigger than the Mustang, doesn’t handle as well on the track, and delivers straight line performance numbers similar to the less expensive Mustang GT, but it’s the car I’d rather drive. Why? The Challenger delivers the most polished ride of the high-horsepower American trio thanks to a standard computer controlled suspension system. If that makes me sound like an old man, let me remind you that Mustang/Camaro vs Challenger is always going to be an apples vs oranges comparison.

No performance car review would be complete without performance numbers. Before we dig in, it is important to keep in mind that the test car had a manual transmission. This means the driver is the single biggest factor involved. The 2013 SRT8 has “launch control” but it proved too cumbersome so it wasn’t used in our tests. You should also know that a single shift (1-2) is required to get the Challenger to 60 while four are required for the 1/4 mile (1-4). Traction is also a problem with any 2WD vehicle and this much power; the more control you have over your rubber burning, the faster your 0-30 times will be.

With that out of the way, let’s dive in. Our first test resulted in an 8.1 second run to 60… Because we only used third gear. That should tell you the kind of torque this engine produces. When not joking around, my best time was a 4.4 second run to 60 with a respectable 2.0 second 0-30 time. You can see from these two numbers that traction is the issue. I estimate with wider, grippier tires in the rear, a 1.8 second 0-30 and 4.2 second 0-60 would be achievable. If you opt for the automatic, 60MPH will take a few ticks longer, but because the Mercedes slushbox only needs gears 1-3 for the 1/4 mile (1-4 in the manual) Chrysler says the time will be about 4/10ths faster.

With a starting price of $44,775, the Challenger is about $2,000 more than a Mustang Boss 302 and around $5,000 more dear than a Camaro SS when comparably equipped. Of course for the price you get dynamic suspension, a larger trunk, bigger back seat and one of the best exhaust notes in the industry. In an attempt to even the playing field, Dodge just announced a new “core” model which will start just under $40-large. When pitted against the competition, the Challenger may march to a different drummer, but this is a beat I dig. The SRT8 392 is ginormous, impractical and eats like a teenager with the munchies. It’s also comfortable, powerful and put more smiles per mile on my face than I had expected. It’s hard to go wrong with those results. Just don’t race for pinks, ok?

Chrysler provided the vehicle, insurance and one tank of gas for this review

Specifications as tested

0-30:2.0 Seconds

0-60: 4.4 Seconds

1/4 Mile: 12.8 Seconds @ 115 MPH

Observed Average Fuel Economy: 19.5MPG over 829 miles

2013 Dodge Challenger SRT8, Exterior, Front 3/4, Picture Courtesy of Alex L. Dykes 2013 Dodge Challenger SRT8, Exterior, Front 3/4, Picture Courtesy of Alex L. Dykes 2013 Dodge Challenger SRT8, Exterior, Front, Picture Courtesy of Alex L. Dykes 2013 Dodge Challenger SRT8, Exterior, Front, Picture Courtesy of Alex L. Dykes 2013 Dodge Challenger SRT8, Exterior, Front Wheel, Picture Courtesy of Alex L. Dykes 2013 Dodge Challenger SRT8, Exterior, Side, Picture Courtesy of Alex L. Dykes 2013 Dodge Challenger SRT8, Exterior, 392 Logo, Picture Courtesy of Alex L. Dykes 2013 Dodge Challenger SRT8, Exterior, Rear Spoiler, Picture Courtesy of Alex L. Dykes 2013 Dodge Challenger SRT8, Exterior, Rear, Picture Courtesy of Alex L. Dykes 2013 Dodge Challenger SRT8, Exterior, Rear 3/4, Picture Courtesy of Alex L. Dykes 2013 Dodge Challenger SRT8, Exterior, Side, Picture Courtesy of Alex L. Dykes 2013 Dodge Challenger SRT8, Exterior, Wheels, Picture Courtesy of Alex L. Dykes 2013 Dodge Challenger SRT8, Exterior, Wheels, Picture Courtesy of Alex L. Dykes 2013 Dodge Challenger SRT8, Interior, Trunk, Cargo Area, Picture Courtesy of Alex L. Dykes 2013 Dodge Challenger SRT8, Interior, Trunk, Picture Courtesy of Alex L. Dykes 2013 Dodge Challenger SRT8, Interior, Door Panel, Picture Courtesy of Alex L. Dykes 2013 Dodge Challenger SRT8, Interior, Steering wheel, Picture Courtesy of Alex L. Dykes 2013 Dodge Challenger SRT8, Interior, 6-Speed Shifter, Picture Courtesy of Alex L. Dykes 2013 Dodge Challenger SRT8, Interior, 6-Speed Shifter, Picture Courtesy of Alex L. Dykes 2013 Dodge Challenger SRT8, Interior, Infotainment, uConnect, Picture Courtesty of Alex L. Dykes 2013 Dodge Challenger SRT8, Interior, Dashboard, Picture Courtesy of Alex L. Dykes 2013 Dodge Challenger SRT8, Interior, Passenger Side, Picture Courtesy of Alex L. Dykes 2013 Dodge Challenger SRT8, Interior, Driver's Side, Picture Courtesy of Alex L. Dykes 2013 Dodge Challenger SRT8, Interior, Dashboard Driver's side, Picture Courtesy of Alex L. Dykes 2013 Dodge Challenger SRT8, Interior, Dashboard, Picture Courtesy of Alex L. Dykes 2013 Dodge Challenger SRT8, Interior, Rear Seats, Picture Courtesy of Alex L. Dykes 2013 Dodge Challenger SRT8, Interior, Center Console, Picture Courtesy of Alex L. Dykes 2013 Dodge Challenger SRT8, Interior, Seats, Picture Courtesy of Alex L. Dykes 2013 Dodge Challenger SRT8, Engine, 6.4L HEMI V8, Picture Courtesy of Alex L. Dykes 2013 Dodge Challenger SRT8, Engine, 6.4L HEMI V8, Picture Courtesy of Alex L. Dykes 2013 Dodge Challenger SRT8, Engine, 6.4L 470HP HEMI V8, Picture Courtesy of Alex L. Dykes 2013 Dodge Challenger SRT8, Exterior, Front Grille, Picture Courtesy of Alex L. Dykes 2013 Dodge Challenger SRT8, Exterior, Fuel Door, Picture Courtesy of Alex L. Dykes 2013 Dodge Challenger SRT8, Interior, Gauges, Picture Courtesy of Alex L. Dykes 2013 Dodge Challenger SRT8, Interior, Gauges, Picture Courtesy of Alex L. Dykes 2013 Dodge Challenger SRT8, Interior, Gauges, Picture Courtesy of Alex L. Dykes Zemanta Related Posts Thumbnail Zemanta Related Posts Thumbnail

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Capsule Review: 2012 Ford Mustang V6 Tue, 06 Nov 2012 14:00:37 +0000

It’s hard for some people to accept change, regardless of the facts on the ground. The revised Mustang V6 with the 3.7L engine had been out for almost two years before I drove it; I avoided it only out of stupidity and prejudice, the reason that most “car guys” write off perfectly good vehicles that don’t fit their pre-conceived notion of what makes a good car or fits their image. What a terrible mistake I made.

The current Mustang V6 has as much in common with the secretary-spec ‘Stangs of the past as a Big Mac does with a filet from Morton’s.   We all know the specs by now; 305 horsepower, 280 lb-ft of torque. A 6-speed manual and a 0-60 time just the wrong side of 5 seconds. This one has the LSD rear end and Recaro seats, but sadly, no Brembos. That’s about as quick as a 2005-era Mustang GT with the 4.6L V8.

The 3.7L V6 isn’t melodious or soul stirring (and really, what V6 is?) – and the soundtrack is a little more 370Z than 302 – but there’s plenty of power available for everyday situations. The glorified boat anchor known as the 4.0L would never be considered a joyful experience in any galaxy, and certainly didn’t have the muscle to hustle the previous V6 ‘Stangs with the kind of pace possessed by the new one.

The real joy isn’t so much power or character of the engine, but what it allows the rest of the car to achieve. Set fairly far back in the engine bay, the lighter V6 gives the car a nimbleness not see in other Mustangs. One drive reveals a lighter nose, and a more “flickable” nature that makes the Mustang V6 a joy in its own right when it comes to corners. No, it will never be a lithe little rollerskate like a Toyobaru, but the conventional wisdom that the V6 ‘Stang is a plodding troglodyte is patently false.

On the other hand, the V6 is not the $19,995 cure-for-all-ills that its relentless advocates make it out to be. For one, the model you see above, which still lacks the Brembos needed for track work, comes in at about $27,000. The interior, without the touch-screen version of SYNC, is decidedly spartan. Someone who has grown up with Japanese cars, such as myself, with find the kinesthetics of the car to be strange; it doesn’t steer or ‘feel’ like what we’re used to, and the view out the hood, with the long, wide, snout will seem utterly alien.

Of course, there was a great big question mark when it came to the matter of exhaust noise. How can something so trivial and intangible matter so much? For myself and many others, the V8 rumble is integral to the Mustang experience. As sharp and aggressive as the six sounds the whole “I coulda had a V8!” notion lingers in the air like the world’s most unfortunate compromise. It is petty and capricious to say so, but a V6, while acceptable and welcome in something like a Hyundai Genesis Coupe, will never satisfy me in a pony car.

With that said, it would be unfair to knock the V6 Mustang for not making the right noise. Everything else; the power, the handling and certainly the price, is on point. It looks, feels and performs every bit like a real Mustang, even it doesn’t quite sound right. It’s absurd to think that such a capable car is being relegated to rental car lots across the country.

If the base V6 Mustang is this good, it’s hard to imagine what the future holds; this car with an Ecoboost would be formidable, like a Grand National with the wrong badge. It may not make the right rumble, but as a product of the import tuner heydey, wastegates and spooling noises do it for me all the same.


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Review: 2011 Ford Mustang V6 Take Two Thu, 20 Oct 2011 18:23:38 +0000

My brother wasn’t the most adventurous member of the family. When we were kids he was always whining: “mommy I don’t wanna go in the hot air balloon”, “mommy, I don’t wanna ride the pony”. These memories came flooding back when I stepped out of a cute, light little Fiat 500 and into the high-beltline V6 Mustang. As the Mustang pulled up, my first thought was: mommy, I don’t wanna ride the pony. My problem with the Mustang V6 wasn’t the car itself, it was the driver: me. Maybe it’s because when I was a kid my Mustang was killed by the Mustang II. Maybe it was because the last 5.0 was really just a weak-sauce 4.9. Before I even got behind the wheel, I was asking myself: what is the point of the pony car? Is it just to look cool? Deliver easy burnouts? Why not buy something else? The new V6 ‘stang is headlined as the holy grail of RWD car shopping; 300+ HP, 30+ MPG or as I like to say: all the hoon, half the gas. Because of the hype I had to see for myself if the V6 pony car is the perfect RWD companion, or should if $22,000-32,000 would be better spent on something else. Let’s find out.

From the outside, the Mustang checks all the right boxes for me: it’s big, it’s bold, it’s brash. The same could be said of the Camaro, except that somehow the Chevy’s form ends up being a tad cartoonish for my tastes. The Camaro reminds me of that kid in high school that tried too hard to be cool and ended just up being weird instead. The Challenger is as true to the old muscle car form as any, and is perhaps my favorite style-wise in this segment. The 370Z’s simple lines are in many ways the most conservative in the segment, and the Hyundai Genesis being fairly unique among coupes. Of course style is very much a matter of personal taste, and the Mustang’s look may not be to your liking. Let us know your thoughts in the comment section below.

Let’s talk engines. While the Mustang’s design has historically evolved slowly over time with evolution not revolution describing the chassis and drivetrain changes, 2011 is different. While last year’s Mustang received the same 210HP 4.0L V6 and 4.6L “modular” V8 (that trace their history back to 1968 and 1991 respectively), the 2011 model year brings not one, but two new engines to the plate. While the power-hungry in the crowd will gravitate towards the new 5.0L “Coyote” engine with its 412 or 444 horses (GT vs Boss 302), the 305HP 3.7L V6 is what we’re here to talk about.

Ford’s 3.7L engine is a member of Ford’s new V6 family introduced in 2006. This family includes the 3.5L engine in the Ford Edge and the 3.5L twin-turbo direct-injected V6 in the Taurus SHO. For Mustang duty, Ford opted to fit the 3.7L variant with dual variable valve timing, skipping over turbos and direct injection no doubt to keep costs low, the V6 ‘stang starts at $22,310 after all. This means Ford’s new V6, like those from Japan, needs to rev to produce the advertised numbers. For someone that’s driven Ford’s previous generation pony cars, this high-revving nature takes some adjusting to get used to.

The exhaust note of the new Mustang doesn’t sound like other high-revving V6s like the 3.7L from Nissan which is like a siren call enticing you to rev the nuts off the engine. Instead, the Mustang reminds me of a mid-90s Pontiac with an exhaust tuned to highlight a low burble. Noise aside, there’s no arguing with the numbers, the new V6 produces 305HP at a lofty 6,500RPM (up a whopping 46%, or 95HP from the old 4.0L V6). Because the V6 isn’t force-fed, the torque gain is a more modest 15% increase to 280lb-ft at 4,250RPM.

While many reviews bemoan the high-revving needs of the V6 compared to the V8-packing GT, the numbers match up against the competition favorably with the Genesis 3.8 sporting 306HP @ 6300RPM and 266lb-ft at 4,700RPM, the 370Z packing 332 at 7,000RPM and 270lb-ft at a very lofty 5,200RPM and of course the Camaro V6 at 312HP at 6,500RPM and 278b-ft at 5,100RPM. Combine this with recent reports that Ford is underrating the V6’s power output and the blue oval’s latest baby-pony is certainly running with the “string”.

If the numbers make you leery, I can assure you that V6-burnouts are extremely easy and quite satisfying. Easy and satisfying are the two words that frequently came to mind when engaged in shenanigans I would normally never admit to engaging in. Suffice it to say the new V6 is far livelier than ever before, and while you do need to keep the revs up to keep the fun going, doing so is a cinch. Instead of spending money on a new independent rear suspension, Ford chose to fit the Mustang with a set of features that are just about worth the trade-off. First among them is the slick new 6-speed manual transmission, the same as GT buyers get. Shifts are incredibly short and the feel is almost up to BMW standards. Base V6 buyers also get true dual exhaust, a limited slip rear diff, side-impact airbags for when your sideways shenanigans end up in a tree and the usual assortment of power windows and locks. Ford didn’t just fiddle with options, they also stiffened the chassis and tweaked almost every aspect of the suspension.

When the going gets twisty, he base V6 Mustang can end up feeling like it’s writing checks its brakes and suspension just can’t cash (something that could never be said of the old V6). Fortunately Ford offers a solution to this problem in the form of the $1,995 “V6 Performance Package” which buys you GT brakes, GT suspension, sway bar, strut tower brace, performance rear axle, and 19-inch summer rubber. If you are buying the V6 mustang for any reason other than price, this option is an absolute must-have and the only reason a gear-head should buy the base V6 would be if you plan on modding your pony extensively.

Out on the road, the live rear axle works flawlessly on smooth roads but broken pavement unsettles things in a way you don’t experience in more expensive chassis setups like the 370Z or Infiniti G coupé. Still, the Camaro with its crashy ride is far worse, and the Dodge is just too soft and heavy for performance aspirations. The unsettled feel on mountain roads I frequent, combined with the numb electric power steering meant it took a few days to really start pushing the limits of the car, which are actually fairly high despite the less-than-polished road manners. Without access to a slalom or skid-pad I can’t speak absolute numbers, but the horizontal grip is quite possibly the best among the V6 competition. It’s the feel that sells the Mustang short, and makes it feel like your car is secretly plotting to kill you in some spectacularly diabolical fashion. Mind you, the Dodge Challenger V6 has absolutely nothing up its sleeve, neither does the Hyundai Genesis, and that makes them rather boring in comparison. The Camaro on the other hand just feels like it’s going to kill you in some sloppy un-planned affair that will end up in the tabloids.

Inside, the mustang shows off Ford’s recent attention to interior quality with suitably squishy dash bits, optional real aluminum trim, and all the modernity you expect in a car from the 21st century wrapped in a suitably retro wrapper. While I find the lack of a telescoping steering column a fairly large omission (especially due to the reclined seating position) taller drivers are likely to be fine, short drivers, not so much. At 6-feet tall, the Mustang’s high belt-line and far-away steering wheel position made me feel like I was driving my dad’s Oldsmobile when I was a kid, not the feeling I look for in a car. Fortunately for the gadget lover, a retro wrapper doesn’t mean old-school electronics. Well, OK, so the Mustang is “stuck” with the old SYNC navigation system for the moment. Personally however, I call that a good thing as it is far, far more responsive than the MyTouch system that has been receiving fairly bad press lately for sluggishness and frequent system crashes.

The only downside to the older SYNC system is the lack of a second USB port, no internet connectivity and a few differences in the voice command system, all of which I wager 99% of buyers will never miss. As always with SYNC, voice commanding your iPod or USB device, the navigation system or radio is just a button press away, the best thing since sliced bread and without real competition from anyone. Once Hyundai brings the new UVO system to the Genesis, the Korean coupé will give the Mustang a run for its money, but that’s later. Also on offer is an up-level Shaker audio system on which “Ice Ice Baby” sounds particularly bitchin, dual zone climate control, and an interesting gimmick in the form of “My Color”. MyColor allows the driver to select from a pre-defined selection of colors for the gauge cluster, or you can create your own “custom” colors by entering R G B values in the on-screen menu. Check out the video below for more.

Click here to view the embedded video.

Of course, comparisons are essential when you see a V6 Camaro or Challenger in the Starbucks parking lot. In this three-way-shootout the Mustang shines. The Dodge can be almost dismissed early due to the 600lb heavier curb weight and much larger proportions. (Due to the added heft, the V6 Mustang is more comparable to the V8 Challenger R/T.) The Camaro is a close contender and you could be forgiven for buying a Camaro because you like the look, you would however be buying the slower vehicle as the V6 Mustang is quicker (with the right manual driver of course). If however you see an Infiniti G Coupe or Nissan Z in the parking lot, just stare at your latte and get in your ‘Stang without making eye contact; they will beat you at the stop-light-races every time.

Perhaps the most appropriate comparison of all however is to the “other” Mustang, the GT. It goes without saying that Ford’s new 5.0L V8 sounds better, delivers more torque, more horsepower, faster 0-60 times and some totally rad 5.0L badges. (I know, I’m a child of the 70s, so sue me.) Pricing and fuel economy are the real reasons you would shop the V6 over the GT. The V6 starts at $22,310 which is about what you’d pay for something like a Chrysler 200 and $7,000 less than a base Mustang GT. Adjusting for feature content (aside from the fire breathing V8), the V6 still enjoys a $5,000 lower starting point. For me, the $695 reverse sensing system is an absolute must because of the poor rearward visibility. The $1995 performance package is a no-brainer since it basically gives you GT brakes, suspension, rear diff, etc.  This brings my personal realistic base price to a still reasonable $25,000. Stepping up to the “Premium” V6 (as our tester was equipped) gets you the snazzier instrument cluster with MyColor lighting, better looking 17-inch wheels (which are replaced by the performance package), the up-level Shaker audio system, SYNC, Satellite radio and an auto dimming rear-view mirror for a fairly hefty $4,000 over the base V6. If, however you would like things like heated power seats, dual-zone climate control and navigation, you have to start with the Premium trim. Our tester was an essentially fully loaded V6 premium (manual transmission) that rang in a $32,320, or the same price as a GT with only a few options.

I think we all agree we live in the muscle car renaissance. This new generation of muscle car delivers the brash style we Americans seem to crave and six-cylinder engines that would easily dust the majority of “muscle cars” from the last 20 years. However, this is 2011 and not 1991, and the rest of the automotive landscape has changed as well. In this light the V6 is not a high-performance muscle car; that would be the GT. It is however a blast to drive, a fairly good value, and more than enough pony for most shoppers, including perhaps that brother of mine.


Ford Provided the vehicle for our review, insurance and one tank of gas

Statistics as tested

0-30: 2.0 Seconds

0-60: 5.1 Seconds

1/4 Mile: 13.8 Seconds @ 102.0 MPH

Fuel Economy: 25.2 MPG over 689 miles

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Track Test: 2011 Mustang V8 w/Brembo Brakes Mon, 17 May 2010 23:43:54 +0000

As I exit Turn Eleven at Summit Point Raceway’s twisty, concrete-lined “Shenandoah” course, I’m confronted with a rare opportunity to put my money where my mouth has been. In a review of the 2011 Mustang GT 5.0, I perhaps foolishly opined that “C5 Z06 pilots will need to find a twisty road lest they be run nose-to-tail down long freeway sprints.” Now I’ve found myself fifty feet behind an enthusiastically-driven C5 Z06, and it’s squatting with full throttle up Shenandoah’s Bridge Straight. This will be a straight drag race, and for extra irony it’s going to occur on a road course. Four tires chirp. Sixteen cylinders sing. Forty to one hundred and ten miles per hour. Up a hill. Was I wrong? Can the mighty five-point-oh hunt for Corvettes?

Yes. It can. At least when said five-point-oh is equipped with the optional 3.73 axle ratio that, along with a pricey set of Brembo front brakes, makes up the entire list of options on our $32,800 test vehicle. No measurable gap appeared between the two cars before both went briefly airborne at the end of the sharply peaked Bridge Straight. Once we landed, the Z06 driver did the sensible thing and signaled for us to pass before the entrance to the Nurburgring-replica Karussell which is Shenandoah’s trademark feature.

The skeptical among you will point out that it’s not perfectly fair for your humble author, a victor of such exalted automotive events as the 2007 24 Hours of LeMons at Flat Rock, to go picking on advanced-group trackday drivers. You may be correct. Still, I think it’s worth noting that I ran a very similar 2010 Mustang GT 4.6 in essentially the same group of drivers last year and found myself Corvette chow every time the track went straight. This five-liter is a different animal: strong from idle to redline and NASCAR-frantic as the needle swings ’round the tach. It’s very nearly the perfect normally-aspirated trackday engine; no surprise, given its close-cousin status to the Ford “Cammer” Daytona Prototype mill.

The rest of the Mustang is, of course, a little less race-ready. The control surfaces in our no-frills model didn’t really please me. Everybody says they want a low-content Mustang GT, the same way that everybody claims to be holding cash in hand for a six-speed biodiesel-powered rear-wheel-drive sport wagon, but the folks who actually buy Mustang GTs buy them with plenty of options. That’s a good idea. Check every box on the form except the fabulous glass roof, since it adds a lot of weight in a very bad place for road-course handling.

The 5.0 was the subject of much trackside discussion this past weekend, most of it focusing on the optional Brembo front brakes. Here’s the best way to think about them: Go look at a Porsche 911 GT3. Evaluate the size of the brakes on that car. Now come back and look at these optional Brembos. Then consider that the Mustang outweighs the GT3 by a few hundred pounds. Get the idea? These aren’t the be-all and end-all of optional brake setups. True racing Mustangs use massive calipers front and rear. These brakes, which are identical to the GT500 stoppers and probably very similar to the items found on the Camaro SS and Challenger SRT-8, aren’t even close to what’s required for heavy-duty track use.

That caveat aside, these aren’t necessarily cosmetic items. Unlike the standard sliding-caliper Mustang front setup, the Brembos will take a genuinely hard lap or two before requiring some rest, and they never cook the brake fluid the way last year’s “Track Pack” pad option did. I added fifty feet of breathing room to my desired braking zones throughout the weekend and never completely ran out of stopping power. That’s good enough for most people, and those of us who want more have many aftermarket options.

The various chassis and aerodynamic improvements Ford touts for 2011 are not easily detected without a back-to-back drive in identical conditions, but the car as I experienced it was more than satisfactory for track rats of all experience levels. The P Zero tires aren’t super-grippy but they communicate honestly. Axle hop under wheelspin is minimal and it’s rare that one is forcibly reminded of the Mustang’s suspension layout. It takes a solid hit to a curb with steering already (mis)dialed-in to really experience the pop-and-slide motion so familiar to CMC racers everywhere.

The AdvanceTrac system has an “intermediate” mode where wheelspin is allowed and some degree of lateral motion can occur before intervention. It’s a pretty good compromise for trackdays. Disabling the whole system, as I did on the second day I drove Shenandoah, reveals a stable yet tossable big car that can be thrown around without fear.

I provided Mustang rides to a wide variety of people over the course of the weekend — attorneys, racers, even a TTAC reader. I believe that all of them stepped out of the car with a healthy respect for what Ford’s accomplished here. Even if you haven’t tracked a Camaro or Challenger and been unimpressed by those cars’ lumbering on-track demeanor, this 5.0 is likely to make a believer out of you. Just don’t brag too much ahead of time to your ‘Vette pals; it’s better to show than it is to tell.

Ford provided the vehicle and insurance for this test. TrackDAZE provided the space on the track and a rather decent lunch for two days. The author is a TrackDAZE instructor and can be requested by novice and intermediate-level drivers at any 2010-season TrackDAZE event.

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Review: Dodge Challenger SE Fri, 30 Apr 2010 21:51:45 +0000

One of the strangest phenomena of the revived retro muscle car wars is the renewed emphasis on V6 performance. Once derided as “Secretary Specials,” the V6 versions of the Ford Mustang and Chevy Camaro now make upwards of 300 horsepower, while earning EPA highway ratings that surpass the 30 MPG mark. But if these latter-day pony cars herald a new era of performance and practicality, the V6-powered Dodge Challenger is as retro as its 1970-again styling.

The Challenger has always been the third wheel in the pony car wars: a little too heavy, a little too big, and a little too late to the game. Sure, the maddest of the mad versions were fire-breathing beasts, but the Challenger never wormed its way into the American psyche the way the lither, more sporty Camaro and Mustang did. And with all three nameplates back in showrooms, the old relationship remains the same: the 6.1 liter SRT-8 Challenger may give up nothing to its perennial rivals, but the volume SE version comes up well short of the competition.

Of course, what the modern Challenger might lack in emotional capital, it more than makes up for in sheer retro, street-level appeal. Even without Hemi badges, the Challenger looks big, mean and slick, by far the most retro of the modern pony car designs, and to this reviewer’s eyes, the most clean and pleasing as well. And it doesn’t just look good, it looks right. It’s a long car, but it’s got a vertical heft to it that balances the design. And with its classic lines and proportions executed in thick modern body panels, the Challenger looks as much like an expensive toy model grown to street size as anything else.

From outside the Challenger’s deceptively large cabin, it seems like nothing could break the spell cast by the car’s sheer presence. At least until the driver sticks the Challenger’s plastic key fob into the appropriate receptacle and turns it, kicking the old 3.5 liter SOHC V6 to life with all the drama of a Grand Caravan. At this point, the observer of this unremarkable process is likely to come down with a bad case of cognitive dissonance: the eyes tell you to expect the lumpy loping of big V8, but all the ears hear are, well, almost nothing.  With a stab of the throttle, the muted tickover rises to a tremulous drone. With enough motivation, the engine eventually manages to sound blustery, but it’s never in danger of making a sound that’s in the least bit purposeful.

Nor, given the performance numbers, should it. With a mere 250 horsepower and 250 lb-ft of torque on tap, it’s a good 50 ponies and about 25 lb-ft short of its V6 adversaries. And with 3,720 lbs of retro coupe to carry around, the old V6 has its work cut out for it. Luckily, the five-speed automatic is well-calibrated for the task, flattering the Challenger’s weak on-paper numbers with easy-to-use real-world performance. First gear is short enough to give the Challenger just enough pop from the traffic lights to keep it from being a complete embarrassment, but it’s also long enough to keep things from becoming a thrash-fest. Just don’t expect those rear tires to emit even the softest chirrup, unless you’re turning from a stop on a horrendously-paved road. While treating the gas pedal like it’s a particularly resilient cockroach.

In fact, if you’re even remotely interested in performance or fun, look elsewhere. Though the steering is only slightly overboosted, the Challenger’s weight makes it a clumsy dancer, and without the brute force needed to manhandle its softly-sprung chassis, you quickly settle into cruising mode. On suburban side streets, it glides sedately and uses its power well. On the freeway, it accelerates acceptably before running out of useable puff at relatively low (although still illegal) speeds. A sideways bump on the transmission’s autostick drops the Mopar back into its powerband more rapidly than pedalwork alone, but there’s still a palpable pause as your order makes its way to the engine room. Long, sweeping turns at higher speeds are as close as the Challenger gets to a driving thrill, but with so much weight, and so little steering feel, it’s got one of the fastest boredom-to-fear times in the business.

What we have then, in the Challenger SE, is a big, retro cruiser. It’s quiet and refined at freeway speeds, and it’s got enough power to keep up with the rest of the commuters. And shockingly for a Chrysler product, the interior is even a fairly inoffensive place to spend time. Though it lacks the retro flair promised by its exterior and competitors alike, its a clean design with simple functionality and relatively high-quality components… for a Chrysler. We could nitpick a few plastics choices, the lack of mirrors on the sun visors and more, but as stripped, sub-$25k Chrysler Group products go, it’s a revelation. Only the large, cheap and nasty steering wheel is truly offensive.

Unlike the more musclebound V6 pony car competition, the Challenger offers real-world rear seating. Wedge five people (including three six-footers) into a Camaro or Mustang, and after 45 minutes at least three of them will need either a chiropractor, a relationship counselor, or both. Thanks to the Challenger’s lengthy LX underpinnings, the same five people will make the same trip in relative luxury. In fact, the only professional assistance a passenger might need is seasonal affective disorder therapy: spacious though it may be, the rear seat is still a lightless bunker, with little visibility anywhere.

And though poor visibility as a result of bold styling is a nearly universal problem affecting nearly every car on the market, in this case it creates a special disadvantage. After all, this particular Challenger was a rental, and the SE’s lack of performance credentials vis-a-vis its rivals seems to doom this model to heavy rental-fleet service. The problem is that, having arrived at one’s destination and made the questionable decision to splash out for a “fancy” rental, the last thing one wants to find out is that famous landmarks are only barely visible out of the Challenger’s gun-slit windows. Want to see more than the bottom third of the Washington monument as you drive by? Be prepared to hang half your body out the window. Want the kids to enjoy a memorable back-seat tour of their nation’s capitol? Rent the Mustang convertible instead.

So, if this Challenger fails as a performance car, a musclebound cruiser and a rental, what is it good for? How about a better-looking Solara or Accord Coupe? From the cabin it’s not that hard to forget that it’s rear-drive, or related to anything with a Hemi, but from the outside it’s pure retro confection. You just won’t be getting the efficiency or reliability of the Japanese snooze-coupes. But when Chrysler’s new “Pentastar” V6 comes out, it should offer close enough to 300 horsepower to make it feel a little less like an afterthought to the Camaro and Mustang… at least on paper. In the meantime, unless you can’t live without its looks but can’t afford a Hemi, look elsewhere.

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Ask The Best And Brightest: How Did The Pony Car Wars Become All About The V6? Thu, 08 Apr 2010 18:48:31 +0000

Back in the muscle car heyday, enthusiasts could likely have imagined that the 2011 Mustang and Camaro would make at least 300 horsepower. They might even have imagined that the pony cars would be equipped with optional flight modes, nuclear reactors, and autopilots. What they likely never imagined is that Ford and GM would revive the time-honored tradition of pony car one-upmanship for V6 models.

But sure enough, Chevy came out with a 304 horsepower V6 Camaro only to have Ford beat that number by a single horsepower with its new 2011 V6 Mustang. Chevy’s V6 got an EPA highway rating of 29 mpg? Ford’s 2011 V6 just barely beat it again with 31 MPG highway. And the V6 wars show no signs of stopping. GM has just announced that it got its Camaro V6 re-certified with (apparently) no modification, and the new V6 ponycar benchmark is now set at 312 horsepower. Why all the one-upmanship in a class of cars that not long ago were seen as secretary specials or rental queens? More importantly, where’s the SS-versus-GT animus in all this?

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