Capsule Review: 2012 Ford Mustang V6

Derek Kreindler
by Derek Kreindler
capsule review 2012 ford mustang v6

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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  • Jim brewer Jim brewer on Nov 14, 2012

    This blathering about engine note is not just juvenile, its infantile. We like the sound associated with our engines because of what the engines do. My last car was a 12 cyl BMW. Yes, I liked the (muted) ripping fabric sound but I liked about a dozen other things better. The 3.7 puts out almost as much power, 305 to 327. Put in a little no ethanol high test, and its even closer. I've decided I like the (muted) angry hornet sound just fine. The 3.7 Ford puts out more HP than Steve McQueen's Mustang in 'Bullit' and gets 30 mpg city. It revs easily to 7,000 rpm. What's not to like? That hesitation on quick acceleration seemed to go away with break-in. Possibly transmission learning your style, but I don't think so. Dial up the Pure Gas website and treat your 'Stang to high-test no-ethanol. There's a distinct improvement in both mileage and performance and Ford is frank about admitting that the car likes high test quality gas.

  • Jim brewer Jim brewer on Nov 14, 2012

    I mean "30 mpg highway" of course.

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  • Lou_BC ERay? A southern model will be the BillyRay.
  • Lou_BC I've never used a car buying plan service. My Costco membership did get me 1,000 cash back on my last truck.
  • Jeff S I can understand 8 cars is a bit much unless you are a serious collector. I always loved the Challenger when it first came out and now. I don't need a car like this but I am glad it exists at least for 1 more year. If I had a choice between a Mustang, a Camaro, and a Challenger I would opt for a Challenger but probably with a V-6 since it has more than enough power for most and I don't need to be burning rubber. Challenger has the classic muscle car looks, more cabin room, and a decent size trunk which makes it very livable for day to day driving and for traveling. The base models of the Dodge Challenger has a 3.6-liter V6 engine that gives you 305 horsepower with 268 lb-ft torque. The car attains 60 mph from a standstill within just 6 seconds, which is quite fast. Even with their base engines, the Challenger and Camaro are lightning-fast. The Camaro reaches 165 mph, while the Challenger can go up to 11 mph faster!
  • Inside Looking Out I would avoid American cities if I can. European cities are created for humans and Americans for cars.